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Monday, December 09, 2002

Raising the bar on arrogance. Unbelievable!

Deputy Russian Ambassador Gennady Gatilov said the United States had taken the council's lone copy to Washington where it would make duplicates for distribution to the four other powerful council members. -- from the NY Times.

The US has the only copy of Iraq's report on weapons! Once again, the Bushies are just daring the rest of the world not to trust them. I sure don't. The US is supposed to make copies for the other four permanent members of the UN Security Council, while the other, non-permanent members get censored copies.

There are many amazing things about the Bush administration: its continual lack of concern for appearances may be the most amazing. They continually accuse others of actions that they themselves are clearly guilty of, they make statements that could easily be turned around against them, they are brash and arrogant, all apparently comfortable knowing that no major media outlet or world leader is going to point out the obvious. Taking the only copy of such an important document into private possession, even briefly, is so incredibly arrogant that it leaves me gasping. Even the slightest desire to appear honest and aboveboard would have led to the documents being immediately copied in the presence of representatives of all Security Council members, so that if any question arose over key passages that independent verification would be available. Also, I suspect that most Security Council members have better Arabic translators than the US does. Even if the Bushies are not blatantly criminal in altering the documents before copying them, this still leaves the possibility that they will select key passages from the documents to release to the press as reason to go to war before the other countries have an opportunity to review and possibly refute the US interpretation.

Update (about 9:40 PM EST; part above was posted about 4:30): the NY Times has clarified its article, sort of, so I'll try to clarify mine. Apparently, the inspectors still have the original document submitted by Iraq. The inspectors had originally intended to review the document for several days, possibly censoring certain sections of it, before releasing copies to Security Council countries. The Bushies, anxious to get their war on, didn't want to wait that long, so they pressured the inspectors into giving them a copy. As best as I can tell, the US is the only Security Council member that currently has a copy, but is supposed to make copies for the other four permanent Security Council members (Britain, France, Russia, China). The ten non-permanent SC members will only see edited versions at a later time.

It still seems, however, that the Bush administration will be reviewing the document in detail at the same time as the inspectors do, and before any other member of the security Council. While this probably removes any suspicion of actually altering the document, it still allows the administration to orchestrate the PR at a minimum. It also raises the possibility that they have been bluffing on having evidence, but can now use this document to "create evidence." For example, the Iraqis might state that at some location they have shells which formerly contained mustard gas, but from which the mustard gas and detonators have been removed. The administration can point the inspectors to that site, claiming that these shells are chemical weapons, since the gas and detonators could be replaced quickly. There might be traces of gas in the shells, and they could claim this as evidence as well. I don't know if this is actually the plan, but I'm certainly not the only one who is going to suspect it. The appearances are bad, and any "discoveries" of forbidden weapons will be tainted by suspicion, as opposed to if the inspectors had found the weapons without US orchestration.

So while I may have been overly alarmist, I think the basic premise is correct: the US is attempting to hijack the interpretation of the documents in order to go to war.