July 07, 2004

Bush Lied...well, moving on.
Posted by Jon Henke

Remember those "16 words"? 16 words about which the DNC said "Bush Administration Knew Claim Was False" The source of so many "Bush lied, people died" screeds?

Well, here's another 16 words for you....

...Britain's spies were correct to say that Saddam Hussein's regime sought to buy uranium from Niger.
That is the determination of a "UK government inquiry into the intelligence used to justify the war in Iraq". It will not be noted by the DNC. No retraction will be forthcoming from the appropriate corners.

You know, I spent more hours than I care to remember debating this point with people who could never understand that there was more to the claim than those forged Niger documents.

I plan to spend the rest of this evening enjoying the vindication.

UPDATE: Oh, and of course, there was this story, which got about 1/1,000,000th of the coverage gotten by the initial "16 words/Bush lied" story...

It was Saddam Hussein's information minister, Mohammed Saeed Sahhaf, often referred to in the Western press as "Baghdad Bob," who approached an official of the African nation of Niger in 1999 to discuss trade -- an overture the official saw as a possible effort to buy uranium.

That's according to a new book Joseph C. Wilson IV, a former ambassador who was sent to Niger by the CIA in 2002 to investigate reports that Iraq had been trying to buy enriched "yellowcake" uranium.
Odd. I must have missed his follow-up NYTimes column, entitled: "What I did find in Africa, after all."

UPDATE II: Tom Maguire...

...Lord Butler has concluded that this claim was reasonable and consistent with the intelligence.
That is not exactly the same as saying that the claim was accurate, or that it has subsequently been verified.
Important safety tip. Thanks, Egon.

As I point out in the comments below, the relevance of this report is not that it proves Iraq sought uranium from Africa. We still don't have substantial evidence one way or another on that point. What it does do, though, is prove that Bush was on firm ground (read: not lying) when he cited British intelligence.

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Comments

You know, I spent more hours than I care to remember debating this point with people who could never understand that there was more to the claim than those forged Niger documents.

I plan to spend the rest of this evening enjoying the vindication.

You don't really think is actually going to get any traction, do you?

I have no faith in our media to actually....you know, report this stuff. They can't even get easy things right!

Posted by: shark at July 7, 2004 07:14 PM

Well, a full blown apology won't happen... but it would be neat if John Carrol left the LAT in the middle of the night without looking his readers in the eye, as if to say he was ashamed of his record as Editor in Chief.

Posted by: Sean at July 7, 2004 07:34 PM

http://www.talkingpointsmemo.com/archives/week_2004_06_27.php

This is from June 27th from Josh Marshall. I suggest giving it a read.

Posted by: Steve at July 7, 2004 07:37 PM

Already read it. It doesn't address the primary point: British intelligence did, based on a variety of information, determine that Iraq had "sought uranium".

The forged documents, the Italian information....they are irrelevant.

Posted by: Jon Henke at July 7, 2004 07:42 PM

Steve, There are more issues here.

From what I was told, the British had hard evidence from a French DGSE source of which the French govt refused to allow the British to pass on to the US. Tenet sent his agency on a hunting trip for other independent sources of collaboration. That is what lead to the Italian forgeries.

That effort has no relationship to the original British intel and stands independent to the bungling of the Caught In the Act agency

But really, if there was enough evidence would you ever believe it?

Posted by: capt joe at July 7, 2004 07:53 PM

We'll have to wait for the full report since a news report on a report isn't quite the same thing as "a variety of information."
Guess we'll have to wait for what Marshall has to report also since it doesn't mean he's wrong yet.

I know it's the blogosphere, but right or wrong, it's a bit early to jump the gun yet.

Posted by: Steve at July 7, 2004 07:53 PM

Sorry for the double post..you posted at the same time as I did. I'm just waiting for the fianl report as I just said. And if it's really independent of the bunglers, then what can I say? Then again, I actually didn't follow the initial yellowcake reports too closely as I thought it wasn't central to the Iraq reasons for war, nor does it excuse the administration for using forged documents to make that particular claim.

Posted by: Steve at July 7, 2004 07:57 PM

Steve: based on what I've read from Marshall, he doesn't seem to indicate which "bad actors" his "tectonic plate shift" would implicate. It could be Iraqi, Sudanese, Niger, Coalition, etc

I agree that we'll have to wait for the full report, as always, but the fact that there is existing, unrefuted intelligence data to back up the claim seems to exhonerate Bush. Whether that intelligence data is accurate or not, I stake no claim whatsoever. It's not really relevant to the case of whether "Bush lied".

Point is, though, that the administration didn't use forged documents for that claim. They relied on British intelligence, which claimed sufficient data...outside of those documents.

Posted by: Jon Henke at July 7, 2004 08:16 PM

There is a cryptic confirmation of the uranium claim in this July 5 Daily Telegraph story as well (last paragraph):

On the other contentious issue, British claims that Iraq tried to buy uranium ore from Niger, Lord Butler is believed to say an MI6 report was accurate and not based on fake documents from the CIA.

