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« On Muhammed, the liberator: Was the prophet a democrat? | Main | More safe cash: $5 reward for proof Saddam ended his repression »

April 11, 2006

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Comments

Christopher Taylor

Might as well make it a potrait of Madison (5000 dollar bill), that's a very safe bet.

Frank Warner

Ha!

Well, considering how much ink Wilson has received over the last three years, it should take no more than a dime's worth of effort to explain why anyone listens to him.

Proof anyone? What was the proof?

Chasm

I appreciate your comments and have done a bit more research and now must humbly admit that there is nothing factually incorrect in the 16 words. Reading over the entire account, from the first intelligence reports through Wilson's trip, the NIE and the Senate Committee report, it may well be that a delegation from Iraq (possibly this al-Zahawi character)shopped around for some yellowcake in 1999-2000 and that, yes, the British learned about it, as did we. So any wager is safe from me, I will eat crow and never try to say that what the President said in the SOTU was a "lie."
However.
Reading the unclassified versions of the NIE is quite a shocking experience - If I had my hand on the big red 'war' button and I glanced over that thing I'd be pretty temped to push it too. But it's an even greater shock when you step back from precipice and remember that almost everything in it is WRONG. Or, as the Senate report stated, it “interpret(s) ambiguous evidence as conclusively indicative of a WMD program.” Following one of the strands of intelligence, as we are doing here, is very instructive as it shows clearly how tiny bits of information – reports of meetings and a couple of forged documents – with almost no legwork to back it up, became the cