July 26, 2004

The Intel Tsar Won't Prove a Panacea

Amidst all the histrionics and mega-maelstrom surrounding the quality of the intelligence related to Iraq's WMD programs many tough questions remain unanswered (indeed, scarcely discussed).

Increasingly, you will doubtless instead hear a lot of chest-beating about who, as between Bush and Kerry, would appoint an intelligence czar more quickly.

Doubtless said Czar-in-Waiting will often be depicted as an individual who would bestride the Beltway like some omniscient behemoth--a panacea who will valiantly save the day and cure all the limitations related to our intel gathering/analysis capabilities and processes.

Don't believe all the hype. Bureaucratic reorgs and such can accomplish a lot--but there are other fundamental issues that need to be addressed too. Here are some of them.

Where should the burden of proof lie when confronting possible but uncertain proliferation of weapons of mass destruction -- should the suspect state be required to prove its innocence, or should the outside world be required to prove its guilt? Should a state obstructing inspections -- something that can be easily observed -- be assumed to be harboring banned materials -- a much more uncertain conclusion? Should that distinction even matter for purposes of policymaking? Should we regard dual-use materials -- ones whose ultimate purpose is inherently uncertain -- as illicit until proven innocuous, or the reverse? The flagship example here is the now-notorious aluminum tubes delivered to Iraq that some once argued could be used in a nuclear weapons program, but which turned out to be part of a rocket program instead. Should the standards of proof and suspicion under uncertainty be applied evenly, or should they vary with the nature of the state under investigation?

This post isn't meant to rehash the Iraq intel but, rather, to flag going forward issues. That said, Levi's questions all but beg such a discussion.

So a few very quick points.

His last Q, to me at least, is a no-brainer.

Standards of proof, particularly post 9/11, must vary with the "nature of the state under investigation."

And, at the end of the day, I have to say that I viewed Saddam's Iraq as a more unstable and unpredictable state actor than Iran and even North Korea. We can debate NoKo--it's admitedly a close call. But for all Kim Jong Il's eccentricities--he hasn't started two land wars with his neighbors (Iran, Kuwait) and/or fired missiles at other neighbors besides (Saudi Arabia, Israel).

P.S. A final point on the old aluminum tubes debacle. Lest we forget--the ballistic missiles program that the aluminum tubes were being used for (rather than a nuclear program) was also violative of Resolution 1441.

Posted by Gregory at July 26, 2004 12:38 PM

It seems to me that those policy questions aren't necessarily at odds with a bureaucratic reorg.

The point about Iraq being more unstable than NoKo is also a bit disingenuous because it ignores the geographic and military realities of NoKo's position. Iraq has no real military power on any border that compares to China. It also has no real patron state like China. It also didn't have, until the 1990s Gulf War, a border protected by a super power.

Clarke had an op-ed in the times a day or two ago that made a few points that resonated with me. Specifically, splitting analysts off from the intel gathering folks sounds good, as does focusing on more elite teams of analysts and commandos. I'm no intelligence expert, so I'm waiting to hear more thoughts from folks that know better than I. :)

Posted by: just me at July 26, 2004 02:23 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

As it happens, though, only 1 out of 15 panelists thought the tubes were for nuclear development.


Posted by: praktike at July 26, 2004 02:34 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

'Saddam's Iraq' was definitely a more unstable actor. But 'unpredictable'? How so? With us covering a large chunk of his country in regular air patrol? How exactly was Saddam going to invade a neighbor?

Now as for those g-d tubes, it should be very relevant that the tubes were for a conventional missile program. In a less eager-beaver Administration, like for example that of the elder Bush, the tubes probably would've been flagged somewhere below the level of public awareness and steps taken to ferret out the mechanism by which they were shipped and paid for. But the plain fact is that the Administration itself said that they were for a nuke program. So, once again, I'm in the killjoy situation of reminding you that Bush set these standards all by himself, and if keeping him to them is a burden for you, which is to say you'd rather forget what was actually said and not hold him accountable, well then, no worries mate. There are a couple tens of million Americans who don't mind remembering. You can find them in the polls under the heading 'Bush was less than honest about the reasons for going to war in Iraq,' and the numbers right below that are usually over 50%

Every time I visit this blog it seems there's an attempt being made to wiggle out of the fact-box. Sadly the attempt usually runs into the waiting feet of people who were there all of two years ago and happen to remember how things went. The rewriting of recent history here isn't anything like what goes on at the real loony places on the Web, and for that you deserve credit, but it still seems to be a bit too strong of a temptation. Standards of proof, fine. Now let's get back to the elephant-hiding-in-the-corner fact that we went to war over this 'proof,' eh?

