12 Angry Men


RWM: “The great enemy of clear language is insincerity.” — George Orwell.

In the aftermath of the Zimmerman verdict, I was watching  The Sean Hannity Show and stumbled upon something remarkable. On July 16th he hosted a panel packed with legal minds, law enforcement, and political experts to offer their analysis on the verdict.  I was especially taken with Hannity’s hallmark of reasonableness in the following exchange. His perfectly framed question was met with a meaningless answer, which was intended to deflect any inquiry that operates in the realm of reality.

HANNITY (RWM): Does this fit the profile of a person with racial animus — a guy that took a black woman to his prom? He mentored black children and  after the program concluded he continued mentoring them, brought minority children into his home, and then stood up for a black homeless man against the Sanford police. Does that fit the profile of a man that’s racist?

TAMARA HOLDER(PM): It may or may not. It may or may not.

RWM: The only logical answer to Hannity’s question is ‘”NO!” Due to the confines of the question, the answer would still be “no” even if he were a racist. That seems counterintuitive, but the parameters of the probe were restricted to the domain of specific behavioral patterns. Whatever you think of the outcome of the case, intellectually dishonest answers poison the waters of civility. Tamara Holder contaminated the discussion by refusing to separate her support for even a second to simply answer a question with integrity. Therein lies the heart of my mission, for what I’m calling The Trayvon Travesty embodies the ubiquitous behavioral patterns of apologists who defend their position purely on faith.

RWM: Charles Barkley exquisitely demonstrated sound reasoning in expressing his view of the verdict:


CHARLES BARKLEY ON ZIMMERMAN VERDICT: “There was some racial profiling, no question about it, but something happened that changed the dynamic of that night. . . . Trayvon Martin, God rest his soul, I think he did flip the switch and started beatin’ the hell out of Mr. Zimmerman. It was just a bad situation, and like I said, the main thing I feel bad for — it gives every white person and black person who’s racist — a platform to vent their ignorance.


RWM: Making such distinctions is not in the interest of Trayvon apologists. Listening to people like Piers Morgan you would think that ”armed only with skittles” is the end-all, be-all of the case. I have yet to see anyone offer a sound argument in defense of the departed they peddle as a bastion of innocence. Zimmerman is no model citizen, but you can’t seize on his history and ignore Martin’s. And it’s nothing short of corrupt that a childlike picture of Trayvon was plastered all over the news — while Zimmerman was painted as a criminal. Even if he had been guilty — any attempt to manipulate the outcome is an affront to justice. It’s astounding how people can complain about prejudice while simultaneously practicing it. I offer some additional thoughts on that story in the epilogue, but my entire program is about examining evidence on the merits — not what you want to believe. It doesn’t dawn on any of the Trayvon apologists that they are offsetting gains that so many sacrificed to achieve. It might surprise you that I voted for Obama in 2008. I gave Romney a shot in the second round. I just have this old-fashioned idea about not rewarding people who  are dishonest and don’t do a good job.

If only Hannity felt the same way. On the Trayvon tale, Hannity floated questions with a cross-examiner’s skill, and yet he never applied that “profile principle” to Iraq by asking: Does this fit the profile of a top-tier nuclear scientist . . . a guy with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering with an ancillary role in the uranium enrichment industry? While at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory in the 1980s, Joe Turner tested and operated centrifuges, but he has no design or development experience in their incredibly complex theory. Does it stand to reason that this engineer-turned C.I.A. analyst would become the arbiter on the aluminum tubes intel — trumping all the true experts — including the world-renowned nuclear scientist, Dr. Houston Wood — who actually created and ran the centrifuge department at Oak Ridge?

Imagery of a “mushroom cloud” was a masterful marketing gimmick,  as the only 2 pieces of evidence around the nuclear charge were the aluminum tubes and uranium out of Africa (both of which were bogus beyond belief). “Everybody believed Iraq had W.M.D.” is not a valid argument any more than “armed only with skittles.” Such fragments of folly are nothing more than empty slogans to serve a narrative. Arguing your views in good faith demands discernment — the willingness to examine all factors — instead of seizing on one-dimensional elements for inadequate conclusions.

For over a decade, the intricacies of the evidence were known only to those who took the time to study. I’m out to remedy that. The Iraq War issue is more important to me than any other, and I have spent over 10 years combing thousands of pages and writing about my findings. Bob Woodward captures my concern best in his 1991 book called The Commanders: “The decision to go to war is one that defines a nation, both to the world and, perhaps more importantly, to itself. There is no more serious business for a national government, no more accurate measure of national leadership.”

Central to my examination is that I will illustrate the shallowness in Colin Powell’s U.N. speech in February 2003. The media typically rushes over everything and explains NOTHING. I am taking the opposite approach with my isolated look at the aluminum tubes — and insight into that intelligence scheme is a roadmap to the rest. But the only way to truly understand the story is to juxtapose the relationships of the relevant players involved. That includes the Intelligence Community, Congress, the Bush Administration, the media, the intelligence investigations — and even our role in fostering it all.

I liked Powell as much as the next person, but it was way over-the-top to believe that this guy was infallible. You couldn’t tell that to some people though. One of the most intelligent and ordinarily  reasonable individuals I’ve ever known was even seduced by the Secretary. In defense of Powell, my English Professor friend wrote: “I am amazed that people are surprised that we might’ve been wrong in our assessment of Iraq. We are not dealing with exact science here, but a series of conclusions based always on partial evidence.” . . . Actually, on the aluminum tubes front, we are dealing with an exact science.

In the timeless classic 12 Angry Men — Henry Fonda’s



(RWM): character stood alone in his quest to examine the evidence before prematurely rendering judgment. He doesn’t get any traction early on — but sticking that duplicate knife into the table worked wonders — opening the door for the el-tracks inquiry: “Let’s take two pieces of testimony and try to put them together.”


RWM: Bill Cosby was saying essentially the same thing on his Picture Pages program back in the day, and everything in my offering is founded on the simplicity of this principle:



The deal is that we connect these days — you see.


RWM: Last July I drove up to the University of Virginia to interview Professor Wood. He is among the elite of experts in uranium enrichment, and he has been the gold standard source on this subject since the beginning. As investigative journalist Liz Jackson so perfectly put it in her aptly-named Spinning the Tubes documentary:



“If anyone cared to get the final word on tubes, rotors, gas centrifuges and uranium enrichment, this was the man to ask.”



COLIN POWELL AT THE UN: Since 1998, his efforts to reconstitute his nuclear program have been focused on acquiring the third and last component, sufficient fissile material to produce a nuclear explosion. To make the fissile material, he needs to develop an ability to enrich uranium. Saddam Hussein is determined to get his hands on a nuclear bomb. He is so determined that he has made repeated covert attempts to acquire high-specification aluminum tubes from 11 different countries, even after inspections resumed.


RWM: Powell’s definition of “covert” cannot be found in any dimension of reality. According to HUBRIS — a masterpiece by Michael Isikoff and David Corn — Iraq obtained the tubes by “sending out multiple purchase orders and faxing them to international suppliers, and then haggling over the prices — even advertised for the tubes on the Internet.”


COLIN POWELL AT THE UN: By now, just about everyone has heard of these tubes, and we all know that there are differences of opinion. There is controversy about what these tubes are for. Most U.S. experts think they are intended to serve as rotors in centrifuges used to enrich uranium. Other experts, and the Iraqis themselves, argue that they are really to produce the rocket bodies for a conventional weapon, a multiple rocket launcher.


RWM: In an October 2003 broadcast of 60 MINUTES II, Wood said:



PROFESSOR WOOD: I thought, when I read that, there must be some other tubes that people were talking about. I just was flabbergasted that people were still pushing that those might be centrifuges.

SCOTT PELLEY: Flabbergasted?

PROFESSOR WOOD: Yeah, yeah — so it just didn’t make any sense to me. . . . Science was not pushing this forward. Scientists had made their evaluation and made their determination. And, now we didn’t now what was happening. . . . Most experts are located in Oak Ridge, and that was not the position there.

SCOTT PELLEY: Do you know one in academia, in government, in a foreign country who disagrees with your appraisal, who says “Yes, these are for nuclear weapons.”

PROFESSOR WOOD: I don’t know a single one anywhere.




PROFESSOR WOOD: My conclusion was that these do not look like devices that could be used for centrifuges. It would be highly unlikely that this could be a centrifuge rotor.

LIZ JACKSON: The walls of the tubes were too thick. Every one of the 60,000 tubes would need to be shaved down.

PROF. HOUSTON WOOD: These were on the order of 3mm thickness, so much more material than you would want to have in a high-speed rotor.

LIZ JACKSON: Their mass was too great.

PROFESSOR WOOD: You want the mass to be as small as possible so you can contain this high-speed rotating device.

LIZ JACKSON: And they would create leakage.

PROFESSOR WOOD: The gas would just be leaking out of the rotor. And you’d have to have pumps to continually pump that. Scientifically, these tubes do not fit the mould of gas centrifuges – you know, period.


RWM: In my July 8th interview with Professor Wood, I asked him about his background.

