Category ►►► Weapons of Mass Disputation
September 14, 2009
Nukes for Kooks
Venezuelan fascist dictator Oogo Chavez has just announced a joint venture with
the Soviet Union Russia to develop "peaceful" nuclear power. At last, his poor, energy-starved country can stop shivering and provide power for its citizenry:
Venezuela President Hugo Chavez said the South American country plans to develop a nuclear energy program with Russia and doesn’t want to build an atomic bomb....
“We’re not going to make an atomic bomb, so don’t bother us like with Iran,” he said on state television. “We’re going to develop nuclear energy with peaceful purposes.” [Hey, if you can't trust a lying socialist dictator, who can you trust?]
So a Latin American country...
- In our own backyard --
- Controlled by a strongman who has made himself "president for life" by winning fantasy elections --
- Who hates America above all things on this planet --
- Who has a close working relationship with Iran, a country working feverishly to develop a nuclear weapon --
- Who has announced his intention to ship gasoline to Iran, so that we cannot use the Herman Option to stop Iran from getting its nukes (though I don't understand why, if we decided to blockade Iran -- which admittedly the current American president would never do -- we couldn't keep Venezuelan oil tankers out as well) --
- Who has invited Hezbollah, the world's largest and most aggressive Islamist terrorist group, into Venezuela to "counter" American power in the western hemisphere --
- Who brutally oppresses his own people with fascist policies (nationalizing industries -- both domestic and foreign owned) while spouting pseudo-Marxist rhetoric --
- Who has exported putative "Bolivarian" revolution to a dozen other Latin American countries --
- And whose country is swimming in oil and natural gas (which is the only reason it's still in existence, despite its abysmal economy) --
...Now wants nuclear power as well. But it assures us that it's "not going to make an atomic bomb;" and orders our hapless, cringing President Barack H. Obama -- who has just agreed to enter into extortion negotiations with one member of the axis of evil trying to develop nuclear weapons (North Korea), and appears to have utterly capitulated on nuclear weapons for the other remaining member of the axis (Iran) -- not to interfere ("so don’t bother us like with Iran").
I'm quite certain that the Obamacle, furthering his standard policy of friendly negotiations with all of our bitterest enemies (while snubbing and working against the interests of our closest allies), will immediately announce a diplomatic initiative to Oogo... run by the WMD Czar, Gary Samore, and a newly appointed Venezuela Czar, Jalapeño Spice, rather than by the Secretary of State (whoever he is).
The negotiating team (Samantha Power, Van Jones, Sen. Al Franken, and Keith Olbermann) will insist that Venezuela and Russia issue ironclad assurances, written in bold black ink on creamy white paper, that they never, ever, ever will help Oogo Chavez obtain nuclear weapons.
Oogo will be brought to the White House thirty-eight times over the next two years, where he will be feted and wined and dined. Then Obama will bow at the waist, kiss Oogo's Bolivarian hand, and call him "your highness."
In the end, the One will get his agreement, signed at the Western White House (Al Capone's old headquarters in Chicago). He -- Obama, not Capone -- will hold the piece of paper up for CNN to video, and his teleprompter will announce that Obama has achieved "peace in our time." We will then launch a massive foreign-aid money drop into Venezuela, to ensure they have enough aluminum tubing and nuclear-blast analysis software for the venture to succeed.
What could possibly go wrong?
December 5, 2007
Something to See Here: WSJ Dishes the Dirt on the NIE
The Wall Street Journal, following Big Lizards' lead, has weighed in on the questionable provenance of the most recent National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran's nuclear weapons program (NWP). (And if I have to mention it again, the Wall Street Journal will henceforth be the WSJ -- just to increase the alphabet soup aspect of this post. Maybe I can come up with a few more BL acronyms, while I'm at it.)
In today's editorial -- subscription (for actual money) required to read more than the first paragraph and part of the second -- they argue that the very fact that this NIE reverses the NIE of just two years ago itself casts doubt on the reliabilty of any NIE at all:
As recently as 2005, the consensus estimate of our spooks was that "Iran currently is determined to develop nuclear weapons" and do so "despite its international obligations and international pressure." This was a "high confidence" judgment. The new NIE says Iran abandoned its nuclear program in 2003 "in response to increasing international scrutiny." This too is a "high confidence" conclusion. One of the two conclusions is wrong, and casts considerable doubt on the entire process by which these "estimates" -- the consensus of 16 intelligence bureaucracies -- are conducted and accorded gospel status.
What monumental change occurred in the last two years to completely flip our thinking on whether Iran is currently pursuing an NWP? Is it really, as Bill Gertz and Jon Ward allege, the testimony of one supposed Iranian defector -- former Revolutionary Guards Gen. Alireza Asgari -- who we have not even interviewed ourselves?
The WSJ (there! -- see?) also echoes another point of our previous post... the provenance of the NIE (where it came from):
Our own "confidence" is not heightened by the fact that the NIE's main authors include three former State Department officials with previous reputations as "hyper-partisan anti-Bush officials," according to an intelligence source. They are Tom Fingar, formerly of the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research; Vann Van Diepen, the National Intelligence Officer for WMD; and Kenneth Brill, the former U.S. Ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
For a flavor of their political outlook, former Bush Administration antiproliferation official John Bolton recalls in his recent memoir that then-Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage "described Brill's efforts in Vienna, or lack thereof, as 'bull -- .'" Mr. Brill was "retired" from the State Department by Colin Powell before being rehired, over considerable internal and public protest, as head of the National Counter-Proliferation Center by then-National Intelligence Director John Negroponte.
The Journal agrees with us that the only major "pressure" on Iran in 2003 was our invasion of Iraq, the deposing of Saddam Hussein, de-Baathification of Iraq, and the start of the insurgency... and particularly our response to it: American forces dug in and fought back, rather than the Bush-41/Clinton style of staying but a few weeks, then withdrawing -- while congratulating ourselves for a job well done -- and leaving a chaotic mess behind into which Iran could move. So shouldn't we see the suspension of Iran's NWP in respose to the Iraq war (if true) as a tremendous victory for the Bush policy?
But contrariwise, the NIE claims the turnabout was due to "international pressure," which I don't believe they ever actually specify. What international (non-American) pressure was put on Iran in 2003? We were still in the process of trying to persuade the Europeans to start dealing with Iran on the issue of their NWP. I suppose it's possible that the Iranian mullahs glanced back at Great Britain, France, Germany, and Russia and started quaking in their Persian slippers; just as it's possible that I am actually Marie of Romania... but very unlikely.
The WSJ drops a bombshell; at least, I hadn't heard this before, and I tend to follow the news more carefully than I think do most non-bloggers:
In any case, the real issue is not Iran's nuclear weapons program, but its nuclear program, period. As the NIE acknowledges, Iran continues to enrich uranium on an industrial scale -- that is, build the capability to make the fuel for a potential bomb. And it is doing so in open defiance of binding U.N. resolutions. No less a source than the IAEA recently confirmed that Iran already has blueprints to cast uranium in the shape of an atomic bomb core.
The U.S. also knows that Iran has extensive technical information on how to fit a warhead atop a ballistic missile. And there is considerable evidence that the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps has been developing the detonation devices needed to set off a nuclear explosion at the weapons testing facility in Parchin. Even assuming that Iran is not seeking a bomb right now, it is hardly reassuring that they are developing technologies that could bring them within a screw's twist of one.
This new NIE will surely make it more difficult to gain international support for further sanctions against Iran and against companies doing business with Iran ("Nothing to see here, folks!")... which, perversely enough, may actually make it easier for Iran to produce an actual nuclear bomb -- which will make it much more likely that we attack Iran just prior to that point.
I wonder whether the appeasement camp within the State Department -- that which spawned Messrs. Fingar, Van Diepen, and Brill -- has ever given serious consideration to its strategy and whether it will achieve the desired goal... or its opposite. Is this a rational war against Bush, based upon actual tussling over policy? Or merely because, as does Jonathon Chait, they hate the way he walks and talks?
December 4, 2007
Nothing to See Here, Folks... Time to Just Move On!
If you believe the Democrats, the new National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran's nuclear-weapons program shows that there never was anything to worry about in the first place, so we must immediately stop all this "saber rattling" (Hillary's term) and tough talk -- and get down to the business of offering Iran incentives for promising to refrain in future from doing things that threaten us (which in civilian criminal terms is usually called "extortion").
In reality, a close look at the NIE -- if it's true and accurate -- demonstrates four points:
- The Iranians absolutely had a nuclear-weapons program (NWP) that they built after extensive contact with Pakistan's proliferation-happy nuclear scientist A.Q. Khan; see the discussion below of the Bill Gertz story in today's Washington Times.
The Iranians suspended (not shut down) their NWP in late 2003 in direct response to President Bush's saber-rattling, and by my own conclusion, almost certainly in response to our invasion of next-door Iraq.
