Thursday, June 26, 2003

Expect noise
We can expect the centrifuge spare parts and plans discovered in a Baghdad nuclear weapon scientist’s yard to go through the same sort of mutations as the mysterious trailers.

Remember how the trailers of indeterminate use went from possible mobile biological weapon labs to mobile biological weapon labs to actual biological weapons to proof of a program for making biological weapons to trailers of indeterminate use. The original claim was that Saddam had hundreds of tons of completed biological weapon-grade germs (later changed to tens of thousands of liters, because it sounded bigger and scarier). He had them on hand and was planning either to give them to al Qaida or to spray American ports using balsa radio control planes any day now!!! When this swimming pool of germs didn’t turn up the administration’s story began to evolve. Forgotten were the actual stockpiles of on-hand germs, replaced by the desire to rebuild a program to make some maybe someday later.

This weaseling would be funny, except that it seems to work on the American public. The press uncritically reports every administration claim. By the eve of war half of the public believed the 9/11 hijackers were Iraqi and by the middle of this month nearly that many believed that weapons had already been found. I wonder if it’s all the same people. This can’t all be blamed on the press. A number of factors, including the economy and the sudden awareness of our vulnerability as individuals and as a country, have left us in a sort of collective shock. People yearn for certainty or at least an illusion of certainty. We so want to believe, that we will accept any lie as long as it is told boldly and with confidence.

Combined with the Bush administration’s ham-handed foreign policy, this eager credulousness has created a terrible disconnect between America and the rest of the world. The more worldly world was horrified at 9/11, but not sent into shock. They are still able to look at lies and say, “that’s a lie.” The administration has lied so often and so boldly that they have very little credibility beyond the US borders.

When some trace of a weapon or weapon program turns up in Iraq, Americans accept it as proof that everything Bush said going to war has been proved. Our erstwhile allies accept it as, at best, proof of no more than it is, a trace, and at worst, a clumsy plant.

Ironically, we will find traces of weapons and weapon programs. Saddam had healthy research and development programs in all three ABC areas (atomic, biological, chemical) before 1991, and he had parallel programs to develop or acquire delivery systems. Over the years, the Israelis and we destroyed some and the Iraqis dismantled some. Some just got old and fell apart (explosives, germs, toxins, and radioactive materials all have shelf lives). I still believe Saddam cheated as much as he could between 1991 and at least 1998, maybe later. But he would have been doing so with a constantly decreasing supply of increasingly undependable weapons.

So, now we have some photogenic centrifuge spare parts and plans. The gap between America and its best friends grows wider.

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