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You Call That Evidence?
September 11, 2002 8:13 AM   Subscribe

You Call That Evidence? Op-Ed from the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists about the so-called evidence for the administration's claim that Iraq is "moving very near a nuclear weapon capability." Too bad something that at least seems to be approaching the truth will have nothing to do with whether we go to war or not.
posted by elgoose (51 comments total)

 
It sure looks to me like even the Atomic Scientists don't refute that Iraq is attempting to make nuclear weapons again - and I seem to remember the UN telling them not to do so. Given that, then yes - this is evidence.

And if the Iraqis were to depend on producing weapon material through the centrifuge process—rather than trying to obtain it on the black market—experts say it would probably take five or six years. So we should what? Wait 4 years to do anything about it?

And if we waited four years, whats the chances that these same Atomic Scientists would move their Doomsday Clock closer to midnight?
posted by schlyer at 8:42 AM on September 11, 2002


It is the "very near" part that is questionable about the supposed evidence.
posted by mblandi at 8:56 AM on September 11, 2002


Leave it to science to speak truth and reason.

If the UN sanction is being violated, then let the UN make the decision and handle Iraq, not the United States unilaterally.

So we should what? Wait 4 years to do anything about it?

But there's no cause for concern considering that it'd be obvious to everyone with a satellite if Iraq were producing uranium. Even if it were, a strike against the production plant would take care of it, like Israel in 1981, rather than a full-scale war.
posted by The Michael The at 9:03 AM on September 11, 2002


There's a difference between evidence that suggests "attempted nuclear weapons manufacture" and evidence that points to an actual, credible threat.

While international action to prevent the development of weapons of mass destruction is certainly called for, a unilateral decision to go to war is completely unjustified.

Given the amount of resistance within his own party, the United States as a whole, and the world at large, I cannot for the live of me figure out why GW is pushing so hard for this. It just doesn't make any sense.
posted by aladfar at 9:04 AM on September 11, 2002


Has Israel weighed in on this evidence yet? If so, I must have missed it. And I keep thinking that if the nuclear threat from Iraq was really all that dire, that they would be over in Bagdad dancing the Hava Nagila on Hussein's face faster than Tom Green movies go to video. Regardless of what anyone else thought.
posted by RavinDave at 9:06 AM on September 11, 2002


Leave it to science to speak truth and reason.

And cold brutal logic therefore dictates that No-Nukes means no Bio-Chem weapons which means no threat.

It bears reminding: They're highly trained atomic scientists, but amateur intelligence analysts.
posted by BentPenguin at 9:13 AM on September 11, 2002


And cold brutal logic therefore dictates that No-Nukes means no Bio-Chem weapons which means no threat.

Listen, maybe nobody explained this before, but bio-weapons are the sort of thing you can cook up in your basement. They require some rare-ish raw materials and some not-so-rare education, but don't require any kind of massive facility. If I were cooking up bio-weapons to use against the US, I'd be doing it in New Jersey.

Hmm, New Jersey would certainly be easier to invade than Iraq...
posted by hob at 9:35 AM on September 11, 2002


If the UN sanction is being violated, then let the UN make the decision and handle Iraq, not the United States unilaterally. They kicked out the inspectors 4 years ago. There is no doubt that they have been in violation for 4 years, yet where is the action of the UN in this time?

While international action to prevent the development of weapons of mass destruction is certainly called for, a unilateral decision to go to war is completely unjustified. If it takes the actions of the US, Britian, Kuwait and others (hardly unilateral) to enforce the UN sanctions because the UN can't or won't do it itself, then I'm all for it.

Look, I don't know if there's an immediate nuclear threat from Iraq right now or not. But the fact remains that they are trying to build nuclear weapons. Now, we can either go in and wipe them out now, in the program's infancy - or we can play a waiting game until he gets close to finalizing when there is an immediate threat - and hope that we didn't wait 2 months too long to go in.

