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January 26, 2004

Your morning irony. Calpundit has a must-read post on what really happened to the WMDs and how our own intelligence agencies managed to blow it. Short version: If you’re a scientist trying to survive in a police state, selling your credulous overseers on wacky super-weapon programs is a pretty sensible way to stay funded. This is of course an excellent illustration of the general principle that the guy on top is often the most misinformed of all, because everybodies lies upward. [09:09 AM]
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Hard-Hitting Moderator: Teresa Nielsen Hayden.

Comments on Your morning irony.:

David W. ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2004, 10:07 AM:

I really don't understand Kevin Drum's enthusiasm for this latest bit of WMD spin. I mean, if Saddam was fooled by some scientists who promised him they were building a nuclear weapon, I'll eat my hat. As I posted to Calpundit, if there's one thing that works well in a dictatorship, it's the secret police and to think that they'd not keep very close tabs on the scientists who were supposedly in charge of a clandestine weapons program is pretty damned unlikely.

Juan Cole has a much better post up today on the subject of those alledged WMDs, along with several others on the current political situation in Iraq. Go check it out at: www.juancole.com

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2004, 10:38 AM:

"if thereís one thing that works well in a dictatorship, itís the secret police"

Beg to differ. It seems to me that history shows us that secret police are generally very good at Job One, Scaring Everybody Half to Death; but much spottier at Job Two, Knowing What the Heck Is Going On.

If you're referring to this post by Juan Cole, I certainly agree that everyone should read it too. His basic (and professionally well-informed) outlook is that our guys believed what they believed because they wanted to believe it:

The fact is that the US had no human intelligence assets of any significance in Iraq, who could have done a simple site check of things that had looked suspicious in the satellite photos. Since the US spread around millions to Iraqi tribal sheikhs and others, the problem was not money. There is no good reason for the failure to develop such intelligence, except that it would have required that somebody go out and do recruiting in dangerous conditions and be able to speak Arabic, etc.
Worse, the Neoconservatives in the Pentagon and the Rockingham Group in the British military cherry-picked and politicized vague "intelligence" (i.e. unsupported anecdotes) fed to them by figures like corrupt expatriate Iraqi businessman Ahmad Chalabi and very likely Israeli intelligence. The groups that wanted the war, wanted it so badly that the shakiness of the "intelligence" did not matter. The intelligence was just spun.
I see absolutely no reason not to suppose that multiple kinds of human folly--self-deceit, avarice, concealed agendas, and the never-ending tendency of people to tell their boss what they think he wants to hear--can't all have been operating at the same time. Indeed, given the monumental calamitousness of the overall screwup, one really has to suspect that they all indeed were.

Norbizness ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2004, 10:45 AM:

I think that's how the Star Wars / missile defense people stay in business in this country.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2004, 10:52 AM:

I've elaborated on my views in this comment over on Calpundit.

David W. ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2004, 10:58 AM:

Well, I wouldn't be so sure about the Mukabarat not knowing much about WMDs, given how Iraq was once developing a nuclear weapon, plus making and using chemical weapons for years. If Saddam Hussein was giving significant amounts of money to develop WMDs (or fund WMD program related activities even), I can't believe that he wouldn't have someone he trusted keeping tabs on it.

Barry ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2004, 10:59 AM:

I was going to urge people to read the comments, where Kevin's idea got fed into the plastic shredder, so to speak.

I'd like to emphasize three key points:

(1) Saddam survived a decade after serious setbacks (the Iran-Iraq war, Gulf War), and didn't do so by sweetness and light. He had enough resources to keep his army from bumping him off, even though that'd have made the US and Europe very, very happy (everybody could have made profitably nice with the 'New Iraq'). He did this through having everybody who mattered watched, and double watched, with lots of informants and lots and lots and lots of fear. Playing games with Saddam would be like playing BDSM games with a serial killer. This theory supposes not just that *some* people did this, but that a large number of people did so, for a decade, without exposure.