The suspension (if it really occurred) was in "fall 2003," which is not only after we invaded Iraq and overthrew the Baathist regime, but also around the time al-Qaeda was establishing itself in Iraq, the Iranians were arming Shiite militias in Iran, and we were fighting both sides. Thus, they knew not only that we had swiftly overthrown Saddam Hussein, but also that we were not backing down, as many had predicted, but were fighting back hard against both insurgencies. This was a marked departure from what both Iran and the Arab nations believed about American resolve.
Since our occupation of Iraq cannot possibly have made Teheran feel more secure, they must have suspended work on their NWP (if indeed they did) because they felt less secure; which can only mean they were worried that Bush might decide to invade or bomb the next target on the "axis of evil."
- Iran continues its uranium-enrichment program, still striving for weapons-grade fissile materiel;
- They can restart the NWP any time American and international pressure subsides... say, when either Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL, 95%) or Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-Carpetbag, 95%) is elected president.
In Israel, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said "it's apparently true" that Iran stopped pursuing its military nuclear program in 2003.
"But in our opinion, since then it has apparently continued that program," Barak told Army Radio. "There are differences in the assessments of different organizations in the world about this, and only time will tell who is right."
In my opinion, if the NIE is true and accurate, the Iranians essentially suspended their NWP during the tenure of George W. Bush; but if any of the current Democratic candidates is elected in 2008 and carries through on the Democratic plan, to which all the candidates have agreed, to start making nice with Iran -- inviting them into Iraq to help "stabilize" the country, offering incentives instead of sanctions and threats of attack, backing away from the demand for an intrusive inspections regime -- then the mullahs will order Iran's NWP back into full operation.
As the NIE states, they have not dismantled the program, and they have continued to enrich uranium all this time: They retain the knowledge to restart. They're just waiting out the vigilant Bush administration, praying for a changing of the guard.
The reason I keep saying about the NIE "if it's true and accurate" is that Kenneth Timmerman believes that this NIE was, in fact, cooked up to drive policy... fabricated by the appeasement arm of the State Department. The article was carried on Newsmax, which ordinarily would make me skeptical; but Timmerman has been investigating Iran's nuclear and CBW weapons program since at least 1990, in his book Poison Gas Connection: Western Suppliers of Unconventional Weapons and Technologies to Iraq and Iran. More recently, he has published two books that explore Iran, its drive for nukes, and the CIA's near-complicity in allowing it to do so, plus one book that touches on the subject:
- The French Betrayal of America (2004);
- Countdown to Crisis: The Coming Nuclear Showdown with Iran (2005);
- Shadow Warriors: The Untold Story of Traitors, Saboteurs, and the Party of Surrender (2007).
I have found Timmerman to be a very substantive critic of the appeasement approach by the CIA and its parent, the State Department, to resolving the Iranian NWP crisis: He certainly has a bias on this issue; but he has also proven himself a reliable reporter on this issue in the past. So I take his claims now -- primarily drawn from his current book Shadow Warriors -- very seriously:
A highly controversial, 150 page National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran's nuclear programs was coordinated and written by former State Department political and intelligence analysts -- not by more seasoned members of the U.S. intelligence community, Newsmax has learned.
Its most dramatic conclusion -- that Iran shut down its nuclear weapons program in 2003 in response to international pressure -- is based on a single, unvetted source who provided information to a foreign intelligence service and has not been interviewed directly by the United States.
Newsmax sources in Tehran believe that Washington has fallen for "a deliberate disinformation campaign" cooked up by the Revolutionary Guards, who laundered fake information and fed it to the United States through Revolutionary Guards intelligence officers posing as senior diplomats in Europe.
Timmerman writes that the new NIE was pushed by the chairman of the National Intelligence Council, Thomas Fingar, who appears to be a classical "Persianist," a neologism I just invented to parallel the well-known cadre of Arabists in the State Department, most of whom long ago "went native," and now seem to be beguiled by their erstwhile extremist targets in Arab countries. If Fingar fell for Iranian disinformation, it would be because he was predisposed to think the mullahs were serious in their diplomatic discussions -- and because, like far too many entrenched commisars in the Department of State, he was predisposed to think George W. Bush was a greater threat to national security than Iranian nuclear weapons.
Timmerman pegs Fingar as a career State Department intelligence analyst and a long-time Democratic critic of the Bush administration; Fingar helped Democrats coordinate their successful spiking of John Bolton's appointment as permanent representative to the United Nations. Fingar has consistently fired or threatened to fire other intelligence analysts at State or the Office of the Director of National Intelligence whenever those analysts conclude that Iran is a threat to the United States, that Iran is allied with Venezuela and Oogo Chavez, or that Chavez is allied with Fidel Castro's Cuba.
If true, this indicates that, far from being a disinterested analyst reporting "just the facts and [the] assessment of those facts and their reliability to policy-makers," Fingar and his proteges -- Kenneth Brill, director of the National Counterproliferation Center, and Vann H. Van Diepen, National Intelligence officer for Weapons of Mass Destruction and Proliferation -- started with the policy they were pushing and cobbled up an NIE that would support that policy.
This is an astonishing and deeply troubling charge. It's bad enough that anti-war, anti-Bush appeasers at the CIA and State have repeatedly leaked classified information in ways that will damage the administration. If they have now graduated to fabricating National Intelligence Estimates to the benefit of our most active enemy, then that drifts perilously close to the T-word that Big Lizards has been very reluctant to sling around. Such actions cross a very bright danger line... and demand action on the part of the president.
Timmerman references this article by the Washington Times reporter Bill Gertz; Gertz suggests that the likely source of the "new evidence" that caused the reversal of the 2005 assessment was former Revolutionary Guards Gen. Alireza Asgari, who defected in February of this year. From Timmerman:
Asgari had detailed knowledge of Iranian Revolutionary Guards units operating in Iraq and Lebanon because he had trained some of them. He also knew some of the secrets of Iran's nuclear weapons program, because he had been a top procurement officer and a deputy minister of defense in charge of logistics. But Asgari never had responsibility for nuclear weapons development, and probably did not have access to information about the status of the secret programs being run by the Revolutionary Guards, Iranian sources tell Newsmax.
Gertz's story offers some support for the central Timmerman allegation, in the form of a non-denial from intelligence officials:
Senior U.S. intelligence officials who briefed reporters on the Iran nuclear estimate said it is "plausible, but not likely" that Iran's suspension is part of a "strategic deception" operation, because of continued Iranian government "denial and deception" efforts.
"We do not know if Iran intends to develop nuclear weapons but assess with moderate to high confidence that Tehran at a minimum is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons," said one official involved in drafting the more-than-140-page document.
So even the officials involved in producing and briefing the NIE agree that it's at least "plausible" that the supposed suspension is a "deliberate disinformation campaign." As several commentators have said, it's a lot more dangerous to believe the program is suspended if it really isn't -- than to believe it hasn't been suspended when it really has.
We desperately need to get to the bottom of this: What, exactly, is the new source of evidence that led Fingar to reverse the finding of intransigence of the earlier NIE... was is Asgari? If so, has the United States interviewed him? If not, why not?
If it turns out this NIE is purely political, a snow job by the Persianist wing of the State Department... then what is the president going to do to restore some sense of mission to the National Intelligence Council?
To Democrats, of course, this NIE "vindicates" what they have said all along... that we need to "walk softly and carry a big carrot":
"They should have stopped the saber rattling, should never have started it," said Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill. New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton said Bush "should seize this opportunity." But she also said it was clear that pressure on Iran has had an effect - a point disputed by rival Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware....
Bush said he did not know about the new findings until he was briefed last week - a point challenged by some.
"The president knew, even as he was saying 'World War III' and all that kind of stuff," said Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., chairman of the Senate intelligence committee. "He knew. He knew, he had been briefed...."
"President Bush has lost all credibility with the American people," said Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean. "We were misled on Iraq, now it's Iran. We need to get to the truth so our foreign policy is not only tough but smart."
In fact, as Gertz notes, the new NIE is even more adamant than the 2005 estimate that Iran had (or still has) an NWP, which they have consistently denied and continue to deny to this day, and it emphasizes that Iran continues to enrich uranium at a speed unchecked by the supposed suspension of that program. In addition, even the current NIE says that it was pressure exerted by Bush and his European allies that drove Iran to suspend its NWP, the same pressure the Democrats now want to eliminate.
This is like a person who has blocked aortic arteries; he gets a bypass operation and feels much better. So much better that Democrats say this proves the operation was a wild overreaction!
Even if this estimate turns out to be true, it simply means that President Bush's response to Iran and his prosecution of the Iraq war worked. If the suspension claim is accurate, it means that Iran, like Libya, saw the writing on the Babylonian wall and decided to put everything on hold -- at least until a Democrat is elected president.
I don't exactly see how this helps Obama, Edwards, or Hillary. But on the other hand, if we're relying upon the GOP to do an effective job communicating this to the American voters... well, then we may be in trouble after all.
November 13, 2007
Mother of Mohammed! Is this the end of Mahmoud?
