"Nuclear" and Anthrax and Ricin, Oh My


Captain Ed likes to collect translated documents that supposedly prove the Iraqi WMD threat was real; Jon Henke pulls together a set of relevant links from the Cap'n on that topic in one place; Jim Henley (who has become one of the most impassioned, funniest, and most thorough antiwar and anti-intervention bloggers out there), at length and with great tenacity, perspicacity, and wit, looks and looks and looks, from "nuclear" to anthrax to ricin, and still can't see the unbridled menace. His conclusion to a long and worth-reading-in-full post:

The Captain Eds of the world spent late 2002 and early 2003 lampooning UNMOVIC and the IAEA and Hans Blix and Mohamed el-Baradei as buffoons for failing to find the "weapons of mass destruction" all over Iraq. Truth is, the objects of their scorn were far more right than they were. The sandstorm of funny paper they're whipping up now is just an attempt to hide the shame and the waste. Should the whirlwind settle, even they will see what the rest of the country has discerned: the lone and level sands stretching from here to there.

NEXT: (Still) Going to the Chapel?

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  1. This is what happens to people and countries when they base what they believe on who’s doin’ the talking.

    …Maybe if Hans Blix and company had said it with a thick Texas drawl?

  2. It is interesting to read Henley do exactly what he in many cases rightly accuses Captain Ed of doing; jumping to conclusions based on assumptions. Basically, Captain Ed, looks at every piece of dual technology found in Iraq and assumes that it was there to make WMDs. Henley, in contrast looks at every piece of dual use technology and gives Saddam the benefit of every doubt and assumes that they could not have been there to produce WMDs and to assume that they were is wrong, because after all a guy like Saddam clearly deserves the benefit of the doubt in these matters. I leave it to others to decide which one is committing the bigger fallacy. Regardless, I would not call either of them rhetorical giants.

  3. Using the thorough Henleyian logic on display here, Iraq’s “army” was merely a large intelligence agency for montoring other countries armies, and it’s “schools” weren’t actually places of teaching and learning, just watching what went on in the schools of other countries.

    I now know why the crime rate in DC is so high, its “police” are merely there to watch what the police in other, scratch that, real states do.

    Just cause the door on the right is locked doesn’t mean the one on the left gets you in the building.

  4. Help me out John–are you saying that the jury’s still out on whether Iraq had WMDs?

    …and just to make sure we keep this in the proper context, I’d like to link to this again.

  5. John, I think my piece pretty clearly states that the various bad things Captain Ed accuses Saddam of on the basis of the memos COULD be true, but that the memos don’t demonstrate it. Captain Ed, contrariwise, is saying that the bad things MUST be true, because of the memos.

    I don’t think there’s as much symmetry to those arguments as you’re claiming.

    chewy: You will keep the crows away for sure with that. I salute you.

  6. John,

    If you claim the existence of something (e.g., WMDs), the burden of proof is on you not on the people that doubt its existence.

    I can’t believe there are people still debating this issue. I thought that the administration has moved to “we spreading democracy” and then to “we are preventing civil war” rationals long time ago. Didn’t you get the memo?

  7. Wow, so the evidence found so far for a WMD’s program in Iraq circa 2003 isn’t as compelling as one blogger says it is. Thanks for the link to the “long and worth-reading-in-full post”.

    Was it really worth it for the inevitable flame war that this thread will become?

  8. Jim,

    No crows, no dog, no fight. While I found your logic a bit loose on the point I hammered, I was actually directing the whole of my comment to Doherty’s declaration of your treatment as thorough. It was not. It was exposing of Capt Ed, to be sure, but wore the same thiness in parts as well.

    Anyway, your post takes a more extensive stab at resolution than my comment or Doherty’s post, so for that you should be appluaded. Stick around and I’m sure you’ll find far entertaining fare than me.

  9. To Fl: What, are you kiddin’ me? What’s a day at Hit and Run without a flame war? I am confident that the entry is well-flagged enough that those who share your opinion–they are doubtless legion, and I love each and every one of you–that posts regarding bloggers thoughts on Iraq’s WMD program are NOT worth reading won’t be fooled by my wicked guile into wasting their 7 minutes. My conscience is 100 percent clear on this one.