2) It's *not* the case that Saddam thought that he had X tons of weapon types Y, of quality Z, with reliability R and deployability D, but actually had less. It *is* the case that there was virtually nothing (By now, even if anything is found, it'd be the tiniest scraps). I imagine that there was a lot of skimming going on (with a good chunk of it known, and punished if and when desired). However, here there would have to be 100% skimming, and that's really hard to hide. Having (say) half the weapons, and shuffling them around for inspections, is doable. Having *none* of the weapons, and passing even a light inspection, is unlikely.

3) There were no decoys or dummies that we know of. Repeat: there were no decoys or dummies that we know of. By now, the administration should be leaking any sort of program that Saddam had to fool surveillance, making everybody think that he had the weapons. This would be an excuse for thinking that there were WMD's, and could also be spun to buy time in the search ("we're searching through a 'Maze of Evil Mirrors'" Thomas Friedman would probably say). This also means that there are no programs being exposed, whose purpose was to fool Saddam. That leads to the conclusion that virtually the entire WMD budget was stolen from under Saddam's nose, with no significant attempts to fool Saddam.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2004, 11:04 AM:

As I said on Calpundit, nobody's postulating some kind of centralized, coordinated conspiracy by Iraqi weapons scientists; rather, we're talking about the way we know information tends to flow in dictatorships where everybody's scared all the time.

In the wake of the Cold War, a lot of what we learned about the USSR bore this out. They turned out to be doing a lot more spying on us than some liberals thought (Julius Rosenberg and Harry Dexter White really were commie spies, how about that), but the scary Soviet secret police also didn't know their own ass from their elbow a good bit of the time. The idea that the Panopticon State actually works all that well is part of the propaganda of panopticon states. In point of fact, beyond a certain level, it's extraordinarily dysfunctional; which is why in North Korea, for instance, large quantities of the population are now reduced to surviving by eating grass.

Barry ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2004, 11:04 AM:

Patrick:

"Beg to differ. It seems to me that history shows us that secret police are generally very good at Job One, Scaring Everybody Half to Death; but much spottier at Job Two, Knowing What the Heck Is Going On."

Yes, but as I was submitting simultaneously with you - this theory assumes not just skimming, not just that stuff was being shuttled around to make X items look like 4X or even 10X, but that pretty much 0 was being made to look like 4X or 10X. And this is in a country which was manufacturing, deploying and using chemical weapons in combat.

To make an analogy with the USSR: this is not telling the Politburo that there are 10,000 class 1 tanks, all of which are deployable, when there are only 2,000 class 1 tanks, which are shuttled around for inspections. It's telling the Politburo that that are 10,000 class 1 tanks, when there are no tanks, and no dummy tanks.

Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2004, 11:47 AM:

Barry -

it's not a theory of stuff. It's a theory of spin.

Scientist says, well, we could probably build Lethal Thing Foo, but it'll be tricky and need a lot of money; all they really need is to have convincing evidence of work, not results, because it's been sold up front as Really Hard. This happens all the time in any number of contexts.

The skimming is happening to research program funding, not deployed program funding; no one is arguing that Saddam was being fooled into believing that there were battalions all set to launch Lethal Thing Foo, they're claiming that Saddam was being fooled into funding Lethal Thing Foo development.

Since there's some evidence that Saddam was not well attached to reality whatsoever, and really wanted something very lethal indeed to get him out of his strategic hole, I don't have any trouble believing that the shell programs existed, or that they were mistaken for real programs by an intelligence apparatus desperate to find some justification for an aggressive war.

Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2004, 11:52 AM:

I'm inclined to agree with Kevin. Before the war, I thought that Hussein probably had substantial stores of nasty crud. When it became clear to me that they weren't there, I was belatedly reminded of a lot of Soviet and Red Chinese schemes.

rea ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2004, 11:59 AM:

"If you’re a scientist trying to survive in a police state, selling your credulous overseers on wacky super-weapon programs is a pretty sensible way to stay funded."

Of course, it's also true that if you’re a scientist trying to survive [economically, at least]under a Republican administration, selling your credulous overseers on wacky super-weapon programs is a pretty sensible way to stay funded.

Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2004, 12:08 PM:

Perhaps there's more to the Saddam = Hitler analogy that seemed so spurious from Emperor Bush II's lips.

Didn't Hitler, as the Allies approached Berlin, order his generals to send in various military units that were Hitler's own hallucinatory entities?

Although Hitler had Van Braun et al., with V-1 and V-2 weapons at Peenemunde, it seems that Hitler never really understood what a rocket was. He had some vague sense that it was just a kind of artillery.

Hitler believed that we lived on the inner surface of a hollow Earth (think Edgar Rice Burroughs' Pellucidar). Visiting a radar installation designed to locate British fighters and bombers, Hitler personally ordered that it be aimed to a much higher elevation, i.e. to cut UP to where the Earth purportedly curved, instead of straight across the English Channel. So the Battle of Britain went our way, not his.

We are still unclear about whether or not Heisenberg subtly sabotaged Hitler's biggest Weapons of Mass Destruction project -- and stopped the Nazis from having atomic bombs.

I have discussed this at length with Freeman Dyson. he and I agree, the default expectation is that Germany would have gotten The Bomb before us. Where he and I differ, is the result. I contend it would have intrinsically altered WW II. Dyson thinks the Nazis would have shipped (barged?) one into New York Harbor, or Paris, and wiped them out. But he thinks that would not have changed to outcome.

Maybe Hitler was spammed in some ways by HIS scientists. He was dubious about A-bombs anyway: they were based on Einstein's "Jewish Science."

Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2004, 12:45 PM:

There was tons of interference and spamming back and forth in Nazi Germany. Hitler's record was mixed at best, and his military leaders were little better when considering technology issues. Consider the Me-262 Swallow twin jet fighter. It had serious teething problems (like other German designs, it never had adequate and relaible engines) but could have been in squadron service as early as 1943 if not for very cautious Luftwaffe generals and the decision by Hitler in 1943 to convert it to a bomber. Most were destroyed on the ground by Allied bombing raids, often while awaiting bomber conversion. The few times 262's got in to the fight in some kind of numbers, they were exremely effective, especially when their limited numbers are considered. I once interviewed a B-17 pilot that had been on a number of the big late raids into Germany. According to him the 262 scared them shitless the few times they encountered them. In his opinion, with all the other problems that the USAAF was having with the bombing campaign in 1943, a few 262's then would have been far more effective than a lot later.

This is far from the only example.

Paul Hoffman ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2004, 01:03 PM:

>If youíre a scientist trying to survive in a police state, selling your credulous overseers on wacky super-weapon programs is a pretty sensible way to stay funded.

Can you say "missle defense program"?

Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2004, 02:00 PM:

Aw c'mon, Paul, let's go all the way to "mythical hard x-ray laser".

Barry ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2004, 02:06 PM:

Note that for strategic missile defense programs, it's very likely that many of the flaws are known, but that the programs are being continued to give
money to the defense contractors involved. The people being fooled are us, not the higher ranks of the Pentagon, or of Congress.

And the big problem with the various theories being put out is that they are *excellent* for explaining how Saddam's 'vast stockpiles' and 'hundreds of tons' of this and 'thousands of tons' of that, and 'ready to go in 45 minutes' would have turned into 'a few thousand shells of dubious quality, with insufficiently trained special troops, and deployment plans which were optimistic, to say the least, and not even any decoys or dummies which might have been used to at least *look* like something was going on'.

These theories don't explain how Saddam ended up with *nada*. This would suggest not that Saddam could be spun on technical details, or on the quantity/quality of things, but that he could be fooled like a naive newbie manager on the very existance of large programs.

Jon H ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2004, 02:24 PM:

David W. writes: "If Saddam Hussein was giving significant amounts of money to develop WMDs (or fund WMD program related activities even), I canít believe that he wouldnít have someone he trusted keeping tabs on it."

If there were significant amounts of money involved, then it's quite likely that the scientists were able to buy off people in the secret police.