Posted by: djangone at July 26, 2004 04:03 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


It is amazing that you attempt to be so condesending when what you have to say is so scary. You see, I remember three years ago, when four passenger airliners were used as weapons to destroy the WTC and kill approximately three thousandpeople. Perhaps "less eager beaver" people might not want to rush to any conclusions, but from here on out, rational individuals will now view said planes as potential weapons at any point. Pre-9/11, your point actually makes some sense -- post-9/11, I certainly hope our leaders will take action based on what "might be," rather than "what we can prove 100%." I find it frightening that there seem to be people who state that they take the threat of terrorism and Islamofacism seriously, then hold our gov't and its investagive branches to impossible standards. We can no longer afford to simply wait until all evidence is verified beyond a shadow of a doubt. If there is the appearance of an attack, action needs to be taken, not just for now, but also in order to change the paradigm. Hussien was not in compliance with 12 years of resolutions, and needed to be removed for that reason alone. Future terrorist supporters will now need to recognize that ridiculous resolutions won't be the only cost of failure to comply with the demands of the progressive socities. And I for one won't vote for anyone who isn't willing to do whatever it takes to stop anything close to 9/11 from happening again. And before you casually dismiss this opinion as some sort of neocon blather, take note that I agree with the current administration on very little, outside of their desire to eliminate as many terrorists as is feasible (without worrying what those purveyors of altruism, France and germany, have to say about it).

Posted by: Jerry at July 26, 2004 05:25 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


Part of the problem with your paradigm is its belief that we have unlimited bullets in the chamber. Unfortunately, we do not. Wars, invasions and especially the necessary reconstructions (invasions and regime change are meaningless unless the subsequent regime is less threatening and more trustworthy) require enormous amounts of money and resources, particularly of the military variety which are of a limited nature.

Thus, we cannot simply invade on hunches and pre-ordained intentions. Remember, the neo-cons have been clamoring for this invasion for over a decade, well before 9/11. That being said, I also agree that a standard of 100% certainty is too exacting, same with verification beyond a shadow of a doubt. But is that the only choice? 100% certainty or the intel we had regarding Iraq? Maybe there is a middle ground we can aspire to.

While there was a general consensus that Saddam probably possessed left-over biological and chemical weapons, there was a split over the evidence of nuclear capacity, with most leaning toward the side of no real nuclear program (State Department, IAEA, etc.). There was also a consensus that Saddam had no meaningful connections to al-Qaeda.

So the question is, given all the costs (financial and military) was invading Iraq the right move considering that Saddam might have some biological and chemical weapons? Even if it means limiting our military capacity in the near future? Even if it meant not having the proper troop strength to adequately deal with al-Qaeda in Afghanistan? What if you factor in the damage done to our alliances and credibility around the world (our ability to assemble a coalition to confront future threats)? Further, and perhaps most important, what is you consider the boon this has been to the recruitment efforts of al-Qaeda and their ideological brethren?

This is a debatable question, but it must be placed in context. It is not enough to simply state that Saddam was a brutal and totalitarian dictator, with an expansionist history and some chemical and biological weaponry. A true cost benefit analysis is necessary and proper. Sometimes, action like this that is intended to fight the spread of radical Islamist terrorism, might not be the best suited or most efficient plan. Possibly even counter-productive.

Posted by: Eric Martin at July 26, 2004 05:52 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


I don't see how a modern state can wait until the bad guys draw first then act only to shoot the gun from their hand.

How many dead citizens will it take before a state action can be justified? What politician will successfully campaign on a "No War Action Until 15,000 of You Are Dead" slogan-?

Is it better to act when a rogue state has 1 nuke or when they have 50? How many long range missiles should they have before the world community intervenes?

To impose a doctrine of "Return Fire Only" seems reminiscent of Vietnam when the enemy could build ambush fortifications in full sight without concern.

The idea of waiting til the Other Guy acts is Hollywood fantasy. It gets lots of innocent people killed.

