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April 03, 2007

We Question The Timing

It never stops, does it? It is garbage like this that makes me want to cancel my subscription to the Post again.

Once again, the WaPo has produced another Olbermannesque paean to emotional truthiness. Never mind the facts.

Never mind the actual sequence of events. This, ladies and gentlemen, is Selective Reporting in action. Sit back and watch history unfold as Peter Eisner wishes it had happened.

And whatever you do, do not - I repeat - do not allow yourself to be confused by the admittedly disturbing fact that the basis for those 16 words was NOT the forged letter mentioned in the "bombshell" book to be released today.

Do NOT allow yourself to be swayed by the fact that what the President actually said that day in the State of the Union speech was that British intelligence - intelligence later investigated by the Butler commission - was not only ruled to be well founded", but was totally unrelated to the Burba documents:

URANIUM FROM AFRICA

45. From our examination of the intelligence and other material on Iraqi attempts to buy uranium from Africa, we have concluded that:

a. It is accepted by all parties that Iraqi officials visited Niger in 1999.

b. The British Government had intelligence from several different sources indicating that this visit was for the purpose of acquiring uranium. Since uranium constitutes almost three—quarters of Niger's exports, the intelligence was credible.

c. The evidence was not conclusive that Iraq actually purchased, as opposed to having sought, uranium and the British Government did not claim this.

d. The forged documents were not available to the British Government at the time its assessment was made, and so the fact of the forgery does not undermine it.

Why is it so difficult for the Washington Post to write a straight story on the Plame case? The facts are not that difficult to ascertain.

They are a matter of public record. If an amateur blogger can find them, surely professional journalists ought to be able to ferret out the truth; that is, if they are at all interested in finding out the truth as opposed to covering it up.

Those interested in the actual chronology of the Wilson/Plame affair might be interested in this BBC summary. Note the many points which openly contradict Eisner's (and both Joe Wilson's and Valerie Plame's) stories:

In February 2002, the CIA despatched Ms Plame's husband, former US ambassador Joseph Wilson, to Niger to investigate. He was told to ask whether Niger had been approached, had conducted talks or had made an agreement to sell uranium to "countries of concern," which included Iraq.

Why was Mr Wilson chosen?

The Senate report says that he had been to Niger for the CIA in 1999. His name on that occasion was suggested by his wife, Valerie Plame, who was a covert officer in the CIA's nuclear counter-proliferation division.

The report says that interviews and documents indicated that his wife had suggested his name for this trip as well. She then approached her husband. Mr Wilson was not required to sign a confidentiality agreement.

What did Mr Wilson find?

He found no evidence there had been any sale. Nigerien officials strongly denied there could have been. For a start a French-led consortium controlled its uranium industry. But Mr Wilson found an intriguing possibility that Iraq might have approached Niger.

This suspicion came from a former Nigerien Prime Minister Ibrahim Mayaki. He said he had been urged in 1999 by an unnamed businessman to meet an Iraqi delegation which wanted to "expand commercial relations". As uranium was virtually the only thing Niger had to sell, Mr Mayaki interpreted this to mean that Iraq wanted to discuss yellowcake sales.

However when he actually met the delegation, Mr Mayaki said he steered conversation away from trade, nothing was mentioned on either side and so the issue was not resolved.

Mr Wilson told the Senate Committee staff that he had given the US ambassador in Niger his view that there was "nothing to the story". The ambassador, the Senate report says, had reached the same conclusion.

What impact did Mr Wilson's report have?

The CIA felt Mr Wilson had added no substantial new information, but that his talk with Mr Mayaki had been the most interesting and important aspect. The CIA was inclined to believe that Iraq might have been trying to get yellowcake from Niger.

The State Department continued with the more sceptical view it had expressed earlier. The CIA did not brief the vice-president, despite his earlier interest.

So the speech simply said: "The British governmenthas learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."

These are the so-called famous 16 words.

