Confusing Tactics

So, the Grey Lady has decided enough water has passed under the bridge to have an article pointing out that … indeed there were WMD in Iraq. I guess they figure the “lied/died” meme is entrenched.

I remain confused on two points. Why release this now? And, why did (apparently) the Bush admin hide information about the WMD during the last years of his Presidency?

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14 comments

  1. Boonton says:

    It was known Iraq had chemical weapons before the first Gulf War. After they lost that war, UN Inspectors did contain quite a few of them and quite a few more were believed to have been destroyed during Clinton’s bombing attacks.

    The rockets purchased after the 2nd Iraq War appear to be left overs from that era according to the article, most not even containing any chemical weapons but were simply the rockets you’d use if you had some sarin

    Not long after Operation Avarice had secured its 400th rocket, in 2006, American troops were exposed several times to other chemical weapons. Many of these veterans said that they had not been warned by their units about the risks posed by the chemical weapons and that their medical care and follow-up were substandard, in part because military doctors seemed unaware that chemical munitions remained in Iraq.

    This is an amazing statement. The pretext of the war was supposedly that Saddam had non-trivial amounts of serious WMDs. One would think even if Bush believed that in error, that would have caused the invasion to have been planned with the assumption/danger that WMD exposure would happen. Your defense of Bush, I recall, was that an untruth is not a lie if you reasonably believe it to be true. I recall in the first Gulf War quite a few stories about troops who had to risk heat stroke drilling with chemical warfare suits in the hot desert sun. It was also never asserted that Iraq had nothing. It was well known, for example, that Iraq had stockpiles of uranium that was stored in warehouses with UN seals on it (some of them broken into in the post war looting).

    Given that we have some time, we can seriously evaluate the claims in support of the war. While Iraq did have some trivial amounts of WMD’s that in theory it could have given to a terrorist group to make a ‘dirty bomb’. What we have seen, however, is that Iraq has turned into a breeding ground of terrorist groups who use disputed areas to train and attack. ISIS has aquired a lot of their weapons from storming Iraq army depots in the country’s west. What we have seen, however, is that none of this so far has meant attacks on the west (the attacks in Paris and other areas appear to be done in sympathy with terrorists n the Syria/Iraq region but weapons or operatives were not supplied from that region).

  2. Boonton says:

    I remain confused on two points. Why release this now? And, why did (apparently) the Bush admin hide information about the WMD during the last years of his Presidency?

    Did you read the article? The sources appear to be chatter from US military & perhaps CIA operatives. As time goes on, people let their guards down and talk more and more about stuff that happened in the past. Hence it is less about ‘releasing this now’ and more about something secret is more and more likely to come out as time goes by. Consider a secret like a radioactive atom. It can decay at any moment, all you know is from its half-life is that you can estimate the probability that it will decay over any given period of time. No matter what, though, the longer the time period, the greater the chance it will ‘come out’.

    As for hiding the information, during the invasion and afterwards it was a much more critical secret. There were US operatives in the field buying these rockets. If it had come out then its possible the seller might have gone dark (fearful of being targetted by insurgents or terrorists as a ‘traitor’). Or others might have attempted to start a bidding war, being alerted that there actually might be some useful WMDs somewhere and someone had access to sell.

    Letting it out at that time would have done little political good for Bush since the WMDs were not serious enough to assert he was right after all about Iraq but would have greatly damaged a program that was doing some good.

  3. Mark says:

    Boonton,

    While Iraq did have some trivial amounts of WMD’s that in theory it could have given to a terrorist group to make a ‘dirty bomb’.

    Missiles which only can be used to launch chemical weapons, 600+ in number many still containing Sarin. I disagree with your term “trivial”.

    What we have seen, however, is that Iraq has turned into a breeding ground of terrorist groups who use disputed areas to train and attack.

    Hmm. Perhaps we left a tad precipitously.

  4. Mark says:

    Boonton,

    Hence it is less about ‘releasing this now’ and more about something secret is more and more likely to come out as time goes by. Consider a secret like a radioactive atom. It can decay at any moment, all you know is from its half-life is that you can estimate the probability that it will decay over any given period of time. No matter what, though, the longer the time period, the greater the chance it will ‘come out’.

    Except it isn’t random. You can choose when to release it. The story took months to prepare, granted. But … it is also likely the story sat on a desk for some time before, “gosh, let’s go with this one today”. Why then? Why last week?

  5. Boonton says:

    Except it isn’t random. You can choose when to release it. The story took months to prepare, granted. But … it is also likely the story sat on a desk for some time before, “gosh, let’s go with this one today”. Why then? Why last week?

    This is only interesting if the preparation of the story happened a long time ago. If the story was finalized on, say, Jan 15th but they waited to Feb 15th to publish, that isn’t all that interesting to me at all. Again if we are talking about the mid-2000’s the story might have been held back to protect both US operatives in Iraq doing the buying as well as the Iraqi(s) who were cooperating with the US.

    Missiles which only can be used to launch chemical weapons, 600+ in number many still containing Sarin

    Even in 2002 Scott Ritter was asserting that 90-95% of Iraq’s WMDs had been destroyed or contained. The argument against the Iraq war never centered on Iraq not havinga single trace of any chemical or biological weapon anywhere. Likewise the discovery of a few WMDs hardly vindicates the Bush administration’s arguments for war which were premised on an active Iraq rearming, even closing in on nuclear weapons. Likewise Sarin has a shelf-life of about 5 years so even if some portion of the used rockets had some left over liquid in their warheads, it would have been degraded to almost nothing if the sarin had been manufactured before the Gulf War (91) or would have been at least partially degraded if it had been manufactured during the hiatus between inspections (98-2002), which to date no evidence has emerged that any such re-armament happened.

