If Scooter Libby or anyone else perjured himself before a grand jury, he should do prison time.
But in all the writing on Joseph C. Wilson and Valerie Plame Wilson, isn’t there a place to remind the readers that when Wilson went to Niger, he did find evidence, tentative as it was, that Saddam “sought” uranium from Africa?
Unmentioned evidence. Saddam Hussein had a special obligation, under U.N. resolutions and his 1991 cease-fire agreement, to prove he had no weapons of mass destruction and to stop all attempts to develop them. (And not incidentally, under U.N. Resolution 688, Saddam also was required to stop his repression of the Iraqi people.)
Joseph Wilson had Saddam’s obligations backwards. He decided that it was for the United States and the world to prove Saddam had or was seeking the weapons, and not for Saddam to prove he was not.
But much worse, when Wilson journeyed to Niger in February 2002, on the trip his CIA wife recommended him for, he found some evidence, circumstantial though it was, that Saddam had sought to buy uranium from Niger in 1999. And then Wilson never bothered to tell the American people about it.
Truth ‘false.’ In fact, Wilson went completely the other way, declaring “false” President Bush’s State of the Union statement Jan. 28, 2003, that “The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.”
No wonder Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, tried to tip off the press to another side of the story.
In that 2002 junket, Niger’s former prime minister Ibrahim Mayaki told Wilson that, in June or July 1999, an Iraqi delegation told him in Algiers that it was interested in “expanding commercial relations” with Niger. Mayaki said he interpreted the overture as a bid to buy uranium yellowcake. (See Senate Intelligence Committee report, Page 43.)
Unnecessary retraction. To Wilson’s credit, he mentioned the Mayaki conversation privately to the CIA on his return from Niger. But to his discredit, he rarely mentioned it in his public speeches and op-ed pieces and books calling Bush a liar for saying Saddam sought uranium.
Bush actually retracted his Saddam-sought-uranium-from-Africa claim in July 2003 because he was informed that his statement was based only on an Iraq-Niger contract that now appeared to be a forgery. Bush apparently didn’t hear about Wilson’s report to the CIA. And Wilson, who could have spared Bush the retraction, decided not to remind anyone.
Instead, starting in May 2003, Wilson went out of his way to make it appear that Bush’s claim that Saddam shopped for yellowcake was not only incorrect, but that it was intentionally incorrect.
The pretender. Wilson had no facts to contradict the president’s words, so he pretended to be an expert in the apparently forged Iraq-Niger uranium deal. The “dates were wrong and the names were wrong,” he anonymously told The Washington Post for its June 12, 2003, story. In fact, Wilson had never even seen the documents. (Senate Intelligence Committee, Page 45.)
Later, Wilson implied the CIA had chosen him to go to Niger only for his reputation, and not because his CIA wife suggested he be sent. “Valerie had nothing to do with the matter,” he wrote in his memoir this year. “She definitely had not proposed that I make the trip.” But the Senate Intelligence Committee’s investigation (Report, Page 39) found that Valerie Plame Wilson “offered up his name” at the CIA, and her CIA boss took her recommendation.
It is possible that Valerie Plame did not initiate the recommendation that Wilson be sent to Niger, but the fact that she worked in the same CIA office that picked Wilson helps explain how his name came up.
Not Cheney’s choice. In the spring of 2003, Wilson strongly implied that Vice President Dick Cheney asked that Wilson be sent to Niger. Everyone following the controversy was wondering why Cheney would chose Wilson, a Democratic hack. Well, he didn’t. Wilson’s assertions were misleading.
The Senate committee – Republicans and Democrats united – revealed Wilson’s several falsehoods in July 2005. In response, Wilson wrote to the committee, admitting:
“I never claimed to have ‘debunked’ the allegation that Iraq was seeking uranium from Africa. I claimed only that the transaction described in the documents that turned out to be forgeries could not have and did not occur.”
No deal. In other words, when Wilson called Bush’s statement that Saddam sought uranium “an obviously false claim,” he wasn’t talking about anything Wilson had learned in Niger. He was talking about stuff he had read in the newspapers.
And he wasn’t saying Saddam hadn’t sought uranium. He was saying no one had signed a deal; Saddam hadn’t bought uranium.
(Or maybe Wilson was just denying Bush’s statement that the British had “learned” of Saddam’s yellowcake shopping. If so, Wilson doesn’t make this clear. Britain's Butler Inquiry found in July 2004 that the British intelligence conclusion that Saddam sought Niger uranium was “well-founded” and was based on “several different sources” -- none of them related to forged documents.)
Joseph Wilson repeatedly ignored his own knowledge on Niger. As he grabbed the spotlight in a shameless bid to be “President John Kerry’s” secretary of state, his widely publicized dishonesty fed the Sunni-Arab fascists the kind of propaganda that money can’t buy. Couldn’t he see that?
Intentional falsehoods. When you read news reports saying the Wilson case calls into question the claims about Saddam’s weapons programs, the reports almost always are implying that Bush lied, not that Wilson did, about the quest for African uranium. They’re not telling us how many ways Wilson spoke falsely when he knew better.
Wilson knew there was a good chance Saddam had sought to line up a Niger uranium deal in 1999. And despite the obvious danger sign, Wilson kept it quiet.
Why did Saddam have an obligation to prove he neither had nor was seeking WMDs? Because he had used those weapons before and because he had invaded two of his neighbors. He had proven himself so irresponsible that the world decided his already illegitimate power would be stripped away if he refused to tell us clearly what he was doing.
Predator on probation. Saddam’s position was similar to a sexual predator who has done his prison time, but whose probation requires him to wear an electronic transmitter telling us where he is at all times. If he takes off the tracker – he doesn’t even have to molest another person – he goes back to jail.
Metaphorically speaking, Wilson saw Saddam yank off the tracker on his way to a rape room, but didn’t bother mentioning it to the world.
Bush knocked down the rape room walls, and all Wilson can do is complain.