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Monday, November 20, 2006

Dick the Pigeon

You'd think that the mistakes that brought us to where we are with Iraq would've come with some lessons. Leave it to analysts to separate the BS from the truth might be a big one. As I wrote yesterday, the reasons we're in Iraq have a lot to do with a hoax pulled by the Iraqi National Congress that the administration fell for. And they fell for it because they wanted to believe it. They had a woody for war with Iraq.

So, what happened was something called 'stovepiping'. This was the practice of sending what seemed to be the most damning information straight to Vice President Dick's office -- raw and unanalyzed. VP Dick and his staff would then cherry pick this data and come to the conclusions that VP Dick and his staff wanted to come to. So we wound up with the false claims about yellowcake in Niger and the belief that coalition forces would be 'greeted as liberators.' The raw data was being analyzed by people who a) didn't know what the hell they were doing and b) already had a conclusion in mind.

Now, instead of learning from those mistakes, Shooter's doing exactly the same thing with Iran's nuclear program. Seymour Hersh told CNN yesterday:

They’ve been saying for, as you know, for five or ten years. The fact is Israelis have coming up with new human intelligence, sort of the counter CIA assessment, they’ve come up with an agent inside Iran. They have more than one. And this agent is — who’s been reliable so the Israelis claim in the past — who now says the Iranians are secretly working on making an actual trigger for a bomb. Even though they may not — we don’t have any specific evidence of a facility where they’re doing this work, the Israelis say yes they are, they’re getting ready to start detonating a weapon. Once they get the fissile material, the enriched material. Now, that information is being handled pretty much by the white house and various offices in the pentagon. And the CIA isn’t getting a good look at the Israeli intelligence. It’s the old word stovepiping. It’s the President and the Vice President, it’s pretty much being kept in the White House.

So much for learning from your mistakes. "The CIA found no conclusive evidence, as yet, of a secret Iranian nuclear-weapons program running parallel to the civilian operations that Iran has declared to the International Atomic Energy Agency," Agence France-Press reports Hersh as saying.

All we know for sure is that Iran has enriched uranium. Iran had originally said that its program was peaceful. They made noises since, but it seems to be mostly in response to US reaction. They've learned the lessons of Iraq -- if the US says you have WMD, you damned well better have WMD so you can fight back when you're invaded -- even if the White House hasn't.

Sometimes I think this is the difference between liberals and too many conservatives. Conservatives tend to come to a conclusion and stick with it no matter how reality changes. Creationism and global warming denial are both great examples of this. They look at liberals, who's ideas are constantly changing to accommodate the facts, and see a people with no 'core message.' For some reason, this acceptance of the facts over ideology is something conservatives find hateful. If a democrat supported the Iraq war, but now looks at it and concludes it was a bad idea, that's a flip-flop -- believing the same thing your entire life, reality be damned, is supposed to be admirable.

So, the assumption that Iran's program is military has become fact -- despite the lack of any concrete evidence for the belief. Ahmadinejad makes a lot of noise, sure, but Ahmadinejad has a lot to worry about, from Israel to Iraq to the US. Saying you're on the verge of a nuclear breakthrough is like putting a sticker from an alarm company in the window. If the idea's to create a deterrent, you don't actually have to have the alarm. This is why Saddam hemmed and hawed about his alleged WMD program; he didn't want to admit he had none.

I'd kind of like to get Dick Cheney into a poker game -- I'd probably take him for everything. He appears to not only be unable to spot a bluff, but completely unaware that such a thing exists. Everything is taken at face value and any analysis is only to confirm the 'facts' he thinks he already knows. If I tell him I have aces over kings, I have aces over kings. He'd never call a bluff.

Just in case you're one of those 31% who still think Dick's doing a good job, I've got news for you. Rigidity of thought is a handicap, not a strength.


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