July 21, 2004
Its a right-wing smear
Posted by McQ
Joe Wilson goes into VRWC mode to defend himself from what he characterizes as a "right-wing smear" against he and his wife concerning the claims he made when he supposedly investigated whether Iraq had attempted to purchase uranium from Niger.
To review, his conclusions, found in a NYT op/ed piece in July of 2003 were as follows:
Based on my experience with the administration in the months leading up to the war, I have little choice but to conclude that some of the intelligence related to Iraq's nuclear weapons program was twisted to exaggerate the Iraqi threat.
I was convinced before the war that the threat of weapons of mass destruction in the hands of Saddam Hussein required a vigorous and sustained international response to disarm him. Iraq possessed and had used chemical weapons; it had an active biological weapons program and quite possibly a nuclear research program — all of which were in violation of United Nations resolutions. Having encountered Mr. Hussein and his thugs in the run-up to the Persian Gulf war of 1991, I was only too aware of the dangers he posed.
But were these dangers the same ones the administration told us about? We have to find out. America's foreign policy depends on the sanctity of its information. For this reason, questioning the selective use of intelligence to justify the war in Iraq is neither idle sniping nor "revisionist history," as Mr. Bush has suggested. The act of war is the last option of a democracy, taken when there is a grave threat to our national security. More than 200 American soldiers have lost their lives in Iraq already. We have a duty to ensure that their sacrifice came for the right reasons.
Charge: Intelligence related to Iraq's nuclear weapons program was "twisted" to "exaggerate" the Iraqi threat.
Evidence: Does not support the charge. Two separate investigations, one British (Lord Butler's) and one US (Congressional investigation into the CIA) concluded that the President and the administration did not exaggerate intelligence nor pressure operatives to come to a conclusion they wanted. They also concluded that the "16 words" used by Bush in the SOTU address were correct.
Result: Charge unfounded.
That is the nut of this argument. Joe Wilson was found to be wrong about his conclusion that the US went to war based on "twisted" and "exaggerated" intel and he was also wrong in his conclusion that Iraq had not sought yellowcake from Niger.
You'd think he'd be smart enought to shut-up and go away.
But no. Today we're treated to a Joe Wilson whine about a right-wing smear job (ironic isn't it, him protesting a 'smear' after the smear job he did on Bush):
For the last two weeks, I have been subjected — along with my wife, Valerie Plame — to a partisan Republican smear campaign. In right-wing blogs and on the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal and the National Review, I've been accused of being a liar and, worse, a traitor.
I certainly wouldn't go as far as call the man a traitor, but a liar ... possible. More likely though is the fact that Joe Wilson was a poor investigator with a big-mouth who attempted to leverage a mole-hill into a partisan political mountain ... and failed.
But per Joe, its all the right-wing's fault. He's just a guy doing a job he was asked to do (you know, such as writing an op/ed piece accusing the President of "twisting" and "exaggerating" intelligence to justify war).
I went to Niger, investigated and told the CIA that the report was unfounded. Then, in July 2003, I revealed some details of my investigation in a New York Times Op-Ed article. I did that because President Bush had used the Niger claim to support going to war in Iraq — to support his contention that we could not wait "for the smoking gun to become a mushroom cloud" — even though the administration knew that evidence for it was all but nonexistent. Shortly after that article was published, the attacks began: Administration sources leaked to the media that my wife was an undercover CIA operative — an unprecedented betrayal of national security and a possible felony.
Let's be clear here, the attacks began with Joe Wilson's op/ed piece. He seems to think its a benign act to accuse the President of twisting and exaggerating intel and lying.
In the last two weeks, since the Senate Intelligence Committee released its report on intelligence failures, the smear attacks have intensified. Based on distortions in the report, they appear to have three purposes: to sow confusion; to distract attention from the fact that the White House used the Niger claim even after CIA Director George Tenet told Bush that "the reporting was weak"; and to protect whoever it was who told the press about Valerie.
