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Couldn’t you see this one coming…

Well, does North Korea have the bomb? To quote an esteemed news source, we report, you decide. You’ve got the White House saying no. Feel the rock sureness of the response.

A huge explosion rocked North Korea three days ago but U.S. and South Korean officials said on Sunday it was unlikely to have been a nuclear weapons test despite a report the blast produced a mushroom cloud.

…But in Washington, U.S. officials said there was no definitive explanation yet, although Thursday’s blast did not appear to be nuclear.

…”We’ve got no indication that anything of the sort has happened. We believe these reports to be completely unfounded,” said a State Department official who asked not to be named.

“People are pretty sure it’s not a mushroom cloud and not a test of any kind,” the official said.

But wait, here’s what the NYT is saying. Wow, are you surprised Bush had advance warning that this might occur? —

President Bush and his top advisers have received intelligence reports in recent days describing a confusing series of actions by North Korea that some experts believe could indicate the country is preparing to conduct its first test explosion of a nuclear weapon, according to senior officials with access to the intelligence.

While the indications were viewed as serious enough to warrant a warning to the White House, American intelligence agencies appear divided about the significance of the new North Korean actions, much as they were about the evidence concerning Iraq’s alleged weapons stockpiles.

…One official with access to the intelligence called it “a series of indicators of increased activity that we believe would be associated with a test,” saying that the “likelihood” of a North Korean test had risen significantly in just the past four weeks. It was that changed assessment that led to the decision to give an update to President Bush, the officials said.

The activities included the movement of materials around several suspected test sites, including one near a location where intelligence agencies reported last year that conventional explosives were being tested that could compress a plutonium core and set off a nuclear blast. But officials have not seen the classic indicators of preparations at a test site, in which cables are laid to measure an explosion in a deep test pit.

But wait…do you remember this quote from Bush, which I blogged about on August 21, about the leaders of North Korea and Iran (Reuters):

I don’t think you give timelines to dictators.”

Bush told the [NY] Times he would continue diplomatic pressure. It said he gave no hint that his patience was limited or that at some point he might consider pre-emptive military action.

“I’m confident that over time this will work — I certainly hope it does,” the newspaper quoted Bush as saying of the diplomatic approach.

And read my blog from 9/7 on this, if you want to really be scared of what this administration has been thinking.

And for a golden oldie that should give you pause, look at this justification for Bush going to war with Saddam in remarks at a Cincinnati event (CNN transcript, October, 2002):

The Iraqi regime has violated all of those obligations. It possesses and produces chemical and biological weapons. It is seeking nuclear weapons. It has given shelter and support to terrorism and practices terror against its own people.

…Knowing these realities, America must not ignore the threat gathering against us. Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof — the smoking gun — that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud.

***

UPDATE: If you can believe this, someone in the administration told CNN (this was around 7:30 AM) that “it is no big deal; it is probably a forest fire.” A 2.5 mile wide, mushroom-shaped forest fire?! My god, they really think we are stupid. Not only that, CNN just rolls over and reports this without any more investigation to confirm it, given the NYT info that the White House had intelligence on possible nuclear testing? Whatever.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding