Thursday, November 02, 2006

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.


Blogger enscout said...

wretchard said, "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."

Ah, yes. There it is, then. The very crux of the matter. And for the irreparable damage the NYT & others screeching "Bush lied" have done to free people everywhere, they suffer no consequence.

11/03/2006 04:39:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

It's just you, trust us.

The Great Divider

But he hit a particularly creepy low when he decided to distort a lame joke lamely delivered by Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts.

Mr. Kerry warned college students that the punishment for not learning your lessons was to “get stuck in Iraq.”

In context, it was obviously an attempt to disparage Mr. Bush’s intelligence.
That’s impolitic and impolite, but it’s not as bad as Mr. Bush’s response.
Knowing full well what Mr. Kerry meant, the president and his team cried out that the senator was disparaging the troops.

It was a depressing replay of the way the Bush campaign Swift-boated Americans in 2004 into believing that Mr. Kerry, who went to war, was a coward and Mr. Bush, who stayed home, was a hero
(if you watch the uncut video, there is a definite BREAK between the Bush Jokes and the education comment.)

11/03/2006 06:19:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said... least they led me to this pure enjoyment:
Getz, Coltrane, Oscar Peterson, Jimmy Cobb 1960
Download and watch fullscreen.
(saddened by awe at what was once recognized as talent/genius vs today's gutter standards)

11/03/2006 06:23:00 AM  
Blogger 3Case said...

I agree, enscout.

"...they suffer no consequence."

"they" are urban dwellers, primarily. What they haven't the brains or intellectual capacity to understand is that, given their continued course of action, "the consequence" will come in the form of a bright, white flash and large shockwave in the urban areas. Perhaps they all believe that they will be spared and safe from "the consequence"...childish thinking that. Not so oddly, a lot of these childish thinkers in my area are buying property out in the woods and (imagine this!) guns.

11/03/2006 06:54:00 AM  
Blogger 3Case said...

'Mr. Kerry warned college students that the punishment for not learning your lessons was to “get stuck in Iraq.”'

Just keep repeating the Party mantra, you'll be o.k. The audio of the MA junior Senator makes it clear that John Kerry issued (another) slur against the armed forces of our country. Simple as that. We understand that you (in the generic) cannot admit that. We know that about you (again, in the generic).

Beyond that..."Move On!" least until you get around to the story that Bush and Rove have been consorting regualrly this campaign season with Russian Mind Control experts, one of whom was seen in the crowd (blurry photo for proof) at the time Kerry got his slur on....

11/03/2006 07:03:00 AM  
Blogger HackleHead said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

11/03/2006 07:04:00 AM  
Blogger HackleHead said...

You see it is all part of a nefarious Rovian plot...

...he made the oil prices go up.

...then he made the oil prices go down.

...he made the WMDs dissappear.

...then he made them reappear.

Does everyone got it?

11/03/2006 07:05:00 AM  
Blogger vbwyrde said...

Libs Lied - Americans Died.

11/03/2006 07:58:00 AM  
Blogger CWVet449th said...

George Bush did not "stay home" any more than I did, and John Kerry never faced the enemy himself. In the four months that Lurch was in country, his only goal was to further his fledgling political career with as little military service as he could manage.

When George Bush englisted in the ANG, F-102's were in fact stationed in SE Asia, flying escort missions for B-52's and also making ground attacks. Bush flew this plane for more than three years, not just a couple of months.

The F-102 was an extremely dangerous aircraft to fly for its pilots. Only the very best pilot candidates were allowed to fly this state of the art Mach 2 jet fighter, and many pilots were killed on a regular basis in peacetime training.

George Bush is a hero, and nearly super-human in his ability to fly a plane that none of you here would survive if you tried to fly it. John Kerry is a coward and scoundrel who has exploited and denigrated the U.S. military at every opportunity.

11/03/2006 08:17:00 AM  
Blogger Ash said...


Are you purposely trying to blow smoke or is your memory so short that you forget recent history?

Sure, Saddam had a nuke program at one point, they had knowledge and some techinical advancement but the facilities were under seal, the program stopped and the Bush and Blair administrations made claims that turned out to be false yet you claim to have now found a magical contradiction:

"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."

Of course they had knowledge but that is very different from developing that knowledge into cascading centrifuges producing enough enriched material configured into a device that can be delivered to a target. They also had knowledge about chemical and biological weapons but not, as claimed, that WMD could be readied in 45 minutes, or vast stockpiles of weapons, or, you know, the "slam dunk" claim, or even attempts to purchase yellow cake.

In short it is consistent to claim that Iraq possessed information that is dangerous yet not had an operational program and/or the weapons constituting a threat justifying an invasion.

11/03/2006 08:18:00 AM  
Blogger Ash said...

stumbley, are you referring to the line:

"Among the dozens of documents in English were Iraqi reports written in the 1990s and in 2002 for United Nations inspectors in charge of making sure Iraq had abandoned its unconventional arms programs after the Persian Gulf war. Experts say that at the time, Mr. Hussein’s scientists were on the verge of building an atom bomb, as little as a year away."

geee, experts say that the ABANDONED program was as little as a year away. That is a very different claim that they were a year away in the runup to the war. Again, to repeat, the program was abandoned, the facilities were under seal and the inspectors had free reign to continue their search - heck the inspectors were even being ferried about in US military planes.