Why wait? Why give his scientists time to continue down the road of trial and error to near completion of the nukes. Won't that just make their next attempt that much easier?
posted by schlyer at 10:01 AM on September 11, 2002


ravindave.... hahaha! :P with people like dick cheney a heart beat away from the button we need to laugh at times like this. thank you.
posted by specialk420 at 10:01 AM on September 11, 2002


They kicked out the inspectors 4 years ago
schlyer - check your facts my man - the inspectors were withdrawn - not kicked out - the reason for the flap and subsquent withdrawal is the inspection process was being misused to spy on saddam.
posted by specialk420 at 10:06 AM on September 11, 2002


There's a difference between evidence that suggests "attempted nuclear weapons manufacture" and evidence that points to an actual, credible threat.

You're right. I suppose that's why the "UN Resolution" ending the Gulf War stated that Iraq would not seek to acquire ANY materials pursuant to the construction of nuclear weapons. If they have sought even the smallest items or made any inquiries then they are in violation of the cease-fire agreements and those countries involved in the Gulf War are compelled by the previous "UN Resolution" to use any means necessary to eliminate the threat.

(I put the term "UN Resolution" in quotes because "resolution" means a firm decision and anything put out by the UN is so laughably not so...well, unless they're asking the US for money that is.)
posted by RevGreg at 10:14 AM on September 11, 2002


specialk - you are correct, the inspectors were withdrawn, not kicked out. I'm not sure that distinction matters much since they were withdrawn because Iraqi authorities were obstructing its monitoring work ... failed to grant UNSCOM full and unconditional access to (at least) four sites in Iraq.

So it wasn't like we just up and left - we left because the inspections weren't useful because Iraq wouldn't comply with the agreement they signed at the end of the Gulf War.
posted by schlyer at 10:25 AM on September 11, 2002


aladfar: While international action to prevent the development of weapons of mass destruction is certainly called for, a unilateral decision to go to war is completely unjustified.

Exactly. It amazes me that so many people equate opposition to war with doing nothing or, worse, appeasement. Iraq should not be ignored, and I think most everyone agrees that the intent to create such weapons is there, but I've seen no credible evidence that would dictate war as a course of action, especially with so much else unresolved. All I've seen from the administration is misinformation, along with a desire to ignore the counsel of experts and our allies in favor of "Well, everybody knows Saddam's building nuclear bombs...
posted by UnReality at 10:31 AM on September 11, 2002


It amazes me that so many people equate opposition to war with doing nothing or, worse, appeasement. Maybe thats because those who oppose the idea of war offer nothing but appeasement as an alternative.
posted by schlyer at 10:43 AM on September 11, 2002


Maybe thats because those who oppose the idea of war offer nothing but appeasement as an alternative.

Well, we haven't given him Czechoslovakia yet. What are you defining as "appeasement?" Does "not invading" count as appeasement? Because if so, we're being really soft on most of the world.
posted by hob at 10:58 AM on September 11, 2002


Maybe thats because those who oppose the idea of war offer nothing but appeasement as an alternative.

You either lie for some reason about the opponents of war, or you just aren't very well informed.

I'll assume the latter.
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 11:05 AM on September 11, 2002


The scientists, and lots of the posters here ignore or discount the importance of SH being, quite clearly, a horrible, evil, loathsome organism. And you can't quantify that. Hyper-rationalism is dangerous. At least on this one, I trust the President.
posted by ParisParamus at 11:14 AM on September 11, 2002


So, Saddam's loathsomeness justifies any action on our part?
posted by UnReality at 11:19 AM on September 11, 2002


Basically, France has already started down the road to going along with a war. The UK too. Somehow, the Administration is managing to convince the doubters. Perhaps they have intelligence (information the Scientists don't)?
posted by ParisParamus at 11:20 AM on September 11, 2002


meant: intelligence (information) the Scientists don't?
posted by ParisParamus at 11:36 AM on September 11, 2002


The scientists, and lots of the posters here ignore or discount the importance of SH being, quite clearly, a horrible, evil, loathsome organism.

Well, many thought or think the same of Richard Nixon, GW Bush, various CEOs, the collective leadership of China and the former Soviet Union, the current rulers of Saudi Arabia, any number of third world despots who are in "tight" with the current idiot in the White House, Jesse Helms, and Britney Spears. Did you want to start bombing all of them now, or should we wait until after we assure oil profits by bomb-installing a friend of Halliburton-Chevron-Amoco in Baghdad?

Hyper-rationalism is dangerous.

