April 16, 2003
Another Silly Argument

I don't have a link, but I've run across this argument at least half a dozen times in the last few days, mostly buried in various comments sections:

  1. So far as we have been told, no significant WMDs have been found in Iraq, and it's hard to see why the Pentagon would conceal the news if they had been found.
  2. There have been lots of false reports of such finds, none of which has panned out.
  3. Now Bush is saying that the Iraqi WMDs were secretly moved to Syria, though very little evidence has been offered other than their absence from Iraq.
  4. That would provide a very convenient excuse for war on Syria.

    Therefore
  5. Is it possible that the Iraqi WMDs never existed at all?

Of course, this argument is not entirely airtight. For one thing, it's early yet, and there are hundreds of sites that need to be checked. For another, I doubt that anyone outside the Pentagon knows just how many WMD finds have been confirmed. I could go on. However, rather than heap up more such counterpoints, I will simply point out that the overall argument is also vulnerable to reductio ad absurdum, like so:

  1. So far as we have been told, Saddam and Uday and Qusay and Chemical Ali and 'Comical Ali' have not been captured, and there is no proof that any of them is dead, though it's hard to see why the Pentagon would conceal the fact if they had been captured or confirmed dead.
  2. There have been unsubstantiated reports that all of these except the first were killed (some of them twice) in air-raids, and that the last has hanged himself, but none of these reports has panned out.
  3. Now Bush is saying that the Iraqi leaders may have slipped across the border into Syria, though so far as we know none of them has actually been seen there.
  4. That would again provide a very convenient excuse for war on Syria.

    Therefore
  5. Is it possible that Saddam and Uday and Qusay and the whole Ba'athist gang never existed at all? The last thirty years of Iraq's history was just a bad dream!

May I consider the first argument refuted and assign myself a big fat Q.E.D.?

Posted by Dr. Weevil at April 16, 2003 12:51 AM
Comments

There was actually a pretty funny spot on The Daily Show the other night that advanced almost this exact proposition.

Posted by: Aaron Haspel on April 16, 2003 09:43 AM

Good thing I don't watch The Daily Show, or I'd look like a plagiarist. Great minds think alike? Actually, it's just a fairly obvious line of argument that's probably occurred to more than two people.

Posted by: Dr. Weevil on April 16, 2003 10:23 AM

The effectiveness of the counter depends on the presense or absence of suppressed premises (but they weren't in Iraq!....).

If the first argument has the suppressed premise "Ante-bellum, it was unknown whether the WMDs still existed", and the second argument has the suppressed premise "Ante-bellum, we'd all seen Saddam Hussein on TV and had other ways of knowing he existed", then your counter loses all its force.

But the suppressed premise of your counter-argument must be there - there's no absurdity in quesitoning the existence of Saddam et al if we didn't have (for practical purposes) conclusive proof that they existed.

But the anti-war protagonist would argue that this is precisely what we don't know about WMDs. He can concede that Iraq had them prior to Desert Storm, and, indeed, during parts of the inspection process. All he needs to assert is that we lacked knowledge about the existence or (oddly) concealed destruction of the weapons immediately prior to the war.

If we didn't know that they existed then, failing to find them provides inductive evidence that they didn't exist. Whereas failing to find something you know existed doesn't show anything other than you don't know where it is.

Hence the effectiveness of your argument depends on the status of WMDs ante-bellum being the same as that of Saddam et al. And whilst I may argee with you on this, that's begging the question.

(Hah - and I didn't even use the Latin).

Posted by: The Philosophical Cowboy on April 16, 2003 02:28 PM

(PS - the "hah" is unnecessary - think of it being Mrs Krabappel (sp) like...)

Posted by: The Philosophical Cowboy on April 16, 2003 02:30 PM

Of course, the even vaguely honest anti-war type will admit that "of course Hussein had WMDs, once, before the inspectors left!".

Which leaves them in the comical position of suggesting that Iraq voluntarily fully disarmed after the inspectors left, without inviting anyone to watch something that nobody would ever believe in a million years, which thing would, simultaneously, lead to the long-awaited lifting of sanctions and removal of international consternation with Iraq.

Of course, that is far more likely than the Pentagon and US Government telling he truth, right?

Posted by: Sigivald on April 16, 2003 04:24 PM

A bit of nitpicking, Iraq wasn't just prohibited from having WMD's but also programs for the development and manufacture of WMD's. So the casus bellum was not just their possession of the end product.

Posted by: Robin Roberts on April 16, 2003 06:10 PM

"May I consider the first argument refuted and assign myself a big fat Q.E.D.?"

Um...no, but it was good for a laugh that you actually thought you had made a valid point.

Posted by: Paul on April 16, 2003 10:22 PM

'Paul' needs to (a) provide either a distinctive name or a valid e-mail address or both, so I'll know he's not 'Sgt. Stryker' or one of a hundred other 'Pauls', and (b) stop accusing others of not having a point if he can't come up with one himself. Otherwise, people may think he's indulging in 'projectile commenting', imputing his own sins to others, as when 'Hesiod' called this post "utterly dishonest and moronic".