  6. Boonton says:

    Except it isn’t random.

    It actually is pretty random. Since reporters were not briefed on the program as it was happening, it could only come out by members of the military breaking their security clearence. When will an individual choose to do something that could destroy his career or even land him criminal charges? That’s pretty much random. Why did Ed Snowden release the information he had while another contractor the same age as him with a like background never opted to release anything.

    But what is pretty clear as time goes on the chances that secrecy will be broken increases. Partly this is pure mathematics…there’s more room at T>0 than there is at T=0. Ten years offers 3,650 days during which someone can break a secret while a single year only offers 365. But also over time people let their guard down. More people get access to a particular secret due to turnover. People feel more relaxed talking about a ten year old war secret against an enemy who is no longer relevant. Etc etc.

  7. Mark says:

    Boonton,
    Random is when you roll dice of measure the spin of an electron to be up or down. When information is released is a choice made by a person for a reason. How long an editor sits on a story and why he releases it when he does is not also a choice. Choice made by free willed beings are not random. They have reasons. They can be explained by the chooser. This isn’t random. If I were to guess I’d suspect that the Times may have sat on the story for 3-6 months, not 3-6 years. But .. why just the other? Slow news day? To remind us of GW now that his son is in the news? The editor/chooser is ideologically very biased and very motivated (see Groseclose). His reason for choosing is what? That was my question. And “I was so drunk it was random” isn’t a viable answer.

  8. Boonton says:

    Actually it wasn’t that long ago you were arguing that an electon’s randomness was an expression of ‘free will’ on its part, no?

    From a paper’s POV, sitting on a story can be valuable if it gives you more time to confirm the story but you run the risk that some other outlet will scoop you first so I’m not sure I buy your model where ideological editors hold stories for extended periods waiting for the ‘right moment’.

    Speaking of ‘right moments’, what exactly is so ripe about this one? This is kind of like when you said Obama timed the Bin Laden killing to influence the upcoming election….except the election was almost two years away!

    Think about it, as you point out it isn’t that devastating to Bush that a few pseudo-WMDs were found in Iraq after all. Yet on the other hand it is hard to see how that is all that helpful to his brother’s presidential bid. At the end of the day it seems like nothing more than a story (and a common post-war one if you noticed the angle about troops being ‘exposed’ to unknown chemicals potentially causing health problems now….we had that story about Agent Orange in Vietnam, depleted uranium in the Gulf War as well as ‘Gulf War Syndrom’…the pattern I’d consider is do Veterns getting older cause people to suspect something mysterious ‘over there’ is causing illnesses which thereby starts sending reporters on missions to try to discover what was so special about going ‘over there’?)

  9. Mark says:

    Boonton,

    Speaking of ‘right moments’, what exactly is so ripe about this one?

    Uhm. That was the actual question I posed.

  10. Boonton says:

    Which begs the question, why do you assume it was timed to begin with?

  11. Mark says:

    Boonton,
    Because I grew up in the Watergate era. Why do you assume it wasn’t. It’s not random. People made choices. If it was “under” for a long time, it is coming out for reasons. What reasons?

  12. Boonton says:

    You have a car I’m sure, you have car insurance. Your car insurance covers you if your car is stolen. What determines if your car is stolen? Free will on the part of a car thief. Does the insurance company throw up its hands and say it cannot calculate your premium? No, of course not. Whether or not your car is stolen can be estimated by theft rates in your neighborhood. The thief may have free will but behavior can still be depicted randomness.

    Because I grew up in the Watergate era….

    And you learned the wrong lesson from it. What was Watergate but an absurd stunt a very successful President allowed/directed that ended up causing what was till then a very successful presidency to collapse. Instead you seem to believe the lesson is everything that happens is well planned, intricate, and coordinated.

  13. Mark says:

    Boonton,
    Well, you cannot say “And you learned the wrong lesson from it.” if you think the lesson I learned was “the lesson is everything that happens is well planned, intricate, and coordinated.”

    That wasn’t the lesson. The lesson is those in power, all those involved in politics are corrupt, liars and think they are above the law. The Times has politicized itself (see Groseclose), ergo, they too are corrupt, liars, and have abrogated (in this case) their journalistic principles. I don’t believe they print a story just because they have it. If it is a big story and can be spun to political (Democrat) advantage, it will be timed to the greatest effect.

    One suggestion is that this story is breaking now because another Bush will be returning to the news, and this way they can get that out before it could be brought up in a way that discredits their long standing “lies/dies” meme.

  14. Boonton says:

    Sounds like you are spinning your wheels here. Let’s say we grant that corruption was unknown before Watergate. The salient fact about Watergate is how much random events can shape outcomes. It was only because of bad luck that the Watergate burglars were caught. If they weren’t the story would have probably never came out or would have come out as a historical footnote decades later and Nixon would have finished his two terms.

    Was the timing of the arrest political? Did Nixon’s team have a mole who tipped off DC police who then arrested them in order to bring Nixon down in disgrace? Perhaps the whole thing was done by the extreme right wing of the GOP, giving the Democrats a short term victory in order to clear Nixonites out off the field to open the way for Reagan to take over the party. Keep going down this road and the conspiracy never ends but ultimately we both know the answer to what the truth is. If you break into a hotel room, there’s a chance you will get caught. The Watergate team rolled those dice and lost.

    This story? It came out because this is the time it came out. That’s it.