PROFESSOR WOOD (RWM): My job at Oak Ridge was in developing theory for centrifuges — how the gas in the centrifuge can be manipulated to separate the isotopes with as high efficiency as possible.  I had been working on centrifuge theory and development since 1967 — which was my primary role at Oak Ridge for 18 years until 1985 when the Government shut down the program. I really enjoyed it because I worked with high-caliber people, and we had a group called Gas Centrifuge Theory Group. We had people from Harvard, M.I.T, and Caltech, and I was the full-time centrifuge person who was the liaison with all these high-level scientists — who are all in the national academy of sciences and national academy of engineering.

RWM: Joe Turner, the primary C.I.A. analyst pushing the aluminum tubes fantasy, worked at Oak Ridge while Professor Wood was there. Mr. Turner was NOT in the Gas Centrifuge Theory Group. I asked Professor Wood if Turner was under him when he managed the centrifuge department:

PROFESSOR WOOD (RWM): He was in our division. He was not exactly at my department. Oak Ridge had a division called Separation Systems and I had a department called Centrifuge Physics — and Turner worked in Separation Systems  as a mechanic.

RWM: My understanding is that he designed or built the platforms on which centrifuges are installed. Is that right?

PROFESSOR WOOD: (RWM) Yes, I think that’s right. I don’t know exactly what he did, but I knew who he was, and I know that he did not work on the theory of centrifuges or how centrifuges work. He worked on the peripheral parts.

RWM: I asked Professor Wood about the normal qualifications for people in the field of centrifuge physics. With all due respect to mechanical engineers, without an advanced degree or some serious design experience  — how could Turner carry the credentials to force this issue?

PROFESSOR WOOD (RWM): It’s really strange. Unusual.

RWM: The D.O.E. argued that everything about the tubes was characteristic of “conventional ordnance production.” The intelligence community was well aware of Iraq’s existing centrifuge designs, none of which were a match for the tubes’ specifications.

RED TEAM PAPER: After the 1991 Gulf War, Iraq declared its possession of 160,000 high-strength aluminum tubes that had been intended for their Nasser-81 mm rocket — [which is] a reverse-engineered version of the Italian Medusa. The August 17th, 2001 D.O.E. paper pointed out that the dimensions and material of these tubes were an exact match for the tubes Iraq was pursuing in 2001.

RWM: Before and after the invasion, David Albright, a physicist who assisted the International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors in Iraq in the 1990s, provided detailed analysis of the tubes and struck down the claim. As Albright points out, even the quantity calls the whole charade into question.

DAVID ALBRIGHT (RWM): The administration has refused to acknowledge the tubes that Iraq was trying to order would be used in rockets. By failing to acknowledge this point, they are implying that Iraq sought all the tubes for centrifuges and planned to build over 100,000 centrifuges — a MASSIVE program for a country like Iraq. On its face, this claim is preposterous.
RWM: Act I opens up with a two and a half minute animation on uranium enrichment, but the following is a primer:




RWM: Professor Wood told me it took him 15 minutes to conclude that the tubes were unsuitable for centrifuges. Seeing Colin Powell claim otherwise was a pretty big letdown for him.

PROFESSOR WOOD (RWM): I did not realize until after Colin Powell’s speech that the game was over — That it wouldn’t matter what I said or what I did. When Colin Powell came out with that speech, at the United Nations  —  that was embarrassing. I was embarrassed for my country. I thought we were something different — than that.


COLIN POWELL AT THE UN: What we notice in these different batches is a progression to higher and higher levels of specification, including, in the latest batch, an anodized coating on extremely smooth inner and outer surfaces. Why would they continue refining the specifications, go to all that trouble for something that, if it was a rocket, would soon be blown into shrapnel when it went off?


DAVID ALBRIGHT (RWM): There are no industrial centrifuges in the world that use anodized rotors. However, anodization is a common practice in military and commercial equipment to protect against weather and the environment. Echoing the point, Professor Wood told me that anodizing an aluminum gas centrifuge rotor tube provides NO benefit, and he agreed with Albright that the coating would flake off and potentially destroy the rotor.

RWM: Notice how Secretary Powell framed his assertion by redirecting your attention to the rockets. Instead of offering a reason WHY anodized aluminum is compelling evidence pointing to centrifuges, he performed a magician’s maneuver to make you focus on the shrapnel. The International Atomic Energy Agency (I.A.E.A. for short) — discovered that corrosion had ruined some of Iraq’s previous supply of aluminum tubes, so they were looking to resolve that problem by using anodized tubes. Iraq’s rocket production was only 10,000 per year, so the tubes could be sitting outside in crates for up to 10 years. Well before the invasion, the I.A.E.A. found thousands of the older tubes wasting away in the elements because they were not anodized.


COLIN POWELL AT THE UN: Let me tell you what is not controversial about these tubes. First, all the experts who have analyzed the tubes in our possession agree that they can be adapted for centrifuge use.


PROFESSOR WOOD (RWM): It would have been extremely difficult to make these tubes into centrifuges. It stretches the imagination to come up with a way. I do not know any real centrifuge experts that feel differently.

