August 01, 2005

The NYT and the Niger/Uranium Story

Steven Weisman, in yesterday's NYT in a piece on the latest Bolton going-ons, writes thusly:

The State Department has admitted that, as Mr. Biden charged, Mr. Bolton had been interviewed in a previous inquiry into one particular intelligence failure on Iraq, the finding that Iraq had tried to buy raw uranium from Niger for a nuclear arms program. That finding turned out to be based on forged documents. [emphasis added]

Over at W 43rd Street, I guess, the Butler Report (PDF) has been consigned to the dustbin of history or, at least, appears to be blissfully ignored. Let's quote, at length, from said report:

6.4 URANIUM FROM AFRICA

490. There has been significant controversy surrounding the reliability of Government statements about Iraqi attempts to buy uranium from Africa. We have therefore studied this issue in detail.

493. In early 1999, Iraqi officials visited a number of African countries, including Niger. The visit was detected by intelligence, and some details were subsequently confirmed by Iraq. The purpose of the visit was not immediately known. But uranium ore accounts for almost three-quarters of Niger’s exports. Putting this together with past Iraqi purchases of uranium ore from Niger, the limitations faced by the Iraq regime on access to indigenous uranium ore and other evidence of Iraq seeking to restart its nuclear programme, the JIC judged that Iraqi purchase of uranium ore could have been the subject of discussions and noted in an assessment in December 2000 that:

. . . unconfirmed intelligence indicates Iraqi interest in acquiring uranium. [JIC, 1 December 2000]

494. There was further and separate intelligence that in 1999 the Iraqi regime had also made inquiries about the purchase of uranium ore in the Democratic Republic of Congo. In this case, there was some evidence that by 2002 an agreement for a sale had been reached [ed. note: Recall, just for the record and not related to Weisman's piece, that the infamous 16 words in Bush's SOTU spoke of Africa writ large, not Niger specically].

495. During 2002, the UK received further intelligence from additional sources which identified the purpose of the visit to Niger as having been to negotiate the purchase of uranium ore, though there was disagreement as to whether a sale had been agreed and uranium
shipped
.

496. This evidence underlay the statement in the Executive Summary of the Government’s dossier of September 2002 that:

As a result of the intelligence we judge that Iraq has...:

- tried covertly to acquire technology and materials which could be used in the production of nuclear weapons;

- sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa, despite having no active civil nuclear power programme that could require it...

and in Chapter 3 of Part 1 of the Government’s dossier that:

The main conclusions are that:

- This visit was separate from the Iraqi-Nigerien discussions, in the margins of the mid-1999 Organisation of African Unity meeting in Algiers, attested to by Ambassador Wilson in his book “The Politics of Truth” (Carroll & Graf, NY 2004, p28).

- Saddam continues to attach great importance to the possession of weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles which he regards as being the basis for Iraq’s regional power. He is determined to retain these capabilities;

- Iraq continues to work on developing nuclear weapons,in breach of its obligations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty and in breach of UNSCR 687. Uranium has been sought from Africa that has no civil nuclear application in Iraq.

and:

Iraq’s known holdings of processed uranium are under IAEA supervision. But there is intelligence that Iraq has sought the supply of signicant quantities of uranium from Africa. Iraq has no active civil nuclear power programme or nuclear power plants and therefore has no legitimate reason to acquire uranium.

497. In preparing the dossier, the UK consulted the US. The CIA advised caution about any suggestion that Iraq had succeeded in acquiring uranium from Africa, but agreed that there was evidence that it had been sought.

498. The range of evidence described above underlay the relevant passage in the Prime Minister’s statement in the House of Commons on 24 September 2002 that:

In addition, we know that Saddam has been trying to buy signicant quantities of uranium from Africa, although we do not know whether he has been successful.

499. 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. By extension, we conclude also that the statement in President Bush’s State of the Union Address of 28 January 2003 that:

"The British Government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa" was well-founded.

500. We also note that, because the intelligence evidence was inconclusive, neither the Government’s dossier nor the Prime Minister went on to say that a deal between the Governments of Iraq and Niger for the supply of uranium had been signed, or uranium shipped.

501. We have been told that it was not until early 2003 that the British Government became aware that the US (and other states) had received from a journalistic source a number of documents alleged to cover the Iraqi procurement of uranium from Niger. Those documents were passed to the IAEA, which in its update report to the United Nations Security Council in March 2003 determined that the papers were forgeries:

The investigation was centred on documents provided by a number of States that pointed to an agreement between Niger and Iraq for the sale of uranium to Iraq between 1999 and 2001. The IAEA has discussed these reports with the Governments of Iraq and Niger, both of which have denied that any such activity took place. For its part, Iraq has provided the IAEA with a comprehensive explanation of its relations with Niger, and has described a visit by an Iraqi official to a number of African countries, including Niger, in February 1999, which Iraq thought might have given rise to the reports. The IAEA was able to review correspondence coming from various bodies of the Government of Niger, and to compare the form, format, contents and signatures of that correspondence with those of the alleged procurement-related documentation. Based on thorough analysis, the IAEA has concluded, with the concurrence of outside experts, that these documents, which formed the basis for the reports of recent uranium transactions between Iraq and Niger, are in fact not authentic. We have therefore concluded that these specific allegations are unfounded.

502. We have asked the IAEA what were their grounds for concluding that the visit paid by an Iraqi official to Africa was not for the purpose of acquiring uranium. The IAEA said:

...the Director General explained in his report dated 7 March 2004 [sic] to the UN Security Council that Iraq ”described the visit by an Iraqi official to a number of African countries, including Niger, in February 1999,which Iraq thought might have given rise to the reports”. On a number of occasions in early 2003, including in a
letter dated 1 February 2003, the IAEA requested Iraq to provide details of all meetings held between Iraqi officials and officials from Niger around the year 2000. The Director of Iraq’s National Monitoring Directorate responded in a letter of 7 February 2003 to the Director of the IAEA’s Iraq Nuclear Verification Office. (It should be noted that at the time of Iraq’s response Iraq had not been provided by the IAEA with any details contained in documents alleging the existence of a uranium contract.) The Iraqi response referred to above explained that, on 8 February 1999, Mr. Wissam Al Zahawie, Iraq’s then Ambassador to the Holy See, as part of a trip to four African countries, visited Niger as an envoy of the then President of Iraq to Mr. Ibrahim Bare, the then President of Niger,in order to deliver an oficial invitation for a visit to Iraq, planned for 20 to 30 April 1999. (N.B. Mr. Bare passed away on 9 April 1999.) According to the Iraqi information, no such presidential visit from Niger to Iraq took place before 2003.

The Iraqi authorities provided the IAEA with excerpts from Mr. Al Zahawie’s travel report to Niger. These excerpts support the above explanation by the Ambassador regarding the purpose of his visit to Niger and do not contain any references to discussions about uranium supply from Niger. In order to further clarify the matter,the IAEA interviewed Mr. Al Zahawie on 12 February 2003. The information provided by the Ambassador about details about his 1999 trip to Africa also supported the information obtained previously by the
Agency on this visit. The demeanour of the Ambassador and the general tone of the interview did not suggest that he was under particular pressure to hide or fabricate information. Notwithstanding the information summarized above, and in view of the fact that the
IAEA so far has not obtained any other related information than the forged documents, the IAEA is not in the position to demonstrate that Iraq never sought to import uranium in the past. This is the reason why the IAEA only concluded that it had ”no indication that Iraq attempted to import uranium since 1990” but it would ”follow up any additional evidence,if it emerges, relevant to efforts by Iraq to illicitly import nuclear materials”. So far no such additional information has been obtained by the Agency.

503. 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 [ed. note: Neither did Bush in the SOTU, by the way].

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
.