  10. Um. So does no one remember that we shouldn’t have even needed to debate the existence of those non-existent weapons? Brazil and South Africa gave the UN pretty good confidence that they demolished their nuclear weapon facilities. Iraq could have, as well, but instead they prevented that to the very end. That’s what the war was about — we didn’t know what was going on either way because they prevented us from knowing. (Though they didn’t know either, according to the recent Foreign Affairs article.)

    You could agree with everything Hans Blix and Scott Ridder said of Iraq’s capabilities, and still conclude we needed to invade. This was not a (have/have not) WMD issue.

  11. The truth about Saddam’s WMD seems to be as follows.

    Saddam absoutely had and used chemical weapons in the 1980s on both the Iranians and the Kurds. He still possessed them during the first gulf war but thought better of using them after the famous communique from the U.S. informing him of our intention to respond to the use of any WMDs with massive retaliation.

    In the 1990s in response to U.N. pressure shut down his production but never made this clear to anyone. The reason for this was to continue to terrorize the Shia and Kurds within Iraq from revolting because of the threat using chemical weapons to quel an uprising. Saddam, did however, keep his scientists and capabilities hidden from the U.N.

    If the heat had ever come off and the U.N. sanctions ended, he was perfectly capable of resuming WMD production. In fact, there is no reason to beleive that he would not have resumed production. Why would he have not wanted to have WMDs in case anyone ever called his bluff. In addition, there were fairly significant numbers of chemical tipped artillery rounds left in his huge arsenal. These have been found by the coalition and used (accidentily I think) by the insurgency. In addition, there is considerable evidence that Saddam moved significant amounts of WMDs to Syria right before the war. How much or what kinds is not and may never be known.

    The truth is as most truths somewhere in the middle. The proponents of the invasion did not find the huge stores of WMD they were expecting and indeed most people in the world, including the likes of Bill Clinton and Al Gore believed Saddam had. Saddam, still however had the infrustructure to produce these weapons and could have been back in business producing them within weeks had he chosen to do so. People like Henley who want to claim that Saddam was not a threat to anyone beyond the Iraqi people try to write this fact off by saying “Saddam could have intended to use all of this infrastructure for something besides WMD” but that seems to me to be just a rediculous of a claim as claiming that Saddam had the WMDs we thought but they just haven’t been found.

  12. “Henley, in contrast looks at every piece of dual use technology and gives Saddam the benefit of every doubt and assumes that they could not have been there to produce WMDs and to assume that they were is wrong, because after all a guy like Saddam clearly deserves the benefit of the doubt in these matters.”

    Er, no, not really. Henley looks at the potentially-dual use technologies, notes that absolutely no WMDs were produced by them, and concludes that they were not being used to produce WMDs.

    BTW, John, are you ready to apologize for calling me “a longtime supporter and enabler of Saddam Hussein” yet?

  13. I firmly believe that joe is a longtime supporter and enabler of Saddam Hussein.

  14. My understanding, which I admit may be wrong, is that any weapons of mass destruction Saddam possessed did not have the range to reach the United States. They did, however, have just enough range to reach Israel. So, if we invaded Iraq to protect anything, it was to protect Israel.

  15. Mike,

    You may have missed this part, cause I sure as hell did given that I was in full blown SOTUDG mode by that time, but I think the worry was more selling the shit to terrorists rather than a direct missile strike on the continental US.

  16. So John are you saying that we did find a ricin factory? Because you said Henley gave Saddam the benefit of the doubt. How about the anthrax lab? Any sign of a nuclear weapons lab? I think reality gave Saddam the benefit of the doubt.

    When people use 15 year old degraded shells, that the liberal Pentagon said was useless, as their evidence of Saddam’s WMD, you’re allowed to ignore them with their conjectres. If they find something real, then I’ll listen.

  17. I did pick up on the worry about terrorists at the time, but didn’t give it as much weight, as it was just that: a vague worry. On the other hand, the British Intelligence report one could read online had very specific information about the missile capabilities Iraq might possess.

    I assumed, again perhaps incorrectly, that terrorists have dozens of potential suppliers. So, why so much emphasis on acting on our unsubstantiated worries about one particular supplier?

  18. His history had branded him a troublemaker. Known troublemakers tend to be some of the first to get bounced when trouble starts, because even if they didn’t cause it, they sure as shit will make it worse if left to their own devices.