Posted by: Dr. Weevil on April 16, 2003 10:29 PM

This is utterly ridiculous. As philosophical cowboy nicely outlines, you use a moronic logical fallacy - false analogy - and try to claim you have disproved the antiwar argument. Unfortunately, you have done nothing of the sort.

You cannot prove a negative proposition; "Iraq did not have WMDs". But, you sure as hell can disprove it, providing you can serve up some evidence: in this case, a couple tons of weapons grade anthrax would do nicely.

Look, a main criticism of this war has always been that Iraq did not pose an immediate threat to the United States. If we fail to find large stores of biological, or chemical weapons and are unsuccessful in uncovering a feasible nuclear weapons program, we will end up with a whole load of egg on our face.

It is worth noting that (a) we have caught Gen. Al-Saadi, Iraq's top science advisor, and he denies that Iraq has WMDs {http://washingtontimes.com/world/20030415-98607252.htm} (b) Hussein Kamel, former head of iraq's bio, chem, and nuclear weapons programs defected in 1995 told UN weapons inspectors - as well as US and British intelligence in debriefings - that Iraq had destroyed all of their stockpiles of biochem. after the Gulf war; much of our knowledge about iraq's weapons programs is based upon Kamel's testimony(http://www.news.scotsman.com/international.cfm?id=230772003) (c) we have yet to find any WMDs in Iraq. These inconvenient facts nevertheless shed some doubt on the US claims that Iraq possessed non-conventional weapons that could be construed to be an immediate threat to US interests, and call into question our rationale for pre-emptively attacking Iraq.

Posted by: ixbalanque on April 17, 2003 12:35 AM

I never said this was a syllogism, just a line of rhetorical argument. (Perhaps I should have omitted the Q.E.D., which may have misled some readers.) Whether an analogy is false or not is a matter of judgment, not of proof.

The philosophical cowboy writes: "If we didn't know that [WMDs] existed [before the war], failing to find them provides inductive evidence that they didn't exist. Whereas failing to find something you know existed doesn't show anything other than you don't know where it is."

Any inductive evidence against WMDs is so weak as to be useless. Failing to find more than 3 or 4 of the top 55 Ba'athist leaders shows (not surprisingly) that those who are not dead are trying very hard to escape detection, either by hiding in Iraq or by leaving the country. Like wanted men, WMDs also don't generally lie around where they're easy to spot. They're far too dangerous and far too valuable. Anyone who has any will take good care to hide them, either at home or (if home gets too hot) in a friendly neighboring country. Counting Iraq's WMDs is not the same thing as counting (e.g.) bridges, which can easily be done with satellite photography. (The fact that the people hide themselves, while the weapons are hidden by people, seems irrelevant here.)

The fact that we haven't been told of specific proven finds of WMDs proves nothing, and doesn't even provide much in the way of evidence one way or the other. There have been plenty of stories about well-hidden bunkers beneath buildings, a huge tunnel complex beneath Baghdad, and so on.

I could come up with a pretty good estimate of how many cars my neighbors own, what models and years, and their approximate values. I have no clear idea which of my neighbors (or how many) own guns, still less what models they may own, how much they're worth, and so on. I don't even know for a fact that the old guy upstairs who gets a lot of NRA mail owns a gun, though I suspect he does. There's more than one way to get on a mailing list.

ixbalanque:

Since you basically call me a moron, I will not scruple to point out that you are a liar when you say "we have yet to find any WMDs in Iraq".

A truthful statement would be: 'The government has yet to reveal any convincing evidence that we have found WMDs in Iraq'. They have good reason to dot all the I's and cross all the T's before releasing any such evidence to the press.

By the way, "a couple of tons of weapons-grade anthrax" would not necessarily prove to everyone that Iraq had WMDs. Plenty of lefties are already confidently asserting that WMDs will be found because Bush will plant them. Ironically, the only way to refute that is not to find any, or not to admit finding any.

Here's another (perhaps better) analogy:

If you don't know whether your house is infested or not, failing to find termites does not provide inductive evidence that it is not, until you make a thorough and professional search for them. That can take a while. I don't see how we have had the time or opportunity to make a sufficiently thorough search of Iraq to even come close to finding all the WMDs. And I suspect that we may have already found some.

Posted by: Dr. Weevil on April 17, 2003 01:13 AM

It's pointless to use reductio to test the validity of a general form of an inductive argument, since, you know, inductive arguments cannot be either valid or invalid.

Sheesh.

Fine, it was done for rhetorical purposes, but just as loose usage of ancient Greek and Latin offends you, inappropriate use of logic terminology looks darned silly for those of us who have respect for logic.

