Thursday, October 08, 2009

Fickle Fingar of Fate

Do y'all remember the famous 2007 National Intelligence Estimate regarding the threat of the Iranian nuclear program. It was in all the papers and pretty much spiked any efforts that the Bush administration had been making to rouse the world for action against the Iranians?

I remember thinking it was pretty suspicious at the time. Now, thanks to our friends at the Wall Street Journal*, I know why:

When it comes to politicized intelligence in the Bush years, the critics may finally have a point. Perhaps the work of America's intelligence agencies was manipulated to suit the convenience of a small group of willful officials, intent on getting their way against the better judgment of their colleagues.

Except the intelligence was about Iran, not Iraq, and the manipulators weren't conniving neocons but rather the Administration's internal critics on the left.

That's one way to look at last month's revelation that Iran is building a secret second site to enrich uranium, among other emerging intelligence details. The Qom site—too small for civilian purposes but ideal for producing weapons-grade uranium—is supervised by Iran's Revolutionary Guards and was only declared to the International Atomic Energy Agency after Tehran got wind that the nuclear watchdogs knew about it.

But the more telling detail, as a recent White House "guidance paper" acknowledges, is that the U.S. has been "carefully observing and analyzing this facility for several years." That timeline is significant, because it was less than two years ago, in December 2007, that a National Intelligence Estimate on Iran's nuclear programs asserted with "high confidence" that Tehran had "halted its nuclear weapons program" in the fall of 2003.
That timeline is significant. Indeed. And there's more:

Yet some of us noted at the time that the NIE added, in a crucial footnote, that by "nuclear weapons program" it meant "weapon design and weaponization work and . . . uranium enrichment-related work," rather than Iran's "declared" nuclear facilities.

And who decided to write the NIE the way it was written? The WSJ fingers Tom Fingar:

The NIE's main authors—including former intelligence official Tom Fingar and other internal critics of Bush Administration policies—downplayed this critical detail. Never mind that it was precisely Iran's "declared" nuclear facilities that constituted the core element of any nuclear-weapons program.
Wouldn't you like to know why Tom Fingar and his colleagues did this? I surely would.

*Anticipating the inevitable "this is an editorial, not a news story" cavil, I would remind my readership that the WSJ editorial page does its own reporting and has broken any number of important stories over the years.


Anonymous said...

"*Anticipating the inevitable "this is an editorial, not a news story" cavil, I would remind my readership that the WSJ editorial page does its own reporting and has broken any number of important stories over the years. "

While I agree with that statement, I would also remind you that the WSJ Editorial Page is now owned by Rupert Murdoch, and has become notably more partisan and capable of right-wing hackery over the last couple of years. So you really do have to take many of there editorials with a larger grain of salt.


Mr. D said...

So do you take this one with a grain of salt? And if so, why?

K-Rod said...

Ah yes, when in doubt bring up the boogieman Murdoch and "right-wing hackery" in order to figurativly stick your fingers in your ears and sing la-la-la-la-la-la.

Anonymous said...

Because the WSJ and the Washington Post Editorial Pages have both become havens for neo-con stupidity. So, while you can still find some very good economic and political analysis in both, I take virtually everything they do on the Middle East with a grain of salt.

The hyped claims of WMD in Iraq; The over-blown threat assessments of Saddam Hussein; The rubber stamp approval of even the worst abuses of the Isreali governments actions in the occupied territories; The complete misunderstanding of the diminished role Ahmenadinijad plays in Iranian politics; The complete unwillingness to call torture torture when committed by Americans at the behest of the Executive wing, etc.

On matters Middle Eastern, I don't think they can be taken seriously.



K-Rod said...

A neo-con is a former liberal that was mugged by reality. That is a fact.

Rich, I would like to see you show examples from the WSJ to back up your alligations but I won't hold my breath.

Anonymous said...


You really are intellectually lazy. I just cited my opinions why I don't think the WSJ can be trusted. There were some quntifiable things in what I said (hint - torture). It's a blog referring to an editorial page. I am not here to do your homework. You show me examples where I am wrong, and I will see if I can refute them.

Also, you said "A neo-con is a former liberal that was mugged by reality. That is a fact." No, it is not a fact. It's a punch line written by Irving Kristol about 25 years ago, and any fool could tell you that it is not a factual statement. You need to study logic so you can stop making such a fool of yourself.

You might also stop spouting the 'witticisms' you read on bumper stickers. Please stop with the Man up's, cowboy up's, my karma ran over your dogma's, etc. It's very unbecoming of people over the age of twenty.


Mr. D said...

The complete misunderstanding of the diminished role Ahmenadinijad plays in Iranian politics

Now that's provocative. Let's hear more about that, Rich. If Ahmedinejad has a diminished role, why did the mullahs go to the mat for him?

K-Rod said...

Those ad hominem tactics are typical of the Liberal Fascists.

