November 28, 2005

Richard Cohen's Alternate Reality

In Tuesday's Washington Post, columnist Richard Cohen pens a column entitled More Than a 'Mistake' on Iraq that is not only incorrect, but bordering on delusional.

Cohen states:

A line is forming outside the Iraq confessional. It consists of Democratic presidential aspirants -- where's Hillary? -- who voted for the war in Iraq and now concede that they made a "mistake." Former senator John Edwards did that Nov. 13 in a Post op-ed article, and Sen. Joseph Biden uttered the "M" word Sunday on "Meet the Press." "It was a mistake," said Biden. "It was a mistake," wrote Edwards. Yes and yes, says Cohen. But it is also a mistake to call it a mistake.

Both senators have a point, of course. They were told by the president and members of his War Cabinet -- Cheney, Rice, Rumsfeld -- that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. In particular, those three emphasized Iraq's purported nuclear weapons program. As late as August 2003, Condoleezza Rice was saying that she was "certain to this day that this regime was a threat, that it was pursuing a nuclear weapon, that it had biological and chemical weapons, that it had used them." To be charitable, she didn't know what she was talking about. [emphasis mine]

In denying that Saddam Hussein's Iraq had in the past pursued a nuclear weapons program, or that it had biological and chemical weapons and had used them, Richard Cohen shows that he is under the influence of the H5N1 strain of Bush Derangement Syndrome, and his grasp of reality is tenuous at best.

The U.K's Review of Intelligence on Weapons of Mass Destruction (PDF), otherwise known as the Butler Report, stated that :

a. It is accepted by all parties that Iraqi officials visited Niger in 1999.

b. The British government had intelligence from several different sources indicating that this visit was for the purpose of acquiring uranium. Since uranium constitutes almost three-quarters of Niger's exports, the intelligence was credible.

c. The evidence was not conclusive that Iraq actually purchased, as opposed to having sought, uranium, and the British government did not claim this.

The British government stands behind this information to this day, which pre-dates Joe Wilson's trip to Niger.

On January 1, 2003, The Telegraph reported:

United Nations weapons inspectors have uncovered evidence that proves Saddam Hussein is trying to develop an arsenal of nuclear weapons, The Telegraph can reveal. The discovery was made following spot checks last week on the homes of two Iraqi nuclear physicists in Baghdad.

Acting on information provided by Western intelligence, the UN inspection teams discovered a number of documents proving that Saddam is continuing with his attempts to develop nuclear weapons, contrary to his public declarations that Iraq is no longer interested in producing weapons of mass destruction.

Or perhaps Cohen should read Saddam, the Bomb and Me, from Mahdi Obedei, one of Saddam's nuclear scientists, in the New York Times:

Was Iraq a potential threat to the United States and the world? Threat is always a matter of perception, but our nuclear program could have been reinstituted at the snap of Saddam Hussein's fingers. The sanctions and the lucrative oil-for-food program had served as powerful deterrents, but world events - like Iran's current efforts to step up its nuclear ambitions - might well have changed the situation.

Iraqi scientists had the knowledge and the designs needed to jumpstart the program if necessary. And there is no question that we could have done so very quickly. In the late 1980's, we put together the most efficient covert nuclear program the world has ever seen. In about three years, we gained the ability to enrich uranium and nearly become a nuclear threat; we built an effective centrifuge from scratch, even though we started with no knowledge of centrifuge technology. Had Saddam Hussein ordered it and the world looked the other way, we might have shaved months if not years off our previous efforts.

The use of chemical weapons in the 1980-Iran Iraq War was well known:

The war was clearly going against Iraq by 1983, when Hussein ordered the use of chemical weapons against Iran. The first of 10 documented chemical attacks in the war was in August 1983 and caused hundreds of casualties, according to CIA sources. The largest documented attack was a February 1986 strike against al-Faw, where mustard gas and tabun may have affected up to 10,000 Iranians.

To this day, no one really knows how many other Iraqi chemical attacks went undocumented or how many Iranians died in them. Iranians call the survivors of the attacks "living martyrs," and the government in Tehran estimates that more than 60,000 soldiers were exposed to mustard gas and the nerve agents sarin and tabun.

The use of chemical weapons against Iraqi civilians was equally infamous.

For Richard Cohen to claim that administration officials "didn't know" what they were talking about when they stated Saddam "had biological and chemical weapons, that it had used them," is to rewrite history, severing all ties with reality and credibility.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at November 28, 2005 11:15 PM | TrackBack

right on!

Posted by: reliapundit at November 29, 2005 01:54 AM

It was called the Joseph Goebbel doctrine; say it loud enough long enough, and people will believe it even if it is a lie. That was Nazi Germany; today it's called the elite liberal doctrine.

Posted by: Old Soldier at November 29, 2005 06:55 AM

My guess is that he was referring to her certainty when he said that she didn't know what she was talking about.
If any of them were ever "certain," (which they at least felt they were) the results have bared out their utter ignorance.

Posted by: Richard White at November 29, 2005 11:22 AM

Oh man, there you go presenting facts and evidence again, people are really going to get confused if you keep doing that!

Posted by: Crazypolitico at November 29, 2005 02:54 PM

He even got the part about Hillary wrong:
Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2005 7:55 p.m. EST
Hillary Clinton: Iraq War Vote a Mistake.

Posted by: Joe at November 29, 2005 10:33 PM