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Wednesday, September 8, 2010
Ron Kessler's False Equivalence
Topic: Newsmax

Ronald Kessler's Sept. 7 Newsmax column presents the idea that Saddam Hussein wanted to develop nuclear weapons as some sort of recent revelation. Kessler proclaimed that the Iraq war "eliminated a nuclear threat," adding that "the mainstream media largely ignored Saddam’s admitted plans to pursue nuclear weapons."

Of course, it's not news that Saddam wanted to have nuclear weapons. The more important question was whether he had the capability to do so. Kessler, however, seems to be conflating ambition with capability -- and Kessler ignores evidence that Saddam lacked the capability to do so in any quick fashion, despite Kessler's unsuported statement that Saddam planed to develop "nuclear capability within a year."

As the CIA points out, Iraq's nuclear weapons program was dismantled in 1991. While Saddam likely intended to resume the nuclear program once sanctions were lifted against the country, those sanctions never were lifted. Saddam attempted to keep his nuclear scientists together and even ordered key equipment buried in one scientist's garden in anticipation of the day that sanctions were removed, the Iraq Survey Group report noted that Iraq's nuclear capability had decayed, not grown, after 1991. As ISG head David Kay stated:

Despite evidence of Saddam's continued ambition to acquire nuclear weapons, to date we have not uncovered evidence that Iraq undertook significant post-1998 steps to actually build nuclear weapons or produce fissile material. However, Iraq did take steps to preserve some technological capability from the pre-1991 nuclear weapons program.

Desire to have nuclear weapons is not the same thing as having the capability to do so. Kessler's attempt to pretend they are is dishonest.

Posted by Terry K. at 10:48 AM EDT

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