Nuclear Mangos

This blog is intended to provide reliable technical analysis of nuclear issues with non-state actors and nuclear beginner states. Some technical issues have important policy implications that citizens in a democracy should be able to make informed decisions about. The motivation for the blog has been the incredible amount of lies & hyperbole on the Iran situation of early 2006. The blog title is to remind you constantly of the quality of minds in charge of our nuclear security today.

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Location: MA

Until recently I was a physics professor at Harvard, where I taught the nuclear and particle physics course, among others. I've recently left that position to work as an R&D physicist in security applications. I have never done classified weapons work.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Latest from Hersh

As I mentioned in the previous post, Sy Hersh has a new article in the New Yorker about the Cheney Administration's obsession with Iran. Many people--including at Americablog, No Quarter, and WhirledView--have posted about it, and I don't have a lot to add.

There are three fundamental points, that (a) the CIA assessment is that there is no weapons program, (b) the Cheney Administration doesn't care what the CIA says, and (c) the Cheney Administration doesn't care what Congress or the American people think.

(a)
The Administration’s planning for a military attack on Iran was made far more complicated earlier this fall by a highly classified draft assessment by the C.I.A. challenging the White House’s assumptions about how close Iran might be to building a nuclear bomb. The C.I.A. found no conclusive evidence, as yet, of a secret Iranian nuclear-weapons program running parallel to the civilian operations that Iran has declared to the International Atomic Energy Agency...

...The C.I.A.’s view is that, without more intelligence, a large-scale bombing attack would not stop Iran’s nuclear program.


(b)
A current senior intelligence official confirmed the existence of the C.I.A. analysis, and told me that the White House had been hostile to it. The White House’s dismissal of the C.I.A. findings on Iran is widely known in the intelligence community.


(c)

Cheney’s story, according to the source, was his way of saying that, whatever a Democratic Congress might do next year to limit the President’s authority, the Administration would find a way to work around it.


Oh, and Cheney's story? It's that (d) Cheney is proud of being a cheat:

Cheney began reminiscing about his job as a lineman, in the early nineteen-sixties, for a power company in Wyoming. Copper wire was expensive, and the linemen were instructed to return all unused pieces three feet or longer. No one wanted to deal with the paperwork that resulted, Cheney said, so he and his colleagues found a solution: putting “shorteners” on the wire—that is, cutting it into short pieces and tossing the leftovers at the end of the workday.


OK, I couldn't resist one more. It's that (e) someone at the White House seems to be reading Billmon! From Hersh this week:

But many in the White House and the Pentagon insist that getting tough with Iran is the only way to salvage Iraq. “It’s a classic case of ‘failure forward,’” a Pentagon consultant said. “They believe that by tipping over Iran they would recover their losses in Iraq—like doubling your bet..."




From Billmon in April:

What we are witnessing (through rips in the curtain of official secrecy) may be an example of what the Germans call the flucht nach vorne – the "flight forward." This refers to a situation in which an individual or institution seeks a way out of a crisis by becoming ever more daring and aggressive (or, as the White House propaganda department might put it: "bold") A familar analogy is the gambler in Vegas, who tries to get out of a hole by doubling down on each successive bet.

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