For the secret police, in late-90s/early 2000s Iraq, there'd be precious little upside in turning in the scientists. Much better to keep the money rolling in by keeping quiet.

Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2004, 02:35 PM:

We are still unclear about whether or not Heisenberg subtly sabotaged

Well, that seems appropriate. (I can't believe I'm the first to say that)

It seems inappropriate to me, however, to suggest Edward Teller was scamming the US government. (I'm a weirdo -- a left leaner who respected Teller. A lot.) I Know People who were there. General disinterested scientific consenus is that Star Wars, Brilliant Pebbles etc. were, in fact, scientifically credible but not politically viable. While the system was being developed a lot of the tests and experiments would fail. The US public and congress don't seem to accept this as a way to do science and/or engineering so the program wouldn't have been able to stay alive long enough to become successful. Please note that I Have A Thing on this topic and am categorically unable to resist arguing about it. It's all part of my main character flaw: if everyone would just think about it, they'd agree with me because, obviously, I'm right. You should probably just consider me trollish on the topic and ignore me. It might be best for us all.

MKK

Jon H ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2004, 02:38 PM:

Barry writes: "These theories donít explain how Saddam ended up with *nada*. This would suggest not that Saddam could be spun on technical details, or on the quantity/quality of things, but that he could be fooled like a naive newbie manager on the very existance of large programs."

Part of the 'nada' might be explained if you consider that our government may have been relying on stale, early-to-mid 1990s information. If Iraq destroyed what stocks they had left after Clinton's bombings in 1998, it would explain the nada.

Just because UNSCOM left in 1998 doesn't mean that nothing changed in Iraq in the meantime.

Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2004, 03:04 PM:

But Barry, in the rather notorious case I just cited, the accusation has been that it was just those higer ranking members of the military and those they communicated with (i.e. Congress) that were fooled.

I personally believe that we are looking at several layers of problems going back two decades in trying to determine how we screwed up on this. Take this list or process as a possibilitiy to examine:

1. We knew that Saddam was working on WMD's back in the Iran-Iraq war period (it was reported on back then, along with Saddam's human rights record). But since Saddam was our dictator, to whom we were sending inteligence information, ag subsidies, and arms sales, in opposition to the Iranians, doing too much about this was quite politically incorrect with the Reagan crowd. A lot went on in Iraq while we were looking the other way. The Israelis never stopped watching Iraq, though, for their own reasons. What we knen then was that the target for the WMD's was Iraq's main opponent, Iran.

2. On August 2, 1990, everything got inverted from our point of view. Iraq was suddenly the main concern. We were concerned about chemical weapons and prepared for them, but none were ever used against the Desert Storm forces. Nothing seems to work like a thinly veiled threat of nuclear retaliation. When we got into Iraq we immediately found large amounts of chemical munitions deployed in ammunition supply points (ASP's) ready to go. In fact, it is the improper destruction of some of these shells releasing chemical agents that some have seen as a cause of Gulf War Syndrome. After the war we find all kinds of weapons programs which include superguns and nuclear weapons, many of which we had some intelligence on, but none of which were usable at that point. Prewar intellegence, distorted by political pressure during the Reagan years, looks lousy, missing some things and exaggerating others.

3. Under Allied and UN supervision over the next five years, the great majority (90%+) of unconventional munitions and production facilities are destroyed. UN and US arms inspectors on the scene have problems with the documentation of the destruction of the other 10% -- which may be impossible to document one way or the other at this point. At this point we think we have a decent idea what is going on. Then Saddam's brother in law Hussein Kamel defects (he later goes back and is promptly murdered) and informs us:

a) there were more nuclear programs before the first war that were farther along than we thought
b)
John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2004, 03:19 PM:

All kinds of interesting things happened inside the Nazi weapons-research establishment, and a lot of them were not exactly efficient and not particularly honest. Once the Leader became enamored of Wonder Weapons, Wunderwaffenprojekten became an excellent way of not being sent to the Russian Front.

