Monday, August 22, 2005

Accidentally Right

Kurt Pitzer writes a piece for Mother Jones this week entitled In the Garden of Armageddon in which he inadvertently makes an argument in support of the Bush Administration's actions in Iraq. How so you say?!

Well, read here: They were Iraq's only real WMDs. The U.S. refused to secure them. Now Saddam's nuclear and bioweapons scientists are dispersed and more dangerous than ever.

As it happens, Saddam's nuclear centrifuge program during the late 1980s was one of the most efficient covert nuclear efforts the world has ever seen. The scientists who pulled it off are very gifted men and women, many of whom are now out of work. Their names are still being kept secret by the international agencies familiar with their work. But a source close to one of those agencies recently said that of the 200-some scientists at the top of its nuclear list, all but three remain unaccounted for. In a country with porous borders, where everyone -- but especially those associated with the former regime -- is in danger every day, many experts say at least some scientists are bound to be tempted to sell their knowledge to the highest bidder. And as the Pakistani network exposed last year shows, the nuclear black market is alive and well.

"Weapons don't make themselves," says Anne Harrington, director of the Committee on International Security and Arms Control at the National Academies. "Somebody has to interpret how to take military doctrine and intent and make it real. Materials, particularly nuclear materials, are not something you scoop out of the dirt. The human element is critical in all of this

Now I'm not certain whether Mr. Pitzer realizes it or cares one way or another, but the tacit admission here is that the uncertainty about what was going on inside Iraq in the 90's and into the 21st century posed a serious threat to the West in general and the United States specifically.

The human capital and the work represented by the teams of scientists was at the core of the program--not the centrifuge buried in the rose garden or any documented progress in the creation of a nuclear weapon.

People love to argue that inspections, had they played out their full course, would have revealed whether or not there were truly "stockpiles" of weapons and weapons-grade materiel. I always disagreed with this.

Anyone who has more than a cursory knowledge about Sadaam and the inspection regime of the 90's, knows that they were played for years by a leadership that had no intention of coming clean, ever. Maybe if we're lucky, we can prompt Sim to post on the topic for he has a mastery of that history that demonstrates clearly what I'm talking about here.

Combine that with the uncertainty raised by the likes of Ken Pollack after the regime fell--where questions were asked about whether or not the regime fully knew what it did and didn't have--and you have a bubbling cauldron of confusion and uncertainty.

Such a scenario was, for better or worse, judged unacceptable by the Bush Administration in a post-9/11 world. So while Pitzer and Mother Jones hack away at the Administration's handling of the invasion and post-invasion security (and rightly so), understand that tacit in their very own arguments is the idea that there was a threat in Iraq. Now go home and think about that for a while.

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