So when Weisman writes, in a non-opinion hard news story in the leading paper in the land, that "the finding that Iraq had tried to buy raw uranium from Niger for a nuclear arms program...turned out to be based on forged documents"--he's being, shall we say, a bit economical with the truth. The finding was based on something more than just forgeries, it would seem, at least if you believe the report of a leading independent U.K. jurist. Of course, the NYT has been quite sloppy about this story for at least over a year now (click thru for how Weisman's piece is poorly worded indeed even if you are just dealing with the SSCI report and the U.S. intelligence side of the fence).

I know I beat on this story a bit like a dead horse. I do so largely because the sixteen words of the SOTU have been used by many as partisan talking point to scream 'Bush lied'! But if you dig into the weeds of the investigations that have taken place--one must judiciously conclude that he didn't. This is not to say that intelligence was not analyzed aggressively or that there were not people at the CIA or State who were more dubious than others in the intelligence community about the Niger/uranium information available. Look, would it have been better if Bush had said in the SOTU: "The British Government suspects (rather than "has learned") that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa"? Yeah. But the statement wasn't some horrific Big Lie, even if the formulation wasn't ideal. And it's not as if, but for the Niger/uranium claim, Bush's case for war would have crumbled. Read the '03 SOTU...there was a long list of Iraq related grievances indeed...

A final point. You'll hear a lot from the predictable quarters that the Iraq Survey Group turned up no uranium. That's true, of course. But this doesn't have a bearing on whether Bush lied. Intelligence is a murky realm, and definitive judgments are hard to come by. One must weigh evidence and make reasoned analyses. The British did so, and are on the record stating that there were non-forgery related sources that Iraq was seeking uranium in the late 90s from Niger and perhaps the Congo too. Similarly, the SSCI references some DIA intel unrelated to the forgeries that, while no slam dunk, at least left open the possibility Iraq was seeking uranium in Africa. The fact that no uranium turned up after the invasion certainly means our intelligence gathering needs to be improved, and that we must continue to strenuously keep vigil that intelligence is not crudely politicized to fit pre-determined agendas. But nothing about the Iraq Survey Group's post-war uranium findings (or lack thereof) points to an administration that was knowingly, intentionally, purposefully lying on the issue in the advent to war.


Posted by Gregory at August 1, 2005 02:07 AM | TrackBack (0)
Comments

Which doesn't alter the fact, Gregory, that the Usual Suspects will scream "Bush Lied!", despite the argument you have presented.

There are reasons the Left isn't trusted with National Security by the American People. Aside from a pacifism that borders on the pathological, leftists tend to treat policy differences as criminal matters, and disagreements as lies. Unfortunately, this has seeped into the activist base of the Democratic Party, with a baleful effect on our political system. The long term effect for forging a bipartisan, water's edge approach to foreign policy should be clear to even the most disinterested observer.

Posted by: Section9 at August 1, 2005 04:18 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Great post, sir. Very useful.

My own current, somewhat irresponsible theory is that Valerie Plame could have shared classified intel on these forged documents with her husband prior to his trip to Niger in February 2002. Both State and CIA knew about these documents at some point soon after they were produced in late 2001, although I cannot fully determine by whom they were examined. But the Italians did pass them along ---maybe just to the embassy in Rome. The State Department says that they did not actually have them in their possession until about February 2003.

But if Wilson was telling the Washington Post in the spring of 2003 that he had seen these memos at the time of his trip ---although later claiming to the SSCI that he "may have misspoken"--- it could be that he is trying to shield his wife from any deeper involvement. Or, he might just be a liar.

Come to think of it, I'd say he's just a liar.

Posted by: Toby Petzold at August 1, 2005 04:26 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Hooray for Bush the Clintonian monger of war! He is such a straight arrow! The path to war was soooooooo righteous!

If I tone down the exclamation points, will you all listen? Ah, we can try.

Look. I'm pretty darn shrill on the subject of GWB, I'll admit. But I respect the truth more, and I respect writers as intelligent as BD more.

It's true that the Hard Left has been thirsty for any justification to be able to scream "Liar!" and maybe it has been a tad overripe on the whole 16 words thing. To be honest, any argument that lived or died on those 16 words would be a pretty weak one. The problem is, that seems to include Mr. BD (in days like today, at least).

The War in Iraq needed to happen. The gang currently in office is really not high on the list of people we'd want to be doing it.

Did Bush "lie"? No. Did Bush and his cohorts spin endless tortuous formulations that were technically "true" but were wildly misleading? Yeah. Did they twist the arm of the intelligence they found until it came out at the socket? Yes.

Well, I guess all that really matters is that BD can throw a few "tut tuts" at Michael Moore.

One of the prices of the war, as Bush conducted it, is that since the justification included some measure of dishonesty and since he could never have secured that approval without that dishonesty, we cannot now extract any measure of sacrifice from the American people. If this were Japan after Pearl Harbor or (yes) Afghanistan after 9/11, there is no limit to the sacrifice we would have undertaken. It was Bush who chose this path. Iraq will likely prosper for it. It's a little less clear that we will too.

Here's to the troops, and to the Iraqi people, both of whom have seen More Than Their Share.

Posted by: Martin at August 1, 2005 05:54 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I guess that justifies blowing Plame and Brewster-Jennings then.
Now I suggest that the holdouts within the intellegence community against the aluminum-tubes-as-WMD story be similarly outed. After that, I suggest you get the person who leaked the Downing Street minutes.

Is it true that Butler &/or Blair refused to give El Baradei a look at their African yellowcake intelligence? Why would they wish to hamper the UN in that way, especially since Blair is (if believed) way less anti-UN than Bush, Bolton etc?

Posted by: AlanDownUnder at August 1, 2005 09:46 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

While the Iraq Survey Group turned up no new uranium stockpiles, there was that 500 tons of yellowcake sitting in a warehouse at the Al-Tuwaitha nuclear facility needing only some rebuilt centrifuges to start up the Iraqi nuke program. Not to mention 2 tons of enriched uranium and several pounds of Highly Enriched Uranium we carted away after the war.

All this in a country with no working nuclear reactors.

Saddam wanted to build nukes? Preposterous!

Posted by: Rick Moran at August 1, 2005 10:59 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Lets see now....

We know the Butler report is dead wrong.

We know that the ENTIRE lie promulgated by the Butler Report (which Greg so graciously repeats here) is based on a meeting of trade representatives from Iraq and officials from Niger. One official from Niger speculated that the meeting was about Iraq's desire to purchase uranium, but we know from that SAME official that uranium was not discussed.

What we are looking at here is the "uranium" version of the "aluminum tubes" story --- some people wanted to believe that Saddam was seeking uranium, and thus concluded that the only reason a trade meeting would be held would be to seek uranium. SMARTER PEOPLE who actually pay attention to the facts know that the meeting was held at a time when Iraq was involved in a diplomatic offensive to have the sanctions lifted, and holding trade talks WITH A NUMBER OF AFRICAN NATIONS including those with no yellowcake to sell was just one part of that offensive.

We also know that there was no GOOD BASIS for any of the other claims that Iraq was seeking uranium. Most of the "reports" were based on forged documents, as the various intelligence services heard about and repeated the allegations. There were also some shadowy reports of Iraq supposedly seeking yellowcake from other African nations --- reports that have subsequently been proven false.

There is a reaon the Butler report is being consigned to the dustbin of history, Greg----its because we NOW know it was a white wash designed to deflect responsibility for the manipulation of intelligence away from MI-6 and Blair. Butler was WRONG WRONG WRONG WRONG WRONG.....that has been established beyond a reasonable doubt, and rather than beating this dead horse that you rode into supporting the Iraqi bloodbath, you might want to spend your time understand why you were so wrong.

Posted by: p.lukasiak at August 1, 2005 11:29 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

p.lukasiak , it's incredible that you can dismiss with a few words any document or statement from absolutely anybody, where that document or view counters your own beliefs. Bravo!

