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April 12, 2006

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Very nicely put. I'd been more spluttering incoherently to myself along the following lines: "*##^@&&!!! do you mean difference of opinion among different experts -- they weren't bioweapons labs, so the experts who thought they were couldn't have been so much &$%#!! experts, now, could they?!?" But youe post is what I would have wanted to say had I been more coherent and done the background reading more conscientiously.

For any whose long and eloquent rebuttals, enthusiastic agreements, or expressions of admiration and/or contempt for my personage were removed along with the duplicate post, my apologies.

Given that, one wonders: just what was it about either of these trailers that said "mobile bioweapons lab", besides the mobile part?

for one thing, there was a presentation given by the Sec of State with pictures of these trailers with big bold captions that said (in effect) "Mobile Bioweapons Labs". and presumably, there was plenty of non-public versions of that same info floating around. so in effect, they'd already been told what the trailers were...

If you go read Goldstein's timeline, it's almost explicitly claimed that the same team that claimed that it wasn't a mobile bioweapons lab initially claimed that it was. I'd like to get that more solidly established before pointing to it as something remotely accurate, but if so: I think everyone's got some 'splainin' to do.

Are you talking about this:

May 27,2003

Leaders of the Pentagon-sponsored mission transmitted their unanimous findings to Washington in a field report on May 27, 2003, two days before the president’s statement.

May 28, 2003:

A day after the team’s report was transmitted to Washington—May 28, 2003—the CIA publicly released its first formal assessment of the trailers, reflecting the views of its Washington analysts. That white paper, which also bore the DIA seal, contended that U.S. officials were “confident” that the trailers were used for “mobile biological weapons production."


Because I wouldn't read it as an implicit claim that the team's report informed the CIA paper. While I don't have any knowledge of the internal methods of the Pentagon vis a vis the CIA, one day seems implausibly fast for a report sent back to one organization to be incorporated into finished work-product produced by another.

If Goldstein is making that claim, he's explicitly contradicted by one of the anonymous team members quoted in the WP, who says that they were certain that the trailers weren't bioweapon-related within the first four hours.

"and presumably, there was plenty of non-public versions of that same info floating around. so in effect, they'd already been told what the trailers were..."

Not sure what you mean by that, Cleek. What Powell was working with was classified material that he originally had to go through under normal sanitized conditions of viewing it only in a secure area, etc. Plus, he was given all sorts of stuff by Rumsfeld's Special Plans office, just about all of which he tossed out as bogus or unsupportable or dubious, just as he tossed out a lot of the stuff as such (I freshly read Plan of Attack last week, so this is fresh in my head).

The material on Iraqi WMD was circulated to the intelligence analysts writing their reports, and putting together the NIE and other documents, so maybe that's what you mean by "floating around," but what you mean by "there was plenty of non-public versions of that same info," I kinda completely don't know. It wasn't exactly left in waiting rooms for light perusal.

That and the later reference to "backsliding" by Kay.

As I said, I'm not treating the timeline as incontestable at this point.

Shockingly missing from Goldstein's timeline is Cheney's statement from "Meet the Press" on 9/14/03, nearly 4 months after the fact:

“We’ve, since the war, found two of them. They’re in our possession today, mobile biological facilities that can be used to produce anthrax or smallpox or whatever else you wanted to use during the course of developing the capacity for an attack.”

So all the speculation about whether Bush knew on 5/29 about a preliminary report issued on 5/27 is really beside the point.

Under the "Summer and Fall 2003" entry:

In September, Vice President Cheney pronounced the trailers to be “mobile biological facilities,” and said they could have been used to produce anthrax or smallpox.

Shockingly missing?

That and the later reference to "backsliding" by Kay.

I read this as referring to the military teams who initially thought that the trailers were weapons related -- that they were backsliding, and now unsure that their initial assessment was correct, rather than the civilian experts.

I typed in haste. What I meant to say is that "shockingly missing IS ANY DEFENSE" of Cheney's statement.

I'd also like to point out that the CIA report is substantially less convincing than its abstract description might appear.

The Duelfer Report, itself, relies on assessments made by the Iraq Survey Group team, which, according to the report, wasn't formed until June 2003.

I'm thinking there's more than a little mixup of events, groups and facts being presented.

I think the short answer is that Curveball had told US intelligence "there are mobile bioweapons labs, and here's what they will look like"; the CIA had prepared diagrams based on Curveball's descriptions; and so when the military came across two trailers that looked a lot like what Curveball had described, the reaction was "aha, here are the bioweapons labs!"

I don't think it's any more complicated than that. Key to the story is that the military teams who first found the trailers weren't working with a complete blank state as far as what a "mobile bioweapons lab" might look like.

That's plausible. Also there to consider is this: we'd never seen what anyone's mobile bioweapons labs look like, assuming that we don't have any ourselves.

Still, you'd think there'd be a checklist or something. I know from experience that such blindingly obvious things are sometimes THAT obvious only in hindsight, but it'd be nice to have some idea that it was that sort of thing going on, as opposed to two teams comprised of complete idiots.

It wasn't exactly left in waiting rooms for light perusal.

Powell gave his PowerPoint presentation prior to the war, and proir to the trailer's (physcial) discovery. and, that presentation effectively declassified their appearance and presumed function.

and, by the time the trailers were found, it seem reasonable to assume that the troops on the ground had at least a general idea of what these trailers looked like and what they were presumed to be used for. at the very least, they had to have been told "if you see something that looks like this, don't blow it up, it could be a bioweapons lab!"

so, a bunch of military guys find these trailers and report back "yes, we've found the bioweapons trailers. no, we didn't blow them up"

what-were-they-thinking

Can I field this one?

They were thinking:

The Bush administration severely punishes anyone who tells them what they don't want to hear, and promotes anyone who tells them what they DO want to hear. I would rather be promoted than punished.

The funny part is how the Bush adminstration so perfectly mimics (albeit in less virulent form) these guys. See how many shared characteristics you can spot!

The primary characteristics of such regimes are: 1) an almost exclusive reliance upon a single decision-maker, his perceptions and objectives; (2) fear and intimidation; (3) little dissent from the “leader’s” views; (4) compartmented expertise with little or no cross-fertilization; (5) the passing of misinformation through the chain of command; (6) internal personal conflicts among second and third tier leadership; (7) a second level of leadership whose power and influence is derived entirely from above, not particularly from the constituencies they represent; (8) avoidance of responsibility.

I dunno, Jon, from my perspective it's much better to be punished. You can make lots more money working for one of the many beltway bandits than you can in service. You can't, though, if your credibility has been destroyed because you declared a balloon-inflator to be a mobile bioweapons lab because you were afraid to speak up.

This from an outside-in perspective, natch.

That's plausible. Also there to consider is this: we'd never seen what anyone's mobile bioweapons labs look like, assuming that we don't have any ourselves.