11/03/2006 09:35:00 AM  
Blogger Final Historian said...

I am inclined to think that Ash is correct. Iraq's nuke program wasn't going anywhere, for the time being.

More important, I think, is that the NYT obviously believes that Iran is trying to develop nuclear weapons. After all, why is this information which the Bush Administration supposedly "let out" dangerous, unless the Iranians intended to use it?

I can't wait for the next NYT article to deny that Iran is working towards the Bomb.

11/03/2006 10:40:00 AM  
Blogger RWE said...

In a world in which Scooter Libby can be prosecuted for a nonexistant crime - and one in which the information he supposedly provided was dead right and in which his accuser has since proved to be both a liar and the actual perpetrator of said crime...

Well, then, in such a world it is entirely possible that information publically released about a "nonexistant program" endangered National Security.

11/03/2006 11:19:00 AM  
Blogger wretchardthecat said...


You have put your finger on the problem. The classic model of an nuclear threat is existence of a superpower type program with design, fissile enrichment, testing and some would even say, delivery. Saddam may not have had the fissile material but Mohammed Atta didn't have an airplane when he landed in America. He had been seeking a nuclear weapon for years. He acquired his research. He didn't develop the physics from first principles. He may have acquired his design, just as Khadaffy did. He might have bought a bomber for delivery. And he may have wanted to buy the fissile material. We know North Korea has it, don't we.

The case for Saddam's not being a threat rests not his lack of malice; not upon his lack of belligerence but on the circumstance that he wasn't developing a bomb the way Roosevelt or Stalin did.

Now if stacks of yellowcake are necessary to be regarded as a threat then how could the mere possession of Saddam's nuclear tehnology be a threat? They wouldn't be a threat without the centrifuges would they? Of course they would. Because what the NYT implictly understands is that you can do what I have just described. Buy the components. But Saddam couldn't have done that, could he? The logical contradiction is that if anyone with Saddam's knowledge can be a threat, as the NYT asserts, then why wasn't Saddam a threat?

11/03/2006 11:34:00 AM  
Blogger desert rat said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

11/03/2006 11:42:00 AM  
Blogger desert rat said...

Ahh, but he could have been a threat without the "Plans".

The greatest threat lies in those weapons that already exist.
Say in Pakistan and NorK.
Both have worked together to develop sub kiloton nuclear devices. One of which was tested in Pakistan, while another was recently tested in NorK.

The Paki weapons could easily be transfered to the Sauds, as they financed the development of them.
The Sauds do not need "Plans" to acquire a device, neither would have Saddam.
Cash talks, bullshit walks, in the Hermit Kingdom.

As to Pakistan, our friend at Westhawk writes
We hope that General Musharraf is not following in the footsteps of previous men like Batista, Diem, Somoza, Najibullah, and Reza Pahlavi who through indecisiveness eventually alienated enough of their domestic constituencies to leave them helpless. These men, and many others, were thought to know their own countrymen best. But events ground them down and washed them away. Will a floundering General Musharraf be next?

Easy as a aQ Coup to get one of the General President's devices, no Plans or yellow cake required.

11/03/2006 11:45:00 AM  
Blogger Sparks fly said...

The New York Times Lied
People Died.

The other subject:

What Kerry said was not a joke; it was a SIN. Everyone knows it but because the liberal urge in all of us is to hide the sin because sin is ugly we go along with his dissembling. We are not doing him any favors. Instead we are cementing him in his denial. It needs to be said someplace.

Also: Doug and Ash appear to be on the other side; if you get what I mean...if you're with me on this...if you get my drift.

11/03/2006 12:11:00 PM  
Blogger Ash said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

11/03/2006 12:38:00 PM  
Blogger Ash said...

wretchard wrote:

"The logical contradiction is that if anyone with Saddam's knowledge can be a threat, as the NYT asserts, then why wasn't Saddam a threat?"

Just the information posted isn't enough to constitute 'a threat with WMD's'. I don't believe the NYT asserted much more then the US government was posting information the could help build a nuclear weapon. As the one official commented in that article "the papers “a road map that helps you get from point A to point B, but only if you already have a car.”" We knew Saddam had a nuclear program at one time and that his scientists had moved along a fair ways (they even tried to build a reactor in the 80's) and we know the program had been shut down. The NYT simply revealed that the US government was helping to disseminate nuke building info through that website which has been subsequently shutdown. You need that info plus much more, whether purchased or developed, to get a weapon. Saddam may have had that info but he had little else in the runup to GWII. The info alone is not sufficient to make one a threat with WMD's but equally the info isn't something the US should be posting on the internet. An inquistive press can be a good thing.

11/03/2006 12:43:00 PM  
Blogger buddy larsen said...

I have a confession--ash's lack of compression is giving me session depression.

11/03/2006 12:43:00 PM  
Blogger buddy larsen said...

Here, Ash, let me rewrite your 12:43:

"Say, Wretchard, I did not read your 11:34 note addressed to me."