The title alludes, as I'm sure you all know, to the last line spoken by Edward G. Robinson in his revolutionary movie Little Caesar -- which, along with James Cagney's The Public Enemy, started the 1930s-40s trend of gangster biopics and may have been an early progenitor of film noir. The Hollywood gangster line eventually led to such classics as the Godfather movies and the more recent Goodfellas.
The original line in Little Caesar, is, of course "Mother of Mercy! Is this the end of Rico?" (But in the original 1929 novel by the incomparable W. R. Burnett, the line reads, "Mother of God! Is this the end of Rico?")
I raise the question "is this the end of Mahmoud" because, in a stunning turn of events, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has now accused his critics of being traitors to the Islamic Republic of Iran. Those critics include former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the current chairman of the Assembly of Experts, which will select the next Supreme Leader of Iran... and is himself a likely pick for that very post when the current Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei dies.
That verbal assault may be akin to waiting until Vladimir Lenin is on his deathbed to accuse Josef Stalin of being a counter-revolutionary.
Rafsanjani is also the chairman of the Expediency Council, which is supposed to resolve differences between the two branches of the Iranian legislature (the Majlis and the Guardian Council); the Expediency Council also directly advises the Supreme Leader. All of which is to note that Rafsanjani is probably the second most powerful cleric in Iran... and Ahmadinejad just called him and several of his close associates traitors:
One of Iran's most powerful cleric-politicians, former president Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rasfanjani, issued a veiled criticism of Ahmadinejad last week, saying officials must "avoid immaturity and not cause trouble for the people."
Ahmadinejad warned Monday that he would expose his critics, saying, "They are traitors."
"If internal elements do not stop pressures concerning the nuclear issue, they will be exposed to the Iranian nation," Ahmadinejad said in a speech to students at Tehran's Science and Industry University. "We have made promises to the people and believe anyone giving up over the nuclear issue is a traitor."
Rafsanjani's great rival on the Assembly of Experts is Ayatollah Mohammad Taghi Mesbah Yazdi, who happens, by sheerest chance, to be President Ahmadinejad's guru. And by another strand of "the lattice of coincidence the lies on top of everything," when Ahmadinejad won the presidency in 2005, his only serious rival was -- wait for it -- Hashemi Rafsanjani.
Small world, ain't it?
Ahmadinejad skirted as close to actually naming one of Rafsanjani's closest advisors as he possibly could:
He accused critics of regularly providing "the enemy" with "information from within the ruling system...."
The president said one official has already been arrested for espionage and accused his critics of pressuring the courts to acquit him.
"But I announce here that the Iranian nation won't allow these persons and groups to use political and economic influence to save criminals from the clutches of justice," he said.
Ahmadinejad did not name the official. But Hossein Mousavian -- a Rafsanjani ally who served as top nuclear negotiator under reformist former President Mohammad Khatami -- was briefly detained this year. Authorities have not said what charges he faces, but the semiofficial Fars news agency has reported that the charges were likely related to espionage.
So let's review the bidding...
- Ahmadinejad has called a "traitor" anyone within Iran who disagrees with his absolutist stance on nuclear-weapons development;
- Further, Ahmadinejad threatens to "expose" all those he has dubbed "traitors" very soon now;
- Everyone in power in Iran understands that Ahmadinejad really means Rafsanjani and his posse, and they're all waiting for the other shoe to grind;
- Rafsanjani is likely the second-most powerful man in Iran... and his duties allow him to speak to the most powerful man in Iran, Supreme Leader Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei -- probably every day;
- If Ahmadinejad tumbles from power, this will also strike a powerful blow against Rafsanjani's bitterest and strongest rival on the Assembly of Experts, and another top contender for the position of Supreme Leader when Khamenei drops his turban.
I don't know about the CIA and the State Department, but to me, this sounds like Ahmadinejad has declared all-out war against Hashemi Rafsanjani... and that he has bitten off considerably more than he can chew.
Add to that the widespread dissatisfaction with and even resentment against Ahmadinejad for his inability to fix the economy, for his repeated violent crackdowns on the population for "un-Islamic" activities (such as not having proper beards), and for his taunting of Western powers that has brought sanctions and might bring military destruction raining down upon Iran... and I think we have the makings of a Molotov Cocktail for Mahmoud.
Not that Rafsanjani is all that great a guy himself; he is an Iranian mullah, for Pete's sake. But to return to our gangster-movie theme, Rafsanjani is like Paul Cicero (Paul Sorvino), the local Luccese family capo in Goodfellas... but Ahmadinejad is like Joe Pesci's character Tommy DeVito, the mobster who was too wild to live. (You'll have to watch this wonderful movie to find out how that all works out; but it's quite apropos.)
Rajsanjani really has only two choices:
- Ignore the accusation, thereby making himself appear weak just when he most needs to be strong;
- Or use the accusation as a bludgeon to beat Mahmoud Ahmadinejad like an ornery camel.
Let's hope that Rafsanjani decides enough is enough and institutes steps through the proper channels to kick Rumplestiltskin out on his teeny posterior.
Let Ahmadinejad go back to being mayor of Teheran. Or heck -- maybe he could take "Red Ken" Livingstone's place as mayor of London; that might actually be an international improvement!
March 20, 2007
The Contranomics of Global Jihad
So the burning (sorry) question is -- can Iran actually be brought low by mere economics?
The answer is not yet known for certain; but a new wrinkle in the ongoing crisis about Iran's development of nuclear weapons makes the answer to the riddle above seem more and more like "Yes, it can."
What am I talking about? (Does anybody really know what I'm ever talking about?) Yesterday, Russia announced that it was suspending its shipment of low-grade enriched Uranium fuel to Iran -- ostensibly on the grounds that Iran has missed two payments of $25 million to Russia. However, sources say the real reason is that Iran refuses to stop enriching the low-grade fuel at its centrifuge complex at Natanz:
Russia has informed Iran that it will withhold nuclear fuel for Iran’s nearly completed Bushehr power plant unless Iran suspends its uranium enrichment as demanded by the United Nations Security Council, European, American and Iranian officials say....
For years, President Bush has been pressing President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia to cut off help to Iran on the nuclear power plant that Russia is building at Bushehr, in southern Iran. But Mr. Putin has resisted. The project is Tehran’s first serious effort to produce nuclear energy and has been very profitable for Russia.
Recently, however, Moscow and Tehran have been engaged in a public argument about whether Iran has paid its bills, which may explain Russia’s apparent shift. But the ultimatum may also reflect an increasing displeasure and frustration on Moscow’s part with Iran over its refusal to stop enriching uranium at its vast facility at Natanz.
“We’re not sure what mix of commercial and political motives are at play here,” one senior Bush administration official said in Washington. “But clearly the Russians and the Iranians are getting on each other’s nerves -- and that’s not all bad.”
I maintain that it's impossible to separate the "commercial and political motives," because each drives the other: Russia has a political interest in stopping Iran from being nuclear armed; but that is also an economic interest, because a nuclear Iran would force Russia to deploy more military power to the region to prevent itself being bullied and extorted by Iran. Force projection costs money, especially for a country with inadequate access to the open sea.
Similarly, the better Iran gets at enrichment, the less enrichment it must buy from Russia. Already, the United States has dangled a proposition for Russia to do all the Uranium enrichment for Iran -- at a staggering charge.
But American officials have been trying to create a commercial incentive for Russia to put pressure on Iran. One proposal the Bush administration has endorsed since late 2005 envisions having the Russians enrich Iran’s uranium in Russia. That creates the prospect of tens or hundreds of millions of dollars in business for Russia, and a way to ensure that Iran receives only uranium enriched for use in power reactors, instead of for use in weapons.
Iran has rejected those proposals, saying it has the right to enrich uranium on its own territory.
Iran is desperate to develop the ability to enrich their own Uranium in part because they can't afford the fee to have Russia do it... at least not if Iran keeps pouring money down a pair of rat-holes...
- Why hasn't Iran paid the $50 million in bills it owes Russia? (Iran denies this, but nobody believes them or cares what they say.) They haven't paid because their economy is currently broken -- and headed like the Titanic towards the iceberg.
- Why is Iran's economy broken? Because they've been spending so much money on two things: nuclear enrichment at Natanz... and global jihadism.
Force projection is dreadfully expensive, even if you call it global jihadism: Iran is supporting Hezbollah in Syria and Lebanon, the Qods Force in Iraq, a war against Israel a few months ago, assassins all over the world, and Shiite revolutionary movements from Malaysia to Venezuela. But at the same time, the drain on their resources from trying to develop a nuclear "Qods bomb" and buy a delivery system from North Korea, Russia, or Red China has caused Iran to stop investing in its oil infrastructure.
Not investing in oil extraction and gasoline refining is crippling Iran; they must import between 40% and 60% (depending on who is making the estimate) of their gasoline from third-party countries -- who, not surprisingly, charge Iran an arm and a leg and an arm, since they have the mullahs over an oil barrel.
But for the Iranians to return to investing in maintenance and expansion of their oil economy, they would have to cut back on both WMD development and on global jihadism... which their religiously driven ideology won't allow them to do!