Posted by: Andy at July 26, 2004 06:37 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Andy, I refer you to my points above. Unfortunately, we cannot act in every instance of a threat by your definition. Under your theory, we should invade Iran, Pakistan, and North Korea for starters (all posing more of a tangible threat than Iraq). Then probably move on to Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Syria and the big one - China.

Problem is, where is the military and rebuilding force needed for such an endeavor?

So if we own up to reality of limited resources, it becomes a scenario of picking your spots, or more appropriately shots. We don't have to be relegated to a postion of return fire only, but we might want to make sure the other guy at least has a gun before we shoot first considering how few bullets we have in the chamber.


Posted by: Eric Martin at July 26, 2004 06:46 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

What Eric said. Now that we've invaded a country that fit none of our preemption criteria, how free are we to invade another that does?

Also, there seems to be one of those slippery conflations of Iraq and Al Qaeda in your post. Nobody's buying that anymore, but it still seems to be the toothpick on which vast argument structures continue to be built.

Quick final note: I was about a mile from the WTC when it happened and provided refuge for victims. So, thanks, but there's no need to remind me.

Posted by: djangone at July 26, 2004 07:06 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

For what its worth, I am in no need of reminding either. I was in my apartment on Pearl St. (about four blocks from ground zero) when the planes struck the towers. My apartment shook. I was homeless for three weeks afterwards, and was without access to my clothes and other personal belongings. This made attending the funerals of five friends that I had known since high school that much more difficult, but such vain concerns were obviously not in the forefront of my mind.

Suffice to say I remember 9/11 pretty well. This memory makes me more determined to address those who perpetrated it, and the causes that give life to such organizations. It is my desire to see both the organizations and their well spring annihilated.

The invasion of Iraq, on the other hand, might have impaired both of these stated goals. And it is not fringe left wingers that make these claims, but rather seasoned policy and intelligence experts (for a non-dovish, non-left wing critique, see Imperial Hubris). Their logic is difficult to refute with any factual argument, and certainly not with vague innuendo and the conflating of identities.

Posted by: Eric Martin at July 26, 2004 07:19 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Oops, by 'slippery conflations in your post' I meant Jerry's post.

Posted by: djangone at July 26, 2004 09:36 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

1) "Slippery conflation?" Not sure what the heck you're talking about. Re-read my post three times just to be sure, can't figure out how you managed to convince yourself that I was linking Iraq and Al Qaeda, but I suppose if one looks hard enough they can see just about anything.

2) Where you were on 9/11 is irrelevant to my viewpoint. Was not insisting that people weren't impacted by 9/11, sorry if I gave that impression. However, to reiterate -- what happened three years ago justified the logic of removing Saddam in a way we could not have pre-9/11, especially given the pre-war intelligence. And please don't start with all that garbage about manipulation of the intel, etc. If Bush lied, then so did France, Germany, England, Clinton, Gore, Bob Graham, etc. EVERYONE who mattered said Saddam was either in possession of, or had aquired, WMD.

3) I agree that we have to pick our targets carefully. I'm not aware of any of the other countries mentioned having started two land wars, using chemical weapons, and violating 12 years of resolutions in the last two decades. We can disagree on this point -- you can make a case for Saudi Arabia, North Korea, etc. But don't tell me I can't make a case for Iraq, given their recent history.

4. The point I made about the planes was simply this -- one can no longer think inside the box. To argue that ballistic missles parts being misassesed as nuclear parts is a screw-up of the first order falls into the trap of pre-9/11 thinking. Prior to 9/11, I'd have laughed at the idea of planes ramming buildings, believing that ideas like that belonged in Die Hard movies. If something looks like it could be nuclear in nature, that may end up being a good enough justification for intervention.



Posted by: Jerry at July 27, 2004 01:47 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


Allow me to respond in kind to your numbered arguments:

2. Sorry if I misinterpreted your reference to 9/11. Now I understand your point completely, but sometimes its hard to detect tone in the blogosphere. That was clearly my fault. I also apologize if my indignation seemed self-righteous.

As for the assessment of pre-war intelligence, it really depends on the topic. Regarding chemical and biological weapons, there was an international consensus that Saddam had some left over from the 80's and 90's. Some claims were exaggerated (such as the mobile weapons labs - which the State Department initially disputed, and the numerous claims that we knew exact locations where the vast stockpiles were, etc), but for the most part that is right.

