HOW MASS IS YOU DESTRUCTION? Jonah Goldberg replies apropos our earlier disagreement. There seem to be two points of contention. On the question of chemical and biological weapons, I'd say this: There's no doubt that you can kill a lot of people through aerial bombardment with toxic chemicals (see the case of Saddam Hussein and "special envoy" Don Rumsfeld versus Iraqi Kurdistan), but by the same token you can kill a lot of people through aerial bombardment with conventional explosives (everything from the United States bombing Dresden to the Serb forces shelling Sarajevo). A single nuclear weapon, by contrast, can destroy a substantial chunk of a big city -- or maybe more. Poison gas and most biological weapons (things like anthrax) are much closer to conventional weapons in their destructive force than they are to nuclear weapons. Lumping them together with nuclear weapons is, per se, a seriously misleading way of talking about the situation. (It should also be added that there's plenty of evidence, though not drawn from the specific 60 Minutes story we were talking about, of egregious shenanigans on the chem/bio front)

The other point is that it's easy to lose sight of the ideological tug-o-war over George Tenet. Jonah's point of view seems to me that insofar as we can attribute this all to some giant, Tenet-centric screw-up, this tends to exonerate George W. Bush. As I see it, Bush chose to reappoint Tenet when he took office. He never fired Tenet at any point and has never expressed the view that he was displeased with Tenet's service. After Tenet stepped down as CIA director, Bush gave him the Congressional Medal of Freedom. Tenet should, I think, be treated like any other high-ranking member of the administration -- his misdeeds, like Don Rumsfeld's or whoever else's -- are Bush's misdeeds, too. We're probably never going to know who, exactly, was responsible for exactly which aspects of the whole sorry situation (people's stories will differ, etc., etc., etc.), but one holds a president responsible for the overall actions of his administration.

--Matthew Yglesias

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