  19. Joe for the record you are not an enabler or supporter of Sadam and I apologize for telling you that. I have but one request, please do not ever mention this when Thoreau is posting because he might start responding to my posts again and it I frankly enjoy him ignoring me. So, please accept my apology. Sorry to take so long responding today, but it has been a busy day.

  20. Iraq outsourced its nuke program to Libya. An undisputed fact. Something the war uncovered.

    So what are the odds of finding the Iraqi nuke program in Iraq?

    There was a time when folks at Reason knew facts and could, well, you know, reason.

  21. Iraq outsourced its nuke program to Libya. An undisputed fact.

    Someone upthread mentioned that they’re in Syria. Perhaps you could provide a link to set them straight.

    Captain Ed

    Is he the head of some new spy agency I (and apparently the White House) don’t know about? Maybe he’s not aware that Tony Snow is the new press guy. Someone needs to kick this info upstairs.

  22. Happy Jack,

    It is the chemical weapons that some believe went to Syria. I take no definite position on that matter.

    There was a time when folks at Reason knew facts and could, well, you know, reason.

    However, should you be interested google – “A Q Khan” Libya Iraq

    I’m sure you will find what you are looking for.

  23. JackJack,

    Gotta keep things straight. WMD is a term that replaced NBC (nuclear, biological, chemical), which more clearly illustrates that there’s more than one type of thing being referred to. Therefore, it is possible, as rumored by salt-deprived Israeli intelligence sources, that some weapons (maybe biological or chemical or hell even dual use materials) went to the Bekaah Valley prior to the war.

    At the same time, it’s also possible, and actually accepted has having happened, that Iraq had outsourced some of its nuclear development (note, not even actual weapons) to Libya. You may recall Qhaddafi giving up the ghost shortly after the capture of Bahgdad (and the rumored phone call to the Italian saying he didn’t want to be the next Saddam). He told all, gave up his own chemical weapons and all components of his nuclear program (that amazingly could have eventually produced results for both Saddam and he) and they were shipped to the US. Note how he became one of our bestest buddies since Musharraf, despite renegging on the Lockerbie payouts.

    As for the documents, they didn’t originate with Mr. Ed, but are the bulk of the millions of untranslated (remember how Bush fired all of the bilingual homosexuals (wouldn’t Ali G. have a field day with that)) documents recovered from Saddam’s govt files. These have been more or less open-sourced for translation by the Army of Eds or some such, in a process I don’t fully understand or trust. Nonetheless, the CIA was bored with them and the White House has ignored them (rumored to be trying to avoid embarrassing the Russians, who are supposed to be complicit at varying levels). so there you go.

    I swear sometimes these days i have flashbacks to watching the Transformer movie with my mom, “so who’s that one again honey?”

  24. I knew there must be good reasons to still believe that invading Iraq was the smart thing to do, but what I’m seeing look like reasons to invade Lybia or Syria.

    Are the rest of the reasons invading Iraq was so smart about Reverse Domino Theory? …Is that all there is?

  25. actually accepted has having happened, that Iraq had outsourced some of its nuclear development

    M. Simon doesn’t seem willing to provide a link, maybe you would be more inclined (preferably something without Bodansky’s name associated with it). I’d like to see if Iraq moved their program to Libya.

    P.S. – I’m old enough to remember when it was ABC. WMD is just a way to cloud the issue.

  26. I’m old enough to remember when it was ABC.

    PUT THAT COFFEE DOWN. Coffee is for closers.

  27. Yes, “WMD” is almost as big a bullshit phrase as “dual use.” WMD lumps lameass chemical weapons and unproven bio munitions in with actually effective, massively powerful nuclear bombs. Two of these things are NOT like the others. The two aren’t even like EACH other. You may indeed be able to turn various germs or viruses into a successful mass-murdering terror weapon, though it certainly hasn’t happened. In terms of lethality, though, chemical weapons are strictly retail. If you want wholesale destruction, blow up a tanker truck. Get some fertilizer.

  28. Excellent analysis of the “significant quantities of chemical weapons found in Iraq” by Canadian milblogger BruceR of Flit.

  29. Iraq outsourced its nuke program to Libya. An undisputed fact. Something the war uncovered.

    You’d better go tell the White House. We just reopened diplomatic relations with them and this would be a black mark on their record.

  30. |Oh and where is the evidence for this undisputed fact Simon?

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