Distortions in the report? What distortions? What's clear is the CIA wasn't privy to the real intel held by the British. Their conclusion was based, rightly by the way, on viewing and rejecting the Italian forgeries. But here's an important point: Joe Wilson had based his conclusion on his trip, not the Italian forgeries. And as he mentions in his NYT op/ed piece, Bush's "16 words" were based on neither the forgeries or Wilson's report:
The British government published a "white paper" asserting that Saddam Hussein and his unconventional arms posed an immediate danger. As evidence, the report cited Iraq's attempts to purchase uranium from an African country.
Then, in January, President Bush, citing the British dossier, repeated the charges about Iraqi efforts to buy uranium from Africa.
This intelligence has since been deemed to be correct.
Meanwhile, an examination by a British investigative panel that was released days after the Senate committee report said that the allegations about Iraqi attempts to buy uranium from Africa were "well-founded" and that Bush was on solid ground to repeat Britain's concerns in his speech.
So how is it distorted to point to that? And, I've never understood where clearing something up is an attempt to 'sow confusion'. But one supposes when they've been shown to be both incompetent and disingenuous, they might consider the truth as 'confusing'.
Wilson then tries to focus the smear on the supposed outing of his wife by administration officials and denies she had any role in his assignment to the job in Niger. That appears to be a story now sorting itself out in which Wilson may be found to have lied concerning her role. But while Wilson attempts to make this the focus of the "smear" the Congressional report: questions his truthfulness:
The committee also questioned Wilson's repeated denials that his wife had "anything to do" with his selection by the CIA to go to Niger. It quoted from a memo by Plame that lays out Wilson's qualifications for the assignment. Wilson and the CIA confirm that the agency, not Plame, selected him for the mission. He says the memo merely laid out his qualifications after he was picked.
The memo, of course, blasts his claim she hand nothing to do with his assignment to the job all to hell. Obviously signing a memo laying out a candidate's qualifications doesn't qualify as "doing nothing".
Going on, Wilson yammers:
The attacks against me should not obscure the facts. The day after my article in the Times appeared in July 2003, the president's spokesman acknowledged that "the 16 words did not merit inclusion in the State of the Union address."
The Senate report makes clear that senior leadership of the CIA tried repeatedly to keep this unsubstantiated claim out of presidential addresses. Three months before the State of the Union, on Oct. 6, 2002, the CIA sent a fax to the White House stating that "the Africa story is overblown." Tenet testified that on that day he told the deputy national security advisor the "president should not be a fact witness on this issue" because "the reporting was weak."
He's right, the facts shouldn't be obscured. And the fact is the CIA was focused on the wrong "claim". Bush cited the British report, which had been initially generated by the French. The British report did not cite or use the fraudulent Italian papers as its basis. So yes, fact, the CIA was correct to repeatedly try to keep the fraudulent Italian report from being cited, but that wasn't the report which Bush cited.
"The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."
Note the cite. Review Lord Butler and the Congressional CIA report. The cite is correct.
The right-wing campaign against me and Valerie does not alter the reality that someone in the Bush administration exposed her identity and compromised national security. I believe it was a malicious act meant to keep others from crossing a vindictive administration.
Of course he offers nothing but opinion here, or should I say, he offers the left-wing claim that its all about vindictiveness while denying the attack was begun by Wilson's July '03 op/ed in the NY Times which demanded answers.
Most important, when it comes to the Niger claim — and so many other claims underlying the decision to go to war in Iraq — it is the Bush administration, not Joe Wilson, who spoke the words that have cost us more than 900 lives and billions of dollars and have left our international reputation in tatters.
Wilson's last gasp is pathetic, even by the standards by which we've come to judge the radical left. Even after seeing its basis destroyed, he again tries the "Big Lie" canard which claims or infers it was all 'twisted' and 'exaggerated' information purposely designed to make the threat seem more than it was. As we've now found out, those claims are false. But Wilson and the left will continue to push it for all its worth, if for no other reason than to disguise their incompetence and lack of will in the War on Terror.