Tuesday, July 11, 2006

A reply to Emptywheel

Hi Emptywheel, thanks for visiting!

(And you'll be welcome back anytime too!!)

I think I'm going to take your points one at time, but being as we've got ourselves one heck of a set of talking points here, things can get ever-so-complex over even the smallest of details ever-so-quickly. Because of this, I'm not going to do every detail (research as well as writing) to the Nth degree right now, but I hope to communicate the salient bits from your post. (I think there's probably a lot of detail we can come back to later on, if we then so please.)

On the MBLs, your first point, this is a straight-in case-in-point for what I've just stated above (the same also thing goes for talk about Scott Ritter and Ahmed Chalibi).

To go back to the beginning, we have to discover whether Iraq actually had a programme to construct such an entity, or indeed even a set of them. Certainly it would appear that they had an interest in producing biological DETECTION laboratories, as do many other nations around this planet. There is a photo of one such vehicle at the end of the 28 May 2003 American White Paper on the 'labs', clearly this is not a trailer, but this important other third find in Iraq had been little mentioned. There may have been some confluence of information about Iraqi laboratories in general over the years here, with the Hawks emphasising the possible production aspect.

About Scott, I think he had major influence on the way the critical thinking about the inspections took place. Having read his book, Iraq Confidential, he comes across as trying to explore any possibility that Iraq might have used as a pretext to hide weapons. The onus was thus placed on Iraq to explain and disprove any possibility that came into Scott's head. Whether he had any evidence for some of his suspicions is another question, which we may (I hope) get back to.

I haven't myself seen much about MBLs in the UNSCOM/UNMOVIC reports I have read, but I don't claim to have read them all. Certainly before the August 1995 Haidar Chicken Farm finds, which were really documents handed over on-a-plate by Iraq, UNSCOM could not even prove the full extent of the Iraq bio-weapon programme. Being as they were hiding the existence of an earlier fixed production set-up fairly well, did they really need to create a fairly risky mobile capability? Was this just a pipe-dream? Even if it was, whose was it anyway?

On your second point, the quote DOES appear in her June 7 article in the version to be found on the Judith Miller.Org website. Whether it appears on the NYT version I have no idea, being as I haven't registered there. If there are differences, I can't account for that.

About the 'scientist' claim, again this is a fairly small discrepancy in the bigger-picture-of-things, perhaps it was just an inadvertant case of mistakenly filling-in-the-gaps, rather than overtly relaying misinformation?

There is similarity here with the case of Dr Kelly, when Andrew Gilligan first referred to him by saying on BBC radio on 29 May 2003:

"...and what we've been told by one of the senior officials in charge of drawing up that dossier was that, actually the government probably erm, knew that that forty five minute figure was wrong, even before it decided to put it in. What this person says, is that a week before the publication date of the dossier, it was actually rather erm, a bland production. It didn't, the, the draft prepared for Mr Blair by the Intelligence Agencies actually didn't say very much more than was public
knowledge already and erm, Downing Street, our source says, ordered a week before publication, ordered it to be sexed up, to be made more exciting and ordered more facts to be er, to be discovered."

Nearly all of that was correct. Andrew Gilligan (and the BBC) got very heavily panned for saying all of that, just because Gilligan was simply wrong because Dr Kelly was not actually 'in charge'. A slip of the tongue or keyboard perhaps, understandable with a deadline to meet and no time to confirm or deny and then correct, but if he'd just used the word 'involved' instead he would have been completely correct.

Where you say:

Was she unaware that she was being directed to defectors who had been discredited by CIA? Why did she ignore the evidence given by people like David Albright on aluminum tubes, even when they called HER to inform her of the fact? Why did she know that the WMD search was going to switch to HumInt several weeks before her unit did? Was it a coincidence that she met with Chalabi before the war started, then effectively overrode the military command to make sure her unit remained with Chalabi when it became clear there were no WMD? When people like Bolton would call her to publish something so they could pre-empt other policy makers, was she aware of how she was being used? Is she simply stupid, or was she reporting sincerely when she reported the ridiculous logic chain of the first inspectors looking at the MBL?

These are the explicit points which I/we have no complete understanding about at this time, and that therefore need clarification. I will have to research further before I can comment on each of these aspects.

But I can't imagine any argument that either doesn't hold that she's stupid and was being used, or that she was complicit. There are just too many times when it was clear that she willingly let herself be a mouthpiece for one faction. And she either did it out of ignorance, or willfulness.

I really do think there might be a slightly more understandable unexplored middle-ground here. Given who she was and her unique position, complete with her access to very close to the highest-of-high in American life, I do tend to think that she may well have been unwittingly sucked into a whirlpool of political necessity regarding the removal of Saddam and the justification of false claims of Iraq's possession of mythical weapons.

Do you think there is some room here for something in-between succor and sucker, or even a slightly more subtle combination of the two?



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