When I saw the headline on Drudge earlier tonight, that the New York Times had a big story coming out tomorrow that had something to do with Iraq and WMDs, I was ready for an
Well, Drudge is giving us the scoop. And if it's meant to be a slam-Bush story, I think the Times team may have overthunk this:
U.S. POSTING OF IRAQ NUKE DOCS ON WEB COULD HAVE HELPED IRAN...
NYT REPORTING FRIDAY, SOURCES SAY: Federal government set up Web site — Operation Iraqi Freedom Document Portal — to make public a vast archive of Iraqi documents captured during the war; detailed accounts of Iraq's secret nuclear research; a 'basic guide to building an atom bomb'... Officials of the International Atomic Energy Agency fear the information could help Iran develop nuclear arms... contain charts, diagrams, equations and lengthy narratives about bomb building that the nuclear experts say go beyond what is available elsewhere on the Internet and in other public forums...
Website now shut... Developing...
I'm sorry, did the New York Times just put on the front page that IRAQ HAD A NUCLEAR WEAPONS PROGRAM AND WAS PLOTTING TO BUILD AN ATOMIC BOMB?
What? Wait a minute. The entire mantra of the war critics has been "no WMDs, no WMDs, no threat, no threat", for the past three years solid. Now we're being told that the Bush administration erred by making public information that could help any nation build an atomic bomb.
Let's go back and clarify: IRAQ HAD NUCLEAR WEAPONS PLANS SO ADVANCED AND DETAILED THAT ANY COUNTRY COULD HAVE USED THEM.
I think the Times editors are counting on this being spun as a "Boy, did Bush screw up" meme; the problem is, to do it, they have to knock down the "there was no threat in Iraq" meme, once and for all. Because obviously, Saddam could have sold this information to anybody, any other state, or any well-funded terrorist group that had publicly pledged to kill millions of Americans and had expressed interest in nuclear arms. You know, like, oh... al-Qaeda.
The New York Times just tore the heart out of the antiwar argument, and they are apparently completely oblivous to it.
The antiwar crowd is going to have to argue that the information somehow wasn't dangerous in the hands of Saddam Hussein, but was dangerous posted on the Internet. It doesn't work. It can't be both no threat to America and yet also somehow a threat to America once it's in the hands of Iran. Game, set, and match.
UPDATE: The article is up here.
Having now read it, I can see that every stop has been pulled out to ensure that a reader will believe that posting these documents was a strategic blunder of the first order.
But the story retains its own inherent contradiction: The information in these documents is so dangerous, that every step must be taken to ensure it doesn't end up in the wrong hands... except for topping the regime that actually has the documents.
(By the way, is it just me, or is the article entirely devoid of any indication that Iran actually accessed the documents? This threat that, "You idiot! Iran could access all the documents!" is entirely speculative. If the government servers hosting the web site have signs that Iranian web browsers accessed those pages, it's a different story; my guess is somebody already knows the answer to that question.)
I'm still kinda blown away by this paragraph:
Among the dozens of documents in English were Iraqi reports written in the 1990’s and in 2002 for United Nations inspectors in charge of making sure Iraq abandoned its unconventional arms programs after the Persian Gulf war. Experts say that at the time, Mr. Hussein’s scientists were on the verge of building an atom bomb, as little as a year away.
Is this sentence referring to 1990, before the Persian Gulf War? Or 2002, months before the invasion of Iraq? Because "Iraq is a year away from building a nuclear bomb" was supposed to be a myth, a lie that Bush used to trick us into war.
And yet here is the New York Times, saying that Iraq had a "how to manual" on how to build a nuclear bomb, and could have had a nuke in a year.
In other news, it's good to see that the New York Times is firmly against publicizing sensitive and classified information. Unless, of course, they're the ones doing it.
ONE LAST THOUGHT: So Iraq had all the know-how, all the plans, all the designs, "charts, diagrams, equations and lengthy narratives about bomb building." Unless they were keeping these documents around as future material for paper airplanes, all this stuff constituted a plan of action for some point in the future; but to complete creating these weapons, they would have needed stuff. I don't know an exact list of what they would have needed, but articles like this one give a good idea. Sounds like you need a firing mechanism (the right kind of firearm would suffice), some fairly common industrial equipment like a lathe, material for the bomb casing, some fairly common conventional explosives, all of which would have been easy to get in Iraq. Oh, and, of course, the nuclear material itself.
They would have needed something like... um... you know... what's that stuff called? Oh, that's right.
But we know Iraq would never make an effort to get yellowcake. Joe Wilson had tea with officials in Niger who said so.