There was a steadily escalating series of priority hierarchies, as teams tried to leapfrog their projects ahead of others. Note that while some money was involved, this was not an issue of the workers trying to get rich -- they were trying to stay out of the front line, and to get some basic resources (food, a decent place to live) that were in short supply. New classes of "very important project" were continuously created. About midwar, someone came up with "FŁhrer Priority," projects that the Boss supposedly was personally interested in; this was intended to be a trump card, but by war's end there were six levels of FŁhrer priority.

The effect of this was much labor but no product. Germany was, for instance, trying to develop a ground-to-air AA missile, which obviously would have been of great use; they tested a variety of designs, with varying levels of success, but instead of focusing the research into one AA Missile Group, it was scattered around numerous little teams, who competed for dwindling resources and, of course, shared nothing with each other. At war's end, there were -over forty- such projects.

It will be noted that Germany had lots of social control and internal spying.

On the matter of the Secret Police knowing what they were snooping, Lavrenti Beria was always partly convinced that the Soviet bomb project was a hoax (this was after 1945, so it's not skepticism about the Bomb -working-). During a test of the atomic pile, Beria had seen nothing "atomic," just some lights and bouncing gauges, and demanded to be allowed inside the reactor core for a look. There were people there who wanted to let him.

Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2004, 03:32 PM:

Sorry for the slip o' the mouse . . .

a) there were more nuclear programs before the first war that were farther along than we thought
b) all these programs were shut down by Saddam's order after the first war as they were a threat because of the UN presence
c) there were no WMD's or WMD production facilities left.
This was well known to the IAEA (which now publicly admits that it knew this) and presumably the CIA. We were able to confirm a) based on his information, but we decided not to believe b) and c) because we were getting contradictory information from . . . wait for it . . . Chalabi and the INC (the consequences of which will not be seen for more than five years). Once again the intelligence community looks bad. Somewhere well before this point Cheney had formed his own bad opinion of US intelligence in Iraq.

4) Bush 43 enters the White House, and as we now know, immiediately decided that Iraq was a greater threat than Isamic terrorism. Bush staff is quoted as saying that Clinton was overly concerned with figures like OBL. Then 9/11 . . . and once again US intel looks bad. Cheyney builds his own intel cell in DoD, gets them direct (pipelined) access to raw data, and the rest is history.

The purpose of this rather brief review is to point out that the raw intel out of Iraq over the past 20 years may or may not have been pretty decent. From what raw data we can see out here in the unclassified world, you could make the argument that Saddam consistently sought the weapons he needed to oppose a larger and better funded opponent, Iran. But the interpretation and analysis of that information has been driven by partisan politics and reaction to immedeate events the entire time, no matter which party was in power in the White House or Congress.

Much of the argument that I see these days is of the form "Well, so and so said there were weapons there so many years ago, but you say there aren't any there now. Where did they go?" We need to start looking at the entire history of this issue to start understanding what the hell has actually been going on in Iraq, as opposed to the noise about it here.

Jon H ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2004, 03:55 PM:

John M. Ford writes: "The effect of this was much labor but no product. ...they tested a variety of designs, with varying levels of success, but instead of focusing the research... it was scattered around numerous little teams, who competed for dwindling resources and, of course, shared nothing with each other. At warís end, there were -over forty- such projects."

This sounds almost like a description of early/mid-1990's Apple Computer.

Tim H. ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2004, 03:58 PM:

I would think that there would be paperwork found even for fake programs.

Reimer Behrends ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2004, 04:37 PM:

Patrick wrote: It seems to me that history shows us that secret police are generally very good at Job One, Scaring Everybody Half to Death; but much spottier at Job Two, Knowing What the Heck Is Going On.

Patrick, may I present the East German Stasi as a counterexample? They made getting information a high priority and were frighteningly good at accomplishing that goal.

bryan ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2004, 05:08 PM:

'Scientist says, well, we could probably build Lethal Thing Foo, but itíll be tricky and need a lot of money; all they really need is to have convincing evidence of work, not results, because itís been sold up front as Really Hard. This happens all the time in any number of contexts.'

yes, and it would have to be some truly mean stupid bastards to break through this kind of scam, basically the kind of idiots that would torture soccer players for not winning matches.

sooner or later, if none of my scientists are coming through with my world conquering weapon, I'm gonna call all of them into a room together, and blow one of their frigging heads off.
Saddam didn't do this cause he was just a big creampuff, it would seem.

