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February 28, 2007


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Never use the words Bush and intelligence in the same post.

If they didn't have a uranium program, then we scrapped the Agreed Framework, and let North Korea access its plutonium and build nuclear weapons, FOR NOTHING.

what NK had was a uranium enrichment R & D program.... but it should have been obvious to anyone who understood the process of uranium enrichment for bomb-making that NK wasn't even close to doing so. Not only did NK not have the necesssary equipment for the centrifuge "cascades" needed, more critically it did not have the kind of infrastructure that could produce the steady supply of massive amounts of electricity needed to run those centrifuges without interruption.

There isn't even any evidence that NK was involved in uranium enrichment prior to Bush shutting down the talks under the Agreed Framework in March 2001. Basically, NK bought a few centrifuges from Pakistan in the late 1990s because Pakistan wanted to buy weapons from NK, but didn't have cash. It looks like NK responded to Bushco's agressive hostility by doing some R&D with those centifuges...

i wonder how this will turn out to be Clinton's fault...

Heckuva job, Frummie!

This is tragi-comedy concerning the "historic agreement" that the Bush administration reached with NK.

It was easy to trumpet the existence of such an alleged program when the goal was scrapping the Agreed Framework. Now that the Bush administration must actually implement policy with its own "historic agreement" with NK, it must sell its "Son if Agreed Framework" plan as allegedly solving the problem that justified scrapping the Clinton era plan.

What uranium enrichment program? Problem solved.

Great. Crow for breakfast.

Back in the Open Thread (Holidays I'm Glad I Missed Edition) thread I tried to make the case that Bush could not be blamed entirely for NK acquiring nuclear weapons. From the aspect of them acquiring much of the technology prior to Bush taking office I’d still make that case (though with less enthusiasm).

But I also tried to give him the benefit of the doubt for the AF falling apart. I felt that it was reasonable, given the intelligence when he took office for him to re-evaluate and not rush to continue where Clinton left off. I cut him slack for what occurred between Jan 01 and Oct 02 given what I thought was solid evidence of the secret enrichment program.

I retract all that. Hilzoy, LJ, GF, Eric, Carleton, anyone else – you were all right and I was way wrong.

I think my best bet at this point is to just completely give up.

I think my best bet at this point is to just completely give up.

embrace the dark side. become that which you fear... register as a Democrat!

No need for crow. Arguing from reasonable assumptions is no need for embarassment just because those assumptions later turn out to be wrong.


None of us knew this at the time of our prior discussion. Your points were reasonable then based on what was generally known to us.

Also, I'd hate to lose you as a dissenting voice. It's actually hard to find intelligent people (of any political persuasion) capable of carrying on a mature back and forth without making it personal.

So much more productive that way. Also, a valuable check on the excesses that the partisan dynamic can lead one to.

OCSteve, since I was defending you at the time, I must also eat crow on this one. The Bush administration is almost as evil as I have been told it is.

But then this is typical of the exaggeration this administration uses.

Remember Libya. They heralded their giving up their nuclear program as important, vital, and a result of the war in Iraq. However, the program was basically dead in the water, and Libya had approached the Clinton administration and Great Britain back in the 90's to discuss a negotiated ending of the program, but the Clinton administration and GB, knowing how bad the program was, refused until the Lockerbie (sp) bombing stuff was resolved.

This administration takes credit for things it falls into, and refuses to accept any responsibility for any of its mistakes.

OCSteve: If it's crow for anyone, it's crow all around. I was arguing that the uranium program, whose existence I granted, wasn't a good reason for scrapping the Agreed Framework.

since I was defending you at the time, I must also eat crow on this one

That’ll teach ya!

I'd hate to lose you as a dissenting voice.

No worries there. That comment was meant as “completely give up trying to defend this administration on any point at all”. You folks turned out to be correct primarily because you hesitate to extend any benefit of doubt at all. In this case as in others that turned out to be the more correct frame of mind when viewing anything these folks are up to.

In terms of what’s left that I can in good faith defend - I’m almost down to supporting the choice of new carpet for the Oval Office (and if I remember right I think he delegated that to Laura and it is some hideous yellow color).

embrace the dark side. become that which you fear... register as a Democrat

Pretty close. I’m at the point where I believe I am going to change my registration to Independent at least until I see how 2012 shapes up.

