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Thursday, February 13, 2003

Standards of proof revisited

Received the following in e-mail from a reader of this blog:
If today's democrats had been in power during World War II they would have opposed the Manhattan Project. "What proof is there that Hitler or Hirohito is trying to build an atomic bomb? And even if they did how would that affect us? They don't have a bomber that can carry such a weapon across the ocean. It's no threat to us. We should adopt a 'wait and see' attitude. We really should not take any action unless we are provoked. All we'll do is make things worse."
Change "today's democrats" in the above to "today's antiwar activists" and I'll agree completely. In fact, I'm willing to go one step further.

I'd like to see the antiwar folks prove, using the same standards of evidence and proof that they demand of the Bush administration with regard to Saddam Hussein and Iraq, that the U.S. actually possesses nuclear weapons.

Let's shoot down a few of the assertions they would make, right up front:

The U.S. has admitted that it possesses nuclear weapons.

Answer: The U.S. has been boasting of these weapons for nearly 60 years, but no accredited U.N. inspector has ever been able to confirm that the U.S. does indeed possess these weapons. It is entirely possible that U.S. statements to this effect are intended to create uncertainty among regional rivals of the U.S. which might deter those regional rivals from committing aggressive acts toward the U.S.

But the U.S. used atomic weapons against Japan in 1945.

Answer: All evidence we have of these alleged uses of atomic weapons against Japan in 1945 is from less than optimally reliable sources. No neutral observers were present in either Hiroshima or Nagasaki, so we must factor potential bias into the existing eyewitness accounts of the event.

Japanese eyewitnesses may have been traumatized by the event and its aftermath and, therefore, may have their judgement colored by post-traumatic stress disorder. Until the psychological stability of those eyewitnesses can be certified, we cannot accept their testimony at face value.

The only American eyewitnesses to the events were military personnel subject to security regulations and the possibility of punitive sanctions for violation of those security regulations. Therefore, the American eyewitnesses may not be able to provide true information concerning these events and their part in the events without being provided relocation and possible asylum in a third country for themselves and their families.

Additionally, the only recorded measurements of the events by scientific instrumentation do not have a sufficiently documented chain of possession to guarantee their objective reliability. As far as we are aware, the surviving extant measurements have been in the possession of elements of the U.S. government since the Hiroshima and Nagasaki events and, therefore, may have been surreptitiously altered in order to provide support for the U.S. claims concerning these weapons.

Finally, it has been alleged that, at the time of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki events, there were no other atomic weapons available in the U.S. arsenal. At this time, we do not have independent confirmation that additional nuclear weapons have been assembled and deployed, even though we have received reports about the construction and activation of large facilities capable of producing nuclear material or the delivery systems for that material.

But there are several facilities scattered across the U.S. with extensive security measures consistent with a higher than normal level of protection for something.

Answer: The mere existence of unusual structures or equipment in the immediate proximity of a suspect site is suggestive, not probative, of the existence of nuclear weapons at that site. Many of those pieces of equipment or structures may be used at the site for protection of non-nuclear weapons as well. Further cooperation from the U.S. government will need to be negotiated before we can determine whether nuclear weapons do indeed exist at those sites.

You see where I'm going with this, don't you? If you have any suggestions for other assertions and answers for those assertions, feel free to add them in the comments.

Wednesday, February 12, 2003

A random thought

Let's figure out which of our allies need to upgrade their national defenses -- newer aircraft, newer tanks, etc -- and then we'll get the U.N. Security Council to declare an arms embargo against those allies.

Once the arms embargo is in place, the French, Germans, and Russians will fall all over themselves to make sure that those countries will have all the weapons they can handle.

Sounds reasonable to me

Tuesday, February 11, 2003

Who in the heck wants an empire?

I don't. And I don't know anyone who does. I know folks who are for war in Iraq and I know folks who are against war in Iraq, but I don't know anybody who thinks that America should take over the world.

Shoot, most of us think that this country might be better served if a few places that we already have would secede from the Union. Most of my right-wing friends probably wouldn't shed too many tears if the big quake came along and broke most of California off into the Pacific. On the other hand, I'm sure that my left-wing friends wouldn't be too terribly upset if a few pieces of Texas decided to reclaim their status as an independent republic, starting with Tom DeLay's Congressional district and probably including the area immediately surrounding Crawford.

That's why I wonder if some of the journalists out there who write the "American empire" crap I've been reading for the past few months have bothered to visit any part of this country besides a few leftist-friendly bars in New York City, Washington, DC, or Los Angeles.

Does anybody really think that the vast majority of Americans would be comfortable with the idea of a Federal government position called "Imperial Governor of Whatsitstan"? Would it be appointive or civil service? Would it require Senate approval? Heck, would anybody even apply for the job if it existed?

We don't want an American empire. More specifically, we won't tolerate an American emperor. The divine right of kings isn't included in our Bill of Rights.

Our President may be the most powerful man in the world, but we've never trusted that kind of power in the hands of a single individual. And we're not planning on starting now.