I'm sure you're right. Calls for war should be hyper-emotional, if not hysterical.

Come to think of it...that's exactly what we're seeing.
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 11:39 AM on September 11, 2002


I'll wager more than a few people here don't even remember when Muammar Gaddafy was the "big bad"; the rabid madman angling to acquire nuclear arms any second now -- or (at the very least) unleash wholesale biological destruction in his pursuit to start WWIII and snuff out civilization unless we immediately gave the military carte blanche to turn Libya into a Starbucks.

He's lucky to be an answer to a Trivial Pursuit question these days.
posted by RavinDave at 11:57 AM on September 11, 2002


The scientists, and lots of the posters here ignore or discount the importance of SH being, quite clearly, a horrible, evil, loathsome organism.

...as is Robert Mugabe, although I don't see any calls for invading Zimbabwe.

(same old steps in the same old dance)
posted by inpHilltr8r at 12:19 PM on September 11, 2002


All I've seen from the administration is misinformation, along with a desire to ignore the counsel of experts and our allies in favor of "Well, everybody knows Saddam's building nuclear bombs...

As opposed to what - the straight-talking honesty coming out of Iraq? Be clear about this - Saddam has won a public relations battle if the argument is that we must prove he is building weapons before doing anything. We don't. He has to prove he doesn't - and has to allow outside inspectors to verify this fact.

Since there seems to be some confusion about what happened a decade ago, maybe its worth it to remember that the US and its allies did not set out to attack Iraq, they got a force together to defend Kuwait, which Iraq had invaded. We successfully defended Kuwait, and had had Saddam's forces in disarray. Because we do not lightly attack other nations, and do not want to occupy anyone, rather than pursue Saddam and remove him from power - which we were poised to do - rather we withdrew (much to the dismay of a lot of Iraqis, who wanted to be saved from a tyrant) ... but this withdrawal was not unconditional - it required Saddam Hussain to accept of the terms of surrender.

Perhaps a review of UN Resolution 687 might be in order.

Note in particular:

8. (The UN) Decides that Iraq shall unconditionally accept the destruction, removal, or rendering harmless, under international supervision, of:


All chemical and biological weapons and all stocks of agents and all related subsystems and components and all research, development, support and manufacturing facilities;

All ballistic missiles with a range greater than 150 kilometres and related major parts, and repair and production facilities;
9. Decides, for the implementation of paragraph 8 above, the following:


Iraq shall submit to the Secretary-General, within fifteen days of the adoption of the present resolution, a declaration of the locations, amounts and types of all items specified in paragraph 8 and agree to urgent, on-site inspection as specified below;

The Secretary-General, in consultation with the appropriate Governments and, where appropriate, with the Director-General of the World Health Organization, within forty-five days of the passage of the present resolution, shall develop, and submit to the Council for approval, a plan calling for the completion of the following acts within forty-five days of such approval:

The forming of a Special Commission, which shall carry out immediate on-site inspection of Iraq's biological, chemical and missile capabilities, based on Iraq's declarations and the designation of any additional locations by the Special Commission itself;

The yielding by Iraq of possession to the Special Commission for destruction, removal or rendering harmless, taking into account the requirements of public safety, of all items specified under paragraph 8 (a) above, including items at the additional locations designated by the Special Commission under paragraph 9 (b) (i) above and the destruction by Iraq, under the supervision of the Special Commission, of all its missile capabilities, including launchers, as specified under paragraph 8 (b) above;

The provision by the Special Commission of the assistance and cooperation to the Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency required in paragraphs 12 and 13 below;
10. Decides that Iraq shall unconditionally undertake not to use, develop, construct or acquire any of the items specified in paragraphs 8 and 9 above and requests the Secretary-General, in consultation with the Special Commission, to develop a plan for the future ongoing monitoring and verification of Iraq's compliance with this paragraph. to be submitted to the Security Council for approval within one hundred and twenty days of the passage of this resolution;


And the final two clauses of the document:

33. Declares that, upon official notification by Iraq to the Secretary-General and to the Security Council of its acceptance of the provisions above, a formal cease-fire is effective between Iraq and Kuwait and the Member States cooperating with Kuwait in accordance with resolution 678 (1990);
34. Decides to remain seized of the matter and to take such further steps as may be required for the implementation of the present resolution and to secure peace and security in the area.