Posted by: Andrew Paterson at August 1, 2005 01:34 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Martin - your concern for the "people of Iraq" is touching

Its such a shame that people like you couldn't have prevented this awful war in Iraq and left them to the tender mercies of Saddam and eventually Uday

Posted by: Pogue Mahone at August 1, 2005 02:24 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I don't understand how the Iraq hawks can insist with a straight face that Bush was basically right to emphasize the possibility of Saddam's nuclear program (such a self-serving tactic!) and yet let Bush off the hook when it comes to nuclear proliferation in other areas. Whatevs.

Oh look! Spy's Notes on Iraqi Aims Were Shelved, Suit Says

Well I'll be.

Posted by: Martin at August 1, 2005 02:25 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Greg,

Thanks for not publishing any of those magnum opus's:) Or maybe it was a Bloom County reference. Maybe I'll have more to say later, but it is good to have you back.

Posted by: Lance at August 1, 2005 03:57 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Of course Bush lied about Iraq. Just like Clinton lied about Bosnia, Reagan lied about Iran-Contra, Johnson/Kennedy/Nixon lied about Vietnam, Roosevelt about Japan, and I'm quite certain the original George W. about those bloody Brits.

Presidents and Administrations must politically sell difficult foreign policy decisions and to do so they spin, they select, they conjure, and they obfuscate. Sometimes they even tell more blatent forms of lies, although they try to avoid anything that could be definitively proven false.

Guess what.... the opposition usually doesn't like the dishonesty and accuses them of LYING. Damn, those unpatriotic weak kneed losers.

Gentlemen, politics is a dishonest business (Even McCain spins a little!) So is buying a used car.

If you are wasting words arguing that Bush did or did not lie, then you are either naive or playing politics yourself. In other words, you are selling, not learning.

Posted by: POTUS B at August 1, 2005 04:05 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I'm afraid I'm a little less eager than Greg to be President Bush's lawyer on this one.

Despite something close to a consensus among Western intelligence agencies that Saddam Hussein had stockpiles of chemical weapons and the ability to make more of these, and of biological weapons also, there was also a preponderance of opinion that the Iraqi nuclear program had been all but completely dismantled in the years following the Gulf War. The uranium from Africa line in the State of the Union made no sense unless it implied something that most intelligence analysts, including American ones, felt strongly was untrue.

The early reaction from then-NSA Rice and George Tenet in the summer of 2003 should have been stuck to, because it was true: the "16 words" should not have been in the President's speech. At a bare minimum, the fact that they were reflects very poorly on the judgment of people we count on to present the case for war to the public based on solid evidence, not on worst-case scenarios supported by statements that we can say nothing better of than that we cannot prove they were literally untrue.

Posted by: JEB at August 1, 2005 04:45 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

People conveniently forget that Powell made the case for war as well. As probably the most anti-war member of the Cabinet, he went to Langley, pored over the intelligence, and then told UN Security Council about the aluminum tubes.

Did Powell lie? Did Tony Blair, for that matter?

Or were they all transfixed by GWB, his lust for battle, and the sixteen words?

I agree the case for war was widespread and the nuclear issue was less likely in the short term. But given that we’d underestimated Hussein’s nuclear program before the first Gulf War and that he’d ejected the UN inspectors, any prudent President would have to include that risk in the calculations when determining the course of action.

We still don’t know everything that went on in Iraq at the time and it will be up to the historians to sort out the real risks we faced and the real results we achieved by invading.

However, the claim that there was NO cause for invading is difficult for anyone but opposing political operatives and staunch pacifists to make.

Posted by: kevin at August 1, 2005 05:46 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Whats missing from much of this discussion is the question of what a Hussein regime would have been doing in the coming years without the dismantling of the whole apparatus.

It seems clear to me that the containment of the 1990's was a failing long term strategy

Posted by: Pogue Mahone at August 1, 2005 06:46 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Despite something close to a consensus among Western intelligence agencies that Saddam Hussein had stockpiles of chemical weapons and the ability to make more of these, and of biological weapons also,

there was a "consensus" concerning the possibility that such things existed, but as the Downing Street Minutes pointed out, the intelligence was "thinly sourced". Basically, because of his history of deception on matters of WMDs, the default assumption was that he continued to lie about them --- and "conclusions" were reached based on that default assumption. Contrary evidence (like that from Hussein Kamel) was virtually ignored, while all "circumstantial" evidence was used to support the default assumption.

Its possible to give Bush the benefit of the doubt for believing that Iraq had WMDs in September 2002. But by the time the State of the Union was delivered, it had been established beyond a shadow of a doubt that intelligence conclusions were critically flawed, and that a complete and independent review of the intelligence was absolutely required in light of the reports coming out of the UNMOVIC/IAEA inspections process.

(I mean, one of the facts that has fallen into the memory hole of Bush supporters is all of the crap we were handed about WMDs in Saddams palaces and in facilities built underneath Mosques when Bush was trying to get the UN to pass a resolution in September 2002. Those were among the first places subject to inspections, and nothing whatsoever was found that confirmed all that crap we were handed. This signalled that the "conclusions" about Iraq were completely unreliable----but Bush simply ignored the facts that were emerging from the inspections.)

The "sixteen words" were deliberately deceptive --- US intelligence analysts had effectively rebutted the evidence that would have allowed Bush to say "we have learned.....", and the US was not made privy to the intelligence upon which the British statement was based. British intelligence didn't "learn" anything, they concluded, based primarily on the same evidence that had been rejected by US intelligence analysts, that Iraq had sought uranium from Niger.

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

it's incredible that you can dismiss with a few words any document or statement from absolutely anybody, where that document or view counters your own beliefs.

When you know that a document has it wrong, its not hard to denounce it. The Butler report says it was "reasonable" to conclude that Iraq was seeking uranium based on

1) documents that later were discovered to be forgeries --- in other words, a "report" from another intelligence service that was not properly vetted by British analysts, and which did not pass the "laugh test" when examined by US experts in both the State Department and the CIA.

2) A request for a meeting on trade with Niger, despite the fact that uranium was never discusses at the meeting when it took place

and

3) unconfirmed (and, in hindsight, utterly unrellable) "reports" that Iraq had sought uranium from two other countries....

The paucity of any REAL evidence that Iraq sought uranium in Africa is astonishing. To CONCLUDE, based on this extremely "thin" evidence, that Iraq was seeking uranium was completely unjustified---- and no impartial person would say otherwise.

Posted by: p.lukasiak at August 1, 2005 07:00 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Paul;

If the Iraqis were not in Niger to discuss uraniam, what was the trade delegation there for?

Posted by: monkeyboy at August 1, 2005 07:56 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

But your not impartial Luka...as has been demonstrated on this Blog you have been writing anti-Bush screeds for 5 years now

Why should anyone trust you? Why don't you tell us what the Iraqi delegation was in Niger for?

Posted by: Pogue Mahone at August 1, 2005 09:14 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

kevin: Did Powell lie?

I think Powell was being the good soldier, and in that case, being the good soldier meant intentionally misleading spin.

Posted by: fling93 at August 1, 2005 10:12 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The "default assumption," just so we're clear, was based not only on the past history of Iraq having been found to have much more advanced WMD programs after the Gulf War that Western intelligence services had thought, but on Saddam's less than complete compliance with UN resolutions since. Contrary intelligence was as thinly sourced as that subscribed to by Western services, and certainly the logical step for Saddam to have taken if he had no WMDs would have been to comply fully with 1441.

But this applies mostly to the chemical and biological categories of weapons. We had substantially better reason to believe that Iraq's nuclear weapons program was all but defunct before the war, and implying otherwise in the State of the Union speech was not something that should ever have been done without much better information than what Greg discusses here.