To underscore the salient points here, the British Butler report specifically denies having had access to the Burba letter, as well as having other sources of intelligence. So the Burba forgery is irrelevant to their assessment that Iraq sought, not bought uranium from Niger.

And the Bush administration relied on British intelligence, not anything Joe Wilson brought back from his trip to Niger, in the State of the Union address. That British intelligence was later vetted and ruled "well founded".

Wilson's report was never given to the White House because it "added nothing new" to the CIA's assessment of Iraq's intentions, but even if it had been, it would not have been likely to discourage the President because in the CIA's view Wilson's findings, if anything, confirmed their suspicions:

Former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, dispatched by the CIA in February 2002 to investigate reports that Iraq sought to reconstitute its nuclear weapons program with uranium from Africa, was specifically recommended for the mission by his wife, a CIA employee, contrary to what he has said publicly. Wilson last year launched a public firestorm with his accusations that the administration had manipulated intelligence to build a case for war. He has said that his trip to Niger should have laid to rest any notion that Iraq sought uranium there and has said his findings were ignored by the White House.

Let's stop right here. Why is anyone still listening to Joe Wilson, a man whose first public objection to those infamous 16 words did not occur until he joined the Kerry campaign 5 months after the SOTU address?

Why is anyone still listening to a man who was thoroughly discredited by two Senate investigations that showed he lied about who recommended him, who saw his report, whether he saw the forged letter, and what he found in Africa: in other words, in almost every aspect of his public statements regarding his mission to Niger? Easy. Because very little press coverage has been given to this FACT compared to the liberal press coverage still given to Joseph Wilson's now-discredited accusations. That's why. But I digress:

Wilson's assertions -- both about what he found in Niger and what the Bush administration did with the information -- were undermined yesterday in a bipartisan Senate intelligence committee report.
The panel found that Wilson's report, rather than debunking intelligence about purported uranium sales to Iraq, as he has said, bolstered the case for most intelligence analysts. And contrary to Wilson's assertions and even the government's previous statements, the CIA did not tell the White House it had qualms about the reliability of the Africa intelligence that made its way into 16 fateful words in President Bush's January 2003 State of the Union address.

Think about this for a second. The CIA, which is supposed to serve as the President's eyes and ears, is sent to investigate a troubling report that Saddam is buying yellowcake uranium.

They send, not a professional spy, but a hack ambassador who is related to one of their employees. Got nepotism? They don't even make him sign a nondisclosure agreement.

He comes back and reports. They don't even bother to get his report in writing. Then, they don't bother to report his results up the chain of command to the Vice President who requested the investigation, even though (according to their own admission) they concluded that Iraq was, in fact, more likely than not to be seeking yellowcake. Moreover, according to the Senate report, they had "qualms" about the quality of their overall intelligence, but they didn't bother to report those either.

Yet what we hear over and over again in the newspapers is, "The President lied".

Not "Val Plame's CIA counterproliferations office screwed up", or "Wow. The CIA really dropped the ball. They let the President down.".

What do we get instead, on page one of the Post?

Book reviews.

Oh my! And look who the author is! This is what passes for news on the front page of a national newspaper these days.

Posted by Cassandra at April 3, 2007 08:19 AM

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Comments

Gee, I hope all this hype doesn't detract from the release of my soon-to-be-released blockbuster account of treachery and deceit in the Halls of Power. Working title "You Want Kofi With That?: The True Story How Joe Wilson and Kofi Annan Conspired to Corner the Global Oil Market." It's all in there, so it must be true.

Posted by: spd rdr at April 3, 2007 10:31 AM

They wrote an entire BOOK on that?

I wonder. Did they mention any of the other evidence that was used to make a case for war?

Posted by: JannyMae at April 3, 2007 10:43 AM

That's what I mean by "selective" history.

I am getting SO tired of these asshats.

If you have a simple mind, then all you need is a little clever misdirection and simple story to latch onto. And that is what these jerks keep giving them.

It really frosts me that the editors at the Post are allowing book reviews by the AUTHOR of a book to be printed as a news article on the front page of the Post when the story contains blatant distortions of the historical record and lies by omission.