Posted by: TM at July 7, 2004 08:29 PM

Saw Joe Wilson the other day on MSNBC... wonder if he'll be on anytime soon.

Posted by: HH at July 7, 2004 10:05 PM

Jon,

I agree with you on a couple of points, it is HIGHLY unlikely that the press (whatever their slant) will retract any mistake made. I rarely see a reporter get on nationwide television and admit they've made an ass of themselves (unless they truly have no other option). To me the whole story seemed to be more about what information Bush chose to present. The Administration received information from British sources, and tried to confirm it. They were either unable to establish the British findings, or found that the British intel was off the mark. But they left it in the speech anyway. To me it seemed a little desperate. I have very little trust for those who claim to represent me, especially after Mr. William Jefferson Clinton and his almost super-human inability to tell the truth. Whatever their reasons, the current Administration seemed to have made up their minds, and when I listened to their arguements, it seemed to have gaps of logic big enough to drive an 18 wheeler through. For me the real question is not whether he lied, but whether he wanted it to be true so much, that he ignored any evidence to the contrary.

Posted by: David at July 7, 2004 10:33 PM

Some of us recognized there was nothing to this from the day of Wilson's op-ed. It was immediately obvious that Bush didn't mention Niger in the SOTU, and that there are other uranium sources in Africa. It was also pretty clear that Wilson had (as was to be expected) only a partial view of even the Niger piece of the puzzle. His sort of overt mission can play a part, but it's rarely the key element in an assessment of that sort. Thus, he presented nothing that raised the slightest doubt about Bush's SOTU "16 words." That is -- if you know anything about the subject, about intel, and think more rigorously than a hamster.

The "16 words" could only have been untrue if British intelligence had not, in fact, assessed that Iraq had sought to buy uranium in Africa. Since they had done so -- game over.

Bush obviously didn't lie, but what of the substance of the issue? Wilson didn't offer anything pertinent to the British assessment, as far as anyone knew, since that report was secret. But public information began emerging on the topic, all of it confirming that the Brit report was a serious one (correct or not).

A British intel source, speaking early on, pointed out that the SIS stood by its assessment, and that it relied in no degree on the questionable documents. This was buried deep in news reports.

CIA "doubts" about the UK assessment were prominently discussed -- while the fact that the CIA did not even have access to the sources for the assessment (required for any real evaluation) was whispered, or not noted at all. British annoyance at the CIA's dismissive treatment of its work was mentioned somewhere -- a hint that the bizarre CIA-NSC fingerpointing was indeed as odd as it seemed.

Two separate parliamentary committees, investigating collateral matters, took the step of publicly stating they had reviewed the Africa/uranium assessment and found it reasonable (Butler's will be the third such endorsement). These statements also received little attention.

This was all last summer, when the "scandal" was still fresh. Later still, Tenet noted that more than one African country was of potential concern WRT uranium sales -- no news to anyone familiar with the subject.

Could well turn out that the British assessment, the substantive part of the "16 words," was incorrect. But there was never (not on the day Wilson's silly op-ed appeared, not at any point since) any basis for suggesting Bush was lying.


Posted by: IceCold at July 7, 2004 10:51 PM

I agree that "Bush lied about uranium" was silly. Now the NY Times tells us that "Bush politicized the intelligence" is also, hmm, unsubstantiated:

The unanimous report by the [Senate Intelligence Committee] will say there is no evidence that intelligence officials were subjected to pressure to reach particular conclusions about Iraq. That issue had been an early focus of Democrats, but none of the more than 200 intelligence officials interviewed by the panel made such a claim, and the Democrats have recently focused criticism on the question of whether the intelligence was misused.

Posted by: Tom Maguire at July 8, 2004 10:03 AM

ABC radio could have covered this today and they didn't... they could have covered the confirmation that there was NO pressure to exaggerate intelligence... Instead they cover Sen. Levin grandstanding and claiming that the Atta Prague meeting didn't happen, when in fact the memo he points to deals with almost none of the evidence that it did.

Posted by: HH at July 8, 2004 06:39 PM

All the report says is that we were spying on people suspected of smuggling uranium. What it certainly doesn't say is that THEY WEREN'T smuggling uranium.

I love The FT.

Posted by: A friend at July 9, 2004 08:06 AM

I keep wondering when someone like Tim Russert - a journalist who still seems mostly sane - will stand up and declare themselves embarrassed by the excesses of his colleagues and concerned about the integrity and credibility of the craft of journalism. IS there a left-leaning journalist out there with the courage and moral fibre to stand up and say: "enough! In our gleeful push to destroy Bush, we are destroying ourselves as well." It needs a Russert to be effective...but some journalist, somewhere, has GOT to do it, eventually, or this nation is really lost.

Posted by: Elizabeth at July 10, 2004 09:51 AM