David W. ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2004, 05:27 PM:

South Knox Bubba is really rockin' today down in East Tennesee:

http://www.southknoxbubba.net/skblog/archive_2004_01.php#2531

(Be sure to check out the rest of the day's posts too!)

Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2004, 05:33 PM:

Um, bryan, the trouble is, the soccer players weren't tortured for mis-reporting the results of games. They were tortured for not achieving the (apparently) impossible. In that kind of atmosphere, lying and saying "Yes, your supreme exaltedness, we're working very hard to build a doomsday device out of bubblegum and string, just give us a few more months" is probably preferable to saying "Look, you're nuts. With the sanctions, and the test ban, and the way you keep jailing our best lab assistants, there's no way we can possibly build anything militarily useful."

I'm not entirely convinced that Saddam thought he had more working WMDs (or "related program activities" thereto) than he actually possessed, but saying "scientists wouldn't lie because that might get them killed" ignores that fact that sneezing might get them killed, too.

Josh ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2004, 05:38 PM:

Hitler believed that we lived on the inner surface of a hollow Earth (think Edgar Rice Burroughsí Pellucidar). Visiting a radar installation designed to locate British fighters and bombers, Hitler personally ordered that it be aimed to a much higher elevation, i.e. to cut UP to where the Earth purportedly curved, instead of straight across the English Channel. So the Battle of Britain went our way, not his.

There are a whole host of reasons the Battle of Britain went our way, not Hitler's. The notion that the UK only won the Battle of Britain because Hitler demanded that German radar be re-aimed is... unusual, to say the least.

Not that Hitler didn't interfere in German warmaking. But that's not a good example.

Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2004, 06:12 PM:

OOOooohh, pretty. Look what John Perry Barlow dug up:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/ArticleNews/TPStory/LAC/20040124/MCNAMARA/TPColumnists/

Barry ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2004, 07:30 PM:

One additional comment - last I heard, mustard gas is WWI technology. Nerve gas is 1930's-40's technology. Artillery shells to deliver gas are of similar vintage.

Cutting edge delivery methods might be high-tech, but a lot of this is not particularly cutting edge. Expecting the Mukhbarat (sp?) to not have the appropriate technical expertise is a very bad idea.

James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2004, 08:25 PM:

...the scary Soviet secret police also didn?t know their own ass from their elbow a good bit of the time.

As the joke went in Moscow at the time:

Q) Why do the secret police walk in threes?
A) One of them knows how to read, one of them knows how to write, and the third is to keep an eye on the two intellectuals.

James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2004, 08:36 PM:

Cutting edge delivery methods might be high-tech, but a lot of this is not particularly cutting edge.

The infamous Scud missile is just the plain ol' WWII German V2 rocket, as improved by the Soviets during the 1950s.

Look, there weren't any weapons of mass destruction. We knew it: Colin Powell said so publicly in February 2001, and Condi Rice repeated it in March 2001.

None of Iraq's neighbors were acting as if Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, and aside from England none of the European countries (who, we have to assume, have intelligence services not in thrall to Donald Rumsfeld) were acting as if Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.

The only big question remaining is What does Bush have on Tony Blair?

Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2004, 10:08 PM:

Josh:

I didn't mean to imply that "the UK only won the Battle of Britain because Hitler demanded that German radar be re-aimed." I gave an example of the extreme departure from mainstream reality that he was into, which parallel Saddam's.

Not that I have anything against Britain (my wife being a subject of Her Majesty) or ERB (I own a complete paperback first edition of all his books).

If Saddam had written more bad novels and murdered fewer people, the world would be a better place.

