But at the moment, Jim Geraghty is asking in a rather hysterical fashion, "I'm sorry, did the New York Times just put on the front page that IRAQ HAD A NUCLEAR WEAPONS PROGRAM AND WAS PLOTTING TO BUILD AN ATOMIC BOMB? He continues:
What? Wait a minute. The entire mantra of the war critics has been "no WMDs, no WMDs, no threat, no threat", for the past three years solid. Now we're being told that the Bush administration erred by making public information that could help any nation build an atomic bomb.
Let's go back and clarify: IRAQ HAD NUCLEAR WEAPONS PLANS SO ADVANCED AND DETAILED THAT ANY COUNTRY COULD HAVE USED THEM.
I think the Times editors are counting on this being spun as a "Boy, did Bush screw up" meme; the problem is, to do it, they have to knock down the "there was no threat in Iraq" meme, once and for all. Because obviously, Saddam could have sold this information to anybody, any other state, or any well-funded terrorist group that had publicly pledged to kill millions of Americans and had expressed interest in nuclear arms. You know, like, oh . . . al-Qaeda.
. . .
The antiwar crowd is going to have to argue that the information somehow wasn't dangerous in the hands of Saddam Hussein, but was dangerous posted on the Internet. It doesn't work. It can't be both no threat to America and yet also somehow a threat to America once it's in the hands of Iran. Game, set, and match.
Well, not exactly. It is clear to a relatively sane person that the Times article is refering to the Iraq nuclear program prior to the 1991 Gulf War:
. . .
But in recent weeks, the site has posted some documents that weapons experts say are a danger themselves: detailed accounts of Iraq's secret nuclear research before the 1991 Persian Gulf war. The documents, the experts say, constitute a basic guide to building an atom bomb.
. . .
With the public increasingly skeptical about the rationale and conduct of the war, the chairmen of the House and Senate intelligence committees argued that wide analysis and translation of the documents -- most of them in Arabic -- would reinvigorate the search for clues that Mr. Hussein had resumed his unconventional arms programs in the years before the invasion. American search teams never found such evidence.
. . .
Among the dozens of documents in English were Iraqi reports written in the 1990s and in 2002 for United Nations inspectors in charge of making sure Iraq had abandoned its unconventional arms programs after the Persian Gulf war. Experts say that at the time, Mr. Hussein's scientists were on the verge of building an atom bomb, as little as a year away.
. . .
A senior American intelligence official who deals routinely with atomic issues said the documents showed "where the Iraqis failed and how to get around the failures." The documents, he added, could perhaps help Iran or other nations making a serious effort to develop nuclear arms, but probably not terrorists or poorly equipped states. The official, who requested anonymity because of his agency's rules against public comment, called the papers "a road map that helps you get from point A to point B, but only if you already have a car."
. . .
In September, the Web site began posting the nuclear documents, and some soon raised concerns. On Sept. 12, it posted a document it called "Progress of Iraqi nuclear program circa 1995." That description is potentially misleading since the research occurred years earlier. . . (emphasis added)
The fact that Iraq had documents on how to build nuclear weapons from their program that was ended in 1991 doesn't come close to undermining the antiwar case -- a big part of which is that the U.S. would end up in an Iraqi quagmire (or sandstorm, if you prefer). He says that Saddam could have given this stuff to Osama but is oblivious to the fact that he had more than a decade to do so, but didn't and he must have missed the quote saying that it wouldn't have helped terrorists or poorly equipped states.
"Oakleaf" at Polipundit uses the same article to conclude that "in 2002 Saddam Hussein's 'scientists were on the verge of building an atom bomb, as little as a year away.'" Not exactly, "Oakleaf." Even Geraghty noted that it takes actual stuff to make a nuclear weapon, not just paperwork.
UPDATE: Glenn Reynolds pours some cold water on the hysteria. "udging from some of the delighted emails I'm getting, I need to warn people not to get too carried away -- this doesn't say that Saddam would have had a bomb in 2004."