Posted by: Cassandra at April 3, 2007 10:48 AM

And it doesn't help when my (*&^ wireless connection goes out while I'm trying to write either.

Posted by: Cassandra at April 3, 2007 10:49 AM

Well, the Post is desparate or Eisner called in sick. What a shameless plug for a book which no one will buy because we all want to find out what happens to Harry Potter.

But that's just me. Carry on.

Posted by: Cricket at April 3, 2007 11:12 AM

The Bliar appointed Butler Committee did not say the intelligence was well-founded -- they said the British government's assessment was well-founded.

We conclude that, on the basis of the intelligence assessments at the time, covering both Niger and the Democratic Republic of Congo, the statements on Iraqi attempts to buy uranium from Africa in the Government's dossier, and by the Prime Minister in the House of Commons, were well-founded. (emphasis mine)

We now know that the British government received written summaries of the unauthentic documentary evidence in 2002, but the British did not get to examine the source documents upon which they were based until 2003. This specific evidence was quietly withdrawn.
The Butler Report continues:
d. The forged documents were not available to the British Government at the time its assessment was made, and so the fact of the forgery does not undermine it.

The committee's reasoning goes something like this: Even though a major plank of the British government's case was riddled with woodworm, because British officials were not aware of the infestation at the time their assessment was made, the fact of the rot is irrelevant. Ministers acted in "good faith".

Simply not serious.

Posted by: smb1971 at April 3, 2007 11:37 AM

I'll accept that correction - poor word choice. However the point remains that if you're trying to make that support a contention that the President of the United States "lied", that doesn't hold water unless somehow you maintain he was supposed to be psychic.

Which is, to borrow your phrase, "simply not serious". The Executive branch does not have time to do their job and the CIA's too. They assume there is some minimal level of competence, and to look back later and scream "LIES! LIES! IT WAS ALL LIES! based on what you find out later, when the accepted wisdom at the time at best represented uncertainty and MOREOVER later investigation revealed the full measure of this uncertainty was never briefed to the White House is utter bullshit.

And to listen to Joe Wilson when virtually everything he has said has been contradicted by multiple sources which support each other is pretty ridiculous. As it turns out, Iraq DID HAVE yellowcake uranium which it previously purchased from Africa, so the contention that Iraq was seeking more from Africa was hardly farfetched. We know this because there was more than 2 tons under UN seal at the time we invaded.

Posted by: Cassandra at April 3, 2007 11:52 AM

You are purposely ignoring the parts of that excerpt that you find inconvenient to your argument:

The British Government had intelligence from several different sources indicating that this visit was for the purpose of acquiring uranium. Since uranium constitutes almost three—quarters of Niger's exports, the intelligence was credible.

No matter how many ways you try to spin it, you can't make that go away.


Posted by: Cassandra at April 3, 2007 11:59 AM

I cannot say the President lied (without being too disrespectful, I am not convinced he has a firm grasp on detail). Not so the Vice President and other aides whom, I am absolutely certain, intentionally misled the American people.

And over 500 tonnes of uranium compound remained under lock and key at Iraq's gutted Tuwaitha nuclear research center. To quote Professor Norman Dombey:

Iraq already had far more uranium than it needed for any conceivable nuclear weapons programme. ... Nuclear weapons are difficult and expensive to build not because uranium is scarce, but because it is difficult and expensive to enrich U235 from 0.7 per cent to the 90 per cent needed for a bomb. Enrichment plants are large, use a lot of electricity and are almost impossible to conceal. Neither British security services nor the CIA seriously thought Iraq had a functioning enrichment plant that would have justified all the noise about nuclear weapons we heard before the war.

When I read of the supposed Iraqi purchase of uranium from Niger, I thought it smelt distinctly fishy. ... It was a gigantic red herring.


Posted by: smb1971 at April 3, 2007 12:07 PM

Cassandra, I have delt with the above points and more (here
and here).