You folks turned out to be correct primarily because you hesitate to extend any benefit of doubt at all.

In fairness, some of us had advance warning in 2000 when they called themselves the MBA administration.

OCSteve: what's truly scary is that people like me, who don't extend much benefit of the doubt (I do with other administrations, but have been largely cured of that tendency with this one), turn out to be wrong not when we don't give them enough credit, but when we believe them.

I mean: that's scary.

It's said. With this, uh, newfound inoperability of past truths, all I can think is: poor Sebastian.

And good for you, Steve -- it's really hard changing your mind in public. I hope you've got a Republican you feel you can vote for in good conscience soon.

And OCSteve, don't leave your Republican roots and conservative credentials behind. We on the other side need people like you to tell us when we mis-step (which we are sure to do). Hopefully we will do a better job of listening then the current crop of in power Republicans.

See also Selig S. Harrison, January 2005:

But Al Gore used electricity. So it evens out.

It gets worse: The famous North Korean admission may have been a 'mistranslation' according to an october article, in Newsweek if I am not mistaken see>

BTW The North KOreans have from the beginning denied that they made this admission. Ah well, I will try to remember that the guy with the funny hairdo is the more reliable one.

OC Steve:

I don't know that you necessarily even have to eat crow.

I am not in the habit of blaming those who are victims of fraud simply because they got fooled whereas others were not.

This is about the politicization of intelligence -- a very bad evil which is Cheney's forte. There is no meaningful way to debate issues when we must rely on whatever is disclosed regarding matters of intelligence. By its nature, it does not get full disclosure for public examination.

The same point has been made repeatedly about the Iraq war -- the Downing Street Memo's phrase sums up what is going on here:

"the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy"


There is also the possiblity that, unlike what you implied here:

"Let's be very clear about what this means. We used to have a deal, the Agreed Framework, that kept North Korea from getting plutonium. We supposedly discovered that they were cheating on that deal by enriching uranium." ,

we may have actually reneged on the deal FIRST, at least according to this article by Fred Kaplan:

From the article:

"Initially, North Korea kept to its side of the bargain. The same cannot be said of our side. Since the accord was not a formal treaty, Congress did not have to ratify the terms, but it did balk on the financial commitment. So did South Korea. The light-water reactors were never funded. Steps toward normalization were never taken. In 1996, one of Pyongyang's spy submarines landed on South Korean shores; in reaction, Seoul suspended its share of energy assistance; Pyongyang retaliated with typically inflammatory rhetoric. Somewhere around this time, we now know, the regime also secretly started to export missile technology to Pakistan in exchange for Pakistani centrifuges."

I have read a huge number of the news accounts, and I'm still confused (it may be bad reporting). Is this a retrospective reanalysis of the intelligence or not? My reading in say the NYT and the Guardian seems to suggest that the intelligence groups were saying 'the wrong things' (as we judge it now) in the 1997-2003 period. This doesn't seem to have been a stovepipe situation, the Clinton CIA was saying the same thing.

And frankly I'm a little surprised by the concept of a sure intelligence analysis now. Did North Korea suddenly become more open?

First, if I'd been asked to guess, I would've guessed that NK did have a program- it's exactly the sort of thing they would do. I was just fortunate that my line of reasoning didn't require me to assume that.

Second, for all of our disagreements, I can only hope that Ill be as flexible and honest a thinker as you are should I some day be mistaken in my assumptions. :) In the meantime, I shall use your stellar example and just try to be less of an @sshole than I regularly am.

Sebastian- I dont have time to look into anything today, but perhaps this has something to do with the '06 election, either directly (ie Dem committees getting the right people in and asking the right questions- it looks like several of these quotes took place in front of committees) or indirectly (ie intel folks feeling that the administration is basically done & can admit doubts that might've got them in trouble before- or, to be less doctrinaire, admitting doubts that suit the up-and-coming Dems regardless of their actual truth value).
For the last point, I don't see how anything has become more sure (except in some meta sense that we're more sure now that we weren't sure back then or something). While some people (not here) are running with this and claiming that there was no program, all I see from the quotes is admitting uncertainty.

Arms and Influence lays out a pretty convincing argument about what went down.

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