Posted by: JEB at August 1, 2005 10:34 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I think Powell was being the good soldier, and in that case, being the good soldier meant intentionally misleading spin.

Fling93, I’m taking your comment that “intentionally misleading spin” does not equal lying, although others on this board have used exactly that definition of lying when describing GWB.

But as for Powell, I didn’t get that impression at all. Based on the reports I read, he grilled the CIA analysts and took out everything he thought was thinly sourced before preparing his case. It was just this kind of thoroughness and reputation for integrity that made him such a credible presenter, although the job fell to him naturally as the US Secretary of State, and why I used his presentation as the benchmark for what we both (a) knew to be true and (b) felt comfortable disclosing.

Powell was someone with an incredible reputation and not one to squander that reputation on a cause he didn’t believe in. When he held up the aluminum tube and stated that as a former soldier he couldn’t envision anyone using tubes of this quality to build artillery shells, I found him a very credible witness for the prosecution.

But you didn’t reply to my question about Tony Blair. Here’s a man with his own intelligence community and own constituents to deal with. Did Blair lie too?

I think JEB’s post hits the nail on the head, the intelligence AGAINST WMD was as thinly sourced as the intelligence FOR WMD. Not having good informants inside the Hussein regime means not getting information that confirms OR rejects your hypothesis, and given the past and current actions of Saddam, you had to believe that with smoke so thick you can’t see inside there had to be a fire in there somewhere.

When you tie that to the fact many nations had been advocating for the LIFTING of sanctions against Iraq (thank you Pogue), you not only have a very suspicious set of circumstances but a potentially much bigger problem in the immediate future

Most of the people saying “I told you so” today didn’t really say Saddam had nothing back in 2002. They said even all the allegations were true we couldn’t go in without UNSC approval. In that regard, asking for an apology based on the post-invasion findings is really quite disingenuous.

Posted by: kevin at August 1, 2005 11:23 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

HUSSEIN'S IRAG WOULD HAVE BEEN UNLIKELY TO REBUILD ITS NUCLEAR ARSENAL VS. HUSSEIN'S STRATEGY OF GETTING SANCTIONS LIFTED IN ORDER TO REBUILD ITS NUCLEAR CAPABILITY CONFIRMED BY EVIDENCE

I don't think we can equate the WMD threat from chemical and biological weapons to that from nuclear weapons. The latter are a much greater threat, with no credible defenses. There are few after-the-fact medical treatments to cure the result of exposure to a nuclear blast and few gas masks or suits to protect you as well. I was taught that one way of estimating risk was to multiply the odds of an event happening to the consequences of the event. The result is an EV or expected value (but still only an average value). This model seems to work well with normal sized numbers. The problem is that when you multiply a very small number (the odds of a nuclear blast) by a very large number (the consequences of a nuclear blast in a large metropolitan area), the model has shortcomings. Small variations in the assessment of the odds of such an event result in large differences in perceived risk. Hence the controversy over the 16 words and the Iraq war.

Was Iraq a real nuclear threat? Apparently not in the short term, due to the UN sanctions. However, any assessment of Irag's longer term threat prior to the war depends on what a post-UN sanctions Hussein (not just Saddam, but also Uday and Qusay) regime would have done. From the Hussein's regime point-of-view, a necessary first step to rebuilding its nuclear WMD capability was to get rid of the UN sanctions and the no-fly zones (which provided a good aerial and signal intelligence platform).

There is overwhelming evidence that that is exactly what the Hussein regime was doing strategically: the OFF scandal being the smoking gun. However, the "trade" trips to Africa should not be written off as having nothing to do with nuclear WMDs. Instead, I would submit that those trips could be reassessed as intending to undermine political support in the UN Security Council for continuing UN sanctions by establishing trade relations (= votes), which removal was a necessary first step in reestablishing a nuclear WMD capability.

In short, while there is little *direct* evidence of the Hussein regime rebuilding its nuclear capability, what has been found is still consistent with a longer term strategy of getting rid of sanctions, as a necessary first step to rebuilding its nuclear WMD capability.

This gets us to the first part of my comment: namely that small changes in the assessment of the odds of the Hussein regime rebuilding its nuclear capability post_UN sanctions result in large differences in perceived risk. Given the difficulty of obtaining perfect intelligence, I would submit any talk of "lying" is unsupported.

Posted by: Snorrri at August 2, 2005 12:07 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


Two brief points:

1) What is significant about the WMD mirage is that the Administration (including Powell) hooked their spin machine (and credibility) to an intelligence-based argument that was going to be proven one way or another. That is an awful gamble to take if you aren't absolutely sure that you have the smoking gun. When they came up empty... the credibility was shot.

2) The policy choice on Iraq was NOT between OIF as presented by the Bush team and a linear/static continuity of 1990s containment. The policy choices were a spectrum of options to deal with the Iraqi regime in the face of declining effectiveness of the post-Gulf War inspections/sanction strategy and considering in the post 9/11 environment. Anyone who lacks the imagination to consider alternatives to OIF or continuity should permanently ban themselves from this board.

Posted by: POTUS B at August 2, 2005 12:42 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

kevin: I’m taking your comment that “intentionally misleading spin” does not equal lying, although others on this board have used exactly that definition of lying when describing GWB.

It is what it is. Some people consider it lying or just as bad as lying, and others don't. I'm not going to enter into that debate because that's just a matter of personal opinion.

kevin: It was just this kind of thoroughness and reputation for integrity that made him such a credible presenter

My impression was that his credibility was just another tool in the the Bush Administration's PR kit, and they were relying on people like you figuring that credibility is not like political capital, and thus is never used.

kevin: But you didn’t reply to my question about Tony Blair. Here’s a man with his own intelligence community and own constituents to deal with. Did Blair lie too?

Blair has just as much credibility as Bush or any other politician. That is to say, little-to-none. Never use a politician as a primary source. Even ones that appear to have credibility and integrity might merely have been intentionally building up this reputation so that they can use it to achieve some end. You just never know.

kevin: the intelligence AGAINST WMD was as thinly sourced as the intelligence FOR WMD.

Obviously, it is still intentionally misleading to portray the situation as a known certainty that he had WMDs and was close to having nukes.

Posted by: fling93 at August 2, 2005 12:49 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

POTUS B wrote:

2) The policy choice on Iraq was NOT between OIF as presented by the Bush team and a linear/static continuity of 1990s containment. The policy choices were a spectrum of options to deal with the Iraqi regime in the face of declining effectiveness of the post-Gulf War inspections/sanction strategy and considering in the post 9/11 environment. Anyone who lacks the imagination to consider alternatives to OIF or continuity should permanently ban themselves from this board.


Posted by: POTUS B

Please share with us your imagination.

Posted by: snorrri at August 2, 2005 02:09 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

If the Iraqis were not in Niger to discuss uraniam, what was the trade delegation there for?

best (and most logical) guess.... the trip was part of a diplomatic offensive designed to enlist support/sympathy for the lifting of the sanctions regime.

****************************

The "default assumption," just so we're clear, was based not only on the past history of Iraq having been found to have much more advanced WMD programs after the Gulf War that Western intelligence services had thought, but on Saddam's less than complete compliance with UN resolutions since. Contrary intelligence was as thinly sourced as that subscribed to by Western services, and certainly the logical step for Saddam to have taken if he had no WMDs would have been to comply fully with 1441.

there is one rather gaping crater in this argument. As JEB well knows

1) Iraq was incapable of "complete compliance" with the UN inspections regime, because in 1991 Iraq had secretly destroyed all of its secret weapons programs, and did not keep any records of the destruction (in order to keep them secret)....maintaining just some documents necessary to revitalize the program once the sanctions were lifted. In 1995, Saddam's son-in-law defected, and provided UNSCOM with the details of the secret programs, their secret destruction, and the locations of the "saved documents".

