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TBIMG Question #17 ~ Dr. Obeidi's Actions

Posted: Wed Jul 25, 2007 9:50 am
by DeppInTheHeartOfTexas
pg. 228 “Despite the brave words imprinted on the Jefferson Memorial, tyranny can put a man in an untenable position if he wants to protect his family.”

What do you think of Dr. Obeidi’s actions?

Posted: Wed Jul 25, 2007 10:40 am
by Betty Sue
Not sure which actions you mean, but, in general, I don't know how he could have acted much differently and come out with his family intact once he was recognized as a top scientist. I guess revealing the truth of the WMD situation might have saved many lives and cost him his and his family's lives and been a very noble thing to do, but... Before that, he could have chosen another occupation and been safer from tyranny and difficult decisions!!
I commend him for his actions in writing this book and giving everyone a look inside Saddam's regime and "the best way to combat this danger." Mostly, I sympathize with him and the way his intelligence and diligence were wasted and put his family in such jeopardy.

Posted: Wed Jul 25, 2007 1:22 pm
by Liz
Betty Sue wrote:Not sure which actions you mean, but, in general, I don't know how he could have acted much differently and come out with his family intact once he was recognized as a top scientist.


Betty Sue, DITHOT & I discuss all the questions before we agree to post any of them. So we are usually very familiar with each others’ questions. What I can’t remember is if we talked about what she meant by “actions” or if I just felt I knew intuitively what she meant. But I think she is referring to any of his actions relating to his involvement in the centrifuge program from it’s inception up to his revealing of it to Kurt Pitzer and the US. So I think you have answered it based on what I think she meant. And I agree with you in that I don't think he could have done anything differently and remained alive along with his family.

Maybe it was a good thing that the plans for the centrifuge program were in his hands, safe under his lotus tree. In someone else’s hands, they might have ended up in the wrong hands.

Posted: Wed Jul 25, 2007 3:54 pm
by DeppInTheHeartOfTexas
You two have it right. :cool: Sorry for the confusion and apologies for it taking so long to get back here to answer your question. I didn't want to narrow it down to just his scientific research, his family, his talking to Pitzer and the U.S., etc. I just mean his actions in a broad sense of the book. You may choose any part you like.

Posted: Wed Jul 25, 2007 11:49 pm
by gemini
I wasn't sure what it said on the Jefferson memorial but I ran across this so I assume it was the phrase you were referring to. "I have sworn upon the alter of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man."

Despite the brave words imprinted on the Jefferson Memorial, tyranny can put a man in an untenable position if he wants to protect his family.

This is pretty much his premise for how he spent his life in Iraq and his reason in the book for going along with a tyrannical leader. I do understand him wanting to protect his family. In his shoes I probably would have done the same, but I feel he was far more intelligent and maybe I hold him to a higher standard.
I wonder how some of the other Iraqis who were jailed for being uncooperative would consider his choices.

My personal feelings were that since he was working for a regime not as educated or qualified as he in his field, he could have managed to not have been so successful or dragged his feet instead of rising to the top of his field.
Even his job of procuring the parts that were used, he did exceptionally well and this seems to be an area where he could have been not so successful and his countrymen would not have known whether he was doing it on purpose or not. It just seems contradictory that he excelled where many others would have failed and took such pride in his successes that he may have lost track of what the end result might be.

I guess I am just not as forgiving of him and figure there were places where he could have stalled without endangering his family because Saddams hatchet men would have been none the wiser.

Posted: Thu Jul 26, 2007 9:10 am
by suec
I'm pretty much in agreement with you, gemini. Yes, I probably would have done the same. However, there is a bit of me that wonders if he couldn't have seen it coming. He's intelligent and his instincts are excellent. Wasn't there a moment, early on, when he could have spotted what was coming before they did, and maybe kept a lower profile? Having said that, it is easy with hindsight. We choose a path in life at a certain moment, not dreaming what really lies ahead, but then we realise that the gate behind us has shut, irrevocably, and there is no going back. In this sense, his story reminds me of Donnie Brasco, and Leftie. But to my mind, he is too sanguine about the whole business. There is a moment when he stops and reflect on how his life has turned out so differently from someone who didn't return to Iraq, but I don't remember very much more. I also think that he isn't just driven by the fear of the consequences of failure, but that his scientific mind gets too absorbed in what he is doing.

It just seems contradictory that he excelled where many others would have failed and took such pride in his successes that he may have lost track of what the end result might be.


I agree with your comment here, also. For example, when he conceals his achievement: "As my engineers and I celebrated, I suggested that we keep our achievement secret because we could present it as a surprise at an upcoming IAEC seminar on the diffusion technique... For a scientist, such a moment is a pinnacle of achievement. I basked in the praise from my colleagues, unaware of how this achievement would bring me to the attention of Saddam Hussein's powerful henchmen."
I feel that this was the moment; the moment when he might have prevented what followed, had he behaved differently. After all, he knew what the game was, what the IAEC was after. This part I have quoted is on p55, after what we have already discussed, about not getting mixed up in politics: " The siginificance of al-Hashimi's remarks was plain. "It was not a great leap to imagine that the unstated question was whether the reactor could be used to develop bomb-grade material... The Tammuz reactor was to serve a purpose so important that the head of the IAEC feared that failure would cost him his life" p 48.

