Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Nuclear terrorism and the Guardian: "Invasion reduced the Threat of Terror"

When the Guardian is bad, it's awful; but when it's good, it's very good indeed.

Here's the point: imagine what would have happened if the London bombers had detonated in the subway any of the 1.77 metric tons of uranium that Operation Iraqi Freedom removed from Iraq.

Here the Guardian prints a devastating response to the cut-and-run chorus:

Would 7/7 have happened, and would it have been more or less deadly, if we had not liberated Afghanistan and Iraq? Should our policy be changed now? Is it time to run and hide?

The invasion of Afghanistan significantly reduced the capability of the old al-Qaida by removing the only regime it controlled. The invasion of Iraq acted as a deterrent to states that were nurturing a new generation of loosely affiliated "network terrorists".

Syria and Iran have been energetic sponsors of terror networks - as David Bryman, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who served on the staff of the 9/11 commission, proves in Deadly Connections: States that Sponsor Terrorism; and the operations in Afghanistan and Iraq made them pause to think about what they might gain and lose by continuing to be state sponsors of terror.

Other knock-on effects of the operations were a change of policy in Libya, free elections in Lebanon and the territory governed by the Palestinian Authority, and even limited voting in Saudi Arabia. The destruction of the al-Qaida camps and the attacks on assets and freedom of movement of leading terrorists downgraded their capacity to launch another attack like 9/11.

This did not remove their ability to attack in other ways, as Madrid and Bali showed, and would not stop a cell assembling in a country to perpetrate a single attack, as might be the case here. Some form of attack on London was inevitable, but imagine the kind of attack that al-Qaida could have mounted if it had retained its pre-9/11 links to, or control of, states.
[Boldface mine]

Exactly. Imagine the kind of attack that could have been mounted, if Saddam Hussein had extended access to his uranium supplies to Al Qaeda's Zarqawi, who was in Iraq and whom Hussein was cooperating with as part of his war against the Kurds. (I will not here press the point that it is simply not true to claim that the 9/11 Commission found no links between Al Qaeda and Iraq. See the devastating interview with Christopher Hitchens and then the Anchoress).

In July of 2004, the US government announced that it had brought back from Iraq 1.77 metric tons of uranium.

Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham announced today that the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Department of Defense (DOD) have completed a joint operation to secure and remove from Iraq radiological and nuclear materials that could potentially be used in a radiological dispersal device or diverted to support a nuclear weapons program.

“This operation was a major achievement for the Bush Administration’s goal to keep potentially dangerous nuclear materials out of the hands of terrorists,” Secretary Abraham said. “It also puts this material out of reach for countries that may seek to develop their own nuclear weapons.”

Twenty experts from DOE’s national laboratory complex packaged 1.77 metric tons of low-enriched uranium and roughly 1000 highly radioactive sources from the former Iraq nuclear research facility.

Those 1.77 metric tons of uranium are 1.77 tons of reasons why the war in Iraq was right, necessary, and a safeguard of democracy.

For those who need help imagining what nuclear terrorism would look like in the US, try this. (HT: Hugh Hewitt).

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