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Friday, May 21, 2004

Write what you know 

(Or, how not to look foolish)

Robert Freeman of Common Dreams (yeah, I know... I always go after the low-hanging fruit), tries to pick apart the case for national missile defense.

Now, I won't pretend to know the technical issues facing the successful development and deployment of a missile defense system. I'm no engineer. In fact, I ran, running and screaming, from aerospace engineering after one semester.

But I'm certainly able to spot someone else who knows even less than I do, and Mr. Freeman is one of them.

I found his column after a Google News search for the latest Iranian happenings. And I immediately stopped reading after I read this bit of foolishness:

First: Is it necessary? Missile defense's purported rationale is to defend against so-called "rogue states" launching a nuclear attack on the U.S. This has been almost laughable from the beginning. It is hard to imagine people can even talk about it with a straight face.

The purportedly suspect countries (North Korea, Libya, Iran, and Iraq) do not possess ballistic missiles.
Like I said, I'm no engineer, and I don't know the technical details all that well. But I am very familiar with the arsenals of this country's potential adversaries, and three of the countries Freeman mentioned absolutely, without a doubt, DO possess ballistic missiles.

From that bastion of neocon thought that is PBS, here's a picture of where North Korea launches theirs. The missile is known as the No-Dong. It is a ballistic missile.

Freeman mentions Libya next. Again, I'll go back to a known neocon source: The Arms Control Association list of "Worldwide Ballistic Missile Inventories" as of May 2002. Scroll down until you find "Libya." Heck, look for the other three countries while you're at it. Libya has SCUD-B and, prior to its sudden change of heart in March, was trying to acquire longer-range missiles such as the DPRK's No-Dong.

Okay, so then Freeman lists Iran. I don't need an outside source to verify Iran's possession of ballistic missiles. The Iranian regime parades them around. More info on Iran's Shahab-3 missile here.

And lastly, Freeman lists Iraq. Iraq, of course, is a threat to no one at the moment. Something about Saddam being driven from power and captured. I forget where I heard that. But Saddam Hussein's regime certainly did possess ballistic missiles--missiles exceeding the UN Security Council-mandated maximum range were being discovered right up until the war started.

It's obvious that Robert Freeman was wrong when he claimed that these countries "do not possess ballistic missiles," and frankly, I didn't read on to find out what else he was blatantly wrong about. So, Mr. Freeman, I've got some free advice. Don't start typing unless you have half a clue about the subject matter.

If you can't tell from reading my past posts, one of my pet peeves is factual error. I can disagree with an opinion and let it slide, but I can't stand it when someone tries to make a point using incorrect information. It just bugs me. If Robert Freeman had written an article against missile defense using facts, I wouldn't have cared. Heck, I'm probably closer to the "don't need it" side than the other. But gosh, is it so hard to just get simple facts straight before writing a piece that could possibly sway someone's opinion on an issue?
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