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Re: [Gnu-arch-users] Re: [OT] the poetry of donald rumsfeld

From: Pierce T . Wetter III
Subject: Re: [Gnu-arch-users] Re: [OT] the poetry of donald rumsfeld
Date: Fri, 19 Mar 2004 15:42:36 -0700

Anyway -- if you're hypothesis were right, there'd be a paper trail.
We'd be seeing documents which are falsified progress reports from
these labs/facilities.  Iraqi people would be handing them out to BBC
reporters by now.  (Or, are you saying that the BBC is in on the same

Don't get me wrong.  He was a very unpopular guy and he didn't get a
heck of a lot of support during the invasion.   But I think you're
stretching it a bit to think he was so out of touch that he thought he
had WMD's when he didn't.    If _that_ could have been pulled off, it
would have been easier to just shoot him and 100 of his friends.

Conspiracy is your word not mine. You seem to be envisioning that it would take active participation by all these people in order to keep Saddam in the dark. I see a passive conspiracy, or even a conspiracy of one guy.

Building WMD is hard. There are only a few people in the world that can do it, and it takes lots of infrastructure. But if Saddam came to the house of one of them, and said "Do it or I'll kill you", he'd go to work, even if he thought it was impossible. When Saddam put pressure on him, he tell him things like:

"Well, I could do it, if only I had these highly machined aluminum tubes."
  "I'm really close."
"As soon as we have a delivery mechanism, we can produce 100 gallons of anthrax a day. That's enough to kill 1,000,000 people..."

And all of your co-workers would back you up, because they'd be just as scared of Saddam as you were. Assuming that you even had to tell them, remember, building WMD is very hard, and they're working on the details, not the big picture.

There's lot of stuff you could do before you had to solve the tough problems, anyways. Working on biological weapons? Work on the production facilities so you can tell Saddam that you have 1,000 gallons of anthrax, you just have to come up with a delivery mechanism. You can even tell him that the delivery mechanism is the hard part, and that you're working on it, but you need more money...

In fact, just for fun and to pretend this is on topic, its like svn. Merging was hard, so they ignored it. The end result is that its not really any better then cvs. They had to have known that for awhile. So if Saddam pointed a gun at your head and told you that you had to implement version control, you're more likely to get svn then tla, 4 years late, and for a lot of money. :-)

One thing you're not getting is just how bad it was under SH. To some extent, people were so afraid that it would encourage corruption. One of the guys I was reading about in "Saddam's Bombmaker" knew it was only a matter of time before SH ended up killing him for not doing the impossible, so he was looting the program in order to help out his family.

It boggles the mind to think of what life was like under that regime. Every family in Iraq had at least one or two members who had been killed by it.

  As far as whether you believe that's plausible or not, the fact is
that this used to happen during the Cold War all the time. The Russians
used to ask us what their wheat harvests would be like because by the
time the forecasts reached the Kremlin, they always said what they
wanted to hear.

And, on the flip side, there's the Pentagon papers.   Yeah, sure --
the less advanced a gov't, the more that lies up the command tree
happen and matter.   No argument there.   But I think you are wildly
overreaching in your hypothesis that SH was _that_ far deceived.

I'm sure he was just as cynical about what his scientists were telling him as the CEO of any company is about what their CTO tells them. (Sex with Bill Gates: he sits on the bed and tells you how great its going to be.) But like all non-technical CEO's, at the end of the day, he didn't have anyone else he could turn to who did understand the problem. There's a book about great software failures, and it all talks about how "everyone knew", except the CEO.

So really, totalitarian regimes tend to have _less_ information
not more, because the information they get is only what they
want to hear. One of the challenges in running a company for
instance, is making sure you get the bad news.

Slow down there.   Lies happen and the Viet Nam experience illustrates
that they happen in what we can politely call a "free society" too.
You're making an unfounded leap to compare the various approaches to
information gathering that way.

No, you're over generalizing from one instance in Viet Nam. I said "tend", not always. I didn't say that it didn't happen, and I even pointed out that in a corporation in a free society, you have to work to ensure you get bad news. Though perhaps the leaking of the Pentagon Papers proves my point?

Historically, free societies tend to have better information. That doesn't mean always, its just the general tendency, and its not a requirement. Shoot everyone who tells you the sky isn't green, and everyone will tell you the sky is green. Shoot every scientist who tells you that he can't make WMD, and you'll end up with scientists who will tell you they can. They'll be either:

  1. Deluded. I'm sure you've had experience with deluded engineers.
2. Cynical. I've been that engineer. "Yeah, I could do that if I only had an Aeron chair".

  Bottom line, conspiracies of silence are pretty easy to
maintain, and are strangely, even easier in totalitarian
regimes. It takes freedom to speak up and say "the emperor has
no clothes".

It'll be intersting if you're right. I just don't buy it for a second.

Well, I am at least half right. David Kay has stated that the scientists were telling SH whatever he wanted to hear, and that the programs were wildly corrupt. The only thing we don't know is what SH was thinking, and we probably never will. I find the proposition that SH was misled easier to swallow then that he somehow thought he could resist the US. Remember that he promised to unleash a rain of fire or something on US troops if we invaded. My theory explains some of his weirder actions: he wasn't crazy, just misled/stupid. I'll always bet on stupidity over evil, stupidity seems to be more common.

  4)  To back up his bluff, he had a number of WMD programs running in
various stages. Since building WMD is actually pretty difficult though,
few of them were as far along as we feared.

You talk about defectors and liars and all of that.

I think you can fix your hypothesis this way:

a) Our intelligence wasn't wrong.   We just lied about it.

   We could get away with that because the _good_ intelligence
   was over very narrow channels (selected contacts in Iraqi labs,
   and the like).   Most of _our_ intel agencies were, in fact,
   in the dark and producing wrong answers.    But the elite-best
   intel ---  we knew Iraq had nothing.

From what I've read, most of our intel was open to interpretation. That interpretation used to be more positive, but shifted more negative in 1995 when the nuclear guy defected and we knew nothing about it. It shifted even more negative post 9/11. In hindsight, some of it makes more sense with more benign interpretations. Our intel knew that the aluminum tubes were useless. But they were correct that they were for some WMD program. What does that mean? I dunno. We still don't know exactly what they were trying to use them for.

Were we lying? I think we were just half wrong, half right, and didn't know which half. So we said, "worst case, if both halves are right, we have a problem".

b) Plenty of individuals w/in Iraq helped us bring Saddam down.

   You're right (I am guessing) that lots and lots of people wanted
   to work against him.

   I'm just saying that the (de facto) _coordination_ of those folks
   was not a grand conspiracy within Iraqi society ---- it all
   came together externally, here in the US.

And I'm just saying that you don't need coordination, you just need to keep your head down. In the post cold war analysis of much of our intelligence about the Russians, we found the same thing we found in Iraq, that much of what we were worried about didn't work, didn't exist. For instance, only 25% of their ICBM's were actually capable of being launched.

You think it needs a conspiracy? I think that if you're a Russian mechanic working on a Russian ICBM, you're not going to be motivated to tell anyone that your boss is falsifying records about how many missiles are ready. For one thing, that means that YOU'LL have to work harder. So you keep your mouth shut. I don't think any coordination was required.


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