CNN's Barbara Starr: Iran's Judith Miller!

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So Atrios and ThinkProgress and others are up in arms because CNN is reporting that there is intelligence tying weapons used against U.S. troops to Iran's supreme leader.

The critics say, correctly, that the White House clearly states that there's no actual proof that he was involved. Then they complain that these two statements, the ones by CNN and the ones by the White House, are contradictory. They say "the White House explicitly denies it." But, they are entirely wrong on that point.

"Intelligence tying" does not mean "proof." It just means there's specific evidence linking the weapons to the Ayatollah. And in fact, there is such evidence. But it is not proof.

I understand the concern of these antiwar web sites. They want to avoid what happened with the intelligence failures four years ago. I share their concern (and I didn't accept as a matter of fact that Hussein had WMD in the first place anyway). However, CNN said nothing incorrect or inconsistent.

Perhaps CNN should have been more clear, and stated explicitly that there is no proof of a relationship, merely some (apparently) solid evidence of a possible link. But not being explicit is not the same as being wrong.

This misunderstanding of the difference between "evidence" and "proof" is part of how we got into the mess of Iraq WMD four years ago. People saw evidence -- some of it very interesting, but none of it closely resembling proof -- and took it to mean, well, of course Iraq has WMD. But the case was highly circumstantial.

Now, this case is quite a bit different. First of all, if the evidence is accurately interpreted, it is much stronger than any of the evidence of Iraqi WMD four years ago. However, on the other hand, four years ago, we were told Iraq attacking U.S. troops (which had gone on for years) was not enough to justify war, so why would Iran attacking U.S. troops be sufficient? On the other hand, Iraq had not killed any U.S. troops with their attacks, while Iran's apparent involvement has resulted in many U.S. troop deaths.

I am not in favor of war with Iran. I may favor certain covert acts to disable their nuclear program, if warranted (and how could I know whether it is warranted?). But I dislike the idea of war in general, and while I believed (and still believe) the invasion of Iraq was the right thing to do (but not because of WMD, but because of the significant general threat posed by Hussein's regime [which is a topic that's been done to death, and I won't revisit]), I do not see the same problems or the same solution as existing in the situation next door. I still see Iran as being a threat better dealt with through diplomatic means, and waiting out the internal revolutionary forces.

The bottom line is that I believed Iraq was an existing, persistent, and pervasive force for holding back progress in the region, which posed a direct and long-term threat to the United States, through the perpetuation of social, political, and economic forces in the region that promoted terrorism.

In Iran, I see little of that. They do not threaten their neighbors (Israel excluded), nor contribute as significantly to the social or economic forces that promote terrorism. They do promote terrorism, but not in such a way that significantly keeps the region from progress, as Iraq did. And they are unlike Afghanistan, where the terrorists were, for years, directly attacking the U.S. I think Iran is less of a threat now, and less of long-term threat, one we can probably afford to wait out.

Of course, all that's excluding the possibility of an actual nuclear weapon, which is an entirely different kind of threat.

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"It is the common fate of the indolent to see their rights become a prey to the active. The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt."

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This page contains a single entry by pudge published on February 14, 2007 8:59 AM.

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