Nuclear capacity, on the other hand, was not so widely agreed upon. The State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research (which by the way seems to have been the most successful at getting the intel right in all aspects: WMDs, ties to al-Qaeda, diffculty of rebuilding, etc) claimed that Iraq had no real nuclear program, let alone weapons or material. The IAEA and the intelligence agencies of other nations concurred with the Department of State. So, statements like these from Cheney:

"[W]e do know, with absolute certainty, that he is using his procurement system...to build a nuclear weapon" [September 8, 2002]

"[W]e believe he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons" [March 2003]

And Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld:

"We said they had a nuclear program. That was never any debate." [July 13, 2003]

Were certainly exaggerations if not outright untruths.

3. I never said you couldn't make the case for Iraq, my point is really just given the limited strikes we have, was Iraq really worth it? Trust me, I lose no sleep over the thought of Saddam meeting his fate, but given the realities of radical Islamist terrorism, maybe Saddam could have taken a back seat to more pressing demands. Especially considering how it impaired our efforts in Afghanistan and all the other items I listed above in my prior posts.

As for making the case for another country, I think we should avoid listing narrow criteria such as having "started two land wars, using chemical weapons, and violating 12 years of resolutions." Clearly these are valid criteria, but the danger is, as you pointed out, they might put us inside the box. Afgahnistan didn't satisfy those criteria, but invading to topple the Taliban and disrupt al-Qaeda was worthy, justified and strategically prudent. Whether it was executed properly is another debate.

So assuming those criteria are not the only ones, how about Iran? Here we have a country that has worked with al-Qaeda in the past (Khobar Towers and safe passage to 10 of the 19 hijackers), still harbors top level al-Qaeda leadership in open defiance of requests for extradition from the United States and Saudi Arabia, is actively working to undermine our efforts in Iraq (sending intelligence and military operatives into Iraq to arm, fund, indoctrinate and train Shiite militias hostile to the U.S. presence, in particular Al Sadr's Mahdi Army), and is on the fast track to acquiring the most potent and destructive of WMDs (not speculation here about tubes, actual knowledge of centirfuges and raw materials). Considering all of these damning facts, what is our response? Nothing.

Surely, working with al-Qaeda and an actual nuclear weapons program near completion presents more of a real threat than Iraq (no collaboration with al-Qaeda, no nuclear program)

Then why nothing? There are several reasons, but one of them is that we really cannot do anything militarily, and Iran knows it. As Sy Hersh reported, senior intelligence officials acknowledged this predicament in relation to Iran: "we know we can't attack them right now, they know we can't attack them, and what's worse, they know that we know we can't attack them." And this has emboldened them. They taunt us with their efforts in Iraq, their harboring of al-Qaeda and their pursuit of nuclear weapons.

We should never have taken away our ability to use military deterrence on something that was far from an imminent threat. Especially when there is so much for us to do, and so many nations for which we need to have that threat reserved.

Just as the Army is running out of bullets, so too is our foreign policy capacity. So yes removing Saddam was good (assuming the next regime is less of a threat and civil war does not erupt), but you cannot look at that decision in a vacuum. There were enormous costs, and those possibly outweigh the benefits.

Posted by: Eric Martin at July 27, 2004 05:01 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Time to stoke a fire with respect to North Korea.

I doubt very much that Kim Jong Il would hesitate to attack the South if he had tacit authorization from the U.S. to do so, as Saddam had from us in both 1980 and 1990 (not to mention intelligence and material support throughout the 1980s).

Posted by: TT at July 27, 2004 09:30 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Back to the topic....

"Should the standards of proof and suspicion under uncertainty be applied evenly"?

Of course not. When it's our good friends like israel we need no standard of proof and no suspicion. If australia were to develop nuclear weapons why should we complain? Or canada. Or germany, or japan, or israel. When it's people who've always been our bestest buddies and will always be our bestest buddies forever, why should we mind?

But when it's countries that are likely to be our enemies, why give them any benefit of the doubt? On suspicion, impose sanctions and blockade their ports and bomb their possible sites; do anything at all that will stop them from becoming enemies that matter. The more potential enemies we bomb into submission the safer we are, right?

Actually, when I look back at it I'm not at all sure this works.

How about this approach -- we let the international inspectors treat us just like they treat other countries, except they aren't looking for evidence that we're building nukes, they're just inspecting our stuff. And there's no penalty when they find something. But they still look at anything they think might show them secret stuff, anything that might be nukes.