Saddam Hussain almost immediately started fiddling with the provisions, ignoring some, bending others. He's fully re-built his military force. May or may not be close to acquiring nuclear capabilities. That's the issue. No one knows. It is frankly bizarrely disingenuous for so many people to saying that we can't "prove" he is close to have such weapons - when the reason why no one can prove it is because he has flat out broken the terms of surrender he signed, and no UN inspectors have had access to the country in four years.

Why should the US consider acting unilaterally? Because we are the "Great Satan". The UN has broken its own resolution - it is NOT enforcing Resolution 687. And Saddam is not threatening the UN, he is specifically threatening the US, and its interests and citizens around the world.

Enforcement of these terms of surrender is not "hysterical" - in fact, if they are not enforced, it pretty much renders future documents irrelevent.
posted by MidasMulligan at 12:26 PM on September 11, 2002


Foldy, if you want to point out where those links (or the ideas inside them) were referenced to by the participants in this thread when I made my comments - feel free. I realize alternatives exist, I was pointing out that nobody was presenting them.
posted by schlyer at 12:41 PM on September 11, 2002


The UN has always been powerless, if they do get upset enough to go over there, they will just wait for us to back them up anyhow. I can see why the world opposes the US invading Iraq. I mean, do we really want to give George Bush and his Pop total control of the world's oil? But if we don't stop SH no one else will. I say we send Bush and his entire cabinet to Bagdad, (like Macarthur in Japan after WWII), let them run the desert and then set up a new face-man here.
posted by kileregreen at 12:48 PM on September 11, 2002


Saddam is not threatening the UN, he is specifically threatening the US, and its interests and citizens around the world.

What did I miss? Where and how is Saddam Hussein threatening the US? Again, Iraq signed this agreement with the UN. If the UN wants to do something about it, they should do something about it (I think maybe they probably should, personally). But the US is not the UN. We don't automatically get to take the law into our own hands just because we think the sheriff ain't doing his job.

Again, if Saddam Hussein and the nation of Iraq have done something to the US that justifies an invasion, I want to know about it.
posted by hob at 1:32 PM on September 11, 2002


Maybe it's just the paranoid in me, but I wonder if Bush isn't holding some piece of crucial evidence against Saddam in the hole so that when the timing is right, he can play it and look like a genius for having been pushing for this war for so long, like Churchill did with Hitler.

(Not that Churchill held evidence, of course, before anyone decides to get snarky with me. You know what I mean.)
posted by UKnowForKids at 2:02 PM on September 11, 2002


UKnow: I'm not sure how sneaky such a tactic is; it's more like a smart PR strategy. If there is such evidence (I suspect there is, since the Administration has otherwise gone pretty far on a limb), look for its disclosure this week at the UN, or shortly thereafter.

By the way, the Pentagon is moving its main command center to Qatar this week...
posted by ParisParamus at 2:11 PM on September 11, 2002


And if that evidence isn't disclosed? If Bush's spiel to the UN doesn't amount to more than "Saddam's a bad man and we gotta stop bad men from doing bad things", do we still invade? Do we accept, without even so much as Congressional review, that Bush has our best interests at heart, and if he says Iraq, then by golly we bomb Iraq?
posted by UnReality at 2:28 PM on September 11, 2002


I'll wager more than a few people here don't even remember when Muammar Gaddafy was the "big bad"; the rabid madman angling to acquire nuclear arms any second now

Fewer still remember Operation El Dorado Canyon of which my boss was part. I'm sure that near death experience had something to do with Qadhafi's more quiescent nature in recent years.
posted by RevGreg at 3:30 PM on September 11, 2002


I don't think we're actually going to invade after reading this Matt Miller piece
posted by tellmenow at 3:46 PM on September 11, 2002


UnReallity. Don't worry. Ain't going to happen. If there's no additional proof, I would be very surprised. Lets all calm down and stop confusing negotiation tactics with what will actually happen.
posted by ParisParamus at 5:09 PM on September 11, 2002


Most peculiar. Now and then I wonder why there seems to be an almost fanatical obsession here concerned with proving - in any way possible - that Bush/Cheney/Republicans are evil/corrupt/totally self-interested.