But on to substantives: I would be very surprised if the U.S. didn't find at least *some* WMD, since it seems as though it would have been just a ridiculously stupid risk to undertake the war in the way they did if they didn't have good intel that there could be some significant amount they could present to the public. But I should note that these constantly incorrect/premature reports that are coming out of the media sure are embarrassing--at the very least to the media who are reporting it.

Posted by: Eric on April 17, 2003 04:01 AM

dear Dr. Weevil

for one, you asserted that the first argument was not valid. i'm glad you have by now been convinced that such does not follow from your reasoning and that you merely supported your belief with an analogy. Any indication of that in the original post would have been nice.
second, your analogy is weak in that people are certainly easier to conceal than WMD. So, in your analogy about your neighbours, the people would be the WMD, while their guns would be the Iraqi leaders.
Last but not least, ixbalance pointed out, that the lack of findings is not the only reason for assuming there were no WMD. There is also the inspectors calling US intelligence a "garbage" (http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/allnews/page.cfm?objectid=12665854&method=full&siteid=50143) and the cases of fake evidence (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/politics/2735031.stm). In light of this, just as we are to suspect any WMD have been well hidden and not finding them so far is not sufficient reason to claim they never existed, it certainly does make this assmuption a bit more valid than the mantra of "Iraq has WMD" we've been hearing form the US and British governments. Admittedly, inductive reasoning is weak, but it's certainly beats wishful thinking any day.

Posted by: brmic on April 17, 2003 05:39 AM

"second, your analogy is weak in that people are certainly easier to conceal than WMD. So, in your analogy about your neighbours, the people would be the WMD, while their guns would be the Iraqi leaders."


A bold and baseless assertion.

Posted by: Robin Roberts on April 17, 2003 12:29 PM

Dr. Weevil-

You seem to have quite strong convictions about this issue: Do you have any empirical evidence to back up your claims that Iraq has WMDs? Note, that reads has, as in the present tense, not had, which noone denies.

As brmic points out, there is plenty of reason to doubt whether iraq still possesses WMDs. Read the links provided in my post (they are located in the last two paragraphs of my post, which you conspicuously did not address nor even appear to read) and in brmic's post.

Dodging inconvenient facts is dishonest. It may turn out that the allies uncover huge underground warehouses with biochem warheads stacked to the ceiling, then again we may not find anything. Keep in mind, this is not a question of my wishing or hoping for one or the other to be the case here (which I strongly suspect is not your approach at all): I want the facts, no more and no less. Unfortunately, false media reports of WMD finds and interviews with top Iraqi officials cast doubts on whether the WMD exist at all.

All right, there was one more point I had to comment on:
"A truthful statement would be: 'The government has yet to reveal any convincing evidence that we have found WMDs in Iraq'. They have good reason to dot all the I's and cross all the T's before releasing any such evidence to the press."

Now, could you explain to me why the coalition would conceal compelling evidence that they had found WMDs in Iraq, but were not hesitant to run the following stories: on April 24th, there is a huge media frenzy when the pentagon confirms that the US has secured a 'huge' suspected chemical weapons plant at an najaf (http://frontpagemag.com/articles/ReadArticle.asp?ID=6827); On March 31, Adam Ingram, British armed forces minister, tells MPs that "We have discovered stocks of chemical weapons and other aspects related to nuclear, biological and chemical threats" in a weapons depot near Nassiriya: he then backpedals, and admits that only biochem protective suits have been found, not actual weapons (http://politics.guardian.co.uk/commons/story/0,9061,927150,00.html); April 7, US forces discover suspicious barrels of powder at a compound near karbala: initial reports claim
they contain nerve gas and mustard gas, but later reports indicate preliminary tests were inconsistent and officials later admit the barrels may only contain pesticides (http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2003/04/08/1049567645646.html). Notice, my claims are based upon empirical evidence, while the only proof you provide is your own leap of faith.

It is worth noting, none of these initial reports of coalition forces finding WMDs panned out. We're left with the laughable proposition that the US and Britain are concealing the compelling evidence of Iraqi WMDs, while trotting out all of the flimsy evidence they have to embarass themselves in the international press.

Posted by: ixbalanque on April 17, 2003 01:23 PM

Sigivald has it exactly right. To believe that Iraq contains no WMD now entails believing that they destroyed everything we knew they had in 1998. The destruction must have occurred after the inspectors left, and it was apparently not documented in any way.

So: The Iraqi regime took it upon itself, in the absence of inspectors, to (1) dismantle its WMD programs. And (2) it kept no records at all of the act (or, if it did, declined to provide them). I leave it to others to figure out the circumstances in which (1) or (2) are rational behavior. I'm stumped.

Posted by: Michelle Dulak on April 17, 2003 01:50 PM

Concur - the argument presented by Dr W has inductive force. It just can't compel assent in people who deny Iraq had WMDs.

If they deny they ever had them, or were looking for them, they're fools.