Rich, keep spouting your liberal talking points and call them your opinions, it must be a lot easier than using facts and logic to actually back it up. You claimed to have some "quntifiable things", but you don't seem to be able to back it up. All hat and no cattle, eh?

And, BTW, a neo-con IS a former liberal that was mugged by reality. That is a fact. Ignoring the plain and simple facts is no way of going through life, Rich.

In your heart you know I am right.

Anonymous said...

I don't mean to imply that the man isn't a menace, or a real pain in the ass. But he doesn't hold that much power. Did you see the press conference where he got questioned about the nuclear facility at Qum? It was notable for his utter cluelessness. And that is nothing new. Look up one of his interviews with a Western reporter (Charlie Rose is a good example, but they all work). They expose his lack of power. His answers are opaque, and frequently demonstrably false. He is never confrontational in person, and half of his questions are read by him from hastily scribbled notes that are slipped to him by his advisers.
And constitutionally, Ahamadi is very weak: he doesn't have operational control over the Iranian armed forces, the Iranian nuclear program, or Iranian foreign policy. That all resides with the Supreme Leader, Khameini. Ahmadinejad's powers are mostly the management of the domestic economy, and not much beyond that. He is a useful idiot for Khameini and the Mullahs, and he is not Mousavi, who is loathed by Khameini.


K-Rod said...

That's the ticket, Ahmadinejad needs a teleprompter!!!! Real power!

Gino said...

per iran, and who has the power, rich is about as dead right on as can be.

the president doesnt have much power. its all in the hands of the mullahs.
the president is just the public face.

not that hard to figure out.
remember, before khomeini assumed room tempurature, he was the bad guy in our media, and the one the state dept was worried about, instead of the president.

its the same govt. what had changed?
what has changed is Ahmedinejad is now president, and he likes to say things that upset jews and neocons. so, he's the bad guy we all hear about now. but his constitutional office hasnt changed a bit. just the provacative loudmouth who holds it.

Mr. D said...

The point here isn't Ahmedinejad per se; let's try to go back to the original point of the article, which is that Iran was pursuing nuclear weapons all along. The NIE was, at best, a red herring. We now know that, because reporting that has come from the current president confirms all this. And Iran is two years closer to having the bomb.

So here are the questions:

1) Are you (and that means both Rich and Gino) okay with the way this went down?

2) Are you okay with Khameini having the bomb?

3) Do you think the Iranians (read Khameini through his sock puppet) are just blowing smoke and that Israel does not face an existential threat if the current Iranian regime has operational control of a nuclear weapon and the means to deploy the weapon?

4) If you are wrong and an Iranian bomb is deployed against the Israelis, can you live with that?

This isn't really about scoring political points, gents. This is about much, much more.

Gino said...

i dont want to see anybody get snuffed with the bomb, mark.

but you seem most worried about snuffed jews than snuffed iraqis, who are a very real enemy for the persians, and will likely get it first.
why is that? why is israel such a priority for neocons? is it because you have so much USA money invested there already? just what is it?

i've already blogged my opinion of the iranian bomb quest. you were silent on it.

and no, i do not think iran with a bomb is an imediate existential threat to israel.
besides, israel has a bomb. are you OK with that?

Mr. D said...


Sorry, I guess I missed the post you wrote on the Iranian quest for the bomb. I'll go and find it.

I don't worry about Israel having the bomb because they are not likely to use it unless they are attacked first. I wish I were as confident that would be the case if Iran had one.

The larger point is this: we're going to find out now, because the NIE effectively stopped anyone from going forward on trying to stop this until now. And now, it's too late. Waaay too late. And there's not a hope in hell that negotiations are going to change anything.

As for my reasons for supporting Israel -- well, I take the notion of "never again" quite seriously. I support the idea of a Jewish state and the reality of what that state has been for more than 60 years now. I don't have a dog in the fight, but I recognize that the Israelis have been facing an existential threat (which is why I used the term) from day one. The stated goal of their enemies is to wipe the Jewish state from the map. I have no reason to believe these goals are not sincere.

And there's this -- while I said I don't have a dog in this fight, I'm of mostly German ancestry. My people have lived in the U.S. for nearly 160 years now. I don't personally have anything to do with Hitler, or the Third Reich, or anything related to that, nor do any of my immediate relatives. My grandfather wore a doughboy uniform in WWI. But I still recognize that my people were complicit in the attempt to exterminate an entire population of the human race. And that affects my thinking on the matter. And for me, "never again" is something I take quite seriously, as I said at the outset.

Mr. D said...

Okay Gino,

I just went back and read your Iran nuclear post. I wish I were as sanguine about it as you are.

Gino said...

'dinijad said it best last week or so:
if europeans feel guilt about the holocaust, why not set up a jewland in europe?

why must the palestinians be forced to move over? and where would we put a palestinian homeland?
hey, i got it... how about palestine? where they've been for 2000 yrs without leaving.

for me 'never again' applies to all, not just jews.
too bad the canaanites dont have anybody saying 'never again' on their behalf. but i guess you need survivors for that.