US intelligence was fully aware that it was impossible for IRaq to comply with the letter of the law with regard to the relevant UN resolutions --- and it is abundantly clear that in 2002-03 Iraq was doing everything possible to co-operate with the inspections process.

Furthermore, as JEB well knows, Iraq was co-operating with the inspection in the period after Kamel's defection, only to find out that UNSCOM was being used by the CIA to plant listening devices in Iraq for purposes other than compliance with the relevant resolutions.

And JEB knows that no real efforts were made by the US to resume inspections under the UNMOVIC regime instituted in 1998 until Bush decided to use the pretext of the demand for inspections as a reason for going to war. During the period when UNSCOM was operating with the co-operation of Iraq, NOTHING was being found, and the US knew that it was highly unlikely that anything would be found. And since the "threat" posed by Iraq's WMDs was the pretext for maintaining military bases in Saudi Arabia, its pretty obvious that US policy makers (and yes, that means Bill Clinton) were more concerned with having a base in Saudi Arabia than in establishing that Iraq had disarmed.

Finally, as JEB knows, efforts were being made by the head of the Chemical Weapons Ban inspection team to inspect Iraq for Chemical Weapons --- the Bush regime did not want those inspections to take place, and went to great lengths to prevent them from happening, including making false accusations against the person pursuing the negotiations, and virtually blackmailing the rest of the UN to fire the guy.

2) The policy choice on Iraq was NOT between OIF as presented by the Bush team and a linear/static continuity of 1990s containment. The policy choices were a spectrum of options to deal with the Iraqi regime in the face of declining effectiveness of the post-Gulf War inspections/sanction strategy and considering in the post 9/11 environment. Anyone who lacks the imagination to consider alternatives to OIF or continuity should permanently ban themselves from this board.

first off, as JEB well knows there was absolutely nothing that suggested that containment was not working --- and the Bush administration said so prior to 9-11. Secondly, there was no "spectrum of options" and JEB knows it.....the Bush regime decided to invade Iraq for reasons that still don't make any rational sense, and "fixed the facts and intelligence around that policy." Finally, as JEB well knows, there was absolutely no credible evidence that Iraq was providing terrorists with weapons of any sort, and except for his symbolic public relations stunt of giving the survivors of Palestinian suicide bombers a couple of thousand dollars, no evidence of any actual "support for terrorism" whatsoever.

JEB, you usually do better than this --- and I'm shocked to see you continuing to try and justify your support for this bloodbath by twisting facts in this fashion....

Posted by: p.lukasiak at August 2, 2005 03:26 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

the intelligence AGAINST WMD was as thinly sourced as the intelligence FOR WMD.

sorry, but UNMOVIC and IAEA had pretty well established before the war began that there were no WMDs in Iraq ---- certainly, they have effectively rebutted every claim that could be checked out that was being made by Bush and his minions....

More importantly, you don't send thousands of Americans to their deaths, tens of thousands to a life of permanent disability, disrupt the lives of literally millions of military personnel and their families, (not to mention the hundreds of thousands of Iraq's killed, wounded, or made homeless as a result of this invasion) based on what you can't prove to be untrue. Our intelligence with regard to Canada's lack of WMDs is "thinly sourced" as well....why the hell didn't we invade them?

Posted by: p.lukasiak at August 2, 2005 03:32 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Snorri --

A few ideas:
- build multinational diplomatic pressure
- initiate covert destabilization program
- provoke Iraqi violation of international "red line"
- mandate UN hatted inspection force
- build international criminal case against Hussein regime
- initiate covert regime change plan (assasination/coup)
- initiate SOF led regime change plan
- build regional cooperation against proliferation and terror
- reduce regional irritants to US relationship
- support reformist movements
- fund opposition groups
- isolate and neutralize Hossein regime
- leverage long term US soft power advantages
- escalate to UN mandated NATO ground campaign from multiple fronts, with robust Phase IV plan primarily lead by non-US troops
- reduce Iraq to rubble via conventional air campaign
- reduce Iraq to rubble via nuclear weapons
- detente strategy, seeking to coopt Hussein to US regional ambitions
- ask the Israelis to solve the problem in exchange for...
- hire the A Team (or another contract security organization)

I'll let you pick your poison. My point wasn't to outline a better alternative but simply to call those who portray continuation of the eroding 90s containment policy as the ONLY alternative. It wasn't.

Also, before you put nuclear weapons high above biological or chemical weapons, run some smallpox or nerve agent algorithms. See CSIS Dark Winter for example. These can kill millions whereas a typical terrorist sized nuclear device set off in an urban area would probably kill less than 10K (lethal blast range is only 1-2KM or so plus downwind radiation casualties). I'm not putting them above nukes, but the distinctions are lost in against the basic fact that they represent MASS DESTRUCTION threats.

Posted by: POTUS B at August 2, 2005 03:41 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

POTUs B wrote:

... the WMD mirage ...

I would respectfully disagree in that the AQ Khan nuclear proliferation network was not a mirage. Although Iraq's connection to it might have been dated, OIF reportedly provided Qaddafi important motivation to give it up. I can't argue that we would not have found that out without OIF, because that is impossible to ever know for sure.

... the Administration (including Powell) hooked their spin machine (and credibility) to an intelligence-based argument that was going to be proven one way or another.

Any retaliatory action is necessarily intelligence-based. You can't be perfect.

... Anyone who lacks the imagination to consider alternatives to OIF or continuity should permanently ban themselves from this board.

When I first replied asking for you to share your imagiination with us, I was thinking of overt action alternatives. I have read a lot, but I don't remember too many (if any) credible overt action alternatives.

In rethinking your answer, I think you may be referring to covert action alternatives. My impression is that people in the intelligence community are eternal optimists who think anything is possible. They are often (although unfortunately not always) correct.

The argument that covert action was a better alternative to OIF reminds of a book I read over 30 years ago by a couple of US intelligence officers in which they argued that we could have gotten Japan to accept unconditional surrender without dropping the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki (unfortunately, I no longer have a copy of the book, since it belonged to my father and I did not end up with his library).

They went into long detail about how it was untrue that the Japanese had a culture that would not allow them to surrender, citing extensive research on other conflicts in Japanese history. Years later, I have seen shows on TV and read articles about how, even after the bombs were dropped and the wartime Japanese government had agreed to surrender, there was still an attempted coup by hardliners that, fortunately, failed. IIRC, the coup attempt was made after Emperor Hirohito had made the recording agreeing to surrender, but before it had been broadcast. 60 years later, whether dropping the bombs was justified is still being debated.

Posted by: snorrri at August 2, 2005 04:00 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

POTUS B –

I agree that theoretically there were many alternatives, but practically many of them were not viable in the political climate. Remember that in 2002 Saddam had kicked out the inspectors and the UN had done nothing. And any mention of reimplementing the inspection regime was being countered by Iraq with “OK, we’ll let them back in but only for a short time to show we’re clean and then everyone has to leave us alone”.

If you recall, the French were buying that one hook line and sinker.

Luka is correct that the US didn’t want inspections to resume, because they didn’t believe they would be effective in finding anything and the quid pro quo was to let Saddam have free reign in the country after that.

So in effect, the soft power options were being undermined by the OFF scandal and many of the UNSC members were on the gravy train or looking for preferential treatment once the country was opened up for business.

Now consider where Saddam would be today if that all played out. His government has received a clean bill of health from the UN inspectors, he’s drowning in $60/barrel oil money, the terrorists who are causing havoc with his enemies have been driven out of Afghanistan and need a safe place to regroup, and Iraq is working hard to build a bomb.

Why is Iraq building a bomb? Because Iran is about to get one.

I don’t see him standing pat and letting Iran go nuclear. I see him with a clear field to build a bomb and announce it on his own timetable – while his European business partners look shocked and dismayed (see also: Iran).