The foreign inspectors look through whatever records they think might help, anywhere in the Pentagon, the white house, the national archives, the CIA, whatever they want, but they are only allowed to copy things that point to nukes. They take GPS readings wherever they want. They inspect airbases and cornfields and universities and prisons, anywhere in the USA that they get the hunch might have nuclear secrets.

It would be a big help to our moral standing to put up with that. If *we* do it, we establish the right to demand that *others* do it.

Is there any chance we'd put up with that? Like hell.

In important ways, submitting to inspections is an admission that a nation has already surrendered to the USA. They've got to resent it, all of them.

And yet, in a world where everybody except international pariahs did submit to inspections, the USA would be way ahead. We're strong enough that we don't need to keep it a secret.

For that matter, if we gave up our nuclear weapons -- say, all but ten -- and everybody else did too, we would be stronger. We don't need nukes for anything except to retaliate against other nations that nuked us. If nukes were out of the picture we could project force as well as we ever have. Little countries like north korea couldn't do much to us. And we could hit them before they got ten nukes, if we had the will.

Posted by: J Thomas at July 28, 2004 04:19 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

So, refresh my memory... What were those trucks that were claimed to be mobile bio-weapons labs for?

Oh, that's right, you don't have to respond, I keep forgetting. Couldn't have anything to do with the weakness of your case?

What about Joe Wilson's credibility? Why did Kerry yank his site? I just want to have this stuff explained.

Posted by: moptop at July 28, 2004 06:21 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Please explain to me, as if I were a small child, how the US gave 'tacit approval' to Saddam's invasion of Kuwait.

I think I know this one, and I suspect that your logic is faulty, but I could be wrong...

Posted by: moptop at July 28, 2004 06:26 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

As for Joe Wilson's credibility, that is an open and debatable point, since it appears that some of his statements have been called into question. Thus, it is understandable that Kerry would remove relation to avoid the controversy.

What do we know:

The recent Senate Intelligence Committee report agreed with the CIA's ultimate assessment (not reached until after the war):

There is little if any credible evidence available to U.S. intelligence to support the charge that Iraq sought, let alone bought, uranium from Niger.

The question, in relation to Wilson and the State of the Union address is whether Bush should have known this then, or whether he was justified in relying on British Intel that contradicted his own Agency.

The bipartisan Senate investigation said the conclusion was a reasonable one at least until October 2002. Problem is, Bush's speech was January 28, 2003.

As for the bogus mobile weapons lab claim, lets first take a look at the source of the intel. This tidbit of misinformation came from a man code named "Curveball" (should have rung a bell or two), who was provided from Ahamd Chalabi's now infamous stable of Iraqi defectors that told any and every story under the sun regarding a number of now debunked topics.

True to form, Curveball was not exactly a trustworthy source. Powell didn't know at the time of his speech to the UN that a CIA representative who had met with Curveball found him to have a drinking problem and to be highly unreliable.

As reported in the LA Times:

"The CIA representative's red flags were not relayed to Powell until recently, a State Department official said, when then-CIA Director George J. Tenet contacted Powell to tell him that problems with Curveball would be detailed in the Senate report."


As to the exact nature of the tankers, that is the question Powell seems to be asking most these days. He has said this regarding the trailers:

"The sourcing was inaccurate and wrong and in some cases, deliberately misleading."

"And for that, I am disappointed and I regret it."

The conclusion, most intelligence analysts (the DIA and the State department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research) now believe is that the trailers were used to produce hydrogen for weather balloons used in artillery practice. Despite numerous rigorous and complete tests, no trace bio or chem agents could be located.

Posted by: Eric Martin at July 28, 2004 08:37 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"produce hydrogen for weather balloons used in artillery practice."

So, they had 18 wheel mobile labs to produce weather balloons? Why is it that the US does it on a Hum Vee? What you have is a barely plausible alternative use for the platforms. It is possible that that is what they were used for. The lack of traces of CW or bio-weapons material means nothing.

Your position seems to be that any materials declared to be for WMD must have no possible, however unlikely, alternative use. This of course ignores the massive amount of resources that the Iraqis put into hiding their WMD programs.

Actually, I was hoping for a smarter debating partner on this.

Posted by: moptop at July 30, 2004 02:36 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"But it had not previously been known that a majority of the Defense Intelligence Agency's engineering team had come to disagree with the central finding of the white paper: that the trailers were used for making biological weapons.