If they claim they were destroyed at some point between the wars, there's good reason to think they're naive unless they have some evidence.

All I sought to show is you can, as Dr W rightly admits, advance the first argument but not the second - you just need implausible assumptions.

Posted by: The Philosophical Cowboy on April 17, 2003 06:16 PM

All right, come on now people. As it stands right now, there are 7 links above that cast some doubt on whether Iraq still possesses WMDs (as an aside, please read the links people, being well-informed on the issue cannot be harmful). In fact, Hussein Kamel, the former head of Iraq's biological, chemical and nuclear weapons programs, told US and British intelligence in 1995 that Iraq had destroyed their stores of biological and chemical weapons. Furthermore, Al-Saadi, Iraq's current top science advisor, denies that Iraq possesses WMDs. Given these two testimonies, as well as our failure to produce any evidence of WMDs up to this point, does cast some doubt on whether the WMDs are there to be found. It is not naive to believe that Iraq destroyed their WMDs, in light of this evidence.

Now, yes, we know that Iraq had biological and chemical weapons throughout the 1980s. Michelle, could you provide a link detailing the weapons that we knew Iraq to possess in 1998? As I understand it, most of our knowledge about Iraq's weapons capabilities comes from the intelligence obtained while debriefing Hussein Kamel. That was in 1995, and as I will mention a third time, he claimed that Iraq had destroyed their stores of biological and chemical weapons. Anyway, I'm curious what information you are drawing upon.

Posted by: ixbalanque on April 17, 2003 07:34 PM

I'm not trying to prove that Iraq has WMDs, just showing how ridiculously weak are some of the arguments offered to show that they don't.

Here are a few more examples:

1. 'brmic' says "people are certainly easier to conceal than WMD". Robin Roberts has already called this "a bold and baseless assertion", but more can be said. There may be ways in which people are easier to conceal: for instance, they can move themselves when about to be detected. But there are many ways in which WMDs have the advantage: they may be much smaller, they can look like a hundred different harmless substances (if wheat germ looks like ricin to French police, it shouldn't be too hard to hide real ricin in a warehouse full of wheat germ), and some of them can be buried indefinitely. For instance, I have read that anthrax spores stay potent for decades without refrigeration. Enough to poison millions could easily be buried in a relatively small area, a totally unmarked location only findable by someone who knew to dig (e.g.) 23 meters due south of the third palm tree west of the blue house in the village of al-Ibaba. (I guess today specific GPS coordinates would suffice.) Without the information, the spores could not be found unless we dug up every inch of a country the size of California. As for uranium and plutonium, if they are wrapped in lead thick enough to be undetectable more than a few feet away, finding them would be like finding a very small needle in a very large haystack -- unless the records can be found.

2. 'ixbalanque' notes that two important Iraqis continue to claim that Iraq destroyed all its WMDs. Well duh! Doesn't even the U.N. agree that possession of such weapons by Iraq is illegal? Why should Gen. al-Saadi (for instance) admit to something that could well lead to war-crime charges? (Kamel's legal position may be a bit different, but neither is his knowledge up to date.) If he thinks the stuff is hidden well enough (in Iraq or Syria) that it's unlikely to turn up, he has no incentive to tell. By the way, I read the damned paragraph, asshole, and didn't answer it because I didn't think it needed answering. I doubt that any of my other readers found it particularly convincing.

3. 'ixbalanque' also can't understand why the U.S. would want to dot all the I's and cross all the T's about anything they've found lately, after so many false positives in the early days. Again, how hard is that to figure out? That's exactly why they need to be certain. Having demonstrated, with the help of a lot of stupid reporters, just how easy and embarrassing it is to jump to conclusions, they would naturally want to start being far more careful, to avoid giving ammunition to people like 'ix'. They can't afford any more false positives.

And false positives are not evidence for the negative. Another analogy: Suppose a homeowner finds a flying ant in his house, thinks it's a termite (they're easily confused), panics, and checks with an entomologist, who assures him that it's a flying ant. Suppose that happens 6 more times. Can we conclude that his house is less likely to be infested with real termites than another house that has never had any flying ants in it? I don't think so. Seven false positives proves nothing one way or the other about the existence of Iraqi WMDs.

On the other hand, it might be possible to argue that the repeated false positives are evidence that the U.S. is not planting evidence of WMDs: you would expect planted evidence to be genuine. (Has a crooked cop ever planted oregano on a suspected drug dealer?) Of course, only wackos think the U.S. is going to plant evidence.