Having a nuclear weapon at that point would pretty much guarantee he could run the place for as long as he wanted without interference from anyone, now wouldn’t it?

And even if you don’t believe that Saddam would give a bomb to the terrorists, you have to consider the more people with knowledge and access to the right materials and equipment there are, the more likely it is that some of them sympathize with the terrorists and begin helping them.

Given Saddam’s past and the choice between “invasion” and “inspect and retreat” that was on the table, no sane President could allow Saddam to stay in power.

Remember, it was the Clinton Administration that first called for regime change in Iraq as official US policy. This didn’t all start when Bush was elected.

Posted by: kevin at August 2, 2005 05:05 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Watching the Bush critics demonstrate the utter clarity of their 20/20 hindsight is a beautiful thing.

The fact of the matter is there was no way to know what, if any, WMD Hussein had without doing detailed physical inspection on the ground. The fact is the only reason inspectors got in prior to the second gulf war was because of the coalition forces massing on Iraq's borders. The fact is it would be just this side of impossible to do the inspections needed to determine if Iraq still had WMD while Hussein was in power. The fact is Hussein was using bribery from the oil for food program to erode support for the sanctions and push for the sanctions to be lifted. The fact is no one could tell how long the sanctions would last or what Hussein would do after the sanctions were lifted.

The fact is 9/11 changed the calculus of terror attacks. One attack using improvised conventional weapons killed 3,000 people. At this point serious people started realizing the massive destruction other conventional attacks could cause. They also started to realize how much more additional damage and loss of life would occur if some sort of WMD was tripped off within the United States. The fact is any competent person with a bit of technical knowledge could look around at the wide range of civilian targets and porous US borders and realize that a police based, defensive type approach to terror was no longer tenable.

The only approach that would have a reasonable chance of preventing terror attacks would be to deny terror groups the time and space needed to plan and organize terror attacks. That meant that nation states that supported terror had to stop suporting terror. The most effective way to achieve this end was to destroy the two of the most egregious outlaw regimes on the planet. Afghanistan was a no brainer, and Iraq as the second target was absolutely reasonable.

Posted by: TJIT at August 2, 2005 05:12 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

TJIT

Spare us the 20/20 hindsight nonsense. Plenty foresaw that WMD would not be found, that AlQaida linkage would not be sustained, that US troops would not be showered with floral bouquets, that corporate croneyism would milk the situation, that ideologues would botch the post-invasion phase and that Iran would benefit from the end of Saddam's repression of his Shi-ite majority.

Saying we opposed the war because we're woolly-minded liberals etc is hogwash. We opposed the war because we had tragically close to 20/20 foresight. No secret to it, no boast. Just an absence of overweening ideology, hubris and gullibility - and a readiness to follow the money.

The policy should have been fixed around the facts and intelligence - not vice versa.

Posted by: AlanDownunder at August 2, 2005 08:58 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

20-20 hindsight? The debacle was widely predicted. As were specific failures. All you had to do was follow the money.

And this was planned before 9/11 - just go to PNAC's website. Your calculus may have changed, TJIT, but BushCo's didn't.

Posted by: AlanDownunder at August 2, 2005 10:26 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

TJIT: "...killed 3,000 people..." and brought down some wildly expensive buildings housing some very important companies on some of the world's most expensive real estate and made that real estate uninhabitable for years thereafter, even if we'd been inclined to rebuild on it, and disrupted the American economy for at least two years (and if you listen to Democrats it still sucks)... The human cost was terrible, tragic, not to be borne. The economic cost - which is a human cost too, though thankfully often not so permanent - must also be considered.

What I've never understood is, why would Bush lie? Gamble on the trustworthiness of the intel, yes, as other commenters have pointed out: you have to do that, because waiting to see if your intel is absolutely spot-on is not the same as waiting to know the veracity of the rumor that so-and-so is breaking up with whatsisname. But lie? In 2003? If he absolutely knew that there were no WMDs, why would he push for an invasion of Iraq in 2003, when a successful invasion would open the field to looking for the WMDs? I'm sure he was not thrilled when his administration decided to call off the search without having found drums and drums of ricin or sarin or something. But it'd take a president with a political deathwish to state that there were WMDs if he knew there weren't, then invade, with timing virtually guaranteeing that the next election would be a referendum on the consequences of his lie.

One reason I concluded from the start that perhaps Bush overstated his case on WMDs, perhaps not - perhaps he and his advisors honestly believed that the suggested threat from Saddam was sufficiently serious that it outweighed the importance of uncertainties in the intel. But no "lie."

Posted by: Jamie at August 2, 2005 01:27 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

It is obvious that the kool-aide drinkers on the left are not going to give up their tortured analyses which, in their eyes, make Bush a liar.

What is important here is how the left blew their credibility on this subject by staking their position on the Sixteen Words. One has to look back to "Remember the Maine" for a parralel.

When it is obvious to a disinterested party that Bush didn't actually lie, a "Bush was wrong!" approach might have won over more waverers. But by all means, continue your obviously successful political strategy. Maybe you can win and election with it. Just because it hasn't worked for the last three cycles doesn't mean it won't work eventually, if you are only shrill enough. That's the point isn't it? You're not shrill enough?

It reminds me of the saying "the beatings will continue until morale improves." At least we Republicans learned a lessong from the '98 elections. I could quote you chapter and verse how Clinton sold us out to the Chinese, actually did do favors for Enron, etc, etc, and it would be a long time before I got to the sexual harassment part, but I discovered that it was counterproductive. You guys are slow learners.

Posted by: Moptop at August 2, 2005 02:04 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

What I've never understood is, why would Bush lie?

because he wanted to invade Iraq.

The issue is not whether he believed that Iraq had WMDs, the issue is whether he deliberately skewed the presentation of factual information to convince the American people that Iraq represented a "grave and gathering" threat.

And there is no question that the information was deliberately distorted. Discussing the massive quantities of "unaccounted for" munitions and precursors, without including the necessary caveats (like the fact that most were only technically "unaccounted for", because although it was known that the materials had been destroyed, it was impossible to quantify exactly how much had been destroyed ) was specifically designed to relay the impression that these munitions and precursors still existed. There are dozens upon dozens of examples of Bush and his minions making statements that are only technically true, but designed to provide a false impression of the true state of things.

But the most grievous lie was Bush's efforts to exploit America's reaction to 9-11 by making it appear that Saddam was somehow connected to radical islamic terrorism. Not even the intelligence community bought that one --- but to this day most of Bush's supporters believe that Iraq had significant ties to al Qaeda.

Bush lied. Its a fact. and no amount of Clintonian parsing of his statements is going to change that fact.

Posted by: p.lukasiak at August 2, 2005 02:27 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

It's fascinating to watch the anti-Bush commenters tearing Bush to pieces for his administration's failure of omniscience, while the commenters themselves declare ironclad truths based on the flimsiest of foundations or simple internal mental constructions. My favorite so far is the insistence that there were so many other much more likely reasons for discussing trade with Niger than for the uranium. Uranium, of course, is Niger's major export and the only one that is profitable to export any farther than to a neighboring country, which makes it obvious to our commmenters that there must have been so many more productive things to talk about shipping thousands of miles away than usanium. Perhaps it was the live cattle or the beans, Niger's next two export leaders. Or maybe, as one, proposed, it was to line up that diplomatic powerhouse, Niger's, support for Iraq in getting the sanctions lifted. Yes, that makes perfect sense--much better to approach Niger's commerce bureaucrats than its actual foreign ministry. It's all so clear....

Question for P. Lukasiak: Since it is obvious to your questioner and me that it would be political suicide for Bush (and the Republican Party as a whole) to invade Iraq based on ephemeral and obvious lies, what was his motivation, exactly? Your statement that Bush lied to invade Iraq because he wanted to invade Iraq, emits a certain aroma of--how shall I put it--tautology or redundancy? something like that. Enlighten the unelect, won't you please?