Kevin J. Maroney ::: (view all by) ::: January 27, 2004, 01:14 AM:

Mary Kay, you said:


We are still unclear about whether or not Heisenberg subtly sabotaged

Well, that seems appropriate. (I canít believe Iím the first to say that)

In fact, Michael Frayn's brilliant play Copenhagen uses that concept as its central organizing principle. So, you're not the first, but it's still a very striking thing.

dave heasman ::: (view all by) ::: January 27, 2004, 07:37 AM:

"The only big question remaining is What does Bush have on Tony Blair?"


It's something we've been pondering, believe me.
There's a good letter in today's "Independent" making the best case :-
Blair knew that GWB was going after Saddam, whether or not there was cause, and calculated that it would be better for the world, and no worse for the UK, if we joined in rather than stayed out. There would be problems staying out,given the policy of total engagement with the US. The collateral damage from being seen to have lied and sending our soldiers to their deaths didn't really arise before the war, because we couldn't conceive that Cheney and Rumsfeld could fuck it up so very badly.

Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2004, 01:35 AM:

Kevin, well, I was the first in this thread, and since I never saw Copenhagen I came up with it independently.

MKK

NelC ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2004, 05:31 AM:

sooner or later, if none of my scientists are coming through with my world conquering weapon, Iím gonna call all of them into a room together, and blow one of their frigging heads off.

This sounds like one of those extreme mental experiments game theorists come up with to demonstrate the value of enlightened altruism or rational selfishness or somesuch.

If the Evil Dictator will always shoot one scientist every six months until his plans are realised, but leaves the rest alone, the other 100 (?) 1000 (?) scientists might regard this as a pretty good deal. After all, with a hundred scientists, each one has a 50:50 chance of living another 25 years, which might actually be better odds than being an ordinary middle-aged civilian. And a lot can happen in 25 years: the Americans might stop sniping at SAM sites and actually invade, for example.

It's an attractive proposition in an intellectual way, and reading about Nazi WWII projects, I wouldn't be surprised if there was some element of truth to it. But I don't think it's the whole story by long chalk.

Though really, I think Drum's reaching for a straw of comfort with this theory, in an attempt to make the last several months of work seem slightly less pointless. Not to mention the political spin of putting the blame on the crazed evil dictator (Saddam, that is), rather than the Bushies. After all, it's not the Bushies fault if an Evil Dictator lies to them (still talking about Saddam). He lied to us! How unexpected!

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2004, 08:04 AM:

"Though really, I think Drumís reaching for a straw of comfort with this theory, in an attempt to make the last several months of work seem slightly less pointless. Not to mention the political spin of putting the blame on the crazed evil dictator (Saddam, that is), rather than the Bushies. After all, itís not the Bushies fault if an Evil Dictator lies to them (still talking about Saddam). He lied to us! How unexpected!"

You know, Kevin Drum explicitly said in the post under discussion that he doesn't think this gets Bush off the hook. Moreover, Kevin has been a consistent opponent of the Bush Administration since starting Calpundit.

There's really no way to read your post except as a direct accusation that Drum is lying, and moreover lying in an attempt to help whitewash Bush. That's pretty offensive of you.

Barry ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2004, 10:16 AM:

NelC, the example is extreme. However, the point remains that playing 'fool the dictator' games with Saddam would carry very, very painful penalties. Probably for one's spouse and children, then for oneself.

Of course (cue australian accent, for movie buffs) a *smart* dictator, a *very smart* dicator, might have a scientist tortured first. Under the promise (true or false) that if the scientist could reveal some scams, then he and his family would be spared. Perhaps done to several scientists separately, at the same time, after they've been arrested, and told that an informant has said that something's up.

This is the sort of prisoner's dilema that a dictatorship could be very good at.

Now, if Saddam tells his scientists that he wants an orbiting Death Star made, about the only thing that they could do is to attempt a big deception campaign. Please note that there has been nothing put out by the Bush administration, or leaked, about any traces of such a campaign being discovered. IMHO, by now, this means that no large-scale deception campaign was conducted.

On the other hand (this will be repetitive for those who've read my posts), let's say that Saddam call his scientists together, and tells them that he wants never gas, mustard gas, artillery shells/'stalin organ' rockets with gas, and some bio weapons.