"The team has decided that in their minds, there could be another use, for inefficient hydrogen production, most likely for balloons," a Defense Department official said." -- emphasis mine.

'There could be another use' translates to the finding that they were 'most likely for *inefficient* hydrogen production?

Really? Wow.... what a twist of logic, and you did it so seamlessly, and after the slight of hand, landed firmly on your feet smiling, as if no one could see through the sophistry employed by your side.

There is also plenty of disagreement on this conclusion:

'"The experts who have crawled over this again and again can come up with no other [than bio weapons lab] plausible legitimate use."'


I guess that a huge immobile unit that *could* be used to produce hydrogen inefficiently, when, as I said, you can accomplish the same thing on the back of a hum vee, if you are willing to do it efficiently, is plausible?

I thought I was alone on this, but here is what the CIA says about the cover story you cite:

"Hydrogen Production Cover Story
Senior Iraqi officials of the al-Kindi Research, Testing, Development, and Engineering facility in Mosul were shown pictures of the mobile production trailers, and they claimed that the trailers were used to chemically produce hydrogen for artillery weather balloons. Hydrogen production would be a plausible cover story for the mobile production units.

The Iraqis have used sophisticated denial and deception methods that include the use of cover stories that are designed to work. Some of the features of the trailer—a gas collection system and the presence of caustic—are consistent with both bioproduction and hydrogen production.
The plant's design possibly could be used to produce hydrogen using a chemical reaction, but it would be inefficient. The capacity of this trailer is larger than typical units for hydrogen production for weather balloons. Compact, transportable hydrogen generation systems are commercially available, safe, and reliable."


You can attack Chalabi, sources or whatever, but you cannot explain why they didn't just buy and off the shelf weather balloon system, when their own platform sucked for this purpose.

This argument is not going away if I can help it, and I am sure that. like the reassesment of Joe the partisan liar and Richard Clarke the partisan liar, the truth cannot be hidden forever.

Posted by: moptop at July 30, 2004 03:04 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Moptop, those vans were not adequate for human pathogens. Unless possibly the operators and all bystanders and users were previously inoculated against the particular pathogens. I suppose they could have been used for plant pathogens or something, to attack somebody else's crops.

But in the context of WMDs as we have been discussing them, those vans were not dual-use. Maybe by this time there's documentation about what the iraqis used them for, but that's a side issue. They weren't what we thought.

Posted by: J Thomas at July 30, 2004 11:01 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I assumet that you are talking about the lack of sterilization equipment? The trucks had already been stripped down, by looters or others, so the lack of some piece of equipment proves ltlle, if anything. Since the steam sterilizers that you apparently refer to would have made the case that they were for bio-labs, does it not also follow that the Baathists would have taken great pains to avoid them being found?

I assume that that is what you are talking about. Once again, you provide opinions heavily biased by your fundimental, and unproven, belief that Bush is a liar, but not buttressed by any evidence.

"Maybe by this time there's documentation about what the iraqis used them for, but that's a side issue. They weren't what we thought."

More attempted Jedi mind tricks from your side, "let them go, these are not the droids we are looking for", except that you present no evidence, like your friend Eric, and like the rest of your side. In any case, the Iraqis should have reported the existence of these vehicles under the CEASE FIRE agreement that they signed. But I guess in "Dem World", violation of a cease fire does not make a cause to resume fighting.

Posted by: moptop at July 30, 2004 11:49 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

About the mobile labs, first as you point out the lack of essential components is not evidence, since the original reports (by people who lied about other things) said it would take two or three different kinds of vans working together to do the job. The missing items would be on the vans that were never found. They found three vans, two they think are bioweapons and the third could be used for a lot of things but isn't the complement to the first two.

There are various other uses for the vans but the iraqis said they were for hydrogen production. So we can figure either germs or hydrogen, if it was anything else the iraqis would say so. The third van may have had something to do with rocket fuel production, I don't have the details on that.

So first, it isn't very good at making hydrogen.

"Officials say that apart from the defectors’ information, the other reason that CIA analysts could cite for their strong belief that the trailers found after the war were mobile labs was that they could see no other practical use for them.'

But they weren't good for biowarfare, either.

"It's not built and designed as a standard fermenter," he said of the central tank. "Certainly, if you modify it enough you could use it. But that's true of any tin can."