Odd (though undoubtadly pleasing to Hussain) that it seems like there are a thousand posts about Bush's "disinformation" for every one that mentions that Saddam Hussain is a master of disinformation, and has persistantly lied to, and hindered the legitimate efforts of the UN starting about five minutes after he surrendered in 91.

Odd that now that the US has threatened unilateral action, all manner of countries shake there heads and say its for the UN to take action, and Nelson Mandela says the US is a threat to world peace for its go-it-alone attitude ... and no one seems to mention that the UN has had four years - since Saddam booted inspectors to take action - and the only real action they've taken is to increase the amount of oil he is allowed to sell. Probably not even worth mentioning that Iraq did not seek "UN approval" to invade Kuwait, or use chemical weapons against he Kurds.

Its not individual posts that puzzle me - its the sheer volume and bitter tone of anti-Bush posts ... juxtaposed with the curious lack - indeed, almost delibrate blindness - about Saddam Hussain.
posted by MidasMulligan at 5:15 PM on September 11, 2002


Hyper-rationalism is dangerous.

Bush: We need to attack Iraq right NOW, because they are a nuclear threat!

American people: How are they a threat?

Bush: We caught them smuggling aluminum tubes for a centrifuge, ergo they are on the verge of creating a nuclear weapon.

Atomic Scientists: Point of order -- If they are still in the process of gathering materials, then they may well be 4 to 5 years away from being a nuclear threat.

Bush: But we should declare war when before they get that close.

Atomic Scientists: You do not need to declare war on the whole country, when it would be very easy to target and surgically destroy the site of the threat by its tremendous heat signature.

Me: You scientists are making a lot of sense.

ParisParamus: You hyper-rationalistic bastards are going to get us all killed!
posted by Hildago at 5:33 PM on September 11, 2002


What MidasM said.
posted by ParisParamus at 6:28 PM on September 11, 2002


US: We've got to deal with Iraq.

UN: Oh no you don't you cowboy, it's a UN issue. You've got to get our buy-in.

US: You have had 4 years to act. You've done nothing.

UN: Why should we do anything?

US: He kicked inspectors out. There's a chance he will attempt to acquire and use biological, chemical, or nuclear weapons. He appears to be willing to act to whatever extent he's able to get away with.

UN: Why ever would you expect such a thing?

US: Well, he invaded Kuwait and gassed his own citizens.

UN: But, what evidence do you have now? Isn't it kind of sketchy? I mean even the Atomic sientists say that maybe they are only starting to get the materials together.

US: The evidence is sketchy because he kicked your inspectors out 4 years ago and you haven't done a damn thing about it! Twits.

UN: Well, you're being pretty arrogant. Typical US behavior. You still can't act alone. You have to go through us.

US: Ok, we'll go through you. What exactly will you do?

UN: Well, if you beg and plead and humble yourself enough, and spend a good deal of effort convincing us all, we just might see our way clear to passing a UN Resolution requiring Saddam Hussain to permit weapons inspectors in.

US: So let's be clear - your view of "taking action" is to pass a UN Resolution insisting that Iraq pay attention to the other UN Resolutions it is currently ignoring? Good freakin' grief.

UN: You're endangering the world with that attitude.
posted by MidasMulligan at 6:33 PM on September 11, 2002


Probably not even worth mentioning that Iraq did not seek "UN approval" to invade Kuwait, or use chemical weapons against he Kurds.

So? One more time: This is not about Saddam Hussein. It does not matter one whit how bad a guy he is. What gives us the right to go invade his country? What did he do to us that we're responding to?

This is basic playground politics: George, just because Saddam is cutting in line doesn't mean you can hit him.
posted by hob at 7:23 PM on September 11, 2002


This is basic playground politics: George, just because Saddam is cutting in line doesn't mean you can hit him.

If he cuts in line with nuclear weapons it does.
posted by MidasMulligan at 8:14 PM on September 11, 2002


If he cuts in line with nuclear weapons it does.

But he hasn't done anything with nuclear weapons yet. Not only are we not responsible for busting him for possession of nukes, but he is not, in fact, in obsession of nukes.

