Friday, June 27, 2003

Oh, my

Talk about a dilemma. In yet another attention-grabbing post, Dr. Josh Marshall (a.k.a. "Mr. Talking Points") is responding to Dick Cheney's mass email (which evidently went to just about everyone in cyberspace) begging for cash. Only "Mr. Points" has added a stipulation that's sure to put Cheney in a bind: he's offering $1000 in exchange for an interview regarding the forged Niger-Iraqi uranium documents Cheney most likely approved of for use in promoting the Iraq war.

Something tells me the VP won't take Josh up on his offer, but turning down cash doesn't seem to be one of his strong points. We'll be watching...

Thursday, June 26, 2003

Excellent point

Although the "nuclear program parts" will likely be trumpeted as proof Saddam was pursuing nuclear weapons, Josh Marshall points out in an excellent analysis, Saddam had the opportunity in 1998-2002 to start up his nuclear program again, once UN inspectors left and the world was essentially ignoring him. Yet he did not recover the components of his centrifuge(s), which strongly suggests that Hussein's efforts to pursue nuclear weapons were largely dormant by that point. At the very least, they call into further question whether Hussein posed any sort of threat to the United States whatsoever.

Yes, it's likely that Saddam was still interested in WMD. But it's also clear that claims of Saddam being interested in restarting his nuclear weapons program the instant the opportunity presented itself are very questionable.

Fortunately, despite CNN's extensive, high-profile coverage of this find, they seem to be careful to point out that this isn't the "smoking gun" the administration was looking for. One hopes that the distinction is not lost on most viewers.

Wednesday, June 25, 2003

Further thoughts

I think it's important for us to remember the big picture regarding the Iraq War. The argument for war wasn't "we think Saddam is obfuscating about WMD". It wasn't "we think they have an ongoing program to develop WMD". It wasn't even "we think they have WMD". The argument, explicitly, painfully available for all to see in the quotes gathered several places on the web, was that Saddam Hussein represented an immediate threat to the United States, both because of the possession of WMD/WMD technology and links to al Qaeda. And according to the information released thus far, all we have uncovered is evidence that 1) Hussein once had a WMD program and 2) he was interested in having one again some day. I have a sneaking suspicion that most of us are not surprised by these revelations.

We already know, thanks to patriotic intelligence officials, that the Bush team cherry-picked "evidence" supporting its picture of imminent armaggeddon. If Operation "After-The-Fact Justification" uncovers evidence of such collusion and weapons, it will undoubtedly demonstrate Hussein's overthrow as a Good Thing. And it's entirely possible that the segment of the population that's paying attention to this (including the media) will treat such a find as vindication of the administration. Nontheless, it will not change the almost certain fact that Bush knowingly sold a war based upon misleading interpretations of the evidence available.

The moral of the story is that, for anyone who cares about the truth and demands integrity from our elected officials, it's simply too late to "prove the administration right". For the rest of the blindly Bush-backing Far Right, absolutely nothing will damn Bush, regardless.

As I and many anti-war people (e.g. Howard Dean) have said all along, the issue was always whether Saddam posed an immediate threat to the United States. Considering the high costs we paid and continue to pay in prosecuting this war, and the other priorities we have had to put on the back burner in the process, it remains clear that the invasion of Iraq was "the wrong war at the wrong time".
Here we go again...

Looks like CNN is reporting that the CIA is claiming an Iraqi informant has handed over "critical parts" for a centrifuge necessary for enriching Uranium. Needless to say, this sounds quite scary on its face.

I think a little perspective might lead to different conclusions, though.

First of all, we've heard such announcements before. Remember the bio-weapons trailers that turned out to be nothing of the sort? The initial find was trumpeted as vindication for the war. Additionally, a cynic might suspect that such a find as CNN is now reporting might not be on the up-and-up, considering the increasing political pressure on the administration regarding Iraqi WMD. This administration has proven time and again it has no scruples when it comes to covering its political backside.

Regardless, no one doubts that Saddam once had chemical and biological weapons, and aspired to own nukes. That is not in dispute, nor is the assumption that Saddam still aspired to develop these weapons (until the war). And according to the CNN story, the parts (only one component, albeit an important one, of building a bomb) turned over were not used for any sort of active program, as Bush claimed. Rather, they had been buried twelve years ago after the first Gulf War, in hopes of starting up the program sometime in the future. For all we know, the components themselves are no longer useable -- twelve years buried in a back yard can be hard on precision equipment.

The fact remains that Iraq did not have active WMD weapons programs, nor did it have WMD themselves. These claims were made by Bush to justify the need for an immediate invasion, and more than anything, this newly-reported find indicates that Bush was very wrong.

Did Saddam still pose a threat to his neighbors? Probably -- there can be little dispute that Hussein had grand ambitions and an interest in WMD. But despite the irrational hoopla that is sure to result from this announcement, that simply isn't the point. Hussein could have been contained without war and the accompanying damage to our international relations. In fact, the inspection regime not only uncovered and destroyed large quantities of weapons, they evidently stopped Hussein's programs cold and set them back many years. And, of course, there's no evidence -- none -- that Hussein dealt with al Qaeda, the other crucial link in Bush's justification for war.

The moral of the story is that Hussein was simply not a threat to the United States. This announcement doesn't change that fact.

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