Posted by: smb1971 at April 3, 2007 12:12 PM

There are many things Iraq could have done that were legitimate reasons for concern (not the least of which is financing or arming others), and the bottom line has always remained that Saddam intentionally went out of his way to give not only his internal people but the outside world reason to believe he was actively seeking WMDs. The man deliberately breached the UN cease fire and defied 12 years of UN resolutions and yet there are those who still argue he should have been given more time to continue doing the same while we spent millions of dollars to "contain" a dictator who had already tried to assassinate our former president while supposedly "contained" by the sternly wagging finger of international consensus and economic sanctions. Stupidity.

And we know from history that he was willing to use WMDs because he did - at least twice that we know of.

It doesn't take a genius in that kind of scenario to reason, "if you don't know the truth and the cost of being wrong is high, you take the most pessimistic possible view of affairs". Hussein had the chance to disarm everyone's suspicions, yet he chose not to time and time again.

I am not interested in re-arguing all of this. I just find it amazing that we are rehashing this idiocy.

The bottom line is simple: WE'RE AT WAR NOW.

WE DIDN'T KNOW FOR SURE WHAT HIS CAPABILITIES WERE THEN, AND THE SAME PEOPLE WHO ARE BITCHING AND MOANING ABOUT 'LIES' NOW WERE CALLING FOR SADDAM'S HEAD IN 1997 AND 1998 IN AMERICA: DEMOCRATS.

It may be different in the UK - I don't know. But in the US it is all political theater and our military are paying the price for the rampant dishonesty of people like Senator Jay Rockafeller who were all for war under Clinton but have turned into doves once we were actually attacked.

And as the wife of a Marine it makes me sick.

Posted by: Cassandra at April 3, 2007 12:25 PM

And I'll be happy to read your links, but it will have to be after work :)

Posted by: Cassandra at April 3, 2007 12:27 PM

However, just because Iraq had uranium but no enrichment plant didn't necessarily mean he wouldn't or couldn't have used it as a bargaining chip with say...Iran or the former Soviet Union
for designing an enrichment facility? We do know that Kim Jong Il stiffed Saddam for ten million dollars and North Korea has aspirations to nukular weapons...firing blanks of course, but still rattling that sabre.

I heard Madeline Albright on PBS...she said something that astounded me, as she was the US ambassador to the UN; that Iran and North Korea have learned that if you have nukes, you won't get invaded. Iraq had no nukes.

Sort of a back handed compliment.

Posted by: Cricket at April 3, 2007 01:02 PM

Two quick points. Many Democrats are indeed hypocrites. Politisation of intelligence was evident during Operation Desert Fox under President Clinton. I also agree that Saddam Hussein deserved to be overthrown -- by the Iraqi people, and not by his former partners in crime.

Posted by: smb1971 at April 3, 2007 05:38 PM

No offence meant, but why does the following excerpt give me pause as to the preconceived inclinations of the poster?

The Bliar appointed Butler Committee did not say the intelligence was well-founded -- they said the British government's assessment was well-founded.

Hmmm.... Doesn't quite ring like the protestations of one open to criticism or argument. Thus it will always be with zealots and truthers and loose change: Words confound the imbecile and beguile the tyrant.

heh.

Posted by: spd rdr at April 3, 2007 06:51 PM

I also agree that Saddam Hussein deserved to be overthrown -- by the Iraqi people, and not by his former partners in crime.
-- smb1971

Yeah, I've heard this one before. None of those spouting it, however, has ever explained how the, "Iraqi people," were to do it when those who opposed his regime were being exterminated and bulldozed into mass graves.

Posted by: JannyMae at April 3, 2007 06:53 PM

Oh Janny... all those folks were just supposed to ignore the sarin, the VX, the mustard gas... a day without Halabja is like a day without sunshine.

Posted by: Cassandra at April 3, 2007 07:03 PM

how the, "Iraqi people," were to do it when those who opposed his regime were being exterminated and bulldozed into mass graves.

Exactly. My history may be a bit spotty here, but didn't we encourage an Iraqi uprising once before, only to renig on our support and leaving them hanging, so to speak? Why would they ever trust us again??

Posted by: DaveG at April 4, 2007 09:36 AM

George and his friends (Kristol, Wolfowitz, Cheney) have made such an f'ing mess of things. It is too bad that they all decided before 9-11 to look for an excuse to go into Iraq (see, e.g., "Project For A New American Century"), but then concocted one questionable pretext after another to persuade Congress to support his adventure (all since debunked, by the way: 9-11, WMDs, support for terrorists).

We didn't invade Iraq to bring it democracy - Bush & co. thought that up after the fact to justify the invasion; sure we went in to depose Sodom Hussein, and we did that, but we didn't have any plan for what to do with the aftermath. The Shia and the Sunnis hate each others' guts, but we can't say "fine - let them kill each other for all we care" because it shows disregard for humanity, democracy, and the ideals that we supposedly cherish in this country.

Our servicemen and servicewomen and their families are suffering on the front lines and paying with their lives; the rest of us are suffering here at home with the mental anguish of what to do about cleaning up this mess. We're so far into this mess that talk about ending it outrages those on the front lines. The people who have focussed on WHY we got in and whether or not to perpetuate the mistake can't win for trying, because they're seen as defeatists, as cowards, as not supporting the troops, as pussies, you name it (and many here have).

I understand the outrage of the "warriors" who are just trying to do THEIR jobs. But let's not lose sight of the fact that [IMHO and ITO of many many others] the original decision to go in was made in haste, on incomplete information, on suspicion, on ideology, and (to the extent GWB was out to avenge the attempt on his father's life his father - can someone give me a link that explains this, which I've never understood) on personal emotion.

Our kids and grandkids and great-grandkids (here and in other places in the world) will be trying to clean up this mess for years, and our kids and grandkids and great-grandkids will be paying for the effort with their lives and dollars.

If God really was behind all this (GWB claims that "the father" guided him), why won't He just pop in, wave his hand o'er us all, and bring peace to the area, the world, and to mankind?

Posted by: Mark In Irvine at April 4, 2007 12:37 PM

We didn't invade Iraq to bring it democracy - Bush & co. thought that up after the fact to justify the invasion; -- Mark

Mark, you've been pretty lucid lately, but you're demonstrating complete ignorance with this one. Democracy in Iraq has been the official policy of the United States since October of 1998, when Clinton signed the Iraq Liberation Act.

Regime change in Iraq was also clearly stated as a goal in the Resolution for war, Mark, so the statement you made above is utterly false.

Posted by: JannyMae at April 4, 2007 02:12 PM

"Mark, you've been pretty lucid lately ...."

I gave up BS for lent. Seriously, I DO have my moments.

"Democracy in Iraq has been the official policy of the United States since October of 1998, when Clinton signed the Iraq Liberation Act. Regime change in Iraq was also clearly stated as a goal in the Resolution for war, Mark, so the statement you made above is utterly false."

OK - maybe you've got me here. But "democracy in Iraq" was NOT the rationale which GWB & Co. gave us as justification for entering into Iraq. Would Congress and the "people" have approved W's war up front if the rationale given was "we think the world would be better if Iraq had a democratic government"? I suspect that many military families would have said "you're not taking my [insert family designation here] for that. we'll defend the US when it's attacked, but we're not offering our families for sacrifice on the altars of discretionary wars for policy reasons unrelated to defense of the country.

And, by the way, JannyMae, it would appear from your remarks that you are prepared to acknowledge that the rationale given by GWB & Co. for the Iraq war was NOT what they really had in mind (if you haven't already done so).

Posted by: Mark In Irvine at April 4, 2007 03:18 PM

Even if democracy wasn't the rationale behind the war, once you have committed to the course of action to remove Saddam, what other choice could there be, now that you have Syria and Iran licking their chops?

Just asking...

Posted by: Cricket at April 7, 2007 01:03 AM

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