I seriously doubt that any such animal exists anywhere. A true mobile bioreactor setup would require three or four times as much equipment as these trailers had. Such things as a steam supply, HEPA air filters, etc. Even then it would omit a lot of things that would keep your operators from being killed on a daily basis; like equipment isolation for leak protection, safe ventilation, etc. To do it right you need a building. This, of course, was pointed out by engineers when Powell showed his cartoon trucks at the U.N.

Slart, was kind of hoping you'd extract an image of that table, cause it's not just devastating as an argument, it was almost certainly written by someone with a sense of the absurd. One reads text, blah blah blah, here's a picture, more boring text, then blam! that multicolored table designed to be put on a t-shirt or, as you said, tattooed on certain foreheads.

Updated, under the fold. It was the best I could do on short notice, a direct cut-and-paste from the CIA html version.

Hey, man, with only a minor effort they could have added an aeration sparger to that thing, and then where would we be?

(I don't even know who I'm being sarcastic at at this point.)

"You can't, though, if your credibility has been destroyed because you declared a balloon-inflator to be a mobile bioweapons lab because you were afraid to speak up."

Slart, that would make perfect sense if Washington didn't punish truth-tellers who go against those in power, and didn't reward liars who lie to favor those in power.

In other words, other than reality, you're right.

Are you familiar with the K Street Project? Are these guys who care about "credibility"?

I'm thinking that these components are highly common with what one would need for a mobile brewery, which would probably (given Islamic blue laws) have an even greater need for secrecy.

None of that was serious, BTW.

One thing that's missing that's not listed as far as I can tell is something that's not a component: room for the people operating the whole shebang to move around.

Gary, believe it or not there are employment opportunities inside the beltway that aren't the K Street Project.

I know, hard to fathom. Still, there it is.

Gary, believe it or not there are employment opportunities inside the beltway that aren't the K Street Project.

In all seriousness: are you sure about that? Particularly as it applies to career military types?

guys, be careful when you use the phrase "K Street Project" - you might be violating someone's intellectual property.

believe it or not there are employment opportunities inside the beltway that aren't the K Street Project.

Let's examine the issue from a slightly different angle: is there a single person who's happily carried the Bush administration's foul water and has paid any price whatsoever for it?

I'm talking beyond just members of the government/military -- out into the think tank apparatus and beyond. Is there a single person, anywhere, who even has suffered a decline in invitations to go on MSNBC?

Likewise, is there anyone from within the government who's crossed the Bush administration and has gotten a really cushy job out of it? Because, you know, our society is so determined to reward honesty and competence?

So, given all this, Slart, why is Captain Ed going on like this, and CY the same?

Not that you can mindread them, of course, or are remotely responsible for their versions; I'm just curious what you think is going on to produce those sorts of posts.

I've read the back-and-forth on this. Correct me where I'm wrong.

On one hand, a team of experts investigated these trailers in person, and unanimously concluded that they weren't bioweapons labs.

On the other hand, Curveball thought they were bioweapons labs. Furthermore, some other experts saw pictures of the outsides and thought they were bioweapons labs.

No one alleges that any experts have ever investigated these trailers in person and then wrote a report that said that they were bioweapons labs.

Nonetheless, the President, Vice President, Press Secretary, Secretary of State, and the Deputy Secretary of Defense spent the next several months saying they were, in fact, mobile bioweapons labs. The conculsions from the report from the only experts who saw the labs in person did not make it into any of their statements. David Kay was not told about it.

Oh, these silly semi-kerfuffles! What will liberals get a-twittering about next?

No idea, Gary. No idea, either, why you're linking to exactly the same places I linked to in my original post.

Not all jobs are GS jobs, to address the rest of the questions in what's bound to be an entirely unsatisfactory way.

Where you're wrong is here:

No one alleges that any experts have ever investigated these trailers in person and then wrote a report that said that they were bioweapons labs.

Some liberty taken with written, admittedly,

I mean, if no experts ever thought they were mobile bioweapons labs, everyone's wrong, aren't they?

"I know, hard to fathom. Still, there it is."

I was going to respond to this, but, really, I'm fine with Anarch and Jon's.

Cleek, as it happens, I just saw a bit on The Hill that I added as an addendum to my post that I bet, before clicking the link, is the same thing Marshall has.

I don't think so, Slartibartfast. If I understand correctly, some experts saw pictures of the trailers and came to the conclusion that they were bioweapons labs. But they didn't see them in person. The experts who were sent to settle the matter quickly found that they were not.

Of course, I might not understand correctly.

yeah, Marshall linked to the Hill. i checked your link before posting mine, just to be sure i wasn't duplicating. guess i missed it.

some experts saw pictures of the trailers and came to the conclusion that they were bioweapons labs. But they didn't see them in person.

were any of them named Dr. Bill Frist ?

(i like the joke so much, i think i'll just keep making it)

Incidentally, Slart, while I've got you on the line, so to speak -- though not to mean to make a pest of myself, and certainly if you want to switch this to another thread, that's fine -- but remember how a year or two or so ago we were all back-and-forth about the lack of a counter-insurgency strategy in Iraq, or so said some of us, and I don't want to put words in your mouth, but my memory of it was that it was along the lines of "there's obviously a strategy, and it's fighting insurgents, and so obviously there's a counter-insurgency strategy," and then some of us tried to argue that, no, a "counter-insurgency strategy" was a specific kind of strategy, and it wasn't being followed?

Well, I know it's quite long and will take a bit of time, but if you'd find the time, when you can, to read the full George Packer piece I excerpted here, and the other stuff, and then maybe pick up that counter-insurgency conversation again, I'd be grateful. Or at least just read the article in full. I commend it to all.

Thanks.

If I understand correctly, some experts saw pictures of the trailers and came to the conclusion that they were bioweapons labs. But they didn't see them in person.

The way the WP story is written, it sounds as if the military teams saw the trailers in person. Given the comic chart in the post, my guess (although I haven't any support for it, and there may be contradictory evidence that I haven't seen or don't recall) is that the military teams who saw the trailers weren't actually experts, but were, rather, the closest people with any relevant expertise at all when the trailers were found. (If you see what I mean. I'm guessing that the 'Yup, these are bio-weapon trailers' opinion came from an officer who had been given some ad hoc training, but not all that much, and that it was reasonably understood as the occasion for sending some experts, but not a solid opinion in its own right.)

Quite, LB.

Gary, it's going to have to wait; I have no time right this second and I've got jury duty tomorrow. As for the rest, Jon and Anarch having a point doesn't do anything at all to negate mine, as far as I can see.

Meteorological data being transmitted is one sign of an impending SCUD launch. I've argued that this was the most likely reason for their presence.

By "quite", I meant (of course) yes, if one can quite trust the MSM account of things.

It's also one sign of an impending launch of anything, ballistic, that's got a range of a few miles or more.

So, I'm thinking this isn't much of a point.

I'm always struck at the resemblance between a "Mobile Biological Weapons Lab" and a brewpub. Granted, producing good anthrax requires equipment I'd love to have in my work.

On a related note, I'm up in Birddogland for a Brewers Convention. Hey Charles, can I buy you a beer?