And, for the record, I don't have a vested interest here in making the Bush people look corrupt or evil or anything; I just want an anwer to the question, "What makes it OK for us to invade another country without provocation?"
posted by hob at 8:34 PM on September 11, 2002


Uh, "possession" of nukes. I selected the wrong option from the spell checker.
posted by hob at 8:36 PM on September 11, 2002


MidasMulligan:

"US: So let's be clear - your view of "taking action" is to pass a UN Resolution insisting that Iraq pay attention to the other UN Resolutions it is currently ignoring? Good freakin' grief.

UN: You're endangering the world with that attitude."

Haha!! Isn't that the painfull truth.

[sarcasm]

What was it Nelson Mandela who is saying the US poses a threat the peace of the world? Is that guy brain dead? Isn't today some kind of one year after an attack on some major city in America or something?

[/sarcasm]
posted by ZupanGOD at 8:49 PM on September 11, 2002


Midas, Paris, both of you guys:

We all agree that Saddam Hussein is a bad guy, and none of us would like him at our dinner tables. OK? That's not the issue. There are plenty of bad guys out there, and we're not talking about invading any of their countries. There are probably fifteen countries around the world that are as unpleasant and that pose as much of a threat to the US as Iraq does; shall we invade all of them?

The Bush administration keeps announcing new reasons why we need to invade Iraq, but so far every one has proven to be a falsehood: it's not tied to al Quaeda or any terrorist attacks. It doesn't have nuclear weapons. It has neither the technology nor the materials to create nuclear weapons. Hussein has zero incentive to cause any trouble outside his borders, because he knows if he does he'll get thwacked down like a fly on a windshield.

So at the moment, the only reason we have to invade Iraq, is that Bush keeps saying we should invade Iraq. That's not a good enough reason.

Put the shoe on the other foot, for heaven's sake: if some imaginary, much more powerful country were announcing that they were going to invade the US, because at some uncertain point in the future we might pose a threat to them, would you say that was justified behavior on their parts? Of course not. So why do you think it's justifiable for us to do it?
posted by ook at 10:13 PM on September 11, 2002


There are probably fifteen countries around the world that are as unpleasant and that pose as much of a threat to the US as Iraq does; shall we invade all of them?

I would expect that, eventually, yes, we shall. Unless some of them see what happens to Iraq and decide to clean up their act. That may be one of the points of the exercise, actually.
posted by kindall at 10:43 PM on September 11, 2002


Because, clearly, the other time to bombed Iraq into submission and dismantled both its economy and its military, nearby countries immediately ceased all anti-US activities.
posted by Hildago at 12:42 PM on September 13, 2002


When exactly was the last time we bombed Iraq "into submission?" Musta missed that one.
posted by kindall at 2:46 PM on September 13, 2002


i think the most important thing everyone is missing is that the bulletin of Atomic scientists just quoted John Stewart. Makes me glad to know that watching the daily show really does get me a well respected news show.
posted by NGnerd at 3:58 PM on September 13, 2002


Since the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists is not the Bulletin of Abnormal Psychology I hardly think it is competent to analyze and make recommendations when it comes to a certified megalomaniac fascist. N'est pas?
posted by ParisParamus at 4:38 PM on September 13, 2002


When exactly was the last time we bombed Iraq "into submission?" Musta missed that one.

That would have been Operation Desert Fox on December 16, 1998. Let me quote then President Clinton on the subject:

"We have to defend our future from these predators of the 21st century," he argued. "They will be all the more lethal if we allow them to build arsenals of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons and the missiles to deliver them. We simply cannot allow that to happen. There is no more clear example of this threat than Saddam Hussein." - Bill Clinton, December 1998
posted by RevGreg at 4:55 PM on September 13, 2002


So, since we bombed them "into submission," we can just tell Saddam Hussein to step down, right? I'm just saying, it's a funny kind of "submission" where the "submissee" doesn't actually "submiss," you know?
posted by kindall at 5:53 PM on September 13, 2002


You make a good point, kindall, but it's a semantic one.. subtract the idiom and keep the gist of the statement. We didn't bomb them into submission, but we did bomb the fuck out of them, and it didn't make anyone think twice about attacking us. According to Bush, it didn't even make Iraq think twice.
posted by Hildago at 2:58 PM on September 14, 2002


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