The Philosopher's Stone
The New York Times is complaining that information from Iraq's nonexistent nuclear weapons program that was posted on the web by the Bush administration to disprove the NYT's assertion that Iraq's program didn't exist has helped Iran advance its own existing nuclear weapons program. It's Bush's fault. It is just me, or is something wrong with this train of reasoning?
Last March, the federal government set up a Web site to make public a vast archive of Iraqi documents captured during the war. The Bush administration did so under pressure from Congressional Republicans who had said they hoped to “leverage the Internet” to find new evidence of the prewar dangers posed by Saddam Hussein.
But in recent weeks, the site has posted some documents that weapons experts say are a danger themselves: detailed accounts of Iraq’s secret nuclear research before the 1991 Persian Gulf war. The documents, the experts say, constitute a basic guide to building an atom bomb.
Last night, the government shut down the Web site after The New York Times asked about complaints from weapons experts and arms-control officials. A spokesman for the director of national intelligence said access to the site had been suspended “pending a review to ensure its content is appropriate for public viewing.”
Officials of the International Atomic Energy Agency, fearing that the information could help states like Iran develop nuclear arms, had privately protested last week to the American ambassador to the agency, according to European diplomats who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the issue’s sensitivity. One diplomat said the agency’s technical experts “were shocked” at the public disclosures.
If Iran, said to be only a short distance from creating its own weapon, could benefit from information that Saddam's Iraq possessed, that necessarily means Saddam's regime was far along the road to seeking a nuclear weapon. Otherwise Iran could not benefit from Saddam's technological base, were it nonexistent or underdeveloped as a threat. You can't get money from an empty till. So either Iraqi nuclear technology existed to the point where it constitutes the threat the NYT decries or it did not much exist and therefore is no threat. One of the two can be true, but not both. The NYT continues:
Peter D. Zimmerman, a physicist and former United States government arms scientist now at the war studies department of King’s College, London, called the posted material “very sensitive, much of it undoubtedly secret restricted data.”
Posting very sensitive, undoubtedly secret restricted data is treason, isn't it? And very irresponsible. The NYT should know. I'm rather disappointed in the Times for warning me, this late in the game, of the terrible dangers that lurked in Saddam's archives. Recipes for unthinkable weapons that could have been given to just anyone, something Saddam surely wouldn't do unlike the Bush administration which evidently would. They should have warned us sooner, such as during the days when Abu Nidal was in residence in Baghdad, and all those men of good will who are now cutting off the heads of Iraqis by the gross were in charge of those very documents whose shadow menaces the world. But they really didn't exist then, did they? And even if they did they were in safe hands. Because if they did, then taking down Saddam was a responsible thing to do. But they exist now and releasing those newly existing secrets is a terribly irresponsible thing to do. It was the dream of alchemists to turn lead into gold and they failed. The NYT has succeeded.
Maybe President Bush and his cabinet are imperfect people or even bad people. But it doesn't logically follow from that premise that the NYT and all that its ideology represents is good. The terrible possibility exists that Bush may be incompetent and yet the political alternatives worse. People who face amputation from diabetes may not like losing a leg, but often they prefer it to losing their lives. One is bad. The other is worse.
But personally I think the whole debate surrounding Iraq's WMDs is glorified misdirection. America did and does face a threat from terrorist-supporting nations of which Saddam's Iraq was one. Before it was taken down. The AQ Khan network, Iran and North Korea were all part of the threat. That America did not find an actual, ticking nuclear weapon in Iraq doesn't particularly mean anything in an era where design work, production and testing can be divided among anti-American allies. Even refrigerators are made that way today. The gleeful assertion that Saddam didn't "have" WMDs has slowly deligitimized any effort to rid the world of the malignant threat that is growing before its eyes. This campaign has made it politically impossible to act against any nation even if it is in as advanced -- oops -- as retarded a state of development as was Saddam's Iraq. That the threat did not exist was a lie and the greatest danger of all lies, including this one, is that it comes to be accepted as the truth.