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Henny Penny the sky is falling

Fri, Dec 7th, 2007
Posted in Commentary

A new National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) was released last Monday. There are some astounding facts associated with its findings. They mostly make me believe it will be a long time before other countries will take our word about intelligence findings and interpretations seriously.

For several years we have been told Iran is developing a nuclear arsenal and is a direct threat to us and our allies. This threat is from a small country that has not invaded a neighbor in 800 years and has no capability of striking distant targets. I believe the suitcase atomic bomb is still a figment of comic book writers' imagination.

The new NIE concludes Iran abandoned its' nuclear arms ambitions in 2003, if it ever had such. In a masterful stroke of spin that is guaranteed to cause whiplash, the administration claims this is totally due to their policies of threats and accusations.

Not satisfied with finding Iran has no active program to make atomic weapons Bush has changed his rhetoric. He now claims Iran should not even have the "knowledge" of how to make atomic weapons! Since the scientific knowledge is widely available this would apparently require all Iranian physicists to take stupid pills or turn themselves in to Guantanamo. The nuclear non-proliferation treaties do not prohibit any countries from having the knowledge to produce atomic weapons.

Bush makes a great deal out of the fact Iran continues to enriched uranium that could be used in weaponry. This is done under supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) who maintains records of the amounts of enriched uranium. All of the findings of the IAEA in the past have been found to be accurate (remember - "no WMDs' in Iraq"). All such material is counted and accounted for.

Pressed on his insistence on continuing to behave hawkishly toward Iran, Bush's explanation shows how nebulous the administrations policy thinking really is. "I'm saying that I believed before the NIE that Iran was dangerous and I believe after the NIE Iran is dangerous."

It calls to mind the ground work for the Iraq invasion. Similar to the contortion of "knowledge" of how to make nuclear weapons from a nuclear weapons program was 2003's "no doubt the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised," morphed to 2004's "a regime that retained the knowledge, the materials, the means, and the intent to produce weapons of mass destruction."

Compounding this is the part that really frosts my gizzard. After 18 months of study by the intelligence services, the administration admits to Bush they have new information about Iran's nuclear program in August 2007. Steven Hadley, National Security chief refused to confirm that date but didn't really deny it either. The part that is disturbing is that Bush, in his news conference, said he was told of new information but said the intelligence services wanted to verify and analyze before submitting anything. Apparently he accepted this and that was the end of it. In listening to the news conference, I was astounded the media just left it there.

For months Bush and Cheney and others (including some Democrats) have been saber rattling about Iran and its nuclear ambitions. Then the president is so incurious he allows his own intelligence apparatus to tell him they have new knowledge about a regime that has preoccupied him for months and months and he doesn't ask what the information is. He is content to wait three months to get any more information.

In the mean time, he, Cheney, and many more in the administration are continuing to tell the American people how dangerous the nuclear threat from Iran is. The rest of the world leaders must be shaking their heads in disbelief.

The next few presidents will have a difficult time convincing world leaders of eminent threats uncovered by our intelligence services unless they can be substantiated quickly by other agencies.

Henny penny the sky is falling was used by Rumsfeld in the past to describe those here in the U.S. who questioned the administration. I wonder if these words will not be used by world leaders to describe this and future administrations.

Crying wolf and using the fear card has worked domestically but not internationally. It seems likely future presidents and administrations will discover everything is easier if you take good friends along. Let's hope they are willing to go along for the ride.

Robert Sauer lives in Preston. He can be reached at

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