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Why Quibble About Proof?
We didn't need proof to go into Iraq. And now, regarding going into Iran, Jonathan S. Landay of McClatchy Newspapers writes that, despite the president's claim that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons that could trigger "World War III," there's no conclusive evidence Iran has an active nuke weapons program:

Even his own administration appears divided about the immediacy of the threat. While Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney speak of an Iranian weapons program as a fact, Bush's point man on Iran, Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns, has attempted to ratchet down the rhetoric.

"Iran is seeking a nuclear capability ... that some people fear might lead to a nuclear-weapons capability," Burns said in an interview Oct. 25 on PBS.

"I don't think that anyone right today thinks they're working on a bomb," said another U.S. official, who requested anonymity because of the issue's sensitivity. Outside experts say the operative words are "right today." They say Iran may have been actively seeking to create a nuclear-weapons capacity in the past and still could break out of its current uranium-enrichment program and start a weapons program.

...Bush and Cheney's allegations are under especially close scrutiny because their similar allegations about an Iraqi nuclear program proved to be wrong. Nevertheless, there are many reasons to be skeptical of Iran's claims that its nuclear program is intended exclusively for peaceful purposes, including the country's vast petroleum reserves, its dealings with a Pakistani dealer in black-market nuclear technology and the fact that it concealed its uranium-enrichment program from a U.N. watchdog agency for 18 years.

"Many aspects of Iran's past nuclear program and behavior make more sense if this program was set up for military rather than civilian purposes," Pierre Goldschmidt, a former U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency deputy director general, said in a speech Oct. 30 at Harvard University.

If conclusive proof exists, however, Bush hasn't revealed it. Nor have four years of IAEA inspections.

Welcome to Iraq, The Sequel.

via Brendan Nyhan

Posted by aalkon at November 11, 2007 8:36 AM

Comments

This is Nuts Talking, Chapter 2.

I'm in the business, and I can tell you definitively that if an entity - corporations can do this - can refine Uranium, it is a meaningless quibble to move mouth-parts to call it "civilian" vs. "military".

Just to clear the air a little bit: U-235 is the favored fissile material because it is "easy" to involve in induced fission. It appears naturally as a very small percentage of of the total found in ore, the bulk of which is U-238. Straight U-238 makes very poor fuel for anything, and so it is commonly "sweetened" by a process called "enrichment", which raises the percentage of U-235 present. Well, duh - if I can enrich a little, I can enrich a lot, and make high-U-235-percentage, "weapons-grade" Uranium.

-----

But here's the real scam being worked on the public: the real issue is not whether a chemical plant can make chemical weapons (yes, it can!) or a "civilian" nuclear fuel processing plant can make weapons (it can!) -- it's that the public can be confused about this and frightened enough to allow American interference with another nation!

The argument still goes on about Iraq, despite actual, serious efforts by Hussein: go see nuclearweaponarchive.org/Iraq/index.html

It remains that a frightened and confused public - including some "experts" discussing "straw man" arguments like this above - will allow their own government to do to others what they would never tolerate for themselves.

Posted by: Radwaste at November 11, 2007 8:14 AM

Even George Will agrees with you.

http://urltea.com/22cq

Posted by: Crid at November 11, 2007 8:50 AM

Here's a bit from that column:

Drogin's account of the search for WMDs after Baghdad fell would be hilarious were the facts not scandalous and the implications not tragic. That missile spotted by analysts of satellite imagery? It was a rotating steel drum for drying corn. The missile photographed from the air? Chickens in Iraq are raised in long, low half-cylinder coops. Some weapons searchers finally had T-shirts printed with the U.N. symbol and the words "Ballistic Chicken Farm Inspection Team." In the middle of the night in Baghdad, Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, Scooter Libby, was calling from Washington with precise geographic coordinates to guide searchers to Iraq's hidden WMDs. The supposed hiding place was in Lebanon.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at November 11, 2007 10:05 AM

It remains that claims that Iraq had (and has!) no industrial capacity for chemical weapons are outright lies. It remains that similar claims about nuclear programs are also lies. Both of these issues, now transplanted to debate about Iran, are "straw men"!

Why is the US interested? Go look at that Web site and look around. Forty-five years ago a 100 kiloton nuke was smaller than 12 by 30 inches. Of course our totally porous borders will pose no obstacle to delivering one of these; put "Made In China" on the box and a UPS truck will carry it for you. Imagine having to actually act as if another nation's borders mean something - that Iran gets to decide what Iran will do next.

-----

This discussion is about power, not the actual ability of a nation to do something - and that extends to the sort of power coveted by activists all over the US, who pervert the issue to suit them. "Ballistic Chicken Farm Inspection Team"? Think for a minute. This is a serious organization? What person you know would advertise their own futility that way and then expect to be taken seriously?

-----

Please seek information sources, not editorial commentary, on the processes and action under debate. You're just going to be the tool of some PR flack until you do.

Posted by: Radwaste at November 11, 2007 11:53 AM

Here is my question.

If they acctually found WMDs as so many people belive they did WHERE ARE THE FUCKING ARTICLES? The broacasts, The photo ops with the president in his presidental filght suit (complete with detachable cod peice) and a bunch of soilders perched on a stock pile?

Answer me that

Posted by: lujlp at November 11, 2007 3:09 PM

Don't read Wild Fire by Nelson DeMille. It'll totally flip you out. o_O

Posted by: Flynne at November 11, 2007 5:11 PM

> Answer me that

Why bother, you're enjoying the conspiracy so much. I though Iraq was worth invading anyway, whether or not his stockpiles were perchable. Saddam never accounted for the WMDs he claimed to have, either, as he was required to do by UN mandate. It's funny how people remember that "Bush Lied!" about this, but nobody remembers being too concerned about it at the time... I've never known a human being who confessed to being afraid of his WMD, anywhere, ever.

> Some weapons searchers finally
> had T-shirts printed

Hans Blix was the guy who petitioned the IAEA to back off of North Korea in the mid-90's because Kim Jong-Il just wanted to be friendly. Should we have trusted them?

Posted by: Crid at November 11, 2007 7:47 PM

I've never known a human being who confessed to being afraid of his WMD, anywhere, ever.

Depends how you define "his." The fear was that he was talking to terrorists and might give some to them, and people are still afraid of those.

I remember that Charlie Daniels wrote a pretty stupid "open letter" to the press where he said something like "Why don't you ask a truck driver if Saddam Hussein is a threat," the implication being that of course a truck driver would assess Saddam as a dangerous baddie while silly Hollywood liberals won't.

But that's in the past. Why not ask if anyone's afraid of Iranian nuclear weapons now? I'm not -- everything I read suggests they're years away from having any.

Posted by: LYT at November 11, 2007 9:32 PM

I'm waiting to be convinced about what to do for Iraq. Apparently they really need nuclear energy, but only because they can't pull a free-market economy in order such that they could find investors for new refineries. So there's that. Which ain't much, but there it is.

And then there's the fact that nuclear energy is going to proliferate no matter what we do, because we want and need technical sophistication of that magnitude (if not that particular direction) to spread across the world. There will always be lonely bachelors who pursue this knowledge for its own sake, without ideological or political enthusiasm.

Honestly, LYT, if you have guiding principles for this one, I'd love to hear them and will use them as the starting point. But...

> It remains that a frightened
> and confused public

Whaddya mean "we", Paleface? I hate, hate, hate when people say that the masses are dim little people who need to be told what's real and what's not. Earlier this evening someone linked a clip of Friedman taking such a person down a peg.

Posted by: Crid at November 11, 2007 9:50 PM

And here it is. (Three links in one comment wouldn't have worked)

Posted by: Crid at November 11, 2007 9:52 PM

WHoops, said about Iraq but meant about Iran.

What's the matter? Can't you read my fucking mind?

Posted by: Crid at November 12, 2007 2:10 AM

What's lost in all the discussion about Iran is this:

Iran is not a rational actor. They will not be restrained by threats of annihilation. They have as official state policy the eradication of Israel.

And they are researching nuclear technology.

Now I'm no genius, but when I add all that up, I get a mushroom cloud over Tel Aviv, and a response that makes The Day After look like a heart-warming romantic comedy.

Unless you're into that sort of thing, I can't see any good coming from allowing the current mullarchy in Iran to come into possession of nuclear technology.

Posted by: brian at November 12, 2007 5:57 AM

Crid, look around. So you understand the difference between fearmongering and the issue. You're outnumbered. Look above - we have people who don't even know there are pictures of gassed Kurds, courtesy of S. Hussein, and they do not know what a chemical plant is, much less how one runs. So, be offended to be lumped in with the ignorant, and then get unoffended because my generality skips you who, with me, will not be asked what to do with any foreign theo- or klept-ocracy as powers that be manipulate others to get defacto permission to meddle.