I should say that if my guess is right, than so is Ted here:

If I understand correctly, some experts saw pictures of the trailers and came to the conclusion that they were bioweapons labs. But they didn't see them in person.

That is, some people saw them in person and thought they were bioweapons labs. But they weren't experts. (Although described as such by the WP)

Some experts thought they were bioweapons labs. But they didn't see them in person. (I'm assuming there were experts back in the States looking at pictures, and that some of them thought the bioweapons thing was possible.)

And some experts saw them in person. But they didn't think they were bioweapons labs.

Actually, a brewer would be a reasonable substitute for an engineer as an expert to send.

Jon and Anarch having a point doesn't do anything at all to negate mine, as far as I can see.

Well, can you make your point more explicit?

I apologize for the way this sounds snide, but is your point that dissenters from the Bush fold could theoretically be richly rewarded for honesty and competence, while incompetent hacks could suffer, although (as far as I can tell) it's never happened once?

Gary:

So, given all this, Slart, why is Captain Ed going on like this, and CY the same?

Did these guys even originate this push back? It looks like they are just repeating or embellishing a counterattack that they heard somewhere else in the right wingosphere. Attack the media rather than the facts of the story (or make up facts in order to attack the story) -- its standard right wing hackery. And the nature of the counterattack is like day-old popcorn -- even warming it up does not make it better. Their point seems to be that although the WaPo caught Bush and crew with their pants down, they allegedly described the underwear wrong.

Lost in all their noise are the facts that: 1) the definitive report (falsely called the "minority report") concluded unanimously that they were not mobile bio labs; 2) that report's conclusion was concealed; and 3) for an extended time afterwards, Bush and crew spoke as if they had found mobile bio labs.

The exact degree of deceit present at various times can be debated, but not the presence of it.

I think Gary on the other thread pointed to the question of to what level of deceit does this apply, normal everyday dishonesty, or the level that requires some punitive actions? In other words, is it comparable to lying (somewhat disputable) under oath about sexual activity between consenting adults?

My question goes further. This was probably the most important announcement that could have been made, considering that the primary rationale for going into Iraq was that they had WMD. And this was, up to that time (as well as since) the only thing that might, just possibly, have created a slight justification for that rationale. Wouldn't a rational person want to make absolutely, 100% sure that the facts were correct before announcing it?

Gee, as I was writing the question I realized why it was inappropriate.

"The exact degree of deceit present at various times can be debated, but not the presence of it."

The other question is how much self-deceit was involved on the part of Bush and Cheney and others; the secondary question to that is how much that matters, given the need to have leaders who minimize that sort of thing.

The line that Bush and friends didn't lie, but merely chose one out of a number of dissenting views, has become a standard retort with respect to any number of false statements made by the administration. It hardly took great creativity for Powerline, Captain Ed, et al. to raise it in this instance, although they really should have read the WaPo article a little more closely before flying off the handle.

"Wouldn't a rational person want to make absolutely, 100% sure that the facts were correct before announcing it?"

I don't like saying things that can be construed as defensive of the Administration, but my honest answer to that is: not entirely.

That is, as regards the larger question of whether there's a general, abtract, not-particularly-related-to-events-as-they-actually-occurred, case to be made for the whole philosophy that the Bush/Cheney guys approached everything with post-9/11, which was that, I paraphrase, "now that we know that there's this level of danger involved in terrorism, can we afford to wait for absolute proof of a threat before doing something?"

And given that intelligence is definitionally imperfect, the question is valid. And an abstract answer to the effect that "no, we can't wait in all cases for 100% proof of fact before, in some cases, doing a particular something."

That that's a reasonable answer to that question doesn't, however, in the least necessarily defend the specific question "did the level of info available to leaders in Februrary 2003 justify launching a full-scale war against Iraq?"

That's a whole 'nother question. As is "did our (Cheney/Bush/Rumsfeld) belief that Saddam was a long-term danger to the U.S., and the other good effects we believed would come from overthrowing him, justify our fudging the truth to the American people and the world a lot?"

That, too, is another question than the large abstract general one. And then we also go back to how much self-delusion was involved, although, again I repeat that we kinda want to avoid having leaders launching wars even if they're 100% in good faith but their judgment is effed up.

Those are the kind, giving these guys the benefit-of-the-doubt, observations I have. A couple of them, anyway.

(But I do, in fact, believe that Cheney and Bush genuinely believed that Saddam was that level of threat, and that good effects would come in the Mideast and for American in the world, etc; I don't at all hold with the theories that the current outcome was intentional, nor with the theory that other motives were primary, although I do agree that other motives [Halliburton will get rich, etc.] didn't hurt as secondary or tertiary motivators. But I apply Ockham here.)

On the question of whether "a rational person want to make absolutely, 100% sure that the facts were correct before announcing it" as regards the trailers, well, when you're a politician in trouble, and in the habit of leaving out inconvenient facts while slanting those you have, I don't think "rationality" is the primary mechanism at work.

When you're in the habit of lying all the time about little things, lying about the big ones apparently comes easily.

Remember all those lovely claims from Bush supporters, back in the day -- and there are still some fanciful holdouts, of course -- how "when Bush speaks, you can count on him meaning what he says," and all? And all that stuff about how important it is that a President not lie, and restoring dignity and honor to the White House? How almost touching it all seems now, though it should have been clear even to anyone paying attention to the 2000 campaign, and, say, the South Carolina primary. And remember all that projection about how Al Gore Is A Big Liar?

Yes, he misremembered which date he met with the head of FEMA on, once. That was his level of malfeasance with FEMA.

And he told the truth about Erich Segal and his being part of the model for Love Story.

And he told the truth about being the most important person in Congress behind funding and pushing the creation of the Arpanet and Internet.

Gosh, what a shameless liar he was, in comparison to these guys. What a good thing we didn't elect Al Gore!

He might have pushed us into doing something about that big hoax, global warming! And not pushed "Intelligent Design"!

Pshew! We sure missed a bullet, there.

If we are to buy Captain Ed's rationale, there are two other carefully-thought-out-and-documeted papers out there that make a good case that these trailers were bioweapons labs.

If that's the case, the administration could easily release all three papers, and we would presumably be impressed with how these other two papers dealt with the apparent lack of critical equipment for such an endeavor. The admin's continuing claim that the trailers were certainly bioweapons facilities would then be demonstrated not be a conscious lie.

Of course, Ed might be wrong- the other two papers might be considerably less credible. But I suppose that as long as Bush doesn't go on another declassification bender, we'll be left with his impressive quantitative analysis of the truth (ie the number of papers arguing a position is indicative of its truth value, as opposed to the contents of said papers).

"Did these guys even originate this push back?"

Well, the McClellen bot was pushing it like mad this morning.

Now, I will point out that the reporting I saw this morning was simply reckless and it was irresponsible. The lead in The Washington Post left the impression for the reader that the President was saying something he knew at the time not to be true. That is absolutely false and it is irresponsible, and I don't know how The Washington Post can defend something so irresponsible.
Etc., etc. Being McClellan, he repeated the point another dozen times or so.