Posted by: Jeff Z at August 2, 2005 03:06 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

We should have listed to you Alan - then Saddam would be in power today speeding along toward his own nuclear weapon ( to keep up with Iran ) - and Uday would still be shredding his opponenents and feeding them to his tigers


So tell us - you said in 2002 that you were CERTAIN Saddam had NO WMD? Is this right...so you are the one who was sure : )

Posted by: Pogue Mahone at August 2, 2005 03:56 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"It's fascinating to watch the anti-Bush commenters tearing Bush to pieces for his administration's failure of omniscience, while the commenters themselves declare ironclad truths based on the flimsiest of foundations or simple internal mental constructions. "


And they don't even know they are doing it, much less will they admit it to themselves. The only purpose to arguing with them is to keep them making outrageous statements. The more the better to keep them out of power.

Bush LIEEEED! Bush LAAAAAAAHEEED!

Posted by: Moptop at August 2, 2005 05:30 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Regarding the aluminum tubes: even if they weren't intended
for uranium, the were still obtained in violation of the UN
sanctions. And, while some claim they were intended
for rockets, none of Iraq's rockets were ever found to
utilize the high-specification alumiunum tubes.
While Bush never found WMDs, Bush critics have
never found the weapons they were claiming either.

Also, many seem to believe or imply that Saddam Hussein
merely had to come clean on his weapons programs
to be in full compliance with UN resolutions. Nothing
could be further from the truth. Hussein was violating
the cease fire agreement (that he agreed to) and the
UN resolutions in many other ways. He promised to
return 600 Kuwaiti POWs. They still haven't been
returned. It doesn't take much imagination to guess
what happened to them. Also, Hussein continued to
murder and oppress his own people in violation
of UN resolutions.

For those who believe Saddam Hussein should have
been left alone, I have only two words: mass graves.

Posted by: George at August 2, 2005 06:28 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

But George - Luka has four words in reply

"none of our business"

or maybe 5 words and some numbers -

"you supported him in the 1980's!"


You'll have to get more nimble to follow the tortured logic of anti-Bush hacks like Luka

Posted by: Pogue Mahone at August 2, 2005 08:01 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Or maybe, as one, proposed, it was to line up that diplomatic powerhouse, Niger's, support for Iraq in getting the sanctions lifted.

Posted by: Jeff Z

Actually, I meant the statement regarding "trade" to be with regard to several African nations, not just Niger. You are right that Niger and the other African nations are not diplomatic powerhouses, but, in the surrealism that the OFF-influenced UNSC had become, the votes were so closely divided that the major powers were all lobbying African nations for the deciding votes. IIRC, one African leader (don't remember which) was reportedly consulting his tribal witchdoctor about which way to cast that country's vote.

That makes Saddam look prescient, perhaps as a result of a carefully calculated strategy of trying to figure out how many votes he needed to buy on the UNSC to (a) get the sanctions lifted and/or (b) prevent approval of military action against him.

Posted by: Snorrri at August 2, 2005 08:49 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Q: What I've never understood is, why would Bush lie?

Lukas answer: because he wanted to invade Iraq.

Oh - this could be it - the motherlode itself

Tell us Luka - why did Bush WANT to invade Iraq

or in actual terms - why did he risk his re-election if you think of Presidents in Clintonian terms - and/or thousands of innocent lives - if you think of him as a human being - to pursue the liberation of Iraq in early 2003?

He "wanted" to do it - so why?

Posted by: Pogue Mahone at August 2, 2005 09:14 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Best Paul Post Ever.

Q:If the Iraqis were not in Niger to discuss uraniam, what was the trade delegation there for?

best (and most logical) guess.... the trip was part of a diplomatic offensive designed to enlist support/sympathy for the lifting of the sanctions regime.


Oh Yeah - the mighty Niger Imprint - very powerful stuff.

He means, of course, this Niger:

We all know what cache a State has when it falls entirely into starvation.

Posted by: Tommy G at August 2, 2005 11:04 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Best Paul Post Ever.

Q:If the Iraqis were not in Niger to discuss uraniam, what was the trade delegation there for?

best (and most logical) guess.... the trip was part of a diplomatic offensive designed to enlist support/sympathy for the lifting of the sanctions regime.


Oh Yeah - the mighty Niger Imprint - very powerful stuff.

He means, of course, this Niger:

We all know what cache a State has when it falls entirely into starvation.

Posted by: Tommy G at August 2, 2005 11:05 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Pogue Mahone: why did he risk his re-election if you think of Presidents in Clintonian terms - and/or thousands of innocent lives - if you think of him as a human being - to pursue the liberation of Iraq in early 2003?

Can't speak for p.lukasiak, but I think he did it because he thought it would be a quick and easy way to demonstrate progress in the WoT (and definitely easier than catching Bin Laden). From the lack of post-war planning and cost projections, statements about liberators and flowers, and the "Mission Accomplished" photo-op, it seems pretty clear to me that they thought that this would be on par with Grenada or Panama.

After all, this is an administration that thinks in terms of certainties, not risks. How else can you explain what happened to Larry Lindsey? Or why they made it sound like they knew for certain that Saddam had WMDs? Needless to say, this is an unproductive way to view the world when your primary threat is terrorism.

Posted by: fling93 at August 2, 2005 11:49 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Pogue Mahone:
why did he risk his re-election if you think of Presidents in Clintonian terms - and/or thousands of innocent lives - if you think of him as a human being - to pursue the liberation of Iraq in early 2003?

Risk? It was a politically advantageous move. It was also a money spinner.

Posted by: AlanDownunder at August 3, 2005 01:40 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Funny that Paul Lukasiak above is hyperventilating over the fact that someone somewhere forged some documents related to Iraq/Niger, even though that played no part in the British intelligence estimate. This from the same Paul Lukasiak who has spent the past year posting thousands of words on innumerable blogs defending the Dan Rather forgeries to the death. He seems to have two principles:

1. Evidence that I don't like must have been forged. All of it.

2. Evidence that supports my partisan instincts cannot possibly have been forged. No way.

Posted by: Niels Jackson at August 3, 2005 06:07 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Funny that Paul Lukasiak above is hyperventilating over the fact that someone somewhere forged some documents related to Iraq/Niger, even though that played no part in the British intelligence estimate. This from the same Paul Lukasiak who has spent the past year posting thousands of words on innumerable blogs defending the Dan Rather forgeries to the death. He seems to have two principles:

1. Evidence that I don't like must have been forged. All of it.

2. Evidence that supports my partisan instincts cannot possibly have been forged. No way.

Posted by: Niels Jackson at August 3, 2005 06:08 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

It's not just the NYT. The Butler Report has been consigned to the dustbin of history in much of the British media too. One report on the famine went something like - most people had only heard of Niger in connection with the uranium claims, which turned out to be false.
---

Posted by: DavidP at August 3, 2005 01:44 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Unsurprisingly, it looks like Paul Lukasiak is as delusional here as in defending the Dan Rather forgeries:

Finally, as JEB well knows, there was absolutely no credible evidence that Iraq was providing terrorists with weapons of any sort, and except for his symbolic public relations stunt of giving the survivors of Palestinian suicide bombers a couple of thousand dollars, no evidence of any actual "support for terrorism" whatsoever.

No evidence whatsoever? What planet does someone have to be living on to say something like that? There is a boatload of evidence discussed here, for example. Or there's the indictment brought by the CLINTON JUSTICE DEPARTMENT, which charged that "al Qaeda reached an understanding with the government of Iraq that al Qaeda would not work against that government and that on particular projects, specifically including weapons development, al Qaeda would work cooperatively with the Government of Iraq."

Let me guess: That Clinton indictment was all the work of Karl Rove.