One of the vans had traces of urea and sodium azide, which the CIA said it wouldn't for hydrogen. But why would it have those for biowarfare either? Again it doesn't obviously fit either one. And I've seen nothing to say that isn't from the third maybe-rocket-fuel van.

If it's supposed to be used for biowarfare, why is it so contamination-prone? Never mind the canvas sides that let dust in, what about the flanged fittings that let germs out? One possible answer to that would be to send it to some out-of-the-way spot in the desert, and have all the operators carefully vaccinated ahead of time and also taking megadoses of some antibiotic the germ is susceptible to. This is not particularly plausible but I can't rule it out. Another approach is to use it to make bacteria that are mostly harmless but that have toxins, and the other van concentrates the toxins. The operators can get a little bit of impure toxin and hope to survive long enough to complete their mission. This isn't very plausible either, but I can't rule it out.

I guess there's the possibility that they're for some other WMD that nobody's thought about, and that's why the things aren't very good for hydrogen and not very good for bacteria. But I don't know what.

So -- here are two vehicles that appear not to be much good for anything. The CIA says they're for WMDs because they aren't good for anything else. But they aren't good for that either. They could be part of a sophisticated system to let a mobile unit produce small amounts of bioweapons while exposing themselves to those weapons. Unless they have some more innovations we haven't noticed. But nothing on the other trucks would make these two less of a biohazard.

Do you suppose if you could look over every US Army vehicle you might find a couple of examples that aren't very good for anything, but that get pressed into use for something they aren't very good at because they're sort of adequate and they're there? I could see these for hydrogen that way. Harder for bioweapons because they just aren't good enough. If it's bigger than you need for weather balloons, OK, you can still use it. If it kills the wrong people with bioweapons then you got a big problem.

Posted by: J Thomas at August 1, 2004 04:31 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

J Thomas, who are you trying to convince? Yourself or me? Until you can tell me why the trucks were built, all I have is your feelings that they were probably used for something they were unsuited for.

Why are you so willing to take the Baathists on their word? The fact is, as you have made very clear, there is no good explanation for why they built these trucks, in the past couple of years, BTW.

These trucks were built, according to the CIA in 2002. If you have better information, I would like to hear it. Why would they build a half assed hydrogen generator when they could have bought a highly efficient one off the shelf at that time?

You don't have any kind of explanation for this. So any claim that they were definitly not bio weapons labs cannot be supported. The best you can say is that they were not definitly,100 percent, without doubt bio-weapons labs and since you hate Bush so much, you are willing to take the Iraqi's word for it.

Posted by: moptop at August 2, 2004 02:27 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Your Judith Miller story is just one more "there are other possible explanations, no matter how half baked" stories. Read it again carefully and you will see this.

Which of your links did this come from, since it is the only relevant claim you seem to make in your post.

"what about the flanged fittings that let germs out?"

Posted by: moptop at August 2, 2004 02:39 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Moptop, let's review the bidding.

The CIA said these things must be for biowarfare because none of the other explanations make sense. However, the biowarfare explanation doesn't make any more sense than the others.

Let me review a similar argument -- various liberals claim that the invasion of iraq was all about oil. Operation Iraqi Liberation, OIL not OIF. They point out that none of the other explanations hold water, none of them make any sense. However it's easy to see that the oil explanation doesn't make sense either.

Since you accept this reasoning about the vans, I believe that if you were a liberal you would be convinced that the war was really about getting the oil.

Posted by: J Thomas at August 4, 2004 04:40 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I notice that you did not reply to the flanges request. It makes perfect sense, given the info that I have, that they were for bio-warfare. Iraq is known to have mobile steam generators. Why does the lack of one on this truck prove anything, given the effort that Iraq put into deception?

You, like most liberals I have argued with, decide you have enough evidence to support your conclusion, then close you mind to new evidence. I have heard your arguments and responded to them, you have not answered me.

And your Oil analogy does not hold up whatsoever. If it were for the OOOIIIIIILLLLLLL, the evidence would be pretty clear right now, yet there is no TotalFinaElf type contract for exclusive rights to 25% of Iraq's reserves, such as France enjoyed, if only they could get the sanctions lifted.

In that sense I will grant you, it was about taking the oil wealth away from the terror sponsors, which indirectly included France. But it was not about siezing it for the US.

But really, where did you get the part about the flanges?

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