RWM: The plausibility of these tubes being used as centrifuges was so far-fetched that one D.O.E. analyst said: “If Iraq was really trying to make them into centrifuge rotors — we should just give them the tubes.”


COLIN POWELL AT THE UN: I am no expert on centrifuge tubes, but just as an old Army trooper, I can tell you a couple of things: First, it strikes me as quite odd that these tubes are manufactured to a tolerance that far exceeds U.S. requirements for comparable rockets. Maybe Iraqis just manufacture their conventional weapons to a higher standard than we do, but I don’t think so.


RWM: The State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research (I.N.R. for short) — which was Powell’s very own  intelligence agency — sent him a memo that grossly contradicted his claim. “In fact, the most comparable U.S. system is a tactical rocket — the U.S. Mark 66 air-launched 70mm rocket . . . that uses the same high-grade aluminum — and has specifications with similar tolerances.”
RED TEAM PAPER: D.O.E. pointed out that the tolerances still were not tight enough for centrifuge rotors. Tightened tolerances only indicated the inexperience of Iraqi rocket engineers. The Iraq Survey Group later learned that this had been precisely the case. Iraq’s rocket engineers OVER-SPECIFIED the motor casings tolerances because they believed it would improve the accuracy of the rocket.

HUBRIS: An intelligence analyst who worked at the D.O.E’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory later noted that it was absurd that the D.O.E. experts had been trumped by a C.I.A. analyst. The Energy Department’s nuclear scientists — this analyst said, “are the most boring people. Their whole lives revolve around nuclear technology. They can talk about gas centrifuges until you want to jump out of a window. And maybe once every ten years or longer there comes along an important question about gas centrifuges. That’s when you really should listen to these guys. If they say an aluminum tube is not for a gas centrifuge — it’s like a fish talking about water.”

RWM: The administration had its hands on 60,000 tubes, and yet not one of them was presented by Powell at the U.N. According to HUBRIS, they scrapped the idea of displaying a tube — since Powell would be holding up the one piece of evidence that was most in dispute.

As David Albright put it in a combined quote from Spinning the Tubes and HUBRIS: “If you want to stir up a war, then nuclear’s always the flagship. Everybody in the Middle East has chemical or biological weapons, and they’re not decisive. And so it’s really always the difference between some concern and a lot of concern. The tubes were everything for the administration’s case. They were something tangible that they could point to. Without it, they had NOTHING.”


DRAMATIZATION BASED ON EMAIL EXCHANGES (All of his words are verbatim and mine are summarized arguments of what I wrote in those emails):

N.C. STATE REP. JOHN BLUST: I don’t see any facts in your entire message.

RWM: Well, when I challenged your article back in 2004, I was hoping that my questions would open the door to a discussion on the facts.

N.C. STATE REP. JOHN BLUST: I don’t have time to go point by point over everything you say.

RWM: How about addressing just one? After all, didn’t you write that great article called One Cannot Be Ignorant and Free? You touted the timeless Mr. Smith goes to Washington and other ideals of America’s greatness. But your “Bush Bashing Books” article assailed anyone who dared to question your beloved president. Did you actually read any of those books? But let me get this straight — the Democrats spouted off with empty rhetoric about W.M.D. over the years — and this is your ironclad evidence that “everybody believed Iraq had W.M.D”? That’s the extent of your argument — some meaningless quotes by people who lie for a living? I don’t understand — you’re a lawyer. You gotta be pretty smart to pass the bar. You’re trained to examine evidence, and yet you sit there shunning the very notion of sound consideration.

N.C. STATE REP. JOHN BLUST: You have not refuted a single thing I have said. If I tell you it was cloudy outside on December 29th, and I believe it was cloudy outside on December 29th, I am not lying to you. If I can find twenty-five others who also say it was cloudy on December 29th, and indeed, it was universally believed it was cloudy on December 29th, that is good, solid, logical evidence that I was not lying when I said it was cloudy on December 29th.

RWM: Dr. Wood is not a meteorologist. Do you mind if we just stick to the evidence that Powell presented?


RWM: Ever since I was a kid I loved “The Ballad of the Green Berets.” Every line is exquisite but the one that resonates with me most is Men Who Mean Just What They Say. The sound and rhythm that slowly intensifies throughout the song is sheer perfection. That one could convey such a captivating story of triumph, tragedy, and tradition in 2 minutes and 26 seconds is a hallmark of magnificence. I’ve never heard another song that so personified honor. I would like to think that bravery in battle would be worthy of intellectual courage from our keyboards.

This concludes the Prologue



Fighting soldiers from the sky
Fearless men who jump and die
Men who mean just what they say
The brave men of the Green Beret

The Green Berets - Record Cover


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