It's the ultimate Catch-22... and it illuminates the central conundrum:
- Only those nations with vibrant economies can afford to both develop new weapons technology and also to project force around the world.
- Only those nations with capitalist financial systems will have a vibrant economy.
- But nations with capitalist financial systems must, of necessity, be free and open, connected with the rest of the world, democratic, and operate under a transparent rule of law: in other words, members of what Thomas P.M. Barnett calls the Functioning Core.
- But if a nation is in the Functioning Core, it is not a national security concern if they develop nuclear weapons; attacking the West is the farthest thing from their minds. Aside from the United States, Core countries spend much less money either developing new weapons technology or projecting their force (yet another instance of American exceptionalism). When we try to get them to do so -- for example, in Afghanistan or Iraq -- it's like pulling fingernails.
Thus, Iran appears to be imploding due to the built-in contradiction of wanting to be a super-power -- and simultaneously wanting to be a closed society run by fanatical religious totalitarians. They will only be able to afford military technological development and serious force projection when they transform themselves into a society that has no interest in military technological development and serious force projection.
It looks more and more like Iran will be defeated, not by military invasion, not even by missile attack, but by the economic realities of Western style capitalism. (The irony is so thick, you could cut it with a sword.)
Econ. 101: It's not just a good idea; it's the natural law of the universe.
March 5, 2007
Let's Not Be Overly Hasty...
You want a perfect example of what is wrong with American journalism -- and the CIA -- today? Can't find a better one than this.
As we moved in force into Sadr City yesterday, one of the serendipitous effects was a raid that turned up a Sunni torture-beheading room. We even found two living victims:
Lt. Col. Valery Keaveny described breaking through a double-locked door to find an Iraqi police officer and another Iraqi man who had undergone "considerable torture." The policeman had been shot in both ankles and the other man had been dangling from the ceiling and "beaten severely by a pipe for a good deal of time," Keaveny told reporters.
The captives told U.S. soldiers they had been convicted to death [sic] by an insurgent court at the site - about 18 miles west of Baghdad near the village of Karmah - and had the choice of either beheading or a fatal gunshot, said Keaveny.
They were spared immediate death, Keaveny said, because the insurgents' video camera didn't work and they had gone to get a new one to film the executions. "(The insurgents) said they would be back in the morning," he said. "And that's when we came in, that night."
But that's not all that we found at that site; we seized something a bit more alarming: one million pounds (500 tons) of bomb-making chemicals.
AP, however, does not want to leap to any conclusions...
The site also contained a huge stockpile of more than 1 million pounds of aluminum sulfate, which can be used as a component in nitrate-based fertilizer explosives. But it also has other commercial uses, including water purification.
Gentlemen... a million pounds of "water purification?" What are they trying to do, make the entire Euphrates River potable?
This absurdist attempt to latch hold of any possible benign explanation, to avoid having to conclude that these torturers and beheaders may have been up to no good, follows the pattern laid down by the CIA anent WMD: No matter what components we find -- including 55-gallon drums of Cyclosarin sitting in the same camouflaged ammo dump as a big pile of empty chemical rockets and artillery shells -- the Iraq Survey Group always had a great story of how it could possibly be used for civilian purposes... so it didn't count as WMD. (Saddam Hussein was very anxious that his troops have pest-free ammunition dumps.)
And whenever they found something that was undeniably WMD... well, as Mark Steyn said, it was always the wrong kind.
The job of the CIA is not to cover for Hussein; it is to report intelligence and fairly analyze it, so that the civilian policy makers have the best available information. But as this AP article shows, if your standard is not "reasonable doubt" but "any conceivable doubt whatsoever," you can always find some wild story that ends with the bad guys really being misunderstood.
That proves nothing, except the obvious fact that unreasonable premises yield irrational results.
October 10, 2006
Vote for Dems to Beat North Korea!
The funny part is, I think the Democrats have started to believe their own bullroar. In their unintentionally hilarious hysteria, they blurt out arguments the GOP has made for years:
Democratic Sen. John Kerry, the president's rival in 2004 and a potential 2008 candidate, assailed Bush's policy as a "shocking failure," and said, "While we've been bogged down in Iraq where there were no weapons of mass destruction, a madman has apparently tested the ultimate weapon of mass destruction."
Hm... who was it who mocked the inclusion of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) on the list of the "Axis of Evil?" Democrats said then that President Bush included North Korea only to prevent the list from being entirely filled with Moslem.
Previously, for six years under Clinton, the Democrats snoozed, confident that tossing a few tens of billions of dollars (and a nuclear reactor) to Kim Jong Il would placate the "madman."
Then when Bush initiated his policy of trying to line up allies for sanctions against the DPRK, the Democrats (especially including Sen. John Kerry, D-MA, 100%) fought it hammer and fang, every step of the way. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight Ashbury, 95%) hooted at the preposterous idea that we would ever need ballistic missile defense, and she led the fight -- successful during the Clinton Go-Go 90s -- to zero out the research on it.
So, Mr. Kerry and Mrs. Pelosi... do you finally, at long last, support missile defense? If so, then at least one good thing has come out of this piffle of a detonation.
"The Bush administration has for several years been in a state of denial about the growing challenge of North Korea, and has too often tried to downplay the issue or change the subject," said Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.
"We had the opportunity to stop North Korea from increasing its nuclear power, but George Bush went to sleep at the switch while he pursued his narrow agenda in Iraq," added Sen. Bob Menendez, a Democrat in a tough campaign in New Jersey.
Wow, tough stuff! I presume Sens. Harry Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 100%) and Bob Menendez (Temporary D-NJ, 100%) can point to a long history of pushing for much harsher treatment of North Korea... for example, by conducting direct, face-to-face negotiations with them so we can settle how much tribute to pay and how many more reactors to send to appease that failed Stalinist state.
Reid is of course "changing the subject" from his obsession with the internet peccadillos of former Rep. Mark Foley, which have occupied about 137% of Reid's always-limited attention span since September 29th.
The Democrats' main argument seems to be that North Korea's now suspect claim that they have detonated a nuke actually helps the Democrats in the upcoming election... after all, Democrats have long been known as the party of cold warriors who come down hard on Communism.
(The nuke announcement really is producing some major-league skepticism. Bill Gertz reports in today's Washington Times:
U.S. intelligence agencies say, based on preliminary indications, that North Korea did not produce its first nuclear blast yesterday.
But remember... you read it here first!)
My worthy co-conspirator, Brad Linaweaver, informs me that he just saw Dr. Helen Caldicott on some screamfest -- anybody besides me remember that energumenic refuge from Bedlam? She opined that the North Korean nuclear (?) explosion leaves America with but one option in response: we must unilaterally disarm our nuclear arsenal!
Freeze now! The survivors will envy the dead! (Probably so, for they don't have to listen to Helen Caldicott speak.)
Let's see what happens to the polls, which jumped from 0 to a 65-point advantage for Democrats in 3.4 seconds (want to buy a slightly used Dyson sphere?) But that may flip right back, now that the conversation is no longer about Gary Condit.
Oh, wait -- my mistake. That was the last congressional sex scandal, which was front-page news in every newspaper and TV broadcast in America... on September 10th, 2001. (So I reckon at least one Democrat actually cheered when the twin towers were struck.)
October 8, 2006
So Did They Or Didn't They?
So North Korea claims that it has actually set off a nuclear explosion.
Was it really a nuke? Or was it a huge mass of conventional explosives designed to simulate a nuclear explosion?
(On the bright side, as Friend Lee points out, Mark Foley is off the front pages. Somebody recently noted that the top story in every newspaper and news broadcast on September 10th, 2001, was -- Gary Condit!)
U.S. and South Korean officials could not immediately confirm the North Korean report but the U.S. Geological Survey said it recorded a seismic event with a preliminary magnitude of 4.2 in northeastern North Korea that coincided with the country's announced nuclear test.
The Colorado-based agency said it was unable to tell whether the event was the result of an atomic explosion or a natural earthquake.
We'll have to determine that pretty darned quickly. I think it should be possible to do so: in order to get a big enough explosion to create "a seismic event with a preliminary magnitude of 4.2," you'd need one heck of a lot of explosive material. All of that material has volume... which means you cannot pack it all into the same tiny space that a nuclear bomb occupies.
I imagine that the explosion, viewed microsecond by microsecond, would take a long time (relatively long) in the case of conventional explosives: first the core detonates, then the layer immediately surrounding the core, then the next layer, and so forth. I would expect such a chain-reaction explosion to be seen as sort of a rolling eruption.
But a nuclear explosion should be nearly instantaneous, since the entire bomb is smaller than a truck. I suspect the seismic signature of the two would be quite distinct. So we should know in a matter of hours whether Pyongyang really did explode a nuke, or whether they're trying to scam the world.
But how should we respond in each case?
If we determine it really is a nuclear bomb
We would know the following:
- The Democratic People's Republic of North Korea (DPRK) has nuclear-bomb technology;
- The DPRK has long-range missiles;
- The DPRK, speaking through Kim Jong-Il's "unofficial spokesman," Kim Myong Chol, has said that the purpose of their nuclear weapons is to turn American cities into "towering infernos."
So what should we do? Certainly we cannot give in to nuclear extortion: the same "rambling editorial" that Captain Ed links to in his post suggests that America will flee the Orient as soon as the DPRK threatens to nuke our bases. Obviously we will not, cannot do that.
But we also can't just sit there, waiting on the will of a madman whether tens of thousands of American soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines will be obliterated. We can hope that our ballistic-missile defense (BMD) works; but I don't know if relying totally on defense is good strategy.
(And while we're on the subject, thank God and Ronald Reagan the Democrats were unsuccessful in killing off strategic and theater missile defense!)
So if we are directly threatened by the DPRK with nuclear attack if we don't instantly "redeploy" our troops (to Iowa?), I think our only realistic option is to launch an immediate strike on North Korea -- albeit a conventional one. Unlike Iran, the North Korean population is not incipiently pro-American, so we needn't worry about offending them by a coordinated strike.
Even if we choose the second option, sitting tight behind our BMD shield wall until and unless the DPRK makes good its threat -- then if they really do try it, our only possible response would be a full-scale attack. However, if it's clear that the strike actually sent against our troops (and, one hopes, thwarted by our defense) really was nuclear, then the nuclear gloves are off.
We must demonstrate to the world that if we're attacked with nuclear weapons, we will respond with nuclear weapons. Else, our entire atomic arsenal is no more a threat than a pistol in Michael Dukakis's hand.
There are several "admittedly regrettable, yet nevertheless distinguishable" scenarios arising out of our determination that the explosion today really was a nuke. Our job is to choose the one that best serves America's national-security needs.
If we determine it really is not a nuclear bomb
This would leave us in a very peculiar position. If the world believes it was a nuke, and we're the only ones saying it wasn't, will everyone think we're just in a state of denial?
And suppose we're able to convince everyone that we're right: what kind of a maniac would fake a nuclear explosion, knowing what reaction that might provoke from the real nuclear powers? I've said for a long time that Kim Jong-Il is mentally ill... but this would convince the entire world.
What happens next? What sanctions can one put upon a nation led by a crazy man? It's the Ahmadinejad problem, in spades and doubled.
The correct response in such a case might also be a major conventional strike. Winston Churchill (or someone else, like Georges Clemenceau or Robert Benchley) once said something along the lines that, if you're not willing to attack your enemy when he's weak, what makes you think you'll be willing to attack him when he's strong? (Ten points to the first person who can supply the actual quotation.)
And the winner is... Navyvet, who supplied the following, which I've slightly corrected (the sentence begins with the word "still") and attributed:
Ten points to the Navy!
If the DPRK simultaneously demonstrates vast insanity and extreme weakness by trying to fake having nuclear weapons, I think it's time to squash the bug.
They also serve...
For the moment, there is nothing to do but wait for word from American scientists whether that really was a nuclear weapon or not. After that point -- well, enough to say I'm glad I'm not in the White House, Pentagon, the CIA or State Department, in Seoul, in Tokyo, or for that matter, in Beijing. A lot of folks are going to be getting very little sleep for quite a few days.
August 7, 2006
Half of US Stubbornly Refuses to Believe Media Propaganda...
...And it's an outrage!
Read this AP piece, the whole thing; I'll stand here humming obscure Elizabethan counter-tenor ditties until you finish.
Amazing, what? No further comment is necessary. (Goodness, what a short post.)
Oh, all right; I reckon I should say just a soupçon more. You've got the thumbscrews on me.
Just the Facts, Ma'am
First, let's look at the way disputed claims are introduced as proven facts that everyone agrees about:
The reality in this case is that after a 16-month, $900-million-plus investigation, the U.S. weapons hunters known as the Iraq Survey Group declared that Iraq had dismantled its chemical, biological and nuclear arms programs in 1991 under U.N. oversight. That finding in 2004 reaffirmed the work of U.N. inspectors who in 2002-03 found no trace of banned arsenals in Iraq.
Here are a few quotations from the final report of the ISG, September 30th, 2004. See how closely they match AP's characterization above. On Hussein's non-cooperation with and his ongoing deception of UN inspectors:
Many former Iraqi officials close to Saddam either heard him say or inferred that he intended to resume WMD programs when sanctions were lifted. Those around him at the time do not believe that he made a decision to permanently abandon WMD programs. Saddam encouraged Iraqi officials to preserve the nation’s scientific brain trust essential for WMD. Saddam told his advisors as early as 1991 that he wanted to keep Iraq’s nuclear scientists fully employed. This theme of preserving personnel resources persisted throughout the sanctions period....
Baghdad reluctantly submitted to inspections, declaring only part of its ballistic missile and chemical warfare programs to the UN, but not its nuclear weapon and biological warfare programs, which it attempted to hide from inspectors....
The abortive efforts to outwardly comply with the UN inspection process from 1995 onward slowly shifted to increased efforts to minimize the impact of the inspection process on Regime security, military, and industrial and research capabilities. Throughout 1997-1998, Iraq continued efforts to hinder UNSCOM inspections through site sanitization, warning inspection sites prior to the inspectors’ arrival, concealment of sensitive documentation, and intelligence collection on the UN mission.
On Hussein's future plans for WMD retention and resumption:
The Regime made a token effort to comply with the disarmament process, but the Iraqis never intended to meet the spirit of the UNSC’s resolutions. Outward acts of compliance belied a covert desire to resume WMD activities. Several senior officials also either inferred or heard Saddam say that he reserved the right to resume WMD research after sanctions....
The suspension of cooperation with UN inspectors ushered in a period of mixed fortunes for the Regime.This transitional phase was characterized by economic growth on the one hand, which emboldened and accelerated illicit procurement and programs....
Saddam invested his growing reserves of hard currency in rebuilding his military-industrial complex, increasing its access to dual-use items and materials, and creating numerous military research and development projects. He also emphasized restoring the viability of the IAEC and Iraq’s former nuclear scientists....
There is an extensive, yet fragmentary and circumstantial, body of evidence suggesting that Saddam pursued a strategy to maintain a capability to return to WMD after sanctions were lifted by preserving assets and expertise.
Whether or not Saddam retained WMD as late as 2003:
ISG has not found evidence that Saddam Husayn possessed WMD stocks in 2003, but the available evidence from its investigation -- including detainee interviews and document exploitation -- leaves open the possibility that some weapons existed in Iraq although not of a militarily significant capability.
A recovered 2002 document outlines the Iraqi evacuation plan to protect key military industries and equipment from Coalition air strikes or threats. The former Regime developed these concepts in response to lessons learned after Desert Storm and Desert Fox. The report outlines the importance of utilizing a properly concealed Iraqi railroad system along with trucks and pre-equipped trailers to move important laboratories, equipment, and machinery....
If Iraq possessed WMD Saddam may have concluded, given his perception of the Coalition threat, he would not need to use WMD. Military commanders consistently over-reported their combat capability and Saddam had concluded most Iraqis would fight to defend the country. He may not have realized that his Regime could not be saved until it was too late to deploy CW from existing storage areas to operational forces....
If WMD existed, Saddam may have opted not to use it for larger strategic or political reasons, because he did not think Coalition military action would unseat him.... Based on his experience with past coalition attacks, Saddam actually had more options by not using WMD, and if those failed, WMD always remained as the final alternative.
Note the huge discrepencies between the AP "article," written by Mr. Charles J. Hanley -- a Bush hater and anti-war baiter from long back -- and the actual Duelfer report:
Hanley says "the Iraq Survey Group declared that Iraq had dismantled its chemical, biological and nuclear arms programs in 1991 under U.N. oversight."
But the final report of the ISG says:
- They found no evidence of WMD... yet they hold open the possibility of legacy WMD;
- That Hussein obstructed and impeded inspections and hid materials from inspectors;
- That Hussein always harbored the intent to resume WMD production the moment sanctions were lifted (which, absent the invasion, would have been right around the corner);
- That to this end, Hussein retained all the capacity to restore and reconstitute his WMD programs.
And in fact, at least "a trace" of the banned arsenal -- about twenty loaded chemical shells -- were found before Charles Duelfer's final report of the Iraq Survey Group; and nobody knew then (or knows today) how many such "legacy" chemical weapons still existed in 2003 and still exist today (though the Pentagon now admits that number is in excess of 500; see below). Yet Hanley flatly states that nothing at all has been found... "no trace."
Let's return to Hanley's assertions of supposedly uncontroversial "reality." He discusses here the chemical munitions that we have, in fact, found in Iraq -- and why they don't count:
But the Pentagon and outside experts stressed that these abandoned shells, many found in ones and twos, were 15 years old or more [I recall reading "up to" 15 years old, not a minimum of 15], their chemical contents were degraded [but it's in great dispute just how degraded they were... some severely, but some only minimally], and they were unusable as artillery ordnance [Hanley disdains even to mention the possibility that, while unusable as artillery shells, they may well be usable as chemical IEDs]. Since the 1990s, such "orphan" munitions, from among 160,000 made by Iraq and destroyed, have turned up on old battlefields and elsewhere in Iraq, ex-inspectors say. In other words, this was no surprise.