11/03/2006 12:55:00 PM  
Blogger buddy larsen said...

That's okay, Ben Yehuda. My own wool-gathering tolerance is also low, lately.

11/03/2006 01:33:00 PM  
Blogger Ash said...

buddy, let me make it real simple for you - the knowledge, in and of itself, does not make Saddam or anyone else a threat.

11/03/2006 01:50:00 PM  
Blogger Tarnsman said...

Off the subject of this thread I know, but, Doug, WATCH the video of Kerry. He had just made a joke "Bush living in a state of denial" and you can see clearly that he goes into serious mode when he starts his education "lecture". He suddenly takes on the "wise, old man counciling a bunch of younglings" visage. His body language, his tone all convey that he was deadly serious about what he was telling the audience. There was no joke. He spoke from the heart and meant every word he spoke. He just didn't think he'd get caught.

11/03/2006 03:11:00 PM  
Blogger Hayek said...

Assuming this document is genuine, and it must be if it got vouched for by the NY Times, does that mean the rest of the documents dumped by the gov't. are also genuine, including those worrying about US discovering the Iraq relationship w/Al Quaeda, authored several days after 9/11? (See Captain's Quarters) What do you think Ash?

11/03/2006 03:16:00 PM  
Blogger Marty said...

Re:Kerry's joke--I haven't had much time to look around the last day or 2, but did anyone pick up that if you believe Kerry's alibi, it means he's too dumb to remember the punch line of a 1-sentence joke... like Henny Youngman used to rattle off maybe 50 of in a 45-minute set?

RE: Ash--even, for the sake of argument, granting what you say, Saddam was probably within a year or 2 of having the sanctions regime lifted... the momentum was all his way, with France, Russia, China and Germany leading the way and the US and UK accused of killing hundreds of tousands of children--etc, etc, etc. And once the snctions were removed, he would have restarted the program for which he still had the engineers and scientists and facilities, and would have purchased any equipment and materials he needed from France, Russia, China, AQ Khan, et al. The world wasn't gonna stand in stasis as of March 1, 2003, and evenm if it would have, the only way the UN got inspectors back in was because 100,000+ US troops were in the vicinity, and that was unsustainable for the long haul.

11/03/2006 03:24:00 PM  
Blogger Yashmak said...

It's fairly obvious that even if Saddam had mounds of weapons grade, sitting next to plans for a nuclear weapon, which were laying on top of already manufactured parts for such a weapon, all in a room with a map showing plans to use that weapon against the west, it still wouldn't be enough to count as a threat worth of invading Iraq in the eyes of Ash.

taumarunui retrieved information on refinable material found in Iraq. There are records of centrifuges with no other application being found in Iraq, buried, and more were observed by IAEA investigators being hauled out of the back exit of facilities while they were held at the front entrance.

Now, even if none of this were the case. IT WOULDN'T MATTER. Every major intelligence community agreed, Saddam himself believed it, that he had these weapons. To my knowledge, every bipartisan commission assigned to investigate the matter has come to this same conclusion. We had every reason to believe there was a threat, and therefore every justification to go. More information comes to light every week it seems, indicating that he was indeed a significant threat.

11/03/2006 03:48:00 PM  
Blogger buddy larsen said...

tHanx 4 MAkInG iT seMple 4 mE, aSH, yuo dEdUctiVe-reaSOniG genIUs, YuO.

11/03/2006 04:36:00 PM  
Blogger Tarnsman said...

Okay, folks, let's review:

threat [thret] –noun

2. an indication or warning of probable trouble:
3. a person or thing that threatens.
4. Archaic. to threaten.

~Random House Unabridged Dictionary


threat (thret) -noun

2.An indication of impending danger or harm.
3. One that is regarded as a possible danger; a menace.

~The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition


threat (thret) -noun

1.something that is a source of danger.
4. a person who inspires fear or dread

WordNet 2.0, Princeton University

Mince words all you want but the fact remains that Saddam met all the definitions of a threat. And as a threat he had to be dealt with and removed as one. Period. End of story. Now, can't we just move on and blame all of Iraq's post-Saddam problems on Bush?

11/03/2006 04:53:00 PM  
Blogger 3Case said...

Wait a second...Wait A Second!...I think I get it!!

Saddam had a nuke program BEFORE he didn't have a nuke program!!! Is that what NYT is saying? I still don't think I've got the full nuance...I'll work on it some more....

11/03/2006 05:08:00 PM  
Blogger buddy larsen said...

that's funny--"It's Now or Never" --the elvis hit--uses a melody GWB would understand: "O Solo Mio".

11/03/2006 06:11:00 PM  
Blogger buddy larsen said...

"It's now or never, come hold me tight,
kiss me my darling, be mine tonight.
Tomorrow will be too late,
it's now or never, my love won't wait"

(Ka- BOOM !)

11/03/2006 06:15:00 PM  
Blogger buddy larsen said...

thank yew, thank yew, thankyew vedymush....

11/03/2006 07:30:00 PM  
Blogger buddy larsen said...

i think that last line should be "furrymush" (hard to do Mississippi onna keybode).

11/03/2006 07:33:00 PM  

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