Foreign policy is a bitch to do, much less do right, especially in the face of a religious fanatic, whose motives can't be diverted by ordinary business. But you know what? None of the sweaty desert madmen would have squat to complain about if the difference between us and them hadn't been forcefully pointed out again and again. Now that it has been, there are precious few alternatives.

Posted by: Radwaste at November 12, 2007 2:56 PM

Raddy, I love you and need you in my life, but these were some shitty blog comments.

> the public can be confused
> about this and frightened
> enough to allow American
> interference with another
> nation!

Where's the confusion "about this"? Don't Americans have the right to be concerned if a shitty, meddlesome country like Iran has nuclear power? Turn on the radio. Nuclear Pakistan had a bad weekend. Do we want that happening elsewhere?

Furthermore, isn't it a little late in our nation's history to be worrying about "interference with another nation"? I can't imagine what angle you're working by using such a grade-school, scissors-&-Elmer's phrase to describe what might be a blooming international crisis of the highest caliber. I literally can't imagine: You're not being clear.

> like this above

Like what, where?

> what they would never
> tolerate for themselves.

What do you mean? Sure, the people of the United States wouldn't tolerate being invaded. We have our shit together that way. So what are you trying to say? When exactly were American voters "frightened and confused"? The fact that they did something you think was bad hardly authorizes your condescension... Even if they were wrong (and I'm not yet convinced they were) and even if they were frightened (and I'm quite certain they weren't). John Kerry lost to an unloved, substantially corrupt Bush in 2004 on precisely this point.

Democrats enjoy the adrenaline rush that comes from thinking that they as individuals are smarter and more competent and more loving and nicer to animals than the whole of the American electorate. (I guess we all have fantasies of sophistication that make the daily bus ride a little more tolerable.) But that rush comes at the cost of seeing the world as it is, and we need more from this party... My party. The stakes are too high for them to pretend they can do an end run around the little people.

> It remains that claims
> that Iraq had (and has!)
> no industrial capacity for
> chemical weapons are
> outright lies.

Be clear. Are you saying that Iraq had that capacity, and those who said it didn't were liars?

> {two more sentences like that}

Grrrr.

> Imagine having to actually
> act as if another nation's
> borders mean something

Quit being snarky and say what you think. Where are the threats? Are you saying that because they can come from anywhere, we needn't quibble with Tehran? Or what?

> This discussion is about
> power

I've never understood why people (especially grad students) are fascinated by power, and think they're being insightful as they flare one nostril when they say the word. But if you're saying that the IAEA is useless and we shouldn't trust them, I agree.

> You're just going to be
> the tool

Or, maybe the electorate will continue to be the greatest resource for decency and progress the world has ever known, without leadership from panic-inducing cynics.

> You're outnumbered.

Outgunned too. The whole of America is smarter than me, and not just in the Malcolm Gladwell sense that wisdom can be extracted from crowds.

> as powers that be manipulate

Why are you so certain people were manipulated? They may well have been cheated, I'll grant you... But why's it important for you to believe they were ignorant? (And who are "powers that be"? Halberstam's dead now... Go ahead and name names!)

> there are precious few
> alternatives.

Raddy: Huh? To what? For what?

Posted by: Crid at November 12, 2007 6:44 PM

Okay, OK, Raddy's comments weren't shitty.

I had a pissy day because of a bad editorial on the radio. Let's read it together, now: http://urltea.com/22yg I have a problem with almost every sentence, but on Amy's hospitable blog, we consider these highlights.

> importing large quantities
> of food and other goods
> from around the globe
> contributes significantly
> to global warming.

The author is a noted economist (see Wikipedia). Guys like that shouldn't throw the word "significantly" around so recklessly, because it has special value to people who work with numbers. Many scientists think global warming isn't anthropogenic; is this guy certain that my love of South American table fruit is a "significant" factor?

> The price of lamb from New
> Zealand, for example,
> includes the cost of the
> fuel used to transport it
> here, but not the
> environmental cost the
> trip imposes on the planet.

How much wisdom would a person have to hold to know the cost to "the planet"? This can teach you to hate "the planet" almost as much as the people who pretend to worry about it. The people hoping to change your life in defense of "the planet" seek an omniscient stripe of authority indeed:

> We just need to pull some
> familiar economic levers
> to change people's habits.

My preferred term for "familiar economic levers" is "tyranny." What's yours?

