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« Who are the 10 worst Americans of the last 230 years? | Main | More on Joseph Wilson and Ibrahim Mayaki »

December 29, 2005

Comments

Nicholas

I was told elsewhere (while trying to explain this point of view to someone) that Miyaki has since taken back his statement (or at least says he doesn't remember making it). I'm not sure what to make of that.

Someone also pointed out the overtures from the Iraqis may have been that they wanted to involve Niger in the oil-for-food scandal. They needed crooked avenues for exporting their oil and making money despite the sanctions. Also a reasonable theory.

But still, if Miyaki told Wilson that he thought they were seeking uranium, and he reported that to the CIA, you can't say there was no evidence at the time (as he has said).

Actually, what he said was "there was nothing to allege that Iraq was trying to seek Uranium" (or very similar). Which to me sounds like a bald-faced lie compared to the reported statement by Miyaki. I've had arguments that this is not the case but I think the people saying that are wrong. He either forgot about this piece of evidence or lied.

I'm willing to believe he believed so strongly in smearing the gov't that he blinded himself to this experience and it wasn't necessarily direct malice. But it's awfully poor of him either way.

I agree that there were only two reasons strictly necessary to justify the invasion: saving the Iraqis from their mad dictator and improving the west's chances of security. One is selfless and the other selfish, but both good overall.

Frank Warner

It turns out that Kirk Johnson of the now-dormant American Amnesia blog asked Joe Wilson last year about former Niger Prime Minister Ibrahim Mayaki. Here’s how Wilson played down what Mayaki told him about his 1999 meeting with the Iraqi delegation:

"The allegation I was sent out to look into was based upon a report based upon documents purporting to be a memorandum of sale – not on trips – not on meetings on the margins. But if you want to talk about the meeting – it took place offshore on the margins of an international organization meeting. It is true that the prime minister, when somebody arranged the meeting, immediately thought they might want to talk about the uranium. Uranium did not come up in the meeting. The word "uranium" was not mentioned in the meeting. It was a courtesy call…the prime minister was wary about Iraqi intentions, but it is a huge leap to go from a meeting in which uranium was not raised to making an assertion of fact in the [2003] State of the Union address that the "British Government has learned that Saddam Hussein has recently attempted to purchase significant quantities of uranium from Africa." The documents that underpinned the trip that I made out to Niger were later demonstrated to be forgeries."

First of all, it’s interesting that no one else has found the time to ask Wilson publicly about this. I’ve searched and researched on this, and almost none of the major news media, other than the Chicago Tribune, has given even brief mention of the Mayaki-Iraqi meeting since 2003.

But at least we find that Wilson doesn’t deny the Mayaki-Iraqi meeting took place, or that Wilson mentioned it to the CIA when he returned from Niger in 2002. However, he says the meeting was merely a "courtesy call" in which the word "uranium" did not come up. The Senate Intelligence Committee also said the word "uranium" did not come up, but that the CIA’s impression was that Mayaki told Wilson he still believed the Iraqis were talking about buying uranium.

At best, Wilson found nothing. He certainly disproved nothing. But we still need to know more about Mayaki’s 1999 meeting. It was "offshore"? Does that mean it was at an international conference outside Niger? It would be helpful if Wilson or Mayaki would tell us what actually was talked about at the meeting, and how long it lasted. The Iraqis specifically asked to meet with Mayaki. Why?

Notice how Wilson then says the Mayaki meeting could not have been the basis for President Bush saying, "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein has recently attempted to purchase significant quanitities of uranium from Africa." Yet no one argues, and even the president didn’t argue, that Wilson had the basis for those words. Bush said the British government had the basis for the uranium allegation.

And by the way, Bush didn’t say Saddam had "attempted" to purchase the uranium, as Wilson misquotes Bush. Bush said Saddam had "sought" to purchase uranium. The difference may appear minor, but "attempted" implies an outright and obvious offer. "Sought" is more tentative, and could imply that Saddam only was sending out feelers.

The documents "later demonstrated to be forgeries" might have had something to do with Wilson’s own 2002 visit to Mayaki, but as Wilson knows, those documents had nothing to do with the British government’s conclusion that Saddam indeed had sought to purchase uranium from Africa.

