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A Voice in the Dark

In AD 2101 war was beginning. What happen? Someone set up us the bomb! We get signal. What? Main screen turn on. It's you. How are you gentlemen!! All your base are belong to us!! You are on the way to destruction. What you say? You have no chance to survive. Make your time. HA HA HA HA.... Take off every 'Zig' You know what you doing! Move 'Zig' For great justice.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005


A concept for your consideration.

Saddam Hussein ruled through fear. He had many enemies, whom he controlled through the display of military power and the will to use it. It would be to Saddam's benefit, were his military might significantly diminished, to conceal this fact from his enemies.

Thus, if Saddam wanted his enemies to think he had stockpiled WMDs and an active nuclear weapons program, he would want to seed the intelligence community with convincing evidence that he had these things.

He might send people to seek weapons-grade uranium, even though he had no actual intention of acquiring it. He might drive suspicious-looking tanker trucks around the country with a staff of scientists, so it would appear that he had an active chemical weapons program. He might destroy truckloads of materials for the manufacture of chemical weapons, so it would appear that those chemical weapons were in fact produced and stockpiled somewhere. He might even brag that his stockpiles were so well hidden they could never be found.

Since there weren't any such stockpiles, they would in fact never be found. There would be significant and convincing evidence that Saddam was actively producing chemical weapons, and seeking the final ingredient to produce nuclear weapons, but nobody would be able to find the actual stockpiles or any operational nuclear program.

However, by turning away the UN weapons inspectors, Hussein makes an extremely convincing argument that there is something they might find. He did so as a calculated risk, believing that the US would not act without the approval of the UN, and in the end he was wrong.

So it's possible that a more appropriate slogan for the left and right alike would be "HUSSEIN lied, people died". Kim Jong Il has real nuclear capability, but we are not threatened because we know where it is and we can keep an eye on it. Iran has real nuclear capability, but we are not threatened because we know where it is and we can keep an eye on it. Iraq seemed to have real nuclear capability... enough to need the uranium... but we didn't know where it was, so we couldn't keep an eye on it.

This was unacceptable, so we stomped all over the country and removed the offending leader. I think that was the right decision, because the alternative was unacceptable: to leave a plausible nuclear threat of unknown scale operating in an unknown location under the direction of a maniac with a known grudge against us. Sure, that unknown scale happened to be zero, but would you bet a few million American lives on it?

Consider the odds we're looking at here. There was roughly an 80% certainty that Hussein had or was planning a nuclear program, and let's say there's a 1% chance that he would use it. The amount of uranium he sought was sufficient to cause two to three million casualties. (Yes, I am pulling these numbers out of my ass. If you don't like them, plug in your own numbers and do the math.) So there's a 0.8% chance of 2.5 million casualties, or a net expected result of 20,000 casualties. If we attacked Iraq, we could expect to lose a total of roughly 10,000 people, which made attacking Iraq half the risk to American lives that doing nothing would have been.

Yes, it's a little crass to boil human life down to numbers, but how else do you make this decision? If one human life is of infinite value, then any loss of life is unacceptable, and it is no more acceptable for one man to die than for one million men to die. So we replace the worth of a human life with a single variable x in the domain of natural numbers, determine algebraically that x < 2x, and thus conclude that one man can die to save two.

So attacking Iraq was the Right Thing, and anything Bush needed to say or do to convince the largely ignorant American public and their representatives in Congress that it was a Good Idea... well, it was the Right Thing. So even if Bush did lie, he did it to get the Right Thing done, and I will stand by him on that.


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