Monday, December 28, 2009

It's Not 2003, Thank Heavens

The New York Times, on the eve of the Christian holiday of peace, published a long op-ed advocating a military attack on Iran. A number of people, including me, have pointed out the problems with this op-ed. The question is why the Times printed it. (Stephen Walt, Jim Lobe, Helena Cobban, me, and links within those posts)

And now we have R. Jeffrey Smith and Joby Warrick, for the second time in two months, credulously passing on A. Q. Khan’s claims. As in the earlier article,
Khan described his dealings with the country in official documents and in correspondence with a former British journalist, Simon Henderson, who said he thinks an accurate understanding of Pakistan's nuclear history is relevant for U.S. policymaking. The Washington Post independently verified that the documents were produced by Khan.
This is the same Simon Henderson who provided the earlier information, the same Simon Henderson who is now a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a right-wing think tank. But Smith and Warrick mention only Henderson’s civic-minded concern for responsible governmental decision-making.

Smith and Warrick would do well to develop their own set of questions, rather than simply passing this material through. They do, in the spirit of what some journalists like to call objectivity, quote Sig Hecker, who has been to North Korea many times and knows his nuclear materials, at length. Shorter Hecker: it’s bosh.

Some of those questions might be: Why is Henderson the conduit? Why is this material being released now? What is the government of Pakistan’s view, beyond a simple quote from the embassy?

We’ve got the two national newspapers of record spreading the same sort of “news” that they did before the Iraq invasion, so pushback is called for. There’s a difference between now and 2003, however: the President, Vice President, and Secretary of State are not fanning the flames. Think of how Dick Cheney could have connected those dots, along with that terrorist who set his pants on fire! But it’s clear that some haven’t given up on pressing toward war.

It’s also comforting to realize that this President hasn’t made a panicky statement about securing our aircraft. He’s left that to nuttier Republicans and Joe Lieberman, the crowd who can be expected to call for war or body-cavity searches of all airline passengers or holy war against them brown people.

The commentary, outside of Wingnuttia, has been measured, another good sign. A number of people are pointing out that no system can be perfect, that bad things will happen no matter how much discomfort is imposed on the passengers. And the probabilities are vanishingly low.

President Obama has ordered a review of security procedures. We can hope that the response to TSA’s current flailing about will be to focus on those signs that a person might be a terrorist, long before he gets on a plane, to cut down the excess of caution that lists so many people that there is no way to tell who is truly dangerous. And maybe even to back the TSA paranoia down to where flying is tolerable again. Even before this latest lockdown, it was only barely so.


troutsky said...

Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen and Iran seems doable, but with Mexico destabilized and those pesky Canadians just waiting for an opening.. is it the right time?

Cheryl Rofer said...

Yeah, and what the heck, we can put Sarah Palin in charge of invading Russia's Far Northeast.