Note the yawner at the end: "no surprise." Does the fact that we knew they were there mean, therefore, that they were not dangerous? Rather, I think it severely undercuts Hanley's point above that "no trace" of Hussein's "banned arsenals" existed, as 500 chemical munitions is more than "a trace."
Back to Hanley:
And Bush himself, since 2003, has repeatedly insisted on one plainly false point: that Saddam rebuffed the U.N. inspectors in 2002, that "he wouldn't let them in," as he said in 2003, and "he chose to deny inspectors," as he said this March.
The facts are that Iraq - after a four-year hiatus in cooperating with inspections - acceded to the U.N. Security Council's demand and allowed scores of experts to conduct more than 700 inspections of potential weapons sites from Nov. 27, 2002, to March 16, 2003. The inspectors said they could wrap up their work within months. Instead, the U.S. invasion aborted that work.
Actually, the "facts" are that Hussein was caught repeatedly moving materials around from site to site, delaying inspectors for days, and that there appeared to be leaks from within UNMOVIC that enabled the Iraqis to know, sometimes days in advance, what site inspectors were going to look at and what they thought they might find. UN seals were several times found broken, and the inspectors themselves admitted that Iraq was not fully cooperating with the inspections regime.
From the ISG final report:
In 2002 and 2003, SSO minders accompanied many inspection teams because of the requirement laid down by UNSCR 1441 to provide immediate access to all facilities, including presidential sites. They also served to warn Saddam Husayn’s security personnel that inspectors were approaching presidential locations....
Between August 2002 and early January 2003, the Iraqi military had taken measures to prepare for an anticipated US military attack on Iraq, according to a former IIS official. These measures included the movement and hiding of military equipment and weapons. Army leaders at bases throughout Iraq were ordered to identify alternate locations and to transfer equipment and heavy machinery to off-base locations, taking advantage of farms and homes to hide items.
Far from being "plainy false," the claim that Hussein was still "rebuff[ing] the U.N. inspectors" was plainly accurate.
Send the Rabble Back to Their Homes
Second, look at the dismissive, even belittling way Hanley describes those benighted souls who still believe that Iraq posed any danger at all prior to the March, 2003 invasion:
Half of America apparently still thinks [that Iraq had WMD], a new poll finds, and experts see a raft of reasons why: a drumbeat of voices from talk radio to die-hard bloggers to the Oval Office, a surprise headline here or there, a rallying around a partisan flag, and a growing need for people, in their own minds, to justify the war in Iraq.
This sets the tone: if you actually think that Iraq had WMD or even WMD programs in 2002-2003, then (pick one or more):
- You've been brainwashed by talk radio or "die-hard bloggers;"
- You've been brainwashed by Bush's propaganda;
- You've been made a fool by badly written headlines that leave the mistaken impression that things have been found since the invasion that might indicate the most dovish position in 2002 was not completely correct;
- You're a stupid patriot who thinks "my country, right or wrong!"
- You have a psychological need to expiate your guilt by believing the delusion that Bush might have been right after all.
Missing from this list of explanations for why people might believe Iraq really did have WMD is this one: because recent information and finds indicate that Iraq really did have WMD in 2003.
People tend to become "independent of reality" in these circumstances, says opinion analyst Steven Kull....
"I'm flabbergasted," said Michael Massing, a media critic whose writings dissected the largely unquestioning U.S. news reporting on the Bush administration's shaky WMD claims in 2002-03.
"This finding just has to cause despair among those of us who hope for an informed public able to draw reasonable conclusions based on evidence," Massing said.
This is the psychology meme more fully expressed: those who think Iraq had WMD in 2003 have a psychological need, "independent of reality," to believe such a ludicrous thing. Of course, for any of this to make sense, we have to assume from the outset that there is no logical way for anyone to believe that the answer to the question "Did Saddam Hussein's government have weapons of mass destruction in 2003" could be "Yes." But wait...
Timing may explain some of the poll result. Two weeks before the survey, two Republican lawmakers, Pennsylvania's Sen. Rick Santorum and Michigan's Rep. Peter Hoekstra, released an intelligence report in Washington saying 500 chemical munitions had been collected in Iraq since the 2003 invasion.
Hm... if a fellow were aware of that report -- which the Pentagon itself has confirmed -- and if he were asked whether "Saddam Hussein's government [had] weapons of mass destruction in 2003," wouldn't his answer have to be that it obviously did?
The only alternative is that old Iraqi chemical weapons had been smuggled into Iraq after 2003; but if that were true, then they had to exist outside of Iraq prior to that point (since one cannot manufacture items in 2003 that date back to 1991) -- which buttresses the idea that Iraq removed its arsenal to another country!
It's one or the other for anyone who knows about the report. Thus, for someone to believe, as Hanley clearly does, that there was "no trace" of WMD in Iraq, he would have to conclude that a chemical weapons from 1991 was not really a "weapon of mass destruction."
This is the Mark Steyn position: "No matter how many WMDs are found in Iraq, they're always the wrong kind.
A former Iraqi general's book - at best uncorroborated hearsay - claimed "56 flights" by jetliners had borne such [WMD] to Syria.
Has Hanley actually read the book? Or even a summary? Or did he say to himself, "I needn't bother reading that thing, for it is nothing but uncorroborated hearsay at best." Rather than attempt to debunk the claim, Hanley is content merely to denounce it.
"For some it almost becomes independent of reality and becomes very partisan." The WMD believers are heavily Republican, polls show.
The third meme: it's all just politics. How can you take seriously those who think there was WMD in Iraq? For Pete's sake, they're all Republicans!
The Lurkers Support Me In E-Mail
Finally, note that Hanley interviews not a single commenter who disagrees with his central thesis: that any American who thinks that Iraq had any "trace of banned arsenals in Iraq" is either terminally ignorant and stupid, is driven by deep psychotic impulses so frighteningly antisocial, he should probably be locked up, or is perhaps even a Republican.
Nearly all of those commenters he interviews have a pre-existing animus against Bush or against the war; it's hard not to suspect that's precisely why they find themselves quoted in this hit-piece:
- "People tend to become 'independent of reality' in these circumstances, says opinion analyst Steven Kull."
Suppose the US has detained an individual in Afghanistan who is not suspected of having any involvement in terrorism, but the US suspects this person might have useful information about a terrorist group. Suppose, when asked, he denies having such information. Do you think the US does or does not have the right to put this person in prison indefinitely as a way of putting pressure on him to talk?
(Anti-war groups such as al-Jazeera and CommonDreams.org frequently turn to Kull for authoritative-sounding quotes to back up their stories.)
- "'I'm flabbergasted,' said Michael Massing, a media critic whose writings dissected the largely unquestioning U.S. news reporting on the Bush administration's shaky WMD claims in 2002-03."
Michael Massing is a contributing editor of the Columbia Journalism Review. Michael Massing received his Bachelor of Arts from Harvard College and an MS from the London School of Economics and Political Science. He often writes for the New York Review of Books concerning the media and foreign affairs. He has written for the New York Times, the New Yorker, and the Atlantic Monthly. He was a recipient of the MacArthur Fellowship in 1992. He has written on the War on Drugs in his 2000 book The Fix and on American jounalism [in] Now They Tell Us: The American Press and Iraq.
- "'These are not stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction,' said Scott Ritter, the ex-Marine who was a U.N. inspector in the 1990s. 'They weren't deliberately withheld from inspectors by the Iraqis.'"
For some inexplicable reason, Hanley neglects to mention this tidbit about Mr. Ritter:
Ritter has been criticized for the financing of his 2000 documentary In Shifting Sands: The Truth About UNSCOM and the Disarming of Iraq.
Detroit businessman Shakir al Khafaji, an American citizen of Iraqi descent, gave Ritter $400,000 to produce his film. Al Khafaji later disclosed to media sources that he had profited from the sale of oil allocations distributed by the Iraqi government under the Oil-for-Food programme run by the UN. [Financial Times, April 13, 2004] Some commentators have speculated that Al-Khafaji's fianancial support of Ritter's film may have been part of a quid-pro-quo with the Iraqi govenment, since the film supported the official Iraqi claim that WMD capabilities had been eliminated. Ritter has stated that at the time, he accepted Al-Khafaji's personal assurance that the money was not connected to the Iraqi regime.
(Shakir al Khafaji is a naturalized American citizen, having immigrated from Iraq in 1975.)
I would think such a connection between Ritter and Saddam Hussein's government, even indirectly, might possibly color the reader's perception of Ritter's objectivity and should have been disclosed. But then, I'm not a member of the elite media, with all of its multiple layers of checks and balances... so what do I know?
- "'I think the Santorum-Hoekstra thing is the latest 'factoid,' but the basic dynamic is the insistent repetition by the Bush administration of the original argument,' said John Prados, author of the 2004 book Hoodwinked: The Documents That Reveal How Bush Sold Us a War."