"If that's the case, the administration could easily release all three papers...."

If that's the case, it's news to the White House, which long ago gave up on the trailers; McClellan's line today is just that the President didn't yet know that when he spoke a couple of years ago. They're certainly not now making any claims about the trailers still credibly being considered to be bioweapons labs, or bio labs of any sort.

But I think the Captain and his mates haven't gotten that memo yet.

"McClellan's line today is just that the President didn't yet know that when he spoke a couple of years ago"

Although McClellan then admitted that he didn't know when the president did know, so it's not much of a line.

but is your point that dissenters from the Bush fold could theoretically be richly rewarded for honesty and competence

Good heavens, no. I hate to point trivial stuff like this out, but neither the word "reward" nor the implication of such a thing appears in the comment to which you responded. No, what I'm saying is that real experts are worth quite a bit outside of GS, even if they've been dissed by the administration or prior administrations. Larry Johnson, for instance, still has a job despite his decided hostility to the Bush administration. Even if one is devoid of expertise, one may find reward as an author of books either praising or excoriating any given administration, or even employment by the party machinery opposed to the one you pissed off to begin with.

If the suggestion is that the administration may hunt the person in question down and make their lives a living hell in perpetuity, well, this doesn't exactly sit alongside the notion that this is a feckless, careless, stupid administration with a short attention span.

Of course, malevolence may overcome such things. Possibly. Not a given, though.

Reading the Packer piece, Gary; also looking back through OW archives for the conversation, which I've found here, August of last year.

"Even if one is devoid of expertise, one may find reward as an author of books either praising or excoriating any given administration...."

Yeah, don't count on that as a career, I advise. Or even living off it for a year.

At best, the number of available slots for such success, in either direction, are highly limited. If you can expand it into full time punditry, and get a big long-term "Main Stream Media" news gig, that's different, but even there the numbers of graduates are limited, though highly visible.

It's not a career track I'd advise for many. Particularly not the "write a book" thing, beyond maybe one good advance, for a handful of prominent people.

Neither is anyone saying that the Bush Admin, or RNC, or Nordquist or anyone hires the Mafia to hunt you down and make your life a living hell, if you break omerta; I hear Bruce Bartlett makes a living -- but how cushy is it compared to before he went all traitor-like by daring to criticize?

Ditto Paul O'Neill. He had independent wealth in the first place to live off of, so he could speak. Ditto Christy Whitman. But surely you wouldn't claim that the Republican establishment hasn't tried to punish them by at least making sure lots of their surrogates wrote lots of stuff about what disloyal incompetents they are? (How's that Treasury position working out for John Snow, by the way? Think the Administration is interested in a competent Treasury Secretary offering advice about the deficit and other fiscal matters?)

The "suggestion is that the administration may hunt the person in question down and make their lives a living hell in perpetuity," is, on the other hand, a complete straw man of the sort you like to respond to by mentioning that "hell" was not even mentioned in a prior comment, let alone "in perpetuity." Hahaha, who would say such a silly thing?

As is often the case, though, people would understand your point far better if you simply stated it explicitly and clearly in the first place, rather than obliquely and then enjoying playing Twenty Questions with everyone so you can say "no, I never used that word" 19 times. To be sure, you did a much better job of resonding clearly in this comment I'm responding to. Thank you.

Gary, you seem to be laboring under the impression that I've performed some sort of exhaustive listing of career opportunities once the government has sacked you.

I'm not interested in having this argument with you. If you are somehow invested in the idea that being sacked by the administration is the end of all possible career opportunities, I can live with that.

"Gary, you seem to be laboring under the impression that I've performed some sort of exhaustive listing of career opportunities once the government has sacked you."

I don't know why you have the impression I have that impression.

You wrote, at 4:15 p.m.:

I dunno, Jon, from my perspective it's much better to be punished. You can make lots more money working for one of the many beltway bandits than you can in service. You can't, though, if your credibility has been destroyed because you declared a balloon-inflator to be a mobile bioweapons lab because you were afraid to speak up.
A variety of people took issue with this, including me when I wrote at 4:53 PM:
Slart, that would make perfect sense if Washington didn't punish truth-tellers who go against those in power, and didn't reward liars who lie to favor those in power.

In other words, other than reality, you're right.

You then commenced arguing with this. Whether you want to continue to discuss the point, or concede it, is up to you, of course.

I do hope your eyes are feeling some faint improvement in pain, although I tend to find that often significant improvement, when the trend is towards improvement, in pain, comes after sleep; I also hope you are making use of enlarging fonts! (For the Packer piece, if you're someone who prefers hardcopy to screens, don't forget, to mention the obvious, that you can print it out in large type, if that helps; me, I actually like screens. Glad you're reading it; look forward to discussing it.)

"That's plausible. Also there to consider is this: we'd never seen what anyone's mobile bioweapons labs look like, assuming that we don't have any ourselves.

Still, you'd think there'd be a checklist or something. I know from experience that such blindingly obvious things are sometimes THAT obvious only in hindsight, but it'd be nice to have some idea that it was that sort of thing going on, as opposed to two teams comprised of complete idiots."

But another question is why, given the huge turd the DIA's technical expert group gave into their lap*, why an "oh fuck" didn't go all the way up the DIA chain of command, and lead them to yank from publication the CIA/DIA white paper that assessed the trailers as vans-of-doom (hat tip: Daniel Davies of crooked timber).

I think the explanation lies in John Bolton's persecution of a State Dept INR analyst on biological weapons who dared to contradict Bolton. Result: Bolton tries to destroy the analyst's career, even recruiting in the WSJ op-ed page into the campaign. I can't imagine that the number of people in the intelligence agencies dealing with biological weapons is a huge number of people: maybe a few hundred, maybe even less when you exclude twentysomething polisci majors waiting for their next rotation. The lesson of what can happen to an analyst who contradicts the administration's party line was probably not lost on either CIA or DIA management.

I just want to chime in on something I know a little something about- fermentation- basically that table listed would be the absolute bare minimum required just to grow large scale bacterial cultures- everything listed there just covers growth, and nothing at all about processing/weaponizing the samples. It is just one of many sine qua non. And if those things don't exist, there is simply no reason to think some trailers are a lab.

So, Tenet is gone because he dissented or because he screwed up bigtime? Just wondering what y'all are thinking.

Urinated States of America: ...assessed the trailers as vans-of-doom (hat tip: Daniel Davies of crooked timber).

Though I have no idea who coined it, I still prefer the moniker Winnebagos of Mass Destruction.

Slarti: So, Tenet is gone because he dissented or because he screwed up bigtime? Just wondering what y'all are thinking.

The former, I'd assume, since there are plenty of the latter still hanging around. Although I'd say it's also even money that it was the two synthesized with Tenet's erstwhile Clinton connections.

Well, Tenet did declare the case for Iraq having WMDs was a slam dunk. And it was the CIA, in part, that led to the initial claim that these were in fact mobile weapons labs. I'm guessing that it was the chain of intelligence...not failures, outright embarrassments, that led to Tenet's departure.

As much as I hate to be more tedious than usual, I'd have been inclined to show him the door early, not so much because he was a Clinton appointee, but because of his role in the Deutch affair.

So, Tenet is gone because he dissented or because he screwed up bigtime?

Why do you think these the only two options? It seems completely obvious that he was selected as the guy to take the fall, after they'd protected him as long as they could. Then he was sent on his way with a Medal of Freedom. Many others from this crowd have taken previous falls, and then been happily taken back into the fold as soon as the heat was off. I'm certain Tenet is set for life, as long as he doesn't start making trouble.

If you detect a hint of frustration in the tone of myself and others, it's because this relates to a much larger issue. Don't you wonder how on earth it's been possible for the foreign policy apparatus of the U.S. to make so many hundreds of "mistakes" over so long a period of time? According to your worldview, as best as I can discern it, it's just a random occurrence with no larger significance. After all, there are so many great jobs for anyone of virtue.

My worldview, on the other hands, is that in those circles dissent is severely punished, and hacks consistently rewarded. I was so sure of this that I bet someone $1000 that Iraq had nothing. Moreover, this is also the worldview -- without exception -- of everyone who was correct about it.

Aren't you at least a little curious about the worldview of people who were right? Do you consider they might be right about other things as well?

Why do you think these the only two options?

I don't. Fall guy occurred to me as well, but I'm tired and fall guys are sometimes fall guys for a reason. Certainly there wasn't just this innocent George Tenent sitting there and someone decided to dump all the blame on him.

According to your worldview, as best as I can discern it, it's just a random occurrence with no larger significance.

I don't believe I've ever opined about this at all, Jon.

Aren't you at least a little curious about the worldview of people who were right? Do you consider they might be right about other things as well?

Who do you have in mind?

Certainly there wasn't just this innocent George Tenent sitting there and someone decided to dump all the blame on him.

Oh, and if he was supposed to be the fall guy, it was an absolute failure as blame-carrier.

I'm guessing that it was the chain of intelligence...not failures, outright embarrassments, that led to Tenet's departure.

And yet, to name but one, Don Rumsfeld still has a job...

"And yet, to name but one, Don Rumsfeld still has a job..."

As I mentioned in the open thread: More generals (ret.) speakin' up on that.

fall guys are sometimes fall guys for a reason.

In almost all cases everywhere, fall guys are fall guys for a reason. I'd be hard pressed to think of any case where someone was the fall guy for no reason.

I don't believe I've ever opined about this at all, Jon.

Well, then I invite you to do so. I think you'd agree it's an important subject. And you've already taken the first step by asking "what-were-they-thinking" on a small scale.

Who do you have in mind?

Why not start with Scott Ritter? Read all of the books he's written. Or if you're in a hurry, read this, by someone who was also correct at the time.

Then I could make other suggestions. For instance, I don't know anything about you beyond the words I've read here. But that's enough for me to know with near-complete certainty that you're white. By contrast, every single black person I discussed it with believed that Iraq had nothing. And I don't think they were outliers. So you might ask yourself: what is it that African Americans know about the world that I don't?

Jon: "So you might ask yourself: what is it that African Americans know about the world that I don't?"

What it's like to be an African American should cover it. I'm kind of uncomfortable with the argument, by the way - it seems ad hom, for starters.

"In almost all cases everywhere, fall guys are fall guys for a reason. I'd be hard pressed to think of any case where someone was the fall guy for no reason."

On that, I think Slart clearly means that sometimes fall guys, i.e., scapegoats, are actually guilty of what they're taking the fall for.

But commonly a "fall guy" isn't necessarily so, but merely takes the rap to get the rap off the actual guilty parties.

I've avoiding commenting on something else you said, even though I have thoughts, because it would pull the conversation in an entirely different direction, and on a topic that's been discussed here before, though not in a long time (while I've been around, anyway).

Ackerman's piece is interesting, and worth reading.

It has one big problem. The essence of its argument can be boiled down to this:

According to Ron Cleminson, a senior Canadian arms control expert who served on UNSCOM's College of Commissioners throughout the 1990's, the inspectors could have declared Iraq disarmed of nuclear, missile, and chemical weapons as early as 1992, but Washington's hardline position prevented such a move.
What seems to be utterly lacking in the article is any reference to the fact that there doesn't seem to be any contesting -- though if there are good articles making the argument that I've missed, which is entirely possible, please do bring them to my attention -- that Saddam Hussein certainly would have liked to have reconstituted his WMD programs, if he had been free to, and anticipated so doing at such time as he was eventually free to.

That seems a point kinda worth not completely neglecting, though I certainly agree that by itself it didn't constitute sufficient reason to go to war in 2003.

But the article seems to leave the Clinton administration's policy towards Iraq as inexplicable, absent mentioning this non-minor point. But while the policy was problematic, and Ackerman makes good and valid points otherwise, the policy was hardly inexplicable.

Am I missing something?

rilkefan:

I'm kind of uncomfortable with the argument, by the way

Please elaborate.

In the meantime, let me try to express this another way.

A while back Charles Duelfer said something about how they'd gotten Iraq wrong because they were used to people pretending not to have weapons they do have, rather than pretending to have weapons they don't.

The stuff about Iraq "pretending to have weapons" (which fooled innocent us) is mostly bogus. Still, Duelfer was unconsciously saying something truly revealing about himself.

It was this: he is part of the elite of an extremely powerful country. Anyone outside of the U.S. elites, or part of a weaker country, would never have been surprised by a someone trying to make themselves appear more dangerous than they were.

And missing this, as Duelfer did, means you're missing one of the most incredibly obvious things possible about life on earth. Apparently Duelfer has never seen a cat arch its back and hiss.

So, my point is this: people in positions of power miss the most incredibly obvious things all the time. People with less power don't have the luxury of living in a fantasy like that.

In the U.S., white people generally have more power than black people. Thus, many white people, particularly upper middle class white men, get the most obvious things wrong all the time. For the most part, black people (and others with less power) simply cannot afford to be that wrong. The important part in this particular case is that black people don't have the luxury of believing the U.S. government is benevolent.

But the article seems to leave the Clinton administration's policy towards Iraq as inexplicable, absent mentioning this non-minor point. But while the policy was problematic, and Ackerman makes good and valid points otherwise, the policy was hardly inexplicable.

The policy wasn't inexplicable. But it wasn't aimed at disarming Iraq. It was aimed at removing Saddam from power (and just as importantly, replacing him with someone acceptable to us). These goals were fundamentally at odds with each other. And the problem for both Clinton and Bush II is they had to pretend their goal was different than it was.

No one ever advocated a policy of (say) returning to the eighties, and merrily giving Saddam lots of money and anthrax seed stocks. However, if Clinton's goal had genuinely been to disarm Iraq and keep it disarmed, we could have put in place a sensible policy to do so. That would have required continued monitoring (to which Iraq had already agreed to be subject), clear statements of deterrence, and real attempts to dial down the arms race in the mideast—meaning, most importantly, Iran and Israel.

Speaking of which, the Duelfer report is full of information about Saddam's willingness in the nineties to give up literally anything else as long as the U.S. let him stay in power.

This is from the introduction:

Saddam's view of the United States was complicated. He accrued power and prestige far beyond his inherent weight by positioning himself as the only leader to stand up to the last superpower. To the extent that you assume some of the stature of your enemy, Saddam derived prestige from being an enemy of the United States. Conversely, it would have been equally prestigious for him to be an ally of the United State -- and regular entreaties were made, during the last decade to explore this alternative. [emphasis in original]

Saddam apparently calculated that Iraq's natural resources, secular society, and dominance in the region would inevitably force the United States to deal with Iraq (He may have been correct, but he mistakenly thought his leadership of Iraq was immutable.) Throughout the 1990s he tested Washington's willingness to open a dialogue. On multiple occasions very senior Iraqis close to the President made proposals through intermediaries (the author [ie, Duelfer, then working for UNSCOM -- Jon] among others) for dialogue with Washington. Baghdad offered flexibility on many issues, including offers to assist in the Israel-Palestine conflict. Moreover, in informal discussions, senior officials allowed that, if Iraq had a security relationship with the United States, it might be inclined to dispense with WMD programs and/or ambitions.

The strongest evidence for Saddam's future intentions in the report is this, from Chapter 1:

Huwaysh, in a written statement, explained instead that Saddam briefed senior officials on several occasions saying, "We do not intend or aspire to return to our previous programs to produce WMD, if the Security Council abides by its obligations pertaining to these resolutions [UNSCR 687, paragraph 14 (ie, the region-wide WMD disarmament clause -- Jon)]. Saddam reiterated this point in a cabinet meeting in 2002, according to Dr. Humam 'Abd-al-Khaliq 'Abd-al Ghafur, the former Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research.

"The policy wasn't inexplicable. But it wasn't aimed at disarming Iraq. It was aimed at removing Saddam from power (and just as importantly, replacing him with someone acceptable to us)."

Sure. It's not as if this was kept a secret; Congress passed that resolution in '98 declaring regime change to be U.S. policy, which just confirmed long-existing policy.

"However, if Clinton's goal had genuinely been to disarm Iraq and keep it disarmed, we could have put in place a sensible policy to do so. "

That's a lot easier to say than it would have been to do.

Not necessarily impossible. Not necessarily that it shouldn't have been tried; indeed, it's what should have been tried. But it wouldn't have been easy, and might have simply failed, and that wouldn't have been great, either.

"Speaking of which, the Duelfer report is full of information about Saddam's willingness in the nineties to give up literally anything else as long as the U.S. let him stay in power."

Broadly speaking, I wouldn't contest that; but it's hard to see that that would have been a good thing from any POV on desirable U.S. foreign policy that I'm aware of that I'm remotely in agreement with.

"Thus, many white people, particularly upper middle class white men, get the most obvious things wrong all the time."

There's something to that. You're generalizing rather dangerously, and I'm trying to avoid the whole question of how and who defines "white" and "black," but there's something to your point, to be sure, and particularly so in areas about which privileged people, including people privileged by skin tone and ethnicity and background tend to be blind to about their own privilege, but, still, a lot of generalizing. Also, people with less power can be prone to other sorts of errors of perception, too.

But you do have a point.

It's not as if this was kept a secret; Congress passed that resolution in '98 declaring regime change to be U.S. policy, which just confirmed long-existing policy.

Well, yeah. That's why every country thought we were lying on the thousands of times U.S. officials (in all of the last three administrations) spoke about how much they cared about disarming Iraq.

Broadly speaking, I wouldn't contest that; but it's hard to see that that would have been a good thing from any POV on desirable U.S. foreign policy that I'm aware of that I'm remotely in agreement with.

It wouldn't have been a good thing. But for most Americans and Iraqis as well as most people on earth it would have been the least bad thing.

But you do have a point.

Thank you. And I realize that's a lot of generalizing. But I'm sorry to say that my experience indicates this type of generalization is surprisingly accurate. Depressing but true.

I'm on jury duty today, so my replies, when they occur, will be more terse than usual. The computers here at the Ninth Circuit Court of Florida run Windows 98 and are additionally equipped with various features that are supposed to idiot-proof them, which makes them nearly unusable.

Jon, although I think there's something to what you say as regards race/skin tone/whatever you meant by "white" and "black", the notion that black people tend to be right more often has some huge, gaping areas in which it's completely unsubstantiated. Which is to say I question it and, at this point in the discussion, completely disagree. For many, many reasons, not confined to decisions involving Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Cynthia McKinney, or the self-correcting tendency that being right because one is poor/disadvantaged/black would tend to have.

That, and what Gary said. Something there, just surrounded by huge areas where outright contradiction is present. It'd be fodder for a dozen or so normal-sized threads, in which I'd be pleased to mostly spectate.

And yes, I'm white. I was born into a family that was far, far below the poverty line. I was one of the first college graduates to spring from my father's branch of the family. My grandfathers were: one truck driver and one mailman. Just to calibrate a bit. But the inherent advantage of being white, that probably sailed me through. That, and a lot of hard work, some small amount of curiosity, a modicum of intelligence, and a willingness to indebt myself in order to achieve some level of completion of education. Probably it was the skin color, though.

Oh, and Ritter: he was wrong about Iraq, as I recall. He was right about Iraq, too, after he quit, so I guess it all depends on which Scott Ritter one listens to.

There are other people who are, by some measure, "right". General Eric Shinseki: right because he said we needed lots more troops. Giving the Ranger berets to the entire Army, though, I view as horribly, completely, utterly wrong and misguided. Championing a costly, cold-war era mobile artillery system designed to counter a threat that no longer exists, also wrong.

And now I've been called. Ta.

Probably it was the skin color, though.

I think you should really re-read what Jon wrote. He never claimed anything about your specific antecedents and was specific to identify the problematic aspect as being a "part of the elite of an extremely powerful country. Anyone outside of the U.S. elites, or part of a weaker country, would never have been surprised by a someone trying to make themselves appear more dangerous than they were."

Certainly it was originally elliptic, but given the further explanation, it's a bit off to suggest that because you sprung from good working stock like, you may feel insulted.

The fact that the US cannot seem to appreciate the position of countries that are weaker and desperate to bolster their own self-image is a very important point. That sort of dynamic actually gets us a long way to understanding what motivates people like McKinney, Jackson, and Sharpton. Perhaps there was another way to get it across, but I thought the example was quite illuminating.

Oh, and Ritter: he was wrong about Iraq, as I recall. He was right about Iraq, too, after he quitvv, so I guess it all depends on which Scott Ritter one listens to.