Posted by: Dr. Weevil on April 18, 2003 01:15 AM

dear dr. weevil

thanks for improving on Robin R.'s counter to my assertion. While i don't consider the point important for the discussion of the main issue, i would like to mention that from what little i know about WMD, most bio-WMD cannot be stored for long, and that them chemical and nuclear substances you mention are not particularly useful without the rockets (or other) to use them (which as i understand is why Iraqi missiles were limited to 150 km range). We could certainly argue indefinitely whether the substances as such or knowledge of how to produce them constitutes "having" WMD. Unfortunately, if we define "having WMD" like this, a lot of students of chemistry could be said to "have" chemical-WMD and maybe we'd even have to consider whether any country that uses nuclear energy "has" nuclear-WMD. It also might mean that the claim that Iraq has WMD may be on the floor forever. Maybe they just hid it well and burned the records. As i fear this might lead to any random nation "having" well buried WMD I shall abandon this line of thought. Taking the opposite stance however would take some of the weight of your argument from my assertion because then your example would not be considered proper cases of "having" WMD. I suggest we simply agree that my original assertion was wrong, and that it's a matter of circumstances and sometimes even opinion, whether people are easier to conceal than WMD.
Returning to the real issue (which to me is the validity of your original argument), we still seem to be waiting for the evidence that Iraq had WMD in 1998. The assumption, that Iraq had no WMD is backed by several facts (all well linked to above) and while they certainly don't prove Iraq has no WMD (i don't remember anyone except you, dear dr. weevil, claiming he had proofed anything so far - the "proofed" thing being the sillyness of the first argument) everyone certainly is entitled to hold a position backed by facts in contrast to one for whose facts we are still waiting. Imho, in the case of WMD all arguments will be weak, until any are found, or it is concluded that there are none. Assuming Iraq has no WMD is actually the weaker claim, but only in that it is easier to prove its falsehood. Still, it has been supported by facts, whereas your position has yet to be backed by facts and I'd like you to point out what would constitute "proof" that your claim is wrong. What sort of facts would you accept?
------
Aside from that, I would like to ask you to kindly refrain from using analogies which at least to me are misleading. E.g. your termite analogy. For one, it might be said that we also cannot logically conclude this house is more likely to be infested by termites than any other house. We definitively cannot be certain it is infested. Apart from that, to me a proper analogy would someone who has had inspectors from whoever is responsible for such matters come into his house and not find any termites. And yes, then I'd say his house is less likely to be infested than one that was not searched.
------
As to the wackos, who think the U.S. is going to plant evidence, well, the Brits used fake evidence, Powell's evidence presented before the security council was not exactly amazing UN inspectors (much like the flying ant in fact), we have yet to see proof of the Saddam - Bin Laden connection (visiting tourists don't count, sorry) and the latest stunt here (http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article2842.htm)(ignore the text it will only enrage you, just take in the pictures, assume for a moment it was some other country that fought Iraq and pay attention to how you feel about it). It seems, the wackos again have some facts, while you seem to have only your faith.

thanks for providing a forum for discussion

Posted by: brmic on April 18, 2003 11:46 AM

ixbalanque wrote: "Anyway, I'm curious what information you are drawing upon."

How about this paragraph from that scotsman.com article you linked to:

Kamel did not give Iraq a clean bill of health. He said the stocks were destroyed to hide the programmes, rather than end them, with Iraq secretly holding on to blueprints, computer disks, and other engineering details, in order to resume productions after inspections ended.

Idiot.

The question here is why such a brutal, repressive regime, a regime with expansionist tendencies, would voluntarily destroy its WMDs? This during the very period international pressure was diminishing. People like Dr. Weevil, and myself, find such a notion counterintuitive. People like ixbalanque are so blinkered by their own biases that the question never occurs to them. Thus he can point to an article based on Hussein Kamelís testimony while missing that this same testimony actually undermines his case.

Posted by: RogerTG on April 18, 2003 01:39 PM

Um, if I remember correct some Australian SOF types just discovered 50 or 51 MIGs in Iraq.

Do you think that WMDs might be, possibly, a little easier to conceal THAN A FRIGGIN' FIGHTER PLANE??????

Posted by: MonkeyPants on April 18, 2003 06:57 PM

"...it might be possible to argue that the repeated false positives are evidence that the U.S. is not planting evidence of WMDs: you would expect planted evidence to be genuine. (Has a crooked cop ever planted oregano on a suspected drug dealer?)"

C'mon, Dr. Weevil! Don't you see? They planted false positives, then had them discovered, just so people like you would argue that they weren't planting evidence! But I, and a few who seek the truth, have been clever enough to see through their game!

Just kidding. Cheers.

[P.S.: Sorry for the bogus address but I dislike spam, and I get more of it the more my e-mail address is out there. Why, just the other day some fellow wrote me personally from Nigeria, asking my help in getting his late father's fortune out of the country!]

Posted by: JPS on April 18, 2003 08:51 PM

Amusing that brmic and ixbalanque still don't recognize that the question isn't merely whether or not stocks of the prohibitied weapons exist but whether or not Iraq was always working to preserve the programs to produce them.

