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Scott Ritter, speaking at the Ethical Society of St. Louis Friday evening, laid into the Bush administration for its constant lying about Iran. His point was that attacking Iran would be as unnecessary, counterproductive, and crackbrained as attacking Iraq was. Considering that he was the chief weapons inspector in Iraq for seven years and that he argued before the attack there that Iraq had no significant WMDs, he has, at the very least, a 100 percent better track record than President 24 Percent.

Bush’s mantra is that Iran poses the single greatest threat in the world for Americans, and that claim balances on two myths he has promulgated: that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons and that Iran is the greatest state sponsor of terrorism in the world. Indeed, if Bush’s claims are true, Iran is a terrible threat.

But Ritter deconstructed those claims. Deconstructed? Demolished would come closer. And this posting will show you the rubble of the argument that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons.

Ritter asked whether we have a smoking gun about that question. We not only don’t have a smoking gun; we don’t even have a decent circumstantial case.

In 2003, our government claimed that Iran had an ongoing, active nuclear weapons development program. Then, in 2007, we claimed that the program had been halted. Backing down that way was necessary because Bush knew that a report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was about to be issued, proclaiming that Iran had no nuclear weapons program.

By preempting the IAEA report, the Bush/Cheney spin machine was able to maintain a scrap of credibility on the issue, while still getting Americans to believe what they wanted them to. Notice: Bush claimed the weapons program had been halted, not that it had never existed. But there was no data to support the idea that it had existed. The very claim that it had been halted implied that it had existed, and Americans accepted that implication.

Now what is true is that Iran had been secretly enriching uranium–for nuclear power plants. Doing so was forbidden because Iran was a signatory to a nuclear nonproliferation treaty. Europeans were concerned when the program came to light. Iran admitted wrongdoing and agreed to suspend its enrichment program for six months so that inspectors could come in and determine that no weapons program was in progress.

At the end of the six months, Iran said it would start its enrichment program again, but European countries, under considerable pressure from the U.S., wanted the halt to be made permanent. Iran wouldn’t agree to that, but it did agree to let the inspectors stay. The inspectors said that all the nuclear material was accounted for and that Iran was in compliance with international law.

Nevertheless, the UN demanded three times that Iran stop enriching uranium, and three times, Iran refused to do so. But what they are doing is in compliance with international law.

Since Iran continued to insist that it had no weapons program, the United States decided to offer proof that it did. What it offered was what Ritter called–with a wry smile–a “magic laptop.” This laptop supposedly revealed what had been secretly going on in Iran.

As an intelligence officer, Ritter was trained to be wary of one magic answer. He reminded the audience, for example, of all the bogus intelligence about Saddam’s WMD that had come before the Iraq war from one source: “Curveball.” This particular magic answer purported to come from the Iranian military and research community. And it was in … English. That piece of information got uproarious laughter.

The laptop was presented at a meeting of the IAEA. Curtains were opened, and there–under a spotlight–it sat. Scientists could see it. But they weren’t allowed to touch it. Computer experts, had they examined it, could have done a great deal to verify its veracity.

But never mind. That would imply that we don’t trust Bush and Cheney.

Ritter asked if these claims of a program–which even if it did exist would be years from fruition–merited getting the U.S. into another war. Think you can answer that question?

Bush’s history alone would make me doubt any claims he made, even without Ritter’s analysis of the case. Why reporters don’t just start laughing whenever Bush makes some pronouncement or has the gall to hand a soldier a medal–it’s beyond my understanding.