Monthly Archives: February 2005

Down is Up, Black is White

Michelle Goldberg “reports from CPAC”: on Rep. Chris Cox’s wisdom:

bq. America’s Operation Iraqi Freedom is still producing shock and awe, this time among the blame-America-first crowd,” he crowed. Then he said, “We continue to discover biological and chemical weapons and facilities to make them inside Iraq.” Apparently, most of the hundreds of people in attendance already knew about these remarkable, hitherto-unreported discoveries, because no one gasped at this startling revelation.

She then offers an unparalled description of conference attendees’ evident willingness to believe this nonsense:

bq. Like comrades celebrating the success of Mao’s Great Leap Forward, attendees at CPAC, the oldest and largest right-wing conference in the country, invest their leaders with the power to defy mere reality through force of insistent rhetoric. The triumphant recent election is all the proof they need that everything George W. Bush says is true….For much of the rank and file, though, the thousands of blue-blazered students and local activists who come to CPAC each year to celebrate the völkisch virtues of nationalism, capitalism and heterosexuality, Bush is truth.


Scrounging for Iraq Excuses

It’s late, so I thought I’d take aim at this barrel of fish.

Someone asked a question at the ACA meeting about how, given the Iraq intel debacle, the US can build a credible case regarding Iran and North Korea’s nuclear weapons programs. As part of his answer, Assistant SecState Stephen Rademaker stated that:

MR. RADEMAKER: … I guess it’s the received wisdom now that the Bush administration was all wrong in its assessment of Iraq. I think it’s important to just recall that – I mean, errors may have been made but they were not simply made by the Bush administration. The judgments of the Bush administration with respect to weapons of mass destruction programs in Iraq were the same judgments that the Clinton administration reached prior to the Bush administration. They were the same judgments that the Congress and its intelligence committees reached based on their review of the evidence. It’s the same conclusion that the intelligence agencies of virtually every other government that was paying attention reached. And today, now that we’ve been to Iraq and seen the situation on the ground, the question arises, how could all of these intelligence agencies have been so wrong?


Perhaps that’s what was going on, but I do think it’s quite unfair to single out the Bush administration and say those guys were all wrong; they’re a bunch of liars. I mean, the historical record here is quite clear that the Bush administration was hardly alone in the judgments it reached.

I’m sorry if it strikes Rademaker as unfair, but those guys were all wrong; they _are_ a “bunch of liars.”:

Not that this is news to anyone, but it doesn’t hurt to remind people that the UN inspections were a nifty way of finding out how good our intel was, but “those guys” refused to listen. In that respect, the Bush administration was nearly “alone.”

While we’re on the subject, Cheney lied about this same issue during a 6 February appearance on Fox News:

Chris Wallace: You said, in the run-up to the war, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction. You said we believe he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons, and then clarified that to be “nuclear weapons capability.” You said U.S. forces will be greeted as liberators.

I’m less interested, because I think it’s somewhat plowed ground, what you said and what you knew and all of that. I’m more interested in what you took away from the experience. Has it changed the way that you rely on intelligence? Are you more skeptical, perhaps, than you were before, having seen that it isn’t always right? And has it changed your attitude, your approach toward making pronouncements to the American people?

CHENEY: Well, what I said there, Chris, was, in fact, based on the status of the intelligence at the time. That’s what we had been told. It’s what the National Intelligence Estimate on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq had shown and so forth.


Cheney made the reconstitution claim just a few days before we invaded Iraq. By that time, all of the relevant intel about the nuclear weapons program had been “shown to be inaccurate.”:

More on North Korea, Pakistan, Uranium

Jon Wolfstahl has an “analysis”: of recent reports indicating that North Korea shipped UF6 to Libya. He covers a lot of the same issues that I did “here”:, but includes a sentence which speaks to an important question: how can the Bush administration be so confident that it has all the relevant information about Pakistan’s uranium deposits, mines, etc.?

Jon writes:

bq. In addition, technical experts have confirmed that U-234 content can vary greatly even within the same mine or even within the same sample of ore, raising the possibility that the uranium sample does come from a known source.