> a tax would raise the
> price of fuel sharply --
> stuff from distant places
> would become much more
> expensive, and most people
> would buy much less

A fast-developing technological civilization --in a world of competitive thirst for oil-- is not enough for these people. (Remember, China has 65 cities with a population greater than a million, and all of them want the blessings of an oil economy.) In order for the Global Warming fanatic to feel really happy, he has to tax the shit out of us. Of course this will punish the poor most piteously... But hey, he's watching out for the planet, babe.

> A carbon tax proposal
> would be dead-on-arrival
> in Washington

Yes, it would... Because it's a spectacularly bad idea, as every Tom, Dick and Harry not ensconced in a tenured office at Cornell would be able to explain to this guy.

> our problem is not that we
> don't know how to make the
> economy sustainable.

Well, no, it isn't. Some of us recognize that economies aren't about stasis, but about adapting to change. A market economy in a lawful setting is the best possible way to make the upheavals of life tolerable for the greatest number of people. A market where prices imparted no information would mean a buyer lived in a world with no events. That would not be our "planet."

> it's that we simply lack
> the political will.

Simple yourself, you little weasel. God, I hate NPR. Every day I think it can't be hated any more... And then a decorated academic shovels "simple" crap like this and I realize that radio hatred, like oil prices, is subject to many forces, including darkness in the hearts of grim, ambitious men.

Summary (yes yes, far too late): Society can't be run from the top down by people who really know what's going on, because there are no such people. Not in environmental affairs, and not in nuclear power.

Posted by: Crid at November 12, 2007 10:46 PM

"Don't Americans have the right to be concerned if a shitty, meddlesome country like Iran has nuclear power?"

Yes, they do - and they have the responsibility to notice that "invading them" is not the first option. I'm sure you know that a representative democracy can't work if the voters are ignorant, and I think I've illustrated how they are, about chemical and nuclear facility realities.

"Furthermore, isn't it a little late in our nation's history to be worrying about 'interference with another nation'?"

No, because two wrongs don't make a right; a wrong is not justified by how long it has been practiced.

"When exactly were American voters "frightened and confused"? The fact that they did something you think was bad hardly authorizes your condescension..."

They are, today, because the industrial capabilities of other nations are lost in sensational claptrap. It's not in any activist's immediate interest to bore the audience with the state of the manufacturing arts, and thus, a major section of the economy in any nation under discussion. That's why I'm having such a tough time explaning what chemical and nuclear production facilities really do.

"Be clear. Are you saying that Iraq had that capacity, and those who said it didn't were liars?"

Yes, and I have, repeatedly, on this blog whenever Amy brings it up and it is clear that the capabilities of an industrial nation are being ignored. To recap: for every excuse derived from "the presence of WMDs", there is a counter-claim that "x has/had no capacity to build those". Both sides are dishonest in that a) the stockpiling and use of such is the prerogative of any sovereign government, such as the US, and the consequences of such use is the only meaningful deterrent; 2) those who ignore capacity in the process of Administration-bashing do so only to support that bashing.

To analogize this to a personal level: the police invade your house because you were generally nasty, abused your wife, shot your dog and possessed a gun. They would then stay, claiming that the justification was the possibility that you had a gun and you are still not "acting right", and "unwilling or unable to take up the duties of being a good citizen". Those opposed to spending money rebuilding the house after it was damaged by the invasion, and indeed its continued occupation, start claiming that there was no gun and no way for you to make one. There is an extensive workshop in plain sight which everyone ignores as the argument turns to your invader's politics, apparently stemming from the fact that the police chief isn't a Kennedy.

"Where are the threats?"

The threats are obvious, at least to me: they consist of the stated, implied and potential motivations of others who would work against American interests. Think about this. Britain has nukes and chemical weapons; no one considers them a threat at all. The possession of arms is NOT a threat, be they nuclear, conventional or other. That's a pathetic fallacy at any level. Tools - weapons - don't threaten us. Enemies threaten us. There has been little reasonable discussion on how to avoid making them. We still abhor Cuba, for some stupid reason, when transporting Coca-Cola and Pepsi, Wal-Mart and Target, Burger King and Wendy's, etc., would make whoever was in office irrelevant as consumer-level economic ties are established. It could be another Hawaii, but we turn up our nose.

At last, don't forget this: any insecticide plant can make chemical weapons in days with simple changes to the process. Any nuclear fuel facility can make weapons-grade nuclear material. This means that we need to make allies and partners of the people who have these things, and if we cannot, the problems we have with them will last until they are exterminated. There isn't any rosy picture which even suggests middle ground exists.