No. You're responding to some caricature of his views you've picked up, not what he's actually said.

As I said above, what I find frustrating is the lack of curiosity, on the part of essentially everyone who was wrong about this, about how it happened. If I had been so wrong about something of such importance, I'd really want to know what was going on. I'd also have to consider if I might be wrong about *other* things I was completely certain about.

In this particular case, if it were me, I would pay close, serious attention to what Ritter said. In addition, I'd also pay attention to other people who were right, particularly because all the people who were right have the same perspective on how everyone else was wrong.

But this doesn't happen -- as demonstrated, I'm sorry to say, in your comment just now. There seems to be a common instinct to believe Ritter and others were somehow right by accident. I assume this is because the alternative is too uncomfortable to consider.

I think you should really re-read what Jon wrote. He never claimed anything about your specific antecedents and was specific to identify the problematic aspect

Thanks. I wanted to say that myself, but thought it would be a little too much. So I will just endorse someone else saying it.

"A while back Charles Duelfer said something about how they'd gotten Iraq wrong because they were used to people pretending not to have weapons they do have, rather than pretending to have weapons they don't."

This is covered in the Duelfer report. Their interpretation was that Iraq saw its use of chemical weapons as being decisive in not being overwhelmed by the superior numbers of Iranian troops (Khomeini refused allow Iran to deploy or develop CW, considering it contrary to Islamic teaching).

So Iraq wanted to continue to cultivate the ambiguity that it had WMD, in fear of what Iran might do if it became known that there were no such weapons. Saddam didn't believe that the US would really invade, that the US and Iraq were not natural enemies. And Saddam was in sufficient of an information bubble that no-one disabused him of this notion: this is a guy who, after a cabinet minister gave an opinion he didn't like, sent the minister's body back to his wife in little pieces.

Basically, the Ba'athists in Iraq bet that we wouldn't fire the bazooka we had pointed at them, and were more worried about the knife the Iranians had at their back.

It's a case where the apparent rationale for actions was not transparent to us, because we assume the context for the actions of another country is the same as ours.

No, I'm not personally insulted, just a little annoyed at the notion that I've somehow earned what I've achieved a little less than if my skin were a few shades darker. If that's not in any neighborhood suggestion, consider the above to be inapplicable ranting. Either way, I don't take it all that seriously.

As for Ritter, practically the first entry in a Google search for him has this:

WILLIAM SCOTT RITTER, JR.: Iraq still has prescribed weapons capability. There needs to be a careful distinction here. Iraq today is challenging the special commission to come up with a weapon and say where is the weapon in Iraq, and yet part of their efforts to conceal their capabilities, I believe, have been to disassemble weapons into various components and to hide these components throughout Iraq.

I think the danger right now is that without effective inspections, without effective monitoring, Iraq can in a very short period of time measure the months, reconstitute chemical biological weapons, long-range ballistic missiles to deliver these weapons, and even certain aspects of their nuclear weaponization program.

Was Ritter right or wrong? Is this consistent with what he's said since? Is this consistent with what you hold to be true?

Was Ritter right or wrong?

He may have been right in August 1998 (you didn't date the quote, but that's when it's from).

In December 1998, you may recall, President Clinton ordered a three-day bombing campaign on selected targets in Iraq:
"The stated goal of the cruise missile and bombing attacks was to "degrade" Saddam Hussein's ability to produce weapons of mass destruction."

I guess it all depends on which Scott Ritter one listens to.

I guess you need to bear in mind the context of remarks made by an expert, not merely pull quotes out of context and ignore events (such as Operation Desert Fox) which change the situation. Of course, if the objective is to denigrate and mock the expert because the expert's opinions are contrary to the opinions of the President to whom you were foolishly loyal for six years, you do well to pull quotes out of context and pay no attention to anything but the Scott Ritter entry on the Right-Wing Agenda (RWA). (Are you still having RWA delivered, or do these represent old copies you still have lying around the house?)


"No, I'm not personally insulted, just a little annoyed at the notion that I've somehow earned what I've achieved a little less than if my skin were a few shades darker. If that's not in any neighborhood suggestion, consider the above to be inapplicable ranting."

There are debatable things about what Jon said, but, no, I don't see that he said anything remotely of this kind in any way. Just to put in the 200 millicents.

Jes: "He may have been right in August 1998 (you didn't date the quote, but that's when it's from)."

I assume he didn't "date the link" because the link was itself dated: "july-dec98/."

"In December 1998, you may recall, President Clinton ordered a three-day bombing campaign"

Jon's point seems partially to be that everyone should have known by 1992 that there were no more Iraqi WMD, and that Clinton's Admin was as deceptive as Bush's about this. As I cited him citing:

...the inspectors could have declared Iraq disarmed of nuclear, missile, and chemical weapons as early as 1992, but Washington's hardline position prevented such a move.
If I'm getting something wrong about your POV, Jon, please let me know.

So what Jes' point in repeating what everyone knows about 1998 is is obscure to me, given Jon's point being about 1992 onwards.

"But that's enough for me to know with near-complete certainty that you're white" seems kinda specific to me, and, again, ad hom.

I mean, I could state my belief that Jon isn't in group G, which has been uniformly right about issue X, which Jon is wrong about, and that he should be asking what group G knows that he doesn't - but I don't think it would be helpful (esp. given G and X).

Hypatia at Glenn Greenwald’s blog recommended OW as a blog that had really good discussions of a non-partisan (yes, I know, no such thing, but....) nature. This post and comments are my first experience. FWIW I would like to offer my review. I enjoyed the comments, but since I have not read the links or other information on the issue of the trailers, I won’t comment on the quality of the post itself. After reading the comments, I see all the usual suspects except for the flamers, misguided, blatantly ignorant, etc. This is good.
The comments seem to be mostly “he said/she said”, mostly Center/Left. Still, that does give a better discussion than the usual bickering and charge/countercharge. So, I guess Hypatia’s recommendation was good.
One final note: Why is it that no one asked the (to me) obvious question: “What were these trailers actually used for?” I can understand finding fake mobile missile launchers. They could have been used for parades or left out to be seen by satellites, etc. , similar to the rubber tanks used to thwart enemy intelligence in WWII.
I have some experience with used trailers. Usually, they have various scars, partial mounts and bolt holes, but one can hardly ever be certain what they were used for from this evidence. In most cases, smell is the only clue that reliably discloses their prior use. But, I digress.
My point: absent any knowledge of the real use of the trailers, there must be a presumption (given the ambiguous nature of the trailers) on the part of anyone finding them during the “Saddam has WMDs period” that they are what Secretary Powell said they were. Really, the only effective rebuttal at that time would be a showing at that time that they were routine camel rendering plants or whatever. All of the “hindsight” information is irrelevant except to trump up a case.
Another final note. Thanks to the discussion here, I can ignore the controversy since it is destined to end up in the the “he said/she said” graveyard with all the other issues raised so passionately by Mr. Greenwald on his blog .

Why is it that no one asked the (to me) obvious question: “What were these trailers actually used for?”