I was uncertain as to whether and to what degree U-234 content varies within a country. Jon’s assessment suggests that the uranium in question could well have come from an unknown Pakistani mine. Another possibility is that we know about the mine, but lack the necessary uranium samples.

It’s worth noting that Pakistan does not have a comprehensive IAEA safeguards agreement. “According to the agency,”: Pakistan has three facilities under safeguards. None are mines.

Kerry Intel Zinger

Jeffrey can write the substance today. I’ve been busy.

I just noticed this exchange between the SecState and Kerry during Rice’s 18 January confirmation hearing:

Context: Rice and Kerry were discussing the role of “interfaith efforts” in U.S. public diplomacy. Rice expressed doubts about the need for a government role. The rest speaks for itself. I don’t know if Rice was being deliberately obtuse, or just missed the joke entirely.

RICE: … a lot of it is going on in the private sector and I actually am not sure that this is something the U.S. government would do better than letting the private sector…

KERRY: Well, isn’t it really a part of public diplomacy and there’s no way to…[ellipses in original]

RICE: It is certainly part of public diplomacy, Senator, but I often think that we are too narrow in our definition of public diplomacy if we only think it is something the U.S. government is going to do.

*KERRY: Well, this will be the first time this administration left a faith-based analysis lying by the wayside.*

RICE: Well, the faith-based analysis here I would agree with but I think the need for interfaith dialogue is important….

More on North Korea and Libya

The NYT and WP stories are obviously describing two different intelligence methods, but the two don’t seem to exclude one another. Put together, they are perhaps compelling.

Perhaps. Some relevant questions/comments:

1.When was the UF6 produced and shipped to Libya? Where did it come from? Who shipped it?

“I wrote in ACT”:

[According to the IAEA,] Libya used Khan’s network to acquire two …shipments of uranium hexafluoride in September 2000 and February 2001.


A report earlier this year from Malaysia’s inspector general of police stated that, according to U.S. and British intelligence officials, uranium hexafluoride was shipped from Pakistan to Libya in 2001. Additionally, [an IAEA official told ACT that] the IAEA has “uncorroborated information,” but no “proof,” that North Korea may have supplied Libya with nuclear material.

The _Post_ says that the UF6 containers had traces of North Korean plutonium. That may prove the containers were in North Korea, but it doesn’t prove that the UF6 came from there. The UF6 may have been produced in another country, even if the natural uranium came from North Korea.

The IAEA’s Iran investigation illustrates the difficulty of unraveling networks like A.Q. Khan’s. We now know that centrifuge components Tehran obtained through the Khan network changed hands more than once before arriving in Iran. This is relevant because the IAEA initially had a hard time determining the source of enriched uranium particles found on those components. (The investigation is still incomplete- details “here”:

Now, the _Times_ story _does_ trace the UF6 back to North Korea, but how reliable is the intelligence method the article describes (e.g. process of elimination, tracking U-234, etc.)? What kind of samples do you need from a country in order to make an identification? Is natural uranium enough, or do the samples need to come from uranium compounds (e.g. UF6?).

[_Note_: Tonight’s Nelson Report has some devastating quotes concerning this accuracy of this method.]

2. It is true that a North Korean UF6 production capability would tell us something about Pyongyang’s ability to produce feedstock for a uranium enrichment program. But we knew that North Korea’s fuel fabrication facility could produce UF4 and former Clinton administration official Gary Samore was confident enough to tell Nuclear Fuel in September 2003 that “”North Korea could probably start making hex [UF6] fairly quickly.”

And remember that the intelligence about the centrifuge program “remains sketchy”:

3.The DoD official who told the _Times_ that this intelligence finding “changes the whole equation with the North” and “we don’t have time to sit around and wait for the outcome of negotiations” is wrong. These findings point to _past_ North Korean behavior, not present. And Libyan receipt of this material is hardly a crisis, since Tripoli’s nuclear weapons program has been shut down. We already knew to be wary of North Korean nuclear exports

4. *Big Picture:* Details aside, this episode points to the danger of letting the North Korean nuclear crisis persist. Negotiations remain Washington’s best option.