Revised estimate to start of war

I’ve decided to revise my estimate as to the start of a war against Iraq. I’m changing it to March 1 and not Feb. 21, as I previously said. Why? Because March 1 is a new moon, and the U.S. military loves to fight in the very dark of night. Also, the majority of troops will be in place by Feb. 15, and two weeks to prepare the troops would be better than one week.

FT: Caucasus terrorists have chemical/bio weapons

The Financial Times reports that Muslim militants associated with Al Qa’ida and Ansar al-Islam in Georgia and Chechnya have developed the biological agent ricin and are moving into western Europe via Turkey. The trail was first picked up by in north London after British police arrested Islamic militants on Jan. 5, breaking up a production facility there.

The Financial Times reports that Muslim militants associated with Al Qa’ida and Ansar al-Islam in Georgia and Chechnya have developed the biological agent ricin and are moving into western Europe via Turkey. The trail was first picked up by in north London after British police arrested Islamic militants on Jan. 5, breaking up a production facility there.
Ricin is a toxin derived from the beans of the castor plant, and can easily be produced as an aerosol spray or fine powder. Once inhaled, it usually begins working within eight hours. Initial symptons include weakness, fever, cough and finally pulmonary edema (fluid in the lungs) 18 to 24 hours after inhalation. This is followed by severe respiratory distress and death from hypoxemia (reduced oxygen supply to tissue) in 36 to 72 hours. Treatment for pulmonary edema is the usual prescription and medical masks can be effective in blocking the particles from being inhaled.
As scary as ricin is, it’s not well suited to a being a weapon of mass destruction as it settles out of the air relatively quickly. It is well-suited to assassinations, however, most famously being used by the Bulgarian secret police o kill dissident Georgi Markov during the Cold War in 1978. It was also tested, according to the CIA so take that for what it’s worth, by — surprise! — Iraq at the Jurf al-Sakr Firing Range in September 1989 in 155mm artillery shells with a capacity of three liters. I’ve seen reports that it is fatal if 1/10 millionth of a gram is inhaled.

No nukes is good nukes

Cache of documents outlining Iraq’s nuclear ambitions found in the homes of physicists, but discrepancy exists as to whether the documents are current or date from the 1980s. Meanwhile, back at the U.N., America and the rest of the world at loggerheads — again — over what the Jan. 27 report means.

nuke1.jpgThe Daily Telegraph is reporting that United Nations weapons inspectors have uncovered evidence that Iraq is continuing its attempts to build nuclear weapons in defiance of UNSCR 1441. The paper reports that “The discovery was made following spot checks last week on the homes of two Iraqi nuclear physicists in Baghdad.”
U.N. officials had no comment on the documents, the paper said, but “a Western diplomat closely involved with the investigation into Saddam’s nuclear capability” was quoted as confirming that the documents were genuine.
“These are not old documents,” the diplomat was quoted as saying. “They are new and they relate to on-going work taking place in Iraq to develop nuclear weapons. They had been hidden at the … homes [of physicists Faleh Hassan and Shaker al Jibouri] on Saddam’s personal orders. Furthermore, no mention of this work is made in the Iraqi dossier that was submitted to the UN last December.”
Confusingly, Voice of America said that yes, documents outlining research on uranium enrichment had been discovered at the scientists’ home, but that they dated from the 1980s, according to nuclear control chief Dr. Mohamed El Baradei, who, along with chief weapons inspector Dr. Hans Blix, holds Iraq’s fate in their hands.
[Update: The Associated Press, via a story on Salon.com, is reporting that the documents date back to a project cancelled in 1988. Hassan said the program was declared in 1991 and that he kept the documents for “his students.”]
So who’s right? Is it El Baradei? Or the unnamed “Western diplomat”? I have to question the veracity of sources who go unnamed but are said to be “closely involved with the investigation into Saddam’s nuclear capability.” Could that be Western diplomat be an American trying to make the case to a jittery British public that they should lay off Tony Blair and get with the program? Isn’t the timing of this revelation curious, considering that the White House’s resident dove — and loyal trooper — Secretary of State Colin Powell told the German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung that the United States would make a “persuasive case” that Iraq hasn’t cooperated and has weapons of mass destruction by month’s end?
It’s a curious discrepancy with huge implications. However, with the Jan. 27 deadline bearing down — the date on which Blix will deliver an interim report on the progress of the weapons inspectors — the United Nations has made clear that it does not see Blix’s dossier as a trigger for war, no doubt further frustrating the United States. America wants the Jan. 27 report to be final and complete and has said it will try to foil any extension of the inspection regime into March.
Now, I don’t know about you, but I believe that, yeah, Saddam’s probably got chemical and/or biological weapons. But with even Britain getting bullish on inspections — mainly because Downing Street believes there will be a “large nuclear find” in the near future — I think the United States needs to calm down and let the inspectors do their jobs. I think there’s a good chance that Saddam can be defanged without a lot of people dying, but then defanging Saddam has never been the real reason to attack Iraq now, has it?

Anti-war protestors descend on Washington

I just heard on NPR that the organizers of the protests against Mr. Bush’s war in Washington and around the country expect 100 buses from New York alone. Guilty confession: My immediate thought was, “Yeah, that’ll convince the Bush administration to free up more federal aid to rebuild New York.”
Actually, more power to the protesters. I didn’t go down to the protest, because I’m not much for joining big groups and I think this White House is particularly tone-deaf to criticism from people that would never vote for Bush, ever. But I hold out the faint hope that maybe 100,000 people marching on the White House might do something positive. It will be interesting to see the estimate of the number of protesters from the cops, organizers, media, et al.
For those who can’t make it to D.C., an anti-war solidarity rally has been reported to be set for 1 p.m. today at Union Square. For more news, check out www.dc.indymedia.com.