Mr. D said...

You realize that Jews have lived in that area for more than 2000 years, of course. And elsewhere, too.

We can't help the Canaanites, but we can support those who remain in our midst. And that land has been called Palestine, and Judea, and Canaan, and a British protectorate, and many other things over the years. And there's always the matter of Jordan, which was part of the same place. But we wouldn't want to ask the Hashemite throne to cede any land either, apparently.

There are many, many people who lay claim to that land. The Jews certainly have a right to be there.

And as for Ahmedinejad's suggestion, I'd be more than happy to create a Jewish state in Europe. But it's not gonna happen.

Gino said...

mark: the heshamites have already ceded the west bank.

but what of the palestinians who lived for generations in what is now israel proper? have they no rights? or are jew rights bigger?

and like you said, i agree, that many people call it home, and have a moral right to.
but where do jews get a bigger moral right to be the dominant force in land that you and i agree should be shared?

Anonymous said...

What a mess in the Middle East. Everyone hates everyone else, and they have most of the world's oil. If the oil wasn't there I can't help but wonder where the outrage would be. Take a look at Africa and any number of other hot spots of torture, ethnic cleansing and other crimes against humanity. Barely any press, and muffled outrage. Hypocrites abound! Where's the outrage? The answer is "Where's the Oil?"

Nuclear Proliferation is more than likely inevitable. Perhaps the biggest reason to attempt to postpone or elimate the program in Iran is that if pushed, Israel will feel compellted to launch a pre-emptive attack on Iran. Imagine the chaos that would result from that.

I find that debate of who is in charge of Iran or who would should villify amazing. In the end, does it matter? If a rogue of any government ever gets nuclear capabiliteis, the world immediately becomes a more dangerous place, no matter if it's Boris Bannanof, Snidely Whiplash, or Lloyd Bridges.

K-Rod said...

Y'all crack me up, everyone knows the mullahs are the puppet masters.

Ahmedinejad is the spokesperson and has spoken of wiping Israel off the map. What part of that don't you understand?

Anonymous said...

my apologies. I meant to get back to this, but got lost in all the Nobel buzz.

Regarding point 1, I really can't speak for Fingar, and would want to do a little research before I commented on the internal politics of the last administrations intelligence apparatus. But as previously noted, I wouldn't make an assessment based upon a WSJ editorial. I do know that there was a steady drumbeat from the neo-cons that something had to be done about Iran, and their preferred something seemed to be bombing, the results of which I am pretty certain would have been disastrous. So if Fingar did something to slow that down, I say buy that man a beer. And I do realize that this is my opinion. But I suspect many would agree with me.

Regarding your points 2, 3 and 4: I am not crazy about the idea of Iran having nukes, and I hope and pray that it doesn't happen. But I suspect that my position is similar to Gino's (Gino or Mark, please post a link to Gino's post). Beyond hard core diplomacy, I really don't see any way of stopping or slowing the forward motion. It is probably as inevitable as China, Pakistan and Israel acquiring nukes. Any country with the physical and monetary resources and brainpower of any of these countries is going to be able to acquire some form of nukes if they resolve to do that.
So let's assume the worst and accept that Iran is going to get their bomb some day in the not too distant future. What happens? I doubt very much that they would use it pre-emptively, for several reasons. First, we have to assume that an Islamic theocracy would be willing to destroy the second most sacred site in all of Islam. Secondly, we have to assume that they would find it acceptable to kill not only Jews, but a greater number of Muslims in a pre-emptive strike (And let's not forget that you really can't hit Israel without hitting the Iranian client-state in southern Lebanon). Third, given Israel's known ability to strike back with much greater force, and the military backing that the Israeli's would get from the US, we have to believe that the Iranians would be prepared to accept the almost certain decimation and possible annihilation of Persian civilization. I really can't imagine that would happen. At least, not from the Iranians. (I believe a much greater threat comes from Pakistan in this regard). The Iranians want their weapon as a deterrent. Rafsanjani said as much in his infamous Islamic Bomb speech a few years ago when he said that an Iranian bomb would create a regional stalemate. And I am not saying that this is a good thing. It may well instigate a Middle East arms race between Iran and Saudi Arabia, and possibly Egypt. So it is worth doing everything within our power diplomatically, to avert. But I don't think it would be the cataclysm so many neo-cons seem to suggest.


my name is Amanda said...

I just wanted to comment here to say "Thanks!" for this thought-provoking discussion - I've really enjoyed reading these comments.

Gino said...

shredz blog, display page, sept 25th.

yer welcome. :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks Gino. Looks like my guess was right. I'll be following your shredz blog.


K-Rod said...

Right, Rupert Murdoch, the evil neo-cons, and the vast-right-wing conspiracy are out to destroy the world, yep, quite the "thought-provoking discussion"!!!!

Only an idiot or a liberal sheeple filled with talking points wouldn't know the real definition of a neo-conservative.

A neo-con is a former Liberal that got mugged by reality.