|Ken Novak's Weblog
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Monday, February 24, 2003
A Last Chance to Stop Iraq: Feb 2003 summary of Kenneth Pollack's arguments, on the history of underestimation of Iraq's nuclear program, and the failure of deterrence against the Saddam Hussein regime. Original from NYT. Central arguments:
- Observers have a very poor track record in predicting the progress of the Iraqi nuclear weapons program.
- In the late 1980's, the [US thought] the Iraqis were at least 5 and probably 10 years away from having a nuclear weapon. For its part, the International Atomic Energy Agency did not even believe that Iraq had a nuclear weapons program. After the 1991 Persian Gulf war, United Nations inspectors .. found it was less than two years away from producing a weapon.
- [In 1995] the international agency was so certain that it had eradicated the Iraqi nuclear program that it wanted to end aggressive inspections in favor of passive "monitoring." Then a slew of defectors .. reported that outside pressure had not only failed to eradicate the nuclear program, it was bigger and more cleverly spread out and concealed than anyone had imagined it to be.
- In the late 1990's, American and international nuclear experts again concluded that the Iraqi nuclear program was dormant: yes, the scientists were still working in teams; yes, they still had all of the plans; and yes, they probably were hiding some machinery — but they were not making any progress. Then defectors escaped [and said] Saddam Hussein had started a crash program to build a nuclear weapon and that the Iraqis had devised methods to hide the effort. The German intelligence service in 2001 concluded Iraq was only three to six years away from having one or more nuclear weapons. ..
- We have consistently overestimated the ability of inspectors to impede the Iraqi efforts and we have consistently underestimated how far along Iraq has been toward acquiring a nuclear weapon. The assurances from Mohamed ElBaradei that he has Iraq's nuclear program well in hand should be less than comforting.
- He has stated that he wants to turn Iraq into a "superpower" that will dominate the Middle East. He has said he believes the only way he can achieve his goals is through the use of force. Indeed, his half-brother and former chief of intelligence, Barzan al-Tikriti, was reported to say that Iraq needs nuclear weapons because it wants "a strong hand in order to redraw the map of the Middle East."
- We have heard from many intelligence sources — including some of the highest-level defectors now in America and abroad — that Saddam Hussein believes that once he has acquired nuclear weapons it is the United States that will be deterred. He apparently believes that America will be so terrified of getting into a nuclear confrontation that it would not dare to stop him should he decide to invade, threaten or blackmail his neighbors. America has never encountered a country that saw nuclear weapons as a tool for aggression. [The communists never did, even North Korea sees them at worst as a tool for payment] .. Only Saddam Hussein sees these weapons as offensive — as enabling aggression.
- Since 1974, he has embarked on foreign policy adventures that nearly destroyed him:
- his attack on Iraq's Kurds in 1974;
- his invasion of Iran in 1980;
- his invasion of Kuwait in 1990;
- his assassination attempt against Bush in 1993;
- his threatened attack on Kuwait in 1994.
- In each case, he took a course of action that we know even his closest advisers considered extremely dangerous. .. And he seems to be doing it again. With more than 150,000 soldiers on his borders he continues to run the international inspectors in circles, foolishly confident that his minor concessions will stave off an invasion. Is there any other person on earth who wouldn't turn his country inside out to prove that he did not have more weapons of mass destruction?
The disquieted American
: A review in two parts
of Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers by Daniel Ellsberg.
Ellsberg is quoted:
"After you've started reading all this daily intelligence input and become used to using what amounts to whole libraries of hidden information, which is much more closely held than mere top secret data, you will forget that there ever was a time when you didn't have it, and you'll be aware only of the fact that you have it now and most others don't... and that all those other people are fools... You'll be thinking... 'What would this man be telling me if he knew what I know? Would he be giving me the same advice, or would it totally change his predictions and recommendations?' And that mental exercise is so torturous that after a while you give it up and just stop listening. I've seen this with my superiors, my colleagues... and with myself." 4:43:26 PM
African internet developments
: "DESPERATE GHANA TELECOM SHUTS OFF OUTGOING ISP LINES, BLAMES VOIP BUT... Ten days ago Ghana Telecom put all the country's ISPs on one-way circuits so that they could only receive incoming calls. In a move uncannily reminiscent of Kenya Telkom's ISP shutdown before Christmas, Ghana Telecom is seeking to blame the loss of its international call revenue on ISPs doing VOIP." 3:23:05 PM