Posted by: Niels Jackson at August 3, 2005 02:26 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Pogue Mahone: why did he risk his re-election if you think of Presidents in Clintonian terms - and/or thousands of innocent lives - if you think of him as a human being - to pursue the liberation of Iraq in early 2003?

Can't speak for p.lukasiak, but I think he did it because he thought it would be a quick and easy way to demonstrate progress in the WoT (and definitely easier than catching Bin Laden). From the lack of post-war planning and cost projections, statements about liberators and flowers, and the "Mission Accomplished" photo-op, it seems pretty clear to me that they thought that this would be on par with Grenada or Panama.

After all, this is an administration that thinks in terms of certainties, not risks. How else can you explain what happened to Larry Lindsey? Or why they made it sound like they knew for certain that Saddam had WMDs? Needless to say, this is an unproductive way to view the world when your primary threat is terrorism.

Posted by: fling93 at August 2, 2005 11:49 PM | Permalink to this comment

FLING - you are saying the Admin felt toppling Saddam, securing Iraq and transitioning it to democratic government would be like Grenada in 1983?

Are you really that stupid?

As to the infamous Mission Accomplished banner - give it a rest already - what - the sailors on the US Navy ship should have put up a banner saying "we are in for a long quagmire"


Pogue Mahone:
why did he risk his re-election if you think of Presidents in Clintonian terms - and/or thousands of innocent lives - if you think of him as a human being - to pursue the liberation of Iraq in early 2003?

Risk? It was a politically advantageous move. It was also a money spinner.

Posted by: AlanDownunder at August 3, 2005 01:40 AM | Permalink to this comment

ALAN - do explain how the invasion of Iraq helped Bush get re-elected in 2004

Since the liberal terror-appeaser rant has been "we should have concentrated on OBL" wouldn't it have been MORE politically advantageous to do exactly that?

What exactly would Kerry have run on in 2004 if we weren't in Iraq and were rather expending ALL resources going after OBL?

This is a perfect example of the ability to see whatever you like isn't it

Going into Iraq was not politically advantageous for Bush - thats the most idiotic thing I have heard in a long time

At least say he did it to get the guy who "went after his daddy"

Compared to argueing the political advantages angle - that sounds brilliant

Posted by: Pogue Mahone at August 3, 2005 02:35 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Pogue Mahone: you are saying the Admin felt toppling Saddam, securing Iraq and transitioning it to democratic government would be like Grenada in 1983? Are you really that stupid?

No, but this administration seems to be. They're the ones who were in denial for so long that there even was an insurgency at all, and then for months kept pretending that it was about to be defeated any day now.

Posted by: fling93 at August 3, 2005 07:29 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

If it contradicts my views, then it's nothing but crap. You can't change my mind, I dare you! My views are solid, as in frozen solid, and no Butler report or any other piece of evidence is going to change my mind. Got that? Don't give me this crap and make me read pages of reports. My attention span is like 2 seconds but I know what I think, at least I think I do.

Posted by: p.p.kukasiak at August 3, 2005 08:10 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Forgot about this bit.

Pogue Mahone: As to the infamous Mission Accomplished banner - give it a rest already - what - the sailors on the US Navy ship should have put up a banner saying "we are in for a long quagmire"

Quite obviously, there should never have been a banner at all. Not until the job is done. Similarly, Wolfowitz shouldn't have said "flowers and sweets" and that it was "not logical" that it would take more soldiers to occupy Iraq than were required to win the war -- our history of occupations had already indicated that it would (but if you read this blog, you already knew that). And of course, Lindsey shouldn't have been fired for ultimately being right, and Cheney shouldn't have said "last throes."

You don't have to say "quagmire" either, but it seems pretty stupid to me to be so completely unrealistic, and an obvious sign that this administration has no concept of risk.

Posted by: fling93 at August 3, 2005 08:29 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Question for P. Lukasiak: Since it is obvious to your questioner and me that it would be political suicide for Bush (and the Republican Party as a whole) to invade Iraq based on ephemeral and obvious lies, what was his motivation, exactly? Your statement that Bush lied to invade Iraq because he wanted to invade Iraq, emits a certain aroma of--how shall I put it--tautology or redundancy? something like that. Enlighten the unelect, won't you please?

saying that Bush lied in order to invade Iraq because he wanted to invade iraq is not a tautology---he lied about it because honesty would not have allowed him to do what he wanted. Bush decides what he wants to do first, then does what is necessary to achieve that goal --- regardless of whether or not the facts support the goal itself.

as someone else put it on another site, Bush wanted to invade Iraq for the same reason Veruca Salt wanted a trained squirrel.

Trying to figure out what motivates Bush is a waste of time --- most of what he does makes little or no rational sense in terms of public policy, and the best (albeit, totally inadequate) explanation for his actions is "reward his friends and punish his enemies". If one really insists upon understanding why Bush wanted to invade Iraq, because "he tried to kill my dad" probably comes closest to what motivated him. Geopolitical realities didn't make a difference for Bush, once he decides he wants something, it doesn't much matter whether its a good idea or not. (Bush only went to the UN because Blair needed UN cover in order to participate, and the invasion would have been all but impossible without the use of British bases). Its not that he's "stupid" per se, its just that he really doesn't care about facts and ideas.

Posted by: p.lukasiak at August 3, 2005 11:16 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Funny that Paul Lukasiak above is hyperventilating over the fact that someone somewhere forged some documents related to Iraq/Niger, even though that played no part in the British intelligence estimate.

in fact, British intelligence has acknowledged that it was the information derived from the forged documents that lead to the inclusion of the language in question being included in the "sexed up" dossier.

Posted by: p.lukasiak at August 3, 2005 11:34 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Who's talking about a "dossier"? Look back at the original post:

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.
* * *

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.
End of story, Paul.

Posted by: Niels Jackson at August 4, 2005 02:03 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

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 "dodgy dossier" was the source of the 16 words used by Bush in the State of the Union. British intelligence is ON THE RECORD saying that absent the reports it had received that were BASED ON THE FORGED DOCUMENTS, the assessment that Iraq was seeking uranium in Africa would not have been included in the dossier.

Italy was passing the same bullshit story based on forged documents to Britain that it was passing to the USA.....and it had the same impact. The experts doubted that it could be real, but that did not stop either the Blair or Bush governments from assuming it was true. There was, in fact, NO CREDIBLE EVIDENCE that Iraq sought uranium from Africa ----- just read the Butler report, and show me where it even implies that anyone who was actually approached by Iraq and asked about uranium was a source. Its all conjecture....even the person who assumed that the requested trade meeting was about yellowcake had said it wasn't discussed at the meeting.

The evidence provided by the DSMs make it clear that the Butler report was a whitewash --- and recently released documents from Britain make it clear that the Bush and Blair government lied about the reasons for increased bombing of targets in Iraq in the months leading up to the war. We were told that the reason for the increase in bombing was because Iraq was using its Air Defense Radar targetting US planes patrolling the no-fly zone. The CLASSIFIED INTELLIGENCE REPORTS were saying the exact opposite--- that Iraq had severely reduced its use of radar in the period immediately after 9-11, and by 2002 had virtually stopped using it.

We were being lied to by Bush and Blair. What more proof do you want?


Posted by: p.lukasiak at August 6, 2005 01:35 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

This is one of those facts-chasing-opinions things, but having been covert some years ago, I can tell you one thing: nobody who has been driving openly into Langley for the last seven years is covert, and the "yes, she works here but we'd prefer you didn't write about it" is what CIA would say about a janitor, not a really covert agent.

As others have pointed out, if she were really covert and likely to be endangered by a disclosure, the DCI would have been calling everyone involved, and their publishers, and leaning on them.

Posted by: Charlie (Colorado) at August 6, 2005 04:07 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
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