Posted: Thu Jul 26, 2007 9:57 am
by DeppInTheHeartOfTexas
This was such a high stakes endeavor, professionally and scientifically. I can see how he would want to be involved because of that. I do remember that Saddam's men were unforgiving when it came to technical difficulties, they just wanted results and didn't care about the difficulties involved. I think the scientist in Dr. Obeidi won out, pushed along by his fear for his life and that of his family.

suec wrote:
There is a moment when he stops and reflect on how his life has turned out so differently from someone who didn't return to Iraq, but I don't remember very much more.


Funny you should mention that, suec. Check out today's question! :grin:

Posted: Thu Jul 26, 2007 11:04 am
by Liz
I think that if he had stalled in any areas of his work on the centrifuge project he risked reprisal by the regime. Saddam wanted results and on his schedule.

Posted: Thu Jul 26, 2007 4:09 pm
by nebraska
I am not sure how to answer this question. :-? The thing that really sticks out in my mind is the ending (the most important part of the story?) and I think I take my impression from both the book and the interview that was posted in the tidbits. He wanted to give us a warning of how these things happen -- no matter what moral judgment anyone makes about him and what he did, this is how it works like in a place like Iraq .... or any number of other countries that are hungering for the bomb. And he wanted us to understand that the most dangerous weapon of all was the mental power of the scientists who have disappeared from view. I don't think he was really looking for forgiveness or understanding of his own actions so much as he wanted us to see how it all happened so that we might be more vigilant. It would have been far easier for him to take his refuge in our country and gone on with his life without whispering a word of what he had been through under Saddam's rule. So I think writing the book and telling his story was a commendable action.

Posted: Thu Jul 26, 2007 5:49 pm
by gemini
nebraska wrote:I am not sure how to answer this question. :-? The thing that really sticks out in my mind is the ending (the most important part of the story?) and I think I take my impression from both the book and the interview that was posted in the tidbits. He wanted to give us a warning of how these things happen -- no matter what moral judgment anyone makes about him and what he did, this is how it works like in a place like Iraq .... or any number of other countries that are hungering for the bomb. And he wanted us to understand that the most dangerous weapon of all was the mental power of the scientists who have disappeared from view. I don't think he was really looking for forgiveness or understanding of his own actions so much as he wanted us to see how it all happened so that we might be more vigilant. It would have been far easier for him to take his refuge in our country and gone on with his life without whispering a word of what he had been through under Saddam's rule. So I think writing the book and telling his story was a commendable action.


Ok, Let me play the devils advocate here mainly because while reading , these other reasons were at the top of my mind. He may have done this as a warning to be more vigilant but then again...... He did take his refuge in our country, and writing this book showing the cruel side of Saddam would make his allegiances seem more inline with ours.
I am sure there are people in this country who view him as very suspect just as we would the scientist who worked for Germany in WWII. There is also the timing that would make his book very profitable.


As for worrying whether this could happen again, it still can. We are more vigilante but the new worry seems to be with so many countries already having the knowledge they may sell or just share it with countries they believe to be allies. Here is a statement from an article titled "Who Gets Nuclear power?"
But quietly the word slips out that Egypt is restarting its nuclear program after shutting down in the wake of Chernobyl. Somewhat surprisingly, the U S has offered to help with the effort http://www.watchblog.com/democrats/archives/004295.html
Here is an interesting article written in 2003 about the spread of nuclear technology.
'Peaceful' Nuclear Power Fuels Spread of Weapons http://www.commondreams.org/headlines03/0427-02.htm
I think the time of having scientist develope the tecnology is past. It is too readily available.

Posted: Thu Jul 26, 2007 7:05 pm
by nebraska
gemini wrote: Ok, Let me play the devils advocate here mainly because while reading , these other reasons were at the top of my mind. He may have done this as a warning to be more vigilant but then again...... He did take his refuge in our country, and writing this book showing the cruel side of Saddam would make his allegiances seem more inline with ours.
I am sure there are people in this country who view him as very suspect just as we would the scientist who worked for Germany in WWII. There is also the timing that would make his book very profitable.




I agree. At times reading the book I had my own suspicions......how would we ever really know if his tales are completely true or not? There are other stories out there to be sure. So, when we start debating about what he did and what his motives were and what he should have done that he didn't do, etc, we may be standing in quick sand as we pass judgment......Everything you suggest may be absolutely true. Or not.

But in the end, he did make me think about a lot of things I hadn't really thought about before, and that is probably true for a lot of other people who read the book. And I think that is good.

Posted: Thu Jul 26, 2007 9:15 pm
by DeppInTheHeartOfTexas
gemini, I agree that Pandora's box is open and the ability and knowledge of how to use this technology is only spreading. I agree, nebraska, that the details of what may or may not be true are not really important. What is important is that more people become aware of how easy it is to procure the tehcnology and the equipment needed to make it work.