We see the men who become President of the United States at their worst long before we ever elect them to the job. We see them stumbling through their canned speeches. We see them squirm when some enterprising reporter comes up with a particularly tricky question. We see the beads of perspiration on their brow when the pressure is on, and we see the bags under their eyes at 2:00 in the morning at some non-descript airport in yet another podunk town.

At the end of a presidential campaign, we've seen most of the warts on the frogs in the pond, yet we pick one of those frogs, kiss him, and suddenly he's the next President of the United States.

President, not prince, because we know he's still one of the frogs in the pond.

And we'll be more than happy to pick another frog if he doesn't jump the way we want him to.

Frogs become princes in fairy tales, not presidential politics.

Sunday, February 09, 2003

Put up or shut up dept.

David Warren tells it like it is, or at least how it should be:
One of the more irritating phrases through the last few years has been, "Speaking truth to power." It is what Doctor Johnson referred to as a "canting phrase" -- one which declares nothing but the speaker's own pretension to virtue and piety.

"Look at me," he is saying, "look how wonderful I am, standing at the barricades against Big Bad Bush, fearlessly speaking the truth to him, and shaking my fist, like Beethoven!"

Does he think Mr. Bush is going to send him to Guantanamo? (Only in his fevered imagination.) Does he think the Mukhabarat will throw him in a windowless cell, that he'll be suspended by his feet and have his tongue cut out, that members of his family will be picked up in the night, and raped and murdered in his presence? (For that is what happened to more than one man who "spoke truth to power" -- in Baghdad.)

It takes two sides to make a war, and two sides to make a peace. You cannot "speak truth to power" only in Washington. Go then to Baghdad, and shake your fist at Saddam. Or if you will not, and for obvious reasons, then put the fist back in its pocket.



More good stuff from Rummy

U.S. Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld, today, in a speech to the Munich Conference on Security Policy:
Konrad Adenauer once said that "history is the sum total of things that could have been avoided." With history, we have the advantage of hindsight. But we must use that advantage to learn. Our challenge today is even more difficult: it is to connect the dots before the fact - to prevent an attack before it happens - not to wait and then hope to pick up the pieces after it happens.

To do so, we must come to terms with a fundamental truth - we have reached a point in history when the margin of error we once enjoyed is gone. In the 20th century, we were dealing, for the most part, with conventional weapons that could kill hundreds or thousands of people. If we miscalculated - if we underestimated or ignored a threat - we could absorb an attack, recover, take a deep breath, mobilize our forces, and go out and defeat our attackers. In the 21st century, that is no longer the case; the cost of underestimating the threat is increasingly unthinkable.

There is a momentous fact of life we must come to terms with: it is the nexus between terror and weapons of mass destruction. On September 11th, terrorist states discovered that missiles are not the only way to strike Washington - or Paris, or Berlin. There are other means of delivery - terrorist networks. To the extent a terrorist state transfers weapons of mass destruction to terrorist groups, they could conceal their responsibility for an attack.

To this day, we still do not know with certainty who was behind the 1996 bombing of the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia. We still do not know who is responsible for the anthrax attacks in the U.S. The nature of terrorist attacks is that it is difficult, and sometimes impossible, to identify those responsible. And a terrorist state that can conceal its responsibility for an attack would not be deterred.

We are all vulnerable to these threats. As President Bush said in Berlin, "Those who despise human freedom will attack it on every continent." We need only to look at the recent terrorist bombings in Kenya and Bali, or the poison cells recently uncovered here in Europe, to see that is the case.

This excerpt contains the most important point that I think the antiwar folks either fail to recognize or, worse yet, willfully ignore. We no longer have the luxury of waiting for terrorists to strike first, as we learned on September 11, 2001.

How many casualties do you think we might have had on September 11, 2001 if those planes had crashed into the WTC towers a couple of hours later than they actually did -- between 11AM and noon rather than 8:45AM and 10AM?

What if the hijackers had chosen to wait for a few more weeks or months and had crashed their plane(s) into Yankee Stadium during the World Series, or into the Super Bowl at the Louisiana Superdome, or one of the major college football bowl games.

At the risk of sounding callous, we were lucky on September 11, 2001. We were lucky that the hijackers and their co-conspirators didn't do their homework as thoroughly as they could have.

We were lucky that the architects and builders of the WTC anticipated that the towers might be struck by an aircraft someday, so they factored that possibility into their design, and the measures those architects and builders added to their design might have bought us a few extra minutes that saved hundreds, if not thousands, of lives.

We were lucky that the September 11th hijackers were more interested in striking symbolic targets than in killing as many of us as they possibly could on national television. Imagine one of those jetliners crashing into the Super Bowl -- it would almost certainly have killed more people instantly, and on worldwide television to boot.

How lucky do you feel today? Are you willing to bet your life on it?

If you aren't willing to bet your life on it, don't ask the rest of us to bet ours.

UPDATE: Forgot to link to the speech. It's here.

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