Naming Names

NAMING NAMES….Fred Kaplan has an interesting, even courageous, piece in Slate today dealing with a subject that drifted out of my memory long ago: those intercepted telephone calls that Colin Powell played for the Security Council in his February presentation.

Like Kaplan, I considered those calls the most compelling part of Powell’s presentation. After all, what possible meaning could you reasonably ascribe to them other than an effort to hide chemical and biological weapons from inspectors? Today, Kaplan goes back and revisists those calls:

This was by far the most persuasive part of Powell’s briefing. At the time, I called it a “smoking gun,” writing, “Assuming the tape is genuine and the translation correct, here is the evidence ? that a) the Iraqis possess illegal weapons; (b) they are deliberately hiding them from the inspectors; and c) they are not likely to give up the weapons on their own.”

I still stand by the logic of that sentence, but I would like to italicize those first few words: “Assuming the tape is genuine?” Given all the shenanigans that have been revealed since the war ended?the forged letter about uranium from Niger, the fictitious claim in Britain’s intelligence dossier that Iraqi troops could fire chemical shells with 45 minutes’ notice, and all the rest?it can no longer be assumed that the tape is real or that the people speaking on the tape are who Powell said (and no doubt thinks) they are.

Kaplan thinks the White House should reveal who the officers in the conversation were, since unmasking them would no longer put them in danger:

These tapes form the last shred of possible evidence that Iraq might have had chemical or biological weapons in the past nine months?that, in other words, the war had any legitimate cause. If the officers were real, name them.

Now that he’s reminded me of it, I’d like to know more too. Unfortunately, I’m sure that neither Kaplan nor I will get any satisfaction on this score.

POSTSCRIPT: Since someone is bound to make a snarky remark about it, here’s the final paragraph of my post that I linked above:

If your opposition to war is based on the idea that Saddam does indeed possess illegal weapons but it’s best to leave him alone anyway, well and good. But if it’s based on the idea that the administration is lying and none of this stuff exists, you should tread carefully. I think it’s pretty likely you will be proven wrong shortly.

No, that hasn’t turned out to be one of my better predictions, has it?

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