Posted by: Robin Roberts on April 19, 2003 09:46 PM

If you are going to use a termite analogy, then the termites were known to be in the house once, and the owner threw the exterminators out before the job was finished, claims to have exterminated them himself but kept no records, and was making things difficult for the new inspector. Of course, it's rather hard to imagine a homeowner who was actively trying to protect the existing termites and acquire more.

How hard is it to hide WMD's? It depends. For one thing, the plant required to make some WMD (nukes, and I suspect effective bio-weapons) is impossible to conceal for long, but once acquired (from some underpaid Russian soldier, for instance), the weapons are not hard to hide. OTOH, you can get nerve gas just by changing the recipe at an insecticide plant, and Iraq does have those.

How does this compare to hiding people: WMD and people both can be hidden by underground, by getting them out of the country, or by the method of "The Purloined Letter".

Underground: People need food and air, so their bunkers will only stay hidden so long, but nukes and chemical weapons (at least) may stay buried undetected until the casings corrode away. Of course, it's also quite likely that the Baathist leadership is buried in rubble and no longer consuming food or air, so won't find them until some Iraqi tells us which rubble pile to dig up - but at least the rubble piles mark the spot. 1 point for WMD's.

Out of the country: If Saddam passed his WMD to another country, they would have very good reason to keep quiet - but it would no longer be Saddam's WMD, so I can't see Saddam doing this in the first place. OTOH, I do think Saddam would have tried to reach the border at some point, if he was still alive, and the Syrians or whomever might consider it wise to keep it very quiet if they do have him. 1 point for people.

Hidden in a crowd: Maybe the lesser Baathist's can get away by mingling with all the other Iraqis, but Saddam would be recognized. Maybe there are towns in Iraq where they wouldn't rip him to shreds immediately, but I think that if a half-dozen Iraqis knew where he was, at least one would be asking about a reward.

Weapons could be hidden anywhere. That flour bag right at the back of the storage room at the bakery could be anthrax. One of those barrels of insecticide could be nerve gas. Nukes and their lead enclosure could be in crates marked as most any kind of large equipment, or dunked into an oil tank at any oil field, or.... Unless Iraqis who know the location survived and are talking, such things will only be found by accident. 1 point for WMD - and for the Iraqi's sake I sure hope Saddam didn't pick this way.

Finally, there was a question about delivery vehicles. Saddam did have some missiles of longer range than the treaty allowed, and things that might have been missile parts. However, that's not the only way of delivering such things. Get terrorists to carry poisons or anthrax. (Let's hope the Russians never lost track of a working suitcase nuke!) Take travellers' documents into the office for inspection at Bagdad airport - and if they're headed for the USA, dust the passport with smallpox. Claim to have received a bomb threat for a tanker in the harbor, evacuate the crew, and plant a nuke at the bottom of one of the tanks...

Posted by: markm on April 20, 2003 08:18 PM

hello again

concerning MonkeyPants post, well, I dunno whether the finding was a surprise at as, as Iraq was apparently allowed to have fighter planes provided the minded the no-fly zone (at least the guys at little green footballs seem to think that, I haven't checked myself, but I rely on LGF to dig up anything incriminating).
As to markm's post, I don't wanna go nit-picking over the details, but I am glad for his demonstration of the many interpretations of analogies, which to me underscores my point that they should be avoided. As to hiding WMD and people, his post finely illustrates my earlier "it depends" and i would leave it at that, only adding, that it might be the case, that only trusted officals know the hidding place of WMD (if there are any) and thus the search for WMD and people might actually be the same. markm's suggestions for delivery, while very creative, seem flawed in that any such attack could be easily traced to Iraq, and that in this case revenge would be certain.
Finally, drawing on Robin Roberts, Roger TG and markm in parts, it seems we are discussing whether Iraq had the potential for WMD. Mr. Kamel, who seems to be the major source in this matter stated that "Iraq secretly held on to blueprints, computer disks, and other engineering details, in order to resume productions after inspections ended." To me, that's different from a full-blown, ready-to-use WMD program. To me, such a program should have been discovered by now. To me, blueprints pose no immediate threat to the security of the US. To me, that means inspections do work. To me, it seems that the pro-war people in this forum are increasingly arguing for "some secret WMD hidden somewhere obscure". As this recent article in the NYT (http://www.nytimes.com/2003/04/21/international/worldspecial/21CHEM.html) seems to suggest, we may never know the full truth about that. Now, as I understand it, the original argument by Dr. Weevil, resolution 1441 and US government claims about a threat to US national security all were about a working programm for WMD. Robin Roberts disagrees, but to follow his line of argument would imply to me, that suspicions about intention someone may have and knowledge of how to produce WMD might be sufficient grounds to wage war. Like markm says, "OTOH, you can get nerve gas just by changing the recipe at an insecticide plant, and Iraq does have those.". So next all countries who use insecticide and might harbour some ill will towards the US are attacked? If this became official government policy (or has it already?), targets can be picked at will, since intentions are easily assumed and any country developed beyond sticks and stones will have some scientists who know how to produce chemical and biological WMD. (I won't address nukes, since their production seems impossible to hide, Iraq certainly never had them and in fact seems to have abandoned the programs to develop them. (Kamel said it was discontinued in 1991)). Now, as stated before, a proper WMD program would be acceptable reason for going to war, even unilaterally (though I'd prefer the UN route). There is evidence that Iraq no longer had such program though we do not yet know for sure. Shifting the debate to concealed stocks and blueprints, while valid reasoning, entails to me we also have to re-discuss whether a justification for going to war follows from this. Though this is in itself an interesting point, and i can see arguments for both sides in this debate, I would like to point out, that blueprints and a "flour bag right at the back of the storage room at the bakery" which "could be anthrax." (markm) were not the stuff Powell presented before the UN or the reason why US and British governments said the were going to war (though they gave various reasons, suggesting none was compelling on its own).
To me, arguing for "secret stuff hidden somewhere" exposes the weakness of the WMD argument for war, is dangerous in that the consequences from this line of thought are not considered and involves a step towards settling the debate as to whether the war was justified on a "we never may know". Dunno 'bout you, but I certainly do expect my government to do better, how about yours?