It’s curious how Wilson has managed to write so many books, do so many interviews and give so many speeches when he himself admits he found nothing that bunks or debunks Bush’s words.

Frank Warner

And Nicholas, on your point:

[T]here were only two reasons strictly necessary to justify the invasion: saving the Iraqis from their mad dictator and improving the west's chances of security. One is selfless and the other selfish, but both good overall.

I generally agree. In fact, saving the Iraqis was reason enough.

I notice The Chicago Tribune's piece has stirred up some talk today on our television news. At last, someone is remembering we invaded Iraq for more than the stupid reason.

Frank Warner

More Mayaki facts:

The 1999 meeting of Mayaki and the Iraqi delegation apparently happened at a convention of the Organization of African Unity in Algiers.

Kevin

I also agree with both points. But using that as the criteria, aren't we kind of obligated to free the North-Koreans?

Frank Warner

Kevin, as free people, we're obligated to do everything short of suicide to help free the unfree.

Right now, we have at least two reasons we can't help the North Koreans. First, any abrupt action is too likely to produce a nuclear catastophe. And second, our armed forces are sort of busy elsewhere.

Obviously, there are limits to what anyone can do. The best approach is to help free one or two nations at a time, peacefully whenever possible.

Nicholas

Absolutely. The problem is that overthrowing the NK regime is going to be a lot more risky than Iraq. It's almost certain they have nuclear weapons and are willing to use them. Japan really doesn't want anyone stirring up their possibly nuclear, mad neighbours. Plus Seoul is close enough to the NK/SK border that it will be trashed during any kind of war, whereas Pyongyang is quite far north of the border (although easily without jet range, even from Japan).

Frank is right but even if the NK were not nuclear armed, invading them would still probably be a catastrophe. Last time I checked, not only did they have about 10 000 artillery tubes within range of Seoul but they also had one of the largest, densest air defense systems in the world. It's (almost) all old Soviet junk but as they say, quantity has a quality all of its own.

I think Iran probably has to be the next target for liberation. They're not quite yet nuclear, we think, plus a reasonable segment of their population is fairly progressive and well educated (although I'm sure there will be plenty of Iraq-like malcontents happy to strap on a semtex vest for the furthering of world misery). Also there's Israel just to make the situation interesting. But I think Iran is more of a ticking time bomb while North Korea is just a sad, sad case of millions of people living in misery, probably in perpetuity until someone can step in and help them out.

Kevin

Well thank God! I'm sure we could fix their system, but the cost would be horrifying, even without nukes in the equation. I would love to see Syria, Iran, North-Korea, Sudan, and even China forced into democracy. But even as a diehard fan of democracy, I don't have the will to make it happen. I assume the rest of the nation is even less so.

Nicholas

Err, within jet range, not without. The Chinese border is something like 500nm north of the NK/SK border. Most jets can reach that far, even the smaller ones with internal fuel, although they would want to carry drop tanks for more of a safety/combat margin. But Pyongyang is only about 200-300nm from air bases in SK, if that.

Nicholas

Kevin, sadly, probably so :(

However, we (US, UK, Australia, Poland, etc.) do need a bit of a breather in between freeing these countries. I'm sure the military men and women would like to have a few years of relative peace. Maybe we can build up some more political capital behind the idea of liberating other people during that time (I doubt it :().

China I think may well become free peacefully. I think they see the possibilities of freedom, and in some ways I think they also see the inevitability of it. It may take 50 years but I think there's a good chance it will happen. Which is just as well because starting a land war in Asia could well count as suicide ;)

Syria - I think that's a case of wait and see what happens, if it doesn't fall apart on its own we'll have to give a couple of shoves. But Iran and North Korea are the real worries - unlikely to become free short of military intervention or some kind of unprecedented disaster. NK is more fragile given the single leader issue. Let's hope they fall into chaos at some point and common sense breaks out. A lot of them must look south and wish to be more like their prosperous neighbours, surely...

As for Sudan, I think there are some Australian "peacekeepers" there but I'm afraid it's going to require more than that. This is a chance for Europe to step in and do something I think. Any takers?

Kevin

I have heard that Israel is planning a March strike on Iran's nuclear facilities Nick. I am predicting April 4. Mark my words, unless it doesn't happen. In that case, unmark my words; I will deny I ever said them, and call Frank's archives 'contrived'.