Posted by: Radwaste at November 13, 2007 2:41 AM

> I'm sure you know that
> a representative democracy
> can't work if the voters
> are ignorant

I know no such thing. First of all, says who? What would be on the certificate of perfect edjumication that would allow you to trust someone's judgment? I'd gamble that you'd say it was an alignment with views and understanding much like your own... That's when you'd say people are no longer "ignorant." No?

People think human knowledge is something that some folks have. And once someone has more knowledge than someone else --once Al Gore knows what Justin knows and has a degree in journalism besides-- then we can just trust Al Gore to stand in Justin's place, and not worry what Justin thinks anymore. But that's not how wisdom works. It's not even how mere democracy works. Sorry. Everybody gets a piece.

> a wrong is not justified
> by how long it has been
> practiced

Again with the grade-school, sing-song fear of internationalism. Listen, the United States has made some tragic errors in handling world events throughout her life, not just since 2003. On the other hand, no force in history has projected as much decency, safety, literacy and hope across the globe as the United States. I deeply believe this. I supported the Iraq invasion largely because it was sold as atonement for our earlier corruptions in the region, and I still believe we have much to teach.

> stockpiling and use of
> such is the prerogative
> of any sovereign
> government

The United Nations and IAEA wholeheartedly disagree. (OTOH, if you want to argue for the dissolution of those agencies, I'm ready to listen.)

> stated, implied and
> potential motivations of
> others who would work
> against American
> interests

I think you're biting off more than you mean to. It's getting kinda thought-crimey.

> There has been little
> reasonable discussion on
> how to avoid making
> them.

Well, sanctions are for shit, if that's what you're getting at. And again, we always have to worry about guys like this, and there's probably one in every country.

> It could be another
> Hawaii, but we turn up our
> nose.

And one day it will, I have zero doubt. Zero doubt; zero doubt.

> the problems we have with
> them will last until they
> are exterminated

I don't mind killing some people, but problems can't be exterminated. That's just not how it goes. All this stuff is not a single spill that can be mopped.

Posted by: Crid at November 13, 2007 1:05 PM

"That's when you'd say people are no longer "ignorant." No?"

No! You do not have to agree with me to be correct; you do have to know the issues. Gee, this is nuts you said this - how is a voter going to pick the person representing his(her) views if they have no idea what they are?

"Again with the grade-school, sing-song fear of internationalism. Listen, the United States has made some tragic errors in handling world events throughout her life, not just since 2003. On the other hand, no force in history has projected as much decency, safety, literacy and hope across the globe as the United States."

You are projecting. In every case where the US does good, it does good. In every case where it does badly, it does badly. This is not a "fear of internationalism" at all - it is recognition of the qualities of unilateral, American-driven action.

"The United Nations and IAEA wholeheartedly disagree."

I'm surprised you even bothered to bring them up. I don't care at all, because as much as I dislike the irrational behavior of theocracies, I must point out that the possession of a chemical or nuclear plant is not a guarantee of continued sanity. What nations do you suggest should be immune to inspection?

A "rational" nation could be seen to take steps to employ all its people, spread the wealth and education, use its workforce and national resources wisely, etc., but what justifies what you are suggesting, that other nations have a say? This sets up plain bullying. Nobody is going to tell China, Russia, France, Britain to disarm, despite there being no guarantees other than consumer-level trade links that they won't go nuts.

"Well, sanctions are for shit, if that's what you're getting at."

No, again. Sanctions rarely hurt decision-makers as much as the general population, and don't work at all on mobile organizations. I mean simply that when you go to trade with a country, you have to recognize that they aren't you and they have different ways; some of these, if offended, can start long-term grudges. What, again, did bin Laden say was his reason?

I stand by my statement, "This means that we need to make allies and partners of the people who have these things, and if we cannot, the problems we have with them will last until they are exterminated" because it's just plain right. The severity of issues between states always determines the level of trade: from goods when things are good, to bullets and bombs when they're not. Extermination means the problem is gone because the other party is gone; we can see from Germany and Japan that near-extermination and total destruction of manufacturing capability was enough in that case, and now we have consumer-level trade.

Posted by: Radwaste at November 16, 2007 9:10 PM

One more thing I forgot to emphasize: Threats are not things. The thug, not his weapon, threatens the victim, be he and they persons or nations.

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