It’s partisan warfare over the New York Times cover story on documents from prewar Iraq that give detailed instructions about manufacturing nuclear weapons. Also, bloggers give kudos to Borat for splitting sides and flexing gray matter.
Centrifugitive information: Friday’s New York Times cover story reports that detailed instructions about building nuclear and chemical weapons were accidentally included among the many seized documents from Baathist Iraq uploaded to a public government Web site. What began as a government exercise in full disclosure to allow bloggers and would-be I.F. Stones to analyze Saddam’s prewar weapons files has ended in an online furor over what, exactly, those files disclose.
Lefty Steven Benan at The Carpetbagger Report was all ready for a fun-filled day of mea culpas from the conservative blogosphere. Instead, “conservatives are thrilled by the NYT scoop because, as they see it, the administration published seized Iraqi intelligence documents. If there were detailed secrets about how to make a nuclear bomb, this means … wait for it … Saddam ‘had a nuclear weapons program and was plotting to build an atomic bomb.’ Uh, no. The NYT article said the documents offered ‘detailed accounts of Iraq’s secret nuclear research before the 1991 Persian Gulf war.’ This little tidbit isn’t buried deep into the article; it’s right up in the second paragraph. It’s kind of hard to miss.”
However, the article also states: “Among the dozens of documents in English were Iraqi reports written in the 1990’s and in 2002 for United Nations inspectors in charge of making sure Iraq abandoned its unconventional arms programs after the Persian Gulf war. Experts say that at the time, Mr. Hussein’s scientists were on the verge of building an atom bomb, as little as a year away.” Does the Times refer to the U.N. inspections directly following the first Gulf War or to those in 2002?
Righty Ed Morrissey at Captain’s Quarters argues for the latter interpretation: “That appears to indicate that by invading in 2003, we followed the best intelligence of the UN inspectors to head off the development of an Iraqi nuke. This intelligence put Saddam far ahead of Iran in the nuclear pursuit, and made it much more urgent to take some definitive action against Saddam before he could build and deploy it. And bear in mind that this intelligence came from the UN, and not from the United States.”
Jim Geraghty at the National Review’s TKS thinks “the Times editors are counting on this being spun as a ‘Boy, did Bush screw up’ meme; the problem is, to do it, they have to knock down the ‘there was no threat in Iraq’ meme, once and for all. Because obviously, Saddam could have sold this information to anybody, any other state, or any well-funded terrorist group that had publicly pledged to kill millions of Americans and had expressed interest in nuclear arms. You know, like, oh… al-Qaeda.”
Lefty Oliver Willis is appalled by the unvetted uploads: “In their rush to muddy the waters, however, it appears that the Bush administration may have given rogue states like Iran access to information on how to build a nuclear bomb they never had before.”
Which is exactly one canard conservative “The Lightning Baron” at The Eyrie wants to eliminate once and for all: “This is an INSANE leap of logic considering Iran’s nuclear weapons program pre-dates 2003 by not just years but DECADES. Never mind the AQ Khan nuclear blackmarket, never mind the help Iran received from North Korea in recent years, never mind the help Iran received from Russia for over a decade. No, you see, Iran’s nuclear program was created between the Spring of 2003 and today.”
Libertarian Glenn Reynolds, aka InstaPundit, cautions his gleeful e-mailers: “[T]his doesn’t say that Saddam would have had a bomb in 2004. But it does say that he had all the knowledge needed to have a bomb in short order. And as we know he was looking to reconstitute his program once sanctions were ended – and that sanctions were breaking down in 2003 – that’s pretty significant. However, perhaps even more significant, given that we knew most of the above already, is that the NYT apparently regards the documents that bloggers have been translating for months as reliable, which means that reports of Iraqi intelligence’s relations with Osama bin Laden, and ‘friendly’ Western press agencies, are presumably also reliable.”
Read more about the Times story.
People’s democracy in America. With rare exception, everyone’s a fan of the new Borat movie. But it isn’t just the “cringe comedy” that has them applauding. They think Sacha Baron Cohen’s anti-Semitic, reactionary brainchild magnifies aspects of American culture we’d rather keep microscopic.
James Rocchi at Cinematical is a fan: “What’s just as impressive about Borat [as the ethical questions it raises] is its scope. … Like Alexis de Tocqueville did in 1831, Borat’s come to see how the American experiment is working. And, just as in 1831, the journey suggests it’s a bit of a work-in-progress. Borat may be one of the most politically interesting comedies of the past 20 years, just in terms of the breadth and audacity of its ideas.”
J. Caleb Mozzocco of weColumbus, a Columbus, Ohio, citizen-journalism blog, also plumbs the depths of Baron Cohen’s mock peasant backwardness’ cultural significance: “It makes for a funny movie, but Cohen is obviously interested in doing a lot more than making us laugh. He uses the movie screen as a mirror reflecting back and the audience, and while it’s easy to laugh at Borat, his fictional version of Kazakhstan, and his various prejudices and superstitions, remember they’re not really real. The America and the Americans we see up there, and all of their superstitions, however, are.”
Read more about Borat.