Kevin

Nicholas, you make a valid point about China. I have often wondered if the totalitarian leaders 'screwed the pooch' when they let capitalism in. I hope it ends up forcing democracy down their throats, and soon. They are certainly hurting the world in the interim, with the backing of Iran and such.

I'll take them off my wish list... for now :)

Nicholas

Yes, but would Israel announce a date, even an approximate one, for a strike? If so, surely it would be disinformation. They want the best surprise they can get.

My take on it is, they're saying that to put diplomatic pressure on Iran to co-operate, and if it fails, they will strike before or after the date they have said to achieve surprise. If it were up to me, I would make it before, for two reasons. One, they're currently buying new air defense systems and I would want to strike before they've acquired and set them all up. Two, it would be more surprising to strike earlier than you have said, since most people usually wait until "deadlines" have been well past before taking action (if ever - refer to UN for clarification).

Personally I don't think there will be a diplomiatic solution and I think a nuclear-armed Iran could be a disaster of unprecedented scale, seeing how unhinged their leaders are... it's a bad situation. :(

As for China... I think they're smarter than your average Communists (or were.. they're evolving into a Capitalist Police State). Rather than looking at the success of capitalism and dismissing it, they're duplicating it. And I think they also realize that not only does economic freedom bring prosperity, but so does personal freedom. I've seen some commentary which suggests that China has to import a lot of technology because the ideological repression makes it hard for them to be creative enough to discover new technology for themselves.

I see the logic in that, and I suspect they will eventually too, which is why they will move towards freedom. They may not get all the way there, but the closer they get, the riper they will be for democracy I think. After all, a truly great Chinese leader will surely place emphasis on Chinese greatness before their own greatness, and that is most likely to be achieved through greater freedoms.

I guess time will tell...

LaurenceB

Hmmm...

It's the first time I've visited this blog, but I just thought I'd drop a little note to let you know that you've entirely missed the whole point of the Trib article. The purpose of the article was to evaluate the truthfulness of the Bush Administration arguments, not necessarily to decide if the arguments were valid or not.

The article (somewhat inexplicably) concludes that Bush was truthful, even as it characterizes two of the nine arguments as misleading.

No, that doesn't make sense. Obviously, if I lied 22% of the time, I could be fairly described as a liar. It's a very weird piece of writing.

jj mollo

It is always nice if the President can be perfectly truthful, but we didn't actually elect him to explain music to the tone-deaf. I personally think he has been generally honest, but I think he takes the Islamo-fascist threat very seriously. Some might say he takes it too seriously, but remember that this is a very complicated and dangerous world. Disinformation is an unfortunate component of the world arsenal. It works in many directions, for many purposes. I think the President, when directly addressing the public, takes great pains to explain his view of the world, unadorned by spin, uninfected by the mist of lies that encircles the political world.

It's hard to know the truth. Even Tonkin Bay turned out to be an honest response at the time. "Our boys were just shooting at fish", but they didn't know that. If you believe that Bush knew he was disseminating a technical falsehood, you are uncharitable.

Some people, let's say the Arab Street, are so prone to conspiracy theories and groupthink that even disinformation doesn't get through to them, much less calls for sanity. What percentage would you asign to that?

Frank Warner

There is a lesson to be learned from the unproven claims that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. The lesson: Don't say you "know" unless you know.

You can honestly say what you believe, and you can honestly say what you believe you know, but occasionally you should point out the things you believe but don't exactly know. You can be honest without telling the truth, but what good is that kind of sloppy honesty?

On the other hand, I suppose we all "knew" President Bush had not personally visited the chemical weapons sites or physically inspected the aluminum tubes, so perhaps we all understood Bush was talking about what he believed rather than what he knew. (And by the way, it was Saddam's responsibility to cooperate enough that we really did know. He didn't cooperate.)

More remarkably, the pseudo-liberals who defended Saddam's fascism by crying "No Blood for Oil" did know better. They knew the liberation of Iraq had nothing to do with locking in oil contracts or stealing Iraq's oil.

They knew Saddam held the world record among living dictators for deaths by genocide, war and state-ordered murder. They knew about the mass graves, the torture and other repression.

And yet they lied for fascism. They will forever have to live with that shame.

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