btw: the charge is still up, what would you accept as evidence that your original claim was wrong? (others argue that anyone who is not ready to consider circumstances that prove their claim false follow and ideology and are immune to rational arguments - not yet sure myself)

btw 2: happy easter everyone, if you happen to celebrate it.

Posted by: brmic on April 21, 2003 09:03 AM

brmic writes "Finally, drawing on Robin Roberts, Roger TG and markm in parts, it seems we are discussing whether Iraq had the potential for WMD. Mr. Kamel, who seems to be the major source in this matter stated that "Iraq secretly held on to blueprints, computer disks, and other engineering details, in order to resume productions after inspections ended." To me, that's different from a full-blown, ready-to-use WMD program. To me, such a program should have been discovered by now. To me, blueprints pose no immediate threat to the security of the US. To me, that means inspections do work. To me, it seems that the pro-war people in this forum are increasingly arguing for 'some secret WMD hidden somewhere obscure'. "

What brmic is arguing however is contrary to the requirements of the UN Security Council resolutions on the matter and is essentially an apology for Iraq's wilful violation of the disarmament process.

Posted by: Robin Roberts on April 21, 2003 03:13 PM

My husband and I don't smoke; never have. If you come to our home and find a couple of ashtrays and a book or two of matches you might think one of two things: 1) We're lyers about not smoking 2) We keep those things for smoking guests. Both reasonable.
But if we have many ashtrays (chem suits in the thousands), roll-your-own kits (mobile labs), and people who say that they don't see any cigarettes but the drapes sure smell funny (inspectors) it might be assumed that if we're not smokin', *something* funny is going on.

I just see a lot of accuotrements for people with no WMD's.

Posted by: Gail S on April 22, 2003 03:16 PM

Now, come on here guys. First off, let's avoid the ad hominem attacks. Second, let's not be overly ironic and histrionic about claiming flaws in your opponents - biases, which I can acknowledge, I'm biased towards empirical data rather than silly hunches I might have - while exemplifying these flaws in a most egregious fashion.

Now, as to whether Iraq held onto information about biological, chemical and possibly nuclear weapons programs, I never claimed that they did not. The fundamental issue, and the rallying point for the hawks before the war, was always that Iraq possessed massive stockpiles of WMDs that posed a threat to the US. Remember those tons of anthrax, and thousands of gallons of sarin cited by Powell in his UN speech?

If it was only the knowledge that they still possessed and it could be shown that they had destroyed their stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, then that would constitute proof positive that the weapons inspections had done their job and containment was a very real and successful possibility for deterring Iraqi military capabilities.

Honestly, if you're going to make the claim that the very knowledge of how to construct biological, chemical and nuclear weapons is the problem, as brmic stated above you're going to have a huge problem regulating that knowledge. Look, let's get real here: I have a BA in Biochemistry, and if I wanted to, I would not have a problem culturing anthrax spores, and being that I work in a science lab I would have no trouble obtaining any number of toxic chemicals if I put my mind to it.

As for the nuclear weapons, there is enough writing on the subject out there to put together a working nuclear program with very little problem. There was apparently a study done in the 1960s by the US government to see how easy it would be for a country or organization to develop a nuclear weapons program. The FBI placed three recent Physics graduate students in a room for a few weeks, telling them to try and construct a nuclear weapons program from what they had been taught in their curriculum. With their knowledge of quantum physics, and analytical chemistry, the grad students were apparently able to come up with a very functional program. So, the knowledge is out there, but thankfully with regards to nuclear weapons, it's difficult to get ahold of the basic materials - lots of uranium - and that is why nuclear proliferation has been held relatively in check thus far.

So, it's not the knowledge that's the problem folks. Now, the question remains, did Iraq have stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons? At this point, that is still up in the air.