"As recently as May 27, Bush told West Point graduates, 'When the United Nations Security Council gave him one final chance to disclose and disarm, or face serious consequences, he refused to take that final opportunity.'
'Which isn't true,' observed Kathleen Hall Jamieson, a scholar of presidential rhetoric at the University of Pennsylvania. But 'it doesn't surprise me when presidents reconstruct reality to make their policies defensible. This president may even have convinced himself it's true, she said.'"
- "'As perception grows of worsening conditions in Iraq, it may be that Americans are just hoping for more of a solid basis for being in Iraq to begin with,' said the Harris Poll's David Krane."
Prados' position on Bush and the Iraq war is obvious; Jamieson, Dean of the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg School of Communication, has argued for years that all politicians are liars and cheats.
David Krane, Senior Vice President of Media, Public Relations and Public Policy Research and project manager for Harris Interactive, is the lone commenter who doesn't start with an obvious axe to grind against Bush and the war; on the other hand, his quotation can only be presumed from context to support Hanley's position.
Sitting separately, it reads more like a general comment simply about Americans hoping to be reassured that we went into the war for good and valid reasons -- not specifically about the oddity that a majority of Americans believes that WMD existed in Iraq, merely because we have subsequently found existing WMD in Iraq.
Hanley does not trouble to intervew, even for a pull-quote, anybody who disputes his thesis, arguing that Iraq did indeed retain either WMD itself or at least the capability to quickly reconstitute it the moment the sanctions and inspections regime collapsed: no Laurie Mylroie, no Rick Santorum or Peter Hoekstra, nobody involved in translating the Iraq IIS and military documents that have been released recently, no Iraqi defectors, and none of the analysts who have recently cast doubt upon the CIA characterization of those mobile labs as part of Hussein's urgent program, on the eve of war, to protect Iraq's vital weather-balloon facilities.
Evidently, like global-warming fanatics, he wants us to believe that 100% of all experts back his position.
All the News That's Fit to Be Tied
Suffice to say that the entire Hanley piece, from soup to nuts, is a propaganda paeon to anti-war activists, Arabs, and the Democratic Party. Yet it was published and distributed in the regular AP news feed via excite.com. Given such efforts, it's a wonder that "half of America" is still able to see through the snide inuendo, the condescending pop psychology, and the insulting dismissal of views contrary to the vision of the anointed antique media.
July 2, 2006
Teleblogging 1: Finding Even More of the Wrong Kind of WMDs In Iraq
Proving themselves utterly without shame or humility, American forces have insisted upon finding even more chemical weapons in Iraq:
The U.S. military has found more Iraqi weapons in recent months, in addition to the 500 chemical munitions recently reported by the Pentagon, a top defense intelligence official said on Thursday.
Lt. Gen. Michael Maples, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, did not specify if the newly found weapons were also chemical munitions. But he said he expected more.
"I do not believe we have found all the weapons," he told the House of Representatives Armed Services Committee, offering few details in an open session that preceded a classified briefing to lawmakers.
He may not have specified, but I doubt he would have bothered telling the Armed Services Committee about finding a cache of AK-47s, IEDs, or cherry bombs -- which he knows nobody on that committee cares about.
At the Armed Services Committee, Maples also asserted that the rockets and artillery rounds that had been found were produced in the 1980s and could not be used as intended.
Ah -- this must be what the pooh-poohers mean by saying (in Mark Steyn's memorable phraseology), that no matter how much WMD we find, it's always the wrong kind. LG Maples' key qualifier, of course, is "used as intended."
Sadly, such autonomic gainsaying is not the exclusive reaction of Democrats or even of Democrats, the State Department, and the CIA; now we have to add the top brass at the Pentagon to the list of those who find it more urgent to find nothing than to find something, even if something is actually there to be found. (I'm probably being too harsh to LG Maples. Consider him a stand-in for the generals I really want to yell at.)
For example, even if the WMD found could not be used "as intended" (that is, being fired from and artillery piece), could it be used not-as-intended to cause death and destruction anyway? Judge for yourself. After first enunciating the soundbite above, he added the following, which completely undercuts the obvious point of the first statement:
If the chemical agent, sarin, was [sic, subjunctive case] removed from the munitions and repackaged, it could be lethal. Its release in a U.S. city, in certain circumstances, would be devastating, Maples said.
Devastating! So is it the wrong kind of WMD or the right kind? To me, it sounds like the right WMD but the wrong delivery system... and I'm very, very glad we got it away from the terrorists before they repackaged it.
Oh, and an addendum. In the category "shouldn't there be an IQ test before someone can run for Congress," here is the entry from Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-CA, 90%):
"It's very difficult to characterize these as the imminent threat weapons that we were told we were looking for," said Rep. Ellen Tauscher, a California Democrat.
It has become a full-time profession, with a corner office and a pension plan, to inform Democrats that indeed, Bush never once said that Iraq posed an "imminent threat." Those words were never uttered -- except by shifty politicians and dunderheaded journalists looking to score a cheap knockout of a straw man.
For those who have forgotten, here is what Bush actually said about imminent threats:
Before September the 11th, many in the world believed that Saddam Hussein could be contained. But chemical agents, lethal viruses and shadowy terrorist networks are not easily contained. Imagine those 19 hijackers with other weapons and other plans -- this time armed by Saddam Hussein. It would take one vial, one canister, one crate slipped into this country to bring a day of horror like none we have ever known. We will do everything in our power to make sure that that day never comes.
Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent. Since when have terrorists and tyrants announced their intentions, politely putting us on notice before they strike? If this threat is permitted to fully and suddenly emerge, all actions, all words, and all recriminations would come too late. Trusting in the sanity and restraint of Saddam Hussein is not a strategy, and it is not an option.
Readers Digest translation: we can't wait until Iraq becomes an imminent threat, because by then it will be too late to stop it. So let's strike now -- when the threat is not yet imminent.
That is why we needed a new doctrine, the Bush Doctrine of Pre-Emptive Warfare. If Iraq really were an imminent threat, attacking it would have been uncontroversial. It was controversial precisely because we admitted the threat was as yet inchoate -- like a felon stocking up on heavy-duty firearms -- and argued that in today's world, an imminent threat is a realized attack, because once you discover it, it's too late to stop it.
Got it now, Ms. Tauscher?
June 23, 2006
Could We Start Again, Please?
Is it Captain Kidd's treasure-hold or Al Capone's vault?
At last, the New York Times has finally deigned to notice that we found a huge bunch of chemical munitions -- WMD -- in Iraq... though only in the context of a story about "hobbyists" who keep alive the search for WMD. Amazingly enough, however, once you finish wincing at the patronizing theme, the story itself isn't half bad. Maybe only 0.25 bad.
Mr. [Dave] Gaubatz, an earnest, Arabic-speaking investigator who spent the first months of the war as an Air Force civilian in southern Iraq, has said he has identified four sites where residents said chemical weapons were buried in concrete bunkers.
The sites were never searched, he said, and he is not going to let anyone forget it.
The Times, they are a-changin'. But why now? I suspect the reasoning of "Pinch" Sulzberger and Bill Keller now embraces two points:
- As more and more WMD are found in Iraq, it becomes untenable to continue pretending not to see it. Eventually, the logo of the New York Times will have to encorporate the famous three monkeys.
- But -- if the Iraq Survey Group failed to find WMD that was there to be found, and if Bush ran the CIA (via his appointee, George Tenet), hence the ISG... then the "miserable failure" to find WMD can be laid at Bush's feet.
The Times has evidently arrived at the conclusion that the meme "Bush lied about Hussein having WMD" is pretty much played out... but there's still a vein of pure gold in the meme "Bush lied about Hussein not having WMD."
Admittedly, the second meme has more truth to it than the first; the only fly in the soup is that the Democrats, by pushing Meme 1 for so long and so stridently, have disqualified themselves from ever arguing Meme 2: they would have to denounce each other as liars before they could attack President Bush.
Still, that may be too subtle a point for young Pinch, as it requires a universe more than seven days wide, from three days in the past to three days in the future, with a day of rest every "today." (And Bill Keller is reportedly on vacation, ducking the angry response to the Times having outed yet another program to track terrorists.) Certainly, the Times manages both to disparage the WMD hunters while still embracing their main arguments:
Some politicians are outspoken allies in Mr. Gaubatz's cause. He is just one of a vocal and disparate collection of Americans, mostly on the political right, whose search for Saddam Hussein's unconventional weapons continues....
The proponents include some members of Congress. Two Republicans, Representative Peter Hoekstra of Michigan, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, and Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania held a news conference on Wednesday to announce that, as Mr. Santorum put it, "We have found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq."
American intelligence officials hastily scheduled a background briefing for the news media on Thursday to clarify that. Hoekstra and Mr. Santorum were referring to an Army report that described roughly 500 munitions containing "degraded" mustard or sarin gas, all manufactured before the 1991 gulf war and found scattered through Iraq since 2003.
