Opinion » Bill Cope

Mr. Cope's Cave: Truth is in the Details

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The following is what Colin Powell—ex-national security adviser, ex-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, ex-secretary of state—said about the Iran nuclear agreement on Meet the Press Sunday. It's a rather long, detailed quote, but it illustrates a point I'll be getting to later.
"Here's why I think it's a good deal. One of the great concerns that the opposition has, that we're leaving open a lane for the Iranians to go back to creating a nuclear weapon in 10 or 15 years. They're forgetting the reality that they have been on a superhighway for the last 10 years to create a nuclear weapon or a nuclear weapons program, with no speed limit.

"And in the last 10 years, they have gone from 136 centrifuges up to something like 19,000 centrifuges. This agreement will bring them down to 5,000 centrifuges. All of these will be under IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] supervision. And I think this is a good outcome.

"The other thing I've noticed is that they had a stockpile of something in the neighborhood of 12,000 kilograms of uranium. This deal will bring it down to 300 kilograms.

"It's a remarkable reduction. I'm amazed that they would do this. But they have done it. And with respect to the plutonium effort, the plutonium reactor at Arak, which is now starting to operate, it's going to be shut down, except for minor parts of it, and concrete will be poured into the reactor core vessel.

"So, these are remarkable changes. We have stopped this highway race that they were going down." 
So with that, we now know that Gen. Colin Powell—a man never accused of being a sellout, a weakling or a "Chamberlain" by the four United States presidents (three of them Republicans) under whom he served—is enthusiastically for the agreement.

Powell can state with detailed precision why he is for the agreement, as compared to how his old Bushy-mate Dick Cheney can claim, with absolutely no details, evidence or reasoning supporting his claim, that the deal will lead to a nuclear war in the Middle East and may even result in a mushroom cloud rising over a U.S. city. Understand, that would be another mushroom cloud, not the one he insisted would rise over a U.S. city if we didn't attack Iraq 12 years ago.

With Powell's backing, taken together with the public statements of support from 36 retired American generals and admirals—“[this agreement is] the most effective means currently available to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons”—and 29 American nuclear scientists—"we congratulate you and your team on negotiating a technically sound, stringent and innovative deal that will provide the necessary assurance in the coming decade and more that Iran is not developing nuclear weapons"—not to mention the unanimous concordance received from the leaders of the U.K., France, China, Russia and Germany—it's beginning to look very much like this deal will easily make the list of the Most Outstanding Diplomatic Accomplishments in the Last Half-Century.

But you watch. Congress is back from vacation and it's the silly peoples' turn to pipe up. Senate Republicans, including the two useless schlubs from Idaho, will be spewing ignorance and bad faith like diarrhetic hippopotami. A majority of Idahoans, being thoughtless enough to still be Republicans, will nod and say, "Tha's right, tha's right! It's just like what them fellers say it is," without realizing that once again, their foolishness is putting them in the "Do Not Recycle" bin of history.

The spectacle of resistance to the deal in Congress, exacerbated by the chorus of groaning and grunting, howling and screeching, from the most reckless tribe of baboons ever to call itself a slate of candidates, should give—to anyone with the intellectual presence to extrapolate from present behavior what future behavior will likely follow—a preview of what a Republican presidency would look like: an administration devoid of detail, of long-range vision, of nuanced thought and in-depth understanding, but heavy on hysterical overreaction, inflammatory and baseless speech, and generalized demagogic bullshit, the result being more of the same chaos Obama is still trying to unravel from the last Republican administration.

President Obama has won the day with the Iran agreement. A vote on Thursday assured him of all the Senate votes he needs to ensure it takes hold. In the end—after a new generation of American youth didn't have to suit up for yet another war in the Middle East—it won't matter much what a war criminal shitbird like Cheney had to say about it. The best measure we have of the wrongness of men like him is the mess left us when we did it his way.

Unfortunately, there is no such clear measure of the rightness of men like Colin Powell (or John Kerry, or Barack Obama) when we do it their way; the successes are so much more difficult to describe than the disasters. I believe it's why Americans don't seem to recognize when we are at peace nearly as keenly as when we are at war. It's because the evidence of such abstractions as success and peace is found in the details—the quantitative and qualitative minutia of why one way is better than another—and while most Americans have no patience with details, Republicans aren't interested in any they don't make up.