Friday, April 25, 2008

Juan Cole is a Fool

I'm sorry to have to put it in such a direct and unambiguous way, but his response to the story that the American Administration has put out that what the Israelis bombed in Syria last year was a nascent nuclear reactor, is an embarrassment for academia. Cole isn't just any old young fellow with a blog, who can say whatever he feels like with nary any responsibility for his words other than that they sound right to him. Cole really is a professor, he has spent years studying relevant things, unlike more than 90% of the pundits, he even knows some of the relevant languages (though not Hebrew); he writes with the aura of an expert. When it comes to Pakistan or Iraq, he may even be one: I don't have the expertize to say otherwise.

Whenever he gets to Israel, however, he consistently talks such nonsense, including often on the level of elementary fact checking, that it casts quite a doubt over everything else he says.

His response to the present story is typical.
We would have to know exactly what kind of reactor it was to know if it was suitable to help in a weapons program. [...] Even the high confidence that the building was a reactor cannot be just accepted without question. They had high confidence that Saddam had a nuclear weapons program in the early zeros, which was not true. We should be skeptical about these sorts of stories until we see the proof.
Unlike Prof. Cole, I admit that I'm unable to recognize convincing or unconvincing facts about nuclear reactors even when they're thrust in front of my face, and I have no choice but to listen to intermediaries. I estimate that more than 99% of people are more like me than like him in this matter. Even the fact that experts were once wrong is not a reliable indication that they'll always be wrong.
I have been disappointed that more nuclear engineers in the US do not express themselves publicly on what is likely and unlikely.
Neat, isn't it? The fact that apparently this time many experts are concurring, or at least remaining silent, proves nothing; it is merely a matter for chiding: why aren't they saying what the professor would like them to be saying?
This story seems to me fishy. Syria is a poor state. Where would it have gotten the money for a reactor? Why exactly are there doubts that North Korea was involved? How much of the intelligence is from US sources and how much from Israeli? The latter are highly politicized. The head of Mossad in 2002 expressed confidence that Saddam was close to getting nukes.
Now he's down to whining. How could this be? Syria is poor! It doesn't fit my pet theories!? It's interesting, isn't it, that while Cole is up to his acrobatics to defend the Syrians, the Syrians themselves don't seem to be doing much denying, do they. Maybe because they know the facts.

Read the whole thing, if you want, or don't. I've linked to it mostly for future use.

Update: I was wrong about the Syrians not denying, of course. But it appears that the IAEA feel Syria does have a need to explain.


Ibrahim Ibn Yusuf said...

These days, almost every Arab or Muslim seems to be intent on getting nuclear weapons. Iraq was stopped just in time; so was Syria; Iran has to be tackled soon. There is talk that the 800-mt tower Burj Dubai is actually a front for a nuclear storehouse. In other versions, the whole tower is a gigantic neutron bomb aimed at Tel Aviv.

I'm scared that one of these days the US might discover the nuclear warhead I've got buried in my backyard and bomb my house. I'm not worried about myself; after all, I'll be rewarded with 72 virgins. But I've come to like my infidel neighbors, and they would die as collateral damage, with no reward in sight. It's horrifying to think that they should suffer such an inhumane death, when all they'd deserve is a bit of whipping for not converting to Islam.

Seriously, Yaacov, how can anyone give any credence to US intelligence reports any more? They go to and fro, claiming something, then denying it, then claiming it once again. In short they're crap, aimed at convincing the gullible US public that another 4,000 soldiers need to die in the pyre of neoconservatism. Simply nauseating.

Eliyahu said...

there's good reason to believe that Saddam Hussein transferred much ABC and WMD equipment and materials to Syria before the US invasion of 2003, as Israeli PM Sharon said in the fall of 2002.
There have been reports of such ABC-WMD equipment and material by Syrian exiles, some published in French on the old website.

Further, the American inspectors looking for ABC-WMD stuff in Iraq did find some significant things, like a truck with a mounted laboratory, much like the sketch that Colin Powell presented to the UN security council.
Further, Raphael Israeli of the Truman Institute in Jerusalem on Mt Scopus, assembled a lot of info about ABC-WMD discoveries in Iraq by US inspectors. But these inspectors were CIA types. And the CIA had opposed Bush's planned war on Iraq all along, note the valerie plame affair. So maybe the CIA at that time didn't want to admit that Saddam Hussein really had an ABC-WMD capacity.
Raphael Israeli's article is available on the Nativ website, I think in both Hebrew and English, at least in Hebrew.

my question is why Bush allowed the lie to go around that SH in Iraq did not have a ABC-WMD capacity. This lie reflected badly on Bush himself. So why did Bush go along with it?

Ibrahim Ibn Yusuf said...

Good, Eliyahu. It's great to see that we haven't preached in vain and you've learned to come up with conspiracy theories of your own.