Such shells had previously been reported and do not change the government conclusion, the officials said. [That is, discovering 500 unaccounted-for chemical munitions in Iraq does not change the conclusion that there were no unaccounted-for chemical munitions in Iraq. -- the Mgt.]
Even Fox News gets some favorable press in the press:
Such official statements are unlikely to settle the question for the believers, some of whom have impressive credentials. They include a retired Air Force lieutenant general, Thomas G. McInerney, a commentator on the Fox News Channel who has broadcast that weapons are in three places in Syria and one in Lebanon, moved there with Russian help on the eve of the war.
And they have even had some successes, at least in moving the administration off of its parrot-like repetition that there were no WMDs in Iraq:
The weapons hunters were encouraged in February when tapes of Mr. Hussein's talking with top aides about his arsenal were released at the Intelligence Summit, a private gathering in northern Virginia of 600 former spies, former military officers and hobbyists....
In March, under Congressional pressure, National Intelligence Director John D. Negroponte began posting on the Web thousands of captured Iraqi documents. Some intelligence officials opposed the move, fearing a free-for-all of amateur speculation and intrigue.
But the weapons hunters were heartened and began combing the documents for clues.
Mr. Gaubatz, 47, now chief investigator for the Dallas County medical examiner, said he knew some people might call him a kook.
So let's consider the themes in this excerpt: there are bunch of sincere kooks and hobbyists, including retired lieutenant generals and CIA officers, who are still looking for WMD in Iraq -- the existence of which is being denied by the incompetent Bush administration. (Got 'em coming and going.)
But at least they are finally placing before the American people the fact that there was a lot more WMD in Iraq than we were ever told by the Iraq Survey Group -- run by the CIA, which is a child of the State Department. If the ISG could miss 500 artillery shells and rockets loaded with chemicals such as Sarin and mustard gas, couldn't they also have missed jugs of VX and vials of Smallpox and Anthrax?
The entire edifice of "Bush lied about WMD" is crumbling. I doubt that many Americans will be mollified by the Democrats, the antique media, and the State Department (through surrogates in the CIA) saying, "It's all right, Saddam's WMD was from before the Gulf War and is only 80% or 75% as deadly as it was back then... so it doesn't count."
Naturally, the Times continues the charade that weapons of mass destruction were the only reason we went to war with Iraq; lost down the memory hole are all the other casus belli:
- Repeated violations of the truce agreement that suspended (not ended) the Gulf War;
- Failure to disclose disposition of WMD (this is different from merely having it; Iraq lied again and again what they did with it);
- Defiance of multiple U.N. resolutions, most especially United Nations Security Council Resolution 1441, but also Resolutions 660, 661, 678, 686., 687, 688, 707, 715, 986, and 1284;
- Repeated attacks on United States military forces -- including firing upon American aircraft patrolling the no-fly zone;
- The attempted assassination of a former president of the United States;
- Ongoing crimes against humanity -- mass murder, ethinic cleansing, and environmental crimes;
- Harboring international terrorists, including members of al-Qaeda, wanted for committing murderous acts against America (triggering the Bush Doctrine);
- And most important, that Iraq was an illegitimate military dictatorship whose replacement by democracy and rule of law will start to drain the swamp of jihad in the heart of the ummah.
But the same Times story also touts several impressive achievements of these "hobbyists": not only did they get the NID, John Negroponte, to start putting on the web captured Iraqi intelligence and military documents; not only did they force the release of the report we talked about here; but recently, Gaubatz also got a meeting with officers of the Defense Intelligence Agency to try to persuade them -- at long last -- to start searching sites where residents claim WMDs were buried.
There is no question that most of such claims will fail to pan out. That is the nature of such a hunt... and if David Kay and Charles Duelfer were not in such a blasted hurry to declare defeat and head home, they would have understood that.
We should never have stopped purposefully looking; look how much we've found completely by accident. It's my understanding that the National Ground Intelligence Center is primarily tasked with investigating possible hazards to our troops; when soldiers or Marines stumble across a find that they think might be dangerous -- chemical, radiological, or biological -- they call the NGIC to come out, investigate, and dispose of the dangerous materials.
The NGIC is not out combing the hills and sand dunes, looking for WMD. That was the job of the ISG, which quickly disbanded itself after just a few months in the field.
What if they had they been sent out with a mandate to stay so long as our troops were in Iraq, searching continuously; would they have found these shells? Would they have found the other stuff that Iraq claims but cannot prove to have destroyed? Could they have investigated new claims of Syrian or Sudanese complicity in moving WMD out of Iraq?
Would the CIA have been so quick to dismiss all the WMD we found as "the wrong kind," as Mark Steyn put it, if that attitude were not a ticket to get them back home almost as fast as John Kerry's bogus Purple Hearts?
We'll never know... unless we bite the chemical shell and restart the search. But this time, leave the pathetically political CIA out of the loop. This search is a military matter, and it should be conducted by the Pentagon, using whatever military intelligence or force assets they need.
Mr. President -- could we start again, please? And this time, do it right: no time limit, no geographical limit, and without starting from the assumption, as the ISG did, that "there's no there there."
June 21, 2006
Possible News Flash: WMD Found In Iraq?
I can't find any information about this yet -- evidently, it just broke within the last hour or so -- but supposedly, Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA, 96%) and Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-MI, 100%) just held a presser and announced that we have found a large number of chemical shells (Hugh said "500") filled with Sarin gas in Iraq. This according to Hugh Hewitt, who just announced it during his interview with Chris Hitchens.
Big Lizards has no, zip, zero, nought, nada information about this; in fact, consider this post a plea for further information from anyone who can scrounge something up. We're left saying "wha-? huh-? who ordered the veal cutlet?"
I'm a little skeptical; Hoekstra is chairman of the House Permanent Subcommittee on Intelligence, but Santorum is only chairman of the Senate Republican Conference -- a leadership position but nothing specifically to do with intelligence or armed services (Santorum's committees are Agriculture, Banking, Aging, and Finance). I understand why Hoekstra would deliver such a presser, but why Santorum? It always makes me suspicious when a stunning announcement is made by someone who does not, on paper, have any business making such an announcement.
Neither pol has anything about this on his website, at this moment. And we've been burned before by premature announcements of WMD finds.
We have argued for some time, here at Big Lizards (most recently in Mahmoud, Son of Xerox), that indeed we have found WMD in Iraq: empty chemical shells and rockets sitting in the same camouflaged ammo dump with 55-gallon drums of Cyclosarin is a "chemical weapon" in the same sense that an unloaded 9mm in the same house as a bunch of ammunition is a "firearm," and any felon caught in the second situation would be just as guilty as if the pistol were actually loaded. However, the Iraq Survey Group repeatedly refused to call such finds evidence of WMD.
But this -- if true -- would be a stunning development; not even the CIA would be able to argue that a bunch of shells loaded up with Sarin didn't constitute WMD. But as I said, I'm "Sgt. Schultz" at this moment.
As Matt Drudge likes to say, "developing..."
Help us out here... enquiring minds very much need to know!
UPDATE 4:11 pm: A bit more from Hugh... Santorum and Hoekstra are not talking about a single find; they're saying that since 2003, we have found "over 500" chemical weapons containing either mustard gas or Sarin (more likely, Cyclosarin, in our Lizardly opinion; Iraq was one of the few countries to use Cyclosarin, a pesticide, in chemical weapons... in fact, used in combat).
These are "pre-Gulf War" weapons; but their existence today obviously proves they existed before the current Iraq War began... hence, Bush was right that Iraq had CBW -- and the CIA was wrong about being wrong about WMD. Not only that, but the sacred "inspectors" of UNMOVIC and UNSCOM all failed to find these hundreds of chemical weapons... but I suspect Saddam Hussein knew where they were.
Hugh is interviewing Sen. Santorum right now: evidently, this comes from a partially declassified report from the National Ground Intelligence Center, possibly under the U.S. Army. Evidently, Santorum heard a tip about the existence of this classified report (secret, not top secret); he contacted Hoekstra, who had not heard of it (!) Hoekstra nosed about and found it; then he prevailed upon the "intelligence community" (I guess that would be the NID and the various service heads) to produce an unclassified version for release.
It was finally released at 4:30 pm EDT, and the intelligence committees were briefed a half-hour later; Hoekstra then told what he could legally tell to Santorum, and they called their press conference... which only 4-5 reporters bothered to attend. (That's not "the story," you understand.)
Santorum said that a version of the report was either published on a blog or at least discussed, but he could not remember which one or when that was.
But if we couple this report with several recently declassified and translated documents that, er, document ongoing Iraqi efforts, right up until the current war started, to conceal, disperse, and hide chemical and biological weapons and the nuclear program, then I think we are reaching a point of near certainty: Bush was right after all about WMD in Iraq.
We should eventually be able to find information about this here; but it's not there yet, at least not that I can find.
Commenter Mike has given us a link to a preliminary news report from Cybercast New Service (CNS) about this document. Thanks, Mike!
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