Most of this is *not* cutting-edge tech. Fooling the secret police about 30-80 year old technology should be much, much harder. All that the secret police need would be an agent in the labs with a chemicstry/Chem E BS degree, to make a deception campaign very tricky. Especially as the deceivers don't know who the agents are.

Please remember that Iraq was manufacturing cyanide, nerve and mustard gas during the 1980's, and using them in combat. There'd be a lot of practical skill and knowledge floating around, and the secret police would have had a decade to make sure that there were agents in place throughout the industry.

Glenn Hauman ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2004, 02:47 PM:

If Saddam had written more bad novels and murdered fewer people, the world would be a better place.

While maybe true in this case, I have to think that there are some novels that, to paraphrase Faulkner "are worth any number of old ladies" to have not written...

NelC ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2004, 06:42 PM:

Patrick--

Uhh, there's an alternative explanation: that I'm an utter idiot who, for unknown reasons, typed "Drum" when I meant "Kay", David Kay.

I completely and abjectly apologise for any offence my slip of the keyboard may have caused.

CHip ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2004, 07:52 PM:

"The only big question remaining is What does Bush have on Tony Blair?"

Maybe nothing more than the knowledge that he's staked the UK's future on Total Engagement. On the way into work this morning, I listened to 15 minutes of him crowing about the Hutton commission exonerating him and the intelligence services, and I kept thinking about Le Carre's descriptions of the poor relations between USA and UK intelligence; it seems we've gone from the balance of "they're cowboys!" "they're leaky!" to "they're trustworthy!" "they're gullible!".

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2004, 09:53 PM:

NelC: Oh. Never mind. I should have considered that possibility. My apologies too.

Nell Lancaster ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2004, 08:03 PM:

Claude Muncey, thank you for lifting this discussion from the ahistorical, spin/counterspin level to which it so often sinks. Kevin Drum could benefit from reading your comment.

Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2004, 09:48 PM:

What no one here seems to be taking into account is the long slide away from objectivity the CIA Analysis Section has suffered since the late 70s.

Cheney, and Rumsfeld and Bush pere, all helped to build the "Team B" which was assembled because they (and a host of others) didn't like the CIA telling them the Russians weren't as big a threat as they were supposed to be.

In the intervening 30 years a lot of twisting of facts to suit political ends has been demanded, and (understandably, if regrettably) a lot of people were cowed by the pressure (re-assignment, accussations of psychological instability {shades of the USSR} and loss of employment) and so the value of what came from Langley is not what it was in the old days.

If a government want's to believe something, and has had practice in making its Intel services feed them that, the results are going to be skewed.

Terry K.

Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2004, 01:09 PM:

Spot on, Terry. What has pissed me off is the lack of connection or accountability over the whole "Team B" fiasco. Most of those inovled think they won the argument and that history is on their side, which is a complete fantasy. It is not constructive to criticise the Directorate of Intellegence for not forseeing the collapse of the Soviet Union, when you have been telling them for years that you won't accept that answer. "Team B" produced intellegence failures of the same order as the Iraqi WMd mess.

Nell, I always appreciate a kind word, so thank you. But in fairness I should point out that my low opinion of the current state of US Intellegence as reflected in the WMD screwup is pretty much in line with a lot of the comments here, and even many of the posts and comments on Kevin's blog. There were no usable WMD's in Iraq prior to our recent invasion because either Saddam, the UN or allied forces destroyed them in the 1990's. We had that information, but chose to believe obviously less reliable information becuase it said what decision makers really wanted to hear.

I was not able to hear all of Tenet's statement this morning on the radio but one piece did stand out. He warned about the chilling effect that an investigation into the WMD problem would have on the analysts in DI. Let's see, that means that we have to be careful about investigating intimidation of analysts so we don't intimidate the analysts.

Am I the only one who finds that priceless?

James Angove finds comment spam in tedious amounts. ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2004, 02:57 PM:

Okay. Some text.