Posted by: ixbalanque on April 22, 2003 06:34 PM

Dear Robin Roberts

i think you fail to realize two things:
1) i (and probably anyone else honestly discussing the issue) think it is impossible to control blueprints etc. No matter how evil the regime, you will always find someone loyal enough to keep these things and their mouth shut as well. Thus making this your only point of argument for a violation of UN security resolution brings us back to square one of "crime of intent", see my last post. To me, it follows, that both accusation and clearance (that the right term, not sure) can only follow from stronger evidence, though guilt might be established by finding blueprints etc. (Please consider, that this makes the "has WMD" stance easier to prove)
2. If you insist on carrying out UN resolutions to the letter, disregarding the intent, it follows that the US attack on Iraq was breaking international law. (If you don't insist the US might find grounds for war in 1441, but then you're back to the WMD issue -catch 22). btw. the "threat to US national security" still hinges on a full-blown WMD programme.

To Gail S
please...pretty please with sugar on top...stop the analogies. a) usual for any army, maybe? b) where? when did they find these? c)dictatorships smell and lastly if you pledged your life on not smoking, would the evidence you cited entitle anyone to come into your house and shoot you?

Posted by: brmic on April 22, 2003 06:37 PM

It would seem that in all these talks of inspections that folks may have lost sight of what "inspections" actually are.

"Inspections" are a confindence-building process to verify voluntary disarmament. A number of nations have done and are doing this currently. South Africa and Ukraine have shed their nuclear programs and India is currently in the process of coming into compliance with the CWC.

"Inspections" cannot, however, are not intended to and have never been a good way to dig up and unearth and actively concealed programs.

Some have made the argument that failure to find any WMD thus far means that the inspections worked or that there are not any WMD. Although it may be tempting to UNMOVIC of being a pawn of the Bush administration, I would ask the skeptic to comment on these gems from the March 6, 2003 UNMOVIC working document:

- [Iraq must] present credible evidence for the finding of a VX stabilizer over a large area and depth indicative of the quantities far in excess of the few grammes of VX stabilizer it had declared it has used.

- Based on all the available evidence, the strong presumption is that about 10,000 liters of anthrax was not destroyed and may still exist.

These two items, out of a achingly dry 173 page document, suggest that Iraq never engaged in the process of voluntary disarmament that "inspections" are meant to verify.

So at this point, even without finding a single cotton-picking vial of sarin, it is pretty safe to say that inspections did not work. Full stop.

Whether or not WMD are found is simply a evidentiary flourish which is ultimately not relevant to whether or not inspections worked or were even useful.

Posted by: Hong Kong Bob on April 23, 2003 05:45 PM

Where's Osama?

Where's the anthrax killer?

Where's Saddam?

Where's Saddam's cabinet?

Where are Iraq's weapons of mass destruction?

Where are Iraq's priceless art and history treasures?

Where's the 9/11 investigation?

Where's the Enron investigation?

Where's the Energy Commission investigation?

Where's the peace dividend?

Where's Clinton's huge surplus?

Where's the Social Security lockbox?

Where's the economic recovery the first round of huge tax cuts for the rich was supposed to stimulate?

Where are the new jobs?

Where's the investigation into the Bush administration's blatant lies to Congress and the UN about Hussein's supposed nuclear program backed with obviously forged documents?

Where's the investigation into the BFEE's bold faced defense contracting graft-for-all?

Where's the punishment for disenfranchising tens of thousands of Florida voters by falsely accusing them of felonies?

Where's the investigation into the Bush budget department's suppression of the EPA's planned vermiculite/asbestos warning?

Where's the free media?

Where's American investigative journalism?

Where is the outrage?

Where are the emperor's clothes?

Posted by: stickdog on April 24, 2003 02:22 AM

brmic states "1) i (and probably anyone else honestly discussing the issue) think it is impossible to control blueprints etc..."

No, brmic, its easy for a government that intends to actually comply with the requirement to disarm itself of WMD to dispose of those materials. And that's what the Security Council resolutions required. Again, you are making excuses for the failure of UN inspections in the face of Saddam's obstruction and you are doing nothing but apologizing for Saddam Hussein's actions.

Posted by: Robin Roberts on April 24, 2003 10:41 AM

My preference is just to smile and say: "we need to give the inspections more time to work..."

Posted by: Joe Katzman on April 28, 2003 10:06 AM

Never mind the philisophical aspects of this discusson. Never mind the arguments about logic. Neither really apply to the situation in Iraq.
One thing that should always be remembered is that people are not logical. A+B rarely,(if ever), equals C.

We are humans, after all. Not Vulcans.

The only constants, when it comes to people is: Your are not going to convince everyone of the same thing, no matter what the evidence is. And: People are always willing to believe the absolute worst about someone that do not like or agree with.
Those, you can count on.

Posted by: The Advocate on April 30, 2003 05:47 PM