It was asked and answered on an immediately prior thread. (Hydrogen generation for weather balloons.) Scroll down the front page to the next post dealing with the trailers, and read the comments if you're interested.

Was Ritter right or wrong? Is this consistent with what he's said since? Is this consistent with what you hold to be true?

I'm happy to give my take on this. But again, I urge you to read the books Ritter has written, or the voluminous other things he's said about this.

So here's my perspective:

Was Ritter right or wrong?

He was both right and wrong.

He was right that Iraq didn't have any weapons for UNSCOM to find. He was wrong that Iraq was hiding "prescribed weapons capability." In 1998 he believed Iraq was doing so, because they were hiding things from inspectors. What Ritter didn't factor in at the time is that the Iraqi government wasn't hiding things that had to do with WMD, but rather with Saddam's personal security. They were concerned about UNSCOM because the US was using it as a vehicle to spy on the regime, with the goal of overthrowing it and killing Saddam. In fact, we now know certain inspections were stopped because Saddam was in the buildings at the time.

Ritter was also correct that in the absence of inspections or monitoring Iraq could reconstitute its programs.

Is this consistent with what he's said since?

Yes. Remember the context in which he was speaking: the end of August, 1998. Iraq had just refused to cooperate further with UNSCOM, and Ritter had resigned. So (as he's explained over and over again) he portrayed what he knew in the most dramatic light, because he hoped to bolster attempts to get the inspectors back in.

When he spoke in a different context later, he said the same things but with greatly different emphasis.

I understand this seems inconsistent if you're not familiar with the details of the situation. But it's not. For instance, Ritter was right in 1998 that Iraq could reconstitute its weapons programs fairly quickly. However, all that really meant was that Iraq was an industrialized country. It didn't mean that Iraq would do so. It meant that, in 1998, he thought it was very important to get inspectors back in there. He said the same thing in 2002, but with a different emphasis.

Also, in 1998 he didn't mention that the possible "weapons capability" he was talking about amounted at most to 5-10% of what Iraq had had pre-Gulf War. In 2002 he did, and as I say, had more information and so interpreted Iraqi behavior differently.

Is this consistent with what you hold to be true?

Yes.

So there you have it. If you want, I'm glad to tell you anything else I know. However, I should say I can't do that if you're not genuinely interested and just want to argue.

(Finally, Jesurgislac -- while I appreciate your perspective, Desert Fox actually played no role in the disarmament of Iraq. It's tempting for Democrats to think so, because it makes Clinton's behavior seem much more defensible. George Packer makes this claim in Assassin's Gate, for instance. But it's just not so. Iraq was disarmed of essentially everything but paper by the end of 1991. Then a giant hidden cache of paper was turned over in 1995, at which point Iraq basically had nothing. Ritter has a pretty convincing argument for the goals and rationale of Desert Fox, which you can find in Iraq Confidential and elsewhere.)

rilkefan:

I could state my belief that Jon isn't in group G, which has been uniformly right about issue X, which Jon is wrong about, and that he should be asking what group G knows that he doesn't - but I don't think it would be helpful

Well, if you do have an example of that, I actually think it might be helpful. And I also think what I've said is helpful in this case. But we'll probably have to agree to disagree.

"...as a blog that had really good discussions of a non-partisan (yes, I know, no such thing, but....) nature."

Definitely wrong. No one here, poster or commenter, is or pretends to be, "non-partisan."

What the blog is is a place where several posters of different partisan persuasions post, and it was intended to be a place where partisans of whatever flavor can meet and discuss topics with some minimal level of courtesy and mutual respect (where met with the same), and where certain minimums of non-offensive behavior will be adhered to.

I say this all merely from my own POV as a long-time commenter since not long after the founding of the blog, to be clear; I am not a front-page poster here (not that anyone ever asked me, sniffle).

The balance of commenters has shifted drastically over towards about 20-1 liberal/left prevalent, which as one of the same, I think is a shame, and a bit unhealthy. The proportion of posters at present is also somewhat off from what it once was, for various reasons, a primary one being that apparently the blog-owners are having trouble finding new reasonable conservatives/libertarians to ask to join. For various reasons, the current representatives of convserative/liberartian views (Sebastian, Slartibartfast, Charles Bird, Von) are tending to not post even in combination nearly as much as the prolific (and wonderful, we are blessed) Hilzoy, who is also holding up the left side on her own at present, given the absenting of Edward and the semi-demi-hemi-quasi appearances of Katherine, whose status seems a tad ambiguous at present (she officially quit, but -- I can't resist saying -- as I predicted -- keeps returning from time to time, anyway, and recently said that the only reason she's not signing in under her own name again is just that they "haven't gotten around to it").

Flamers and fools do show up, but generally get shouted down, or if they blatantly offend against the posting rules get banned. But you have to work hard to get to that point. Mockery usually is sufficient to rein in excessive foolishness, and trolls tend to get somewhat ignored.

And, to be sure, the regular crew has long established to some degree what various people think of each other, so a few people ignore others, or constantly (staying within the guidelines) are somewhat contemptous of their opinions.

(An offshoot of this blog is http://ihatecharlesbird.blogspot.com/.)

So pull up a comfy chair, and welcome.

"One final note: Why is it that no one asked the (to me) obvious question: “What were these trailers actually used for?”"

See here, here, and here.

Thank you Mr. Farber for the info and the links. My only remaining question is: "When was it determined that the use was for helium balloons?" and that is not important except to shoot down the "Bush Lied" contingent, so never mind. They simply spring back up from the dragon's teeth with a new charge anyway.
By the way, I may again be the last to hear it, but I think dutchmarble has reached a new low in the "I Hate America" movement. No, wait, we can still sow salt in the ground where the Terrible Americans used to live, so there is still a ways to go.

Actually, when it was determined that they were used for hydrogen is not important at all. What is important is when it was determined that they could not have been used for biological weapon development, and that timeline has already been determined.

I will let your statement about dutchmarble pass, as you are new here. But she may want to respond to that.

yet part of their efforts to conceal their capabilities, I believe, have been to disassemble weapons into various components and to hide these components throughout Iraq

Seems awfully unlike

However, all that really meant was that Iraq was an industrialized country.

Don't you think? I don't think Ritter could have said it more explicitly: he thought Iraq had proscribed weapons that they had squirreled away, in part or in whole.

So I don't think I'm distorting context, here. Ritter's motivations for saying the things he said and saying them the way he said them are, I maintain, completely independent from whether those things were accurate or not.

"...and that is not important except to shoot down the "Bush Lied" contingent, so never mind. They simply spring back up from the dragon's teeth with a new charge anyway.
By the way, I may again be the last to hear it, but I think dutchmarble has reached a new low in the "I Hate America" movement. No, wait, we can still sow salt in the ground where the Terrible Americans used to live, so there is still a ways to go."

This is pretty much all ad hominem. Do you have any issues or facts you'd like to discuss?

The comments to this entry are closed.

Whatnot


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