The Party of National Security
Since the Vietnam War, the Republican Party has burnished its image as the party of national security. In Nixon’s 1972 campaign against anti-war McGovern, in Reagan’s threat of war against Iran in 1980 and call for major defense buildups in the early 1980s, in Bush Sr.’s stunning victory in Gulf War I, and in Bush Jr.’s invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq following the attacks of September 11, 2001, Republican standard-bearers confirmed their reputation as the party willing to “take the fight to the enemy” and place national security over timidity. The Republicans, so the reputation implied, placed country first and party second.
The Iraq war has seriously dented this reputation, with Bush’s continual refusal to make the hard decisions about Iraq that might negatively affect the party’s image. He refused to fire Rumsfeld at Rove’s insistence. He refused to call up more troops early on or call for more financial sacrifice because it might upset the donor base. And he refused to engage in open dialogue with well-meaning Democrats like Joe Biden over future strategy in Iraq. But there is perhaps no better indication that, for this White House and this Republican Congress, the elephant flies over the flag, than revelations in today’s New York Times that the Bush Administration actually released nuclear secrets on the internet in order to bolster its fraudulent case for Iraqi WMDs.
Here’s what happened. Years after the Iraq Survey Group failed to find any WMDs in Iraq, a small core of “dead enders,” including especially Rick Santorum and West Michigan’s own fine Congressman, Peter Hoekstra, demanded that the White House release the 48,000 pages of documents it discovered in post-war Iraq on the internet. They felt that somewhere in those documents they would find evidence that Saddam really did have WMDs right up to 2003. Despite the reservations of many career intelligence officers and even DNI John Negroponte, Bush agreed to the massive information dump.
None of the information supported the claim by our foolish Michigan Congressman or the doomed Pennsylvania Senator. But within that information released to the public were several documents with secret information about how to make an atomic bomb; these documents were detailed descriptions of Saddam’s pre-1991 nuclear program.
The documents, roughly a dozen in number, contain charts, diagrams, equations and lengthy narratives about bomb building that nuclear experts who have viewed them say go beyond what is available elsewhere on the Internet and in other public forums. For instance, the papers give detailed information on how to build nuclear firing circuits and triggering explosives, as well as the radioactive cores of atom bombs.
â€œFor the U.S. to toss a match into this flammable area is very irresponsible,â€? said A. Bryan Siebert, a former director of classification at the federal Department of Energy, which runs the nationâ€™s nuclear arms program. â€œThereâ€™s a lot of things about nuclear weapons that are secret and should remain so.â€?
Now who might want to use this secret information? Maybe, Iran?
This is one of those moments where you have to ask yourself: what if Bill Clinton had done this? It isn’t hard to imagine what conservatives and Republicans would have said. But the Republican Party is the Party of National Security. They put the nation first. Right?
There are two things disturbing about this. One, Iran may be closer to getting a nuclear weapon because our own government decided to give them secrets over the internet. Maybe Al Qaeda read it too. The second bothersome thing is that this was done for partisan purposes. A handful of Congressmen and Senators were desperate to prove the war critics wrong, and gin up their own re-election prospects (Santorum ran several ads making specious claims based on these documents in the summer), that the Bush White House carelessly decided to dump potentially secret information into the public sphere.
You can disagree with the Democratic Party about its approach to radical Islamist terrorism, or its failure to come up with a solution to the war in Iraq. You can distrust the instincts of top Democratic officials on matters of national security. But you cannot place that trust in the Republican Party anymore. They forsook that trust in order to win an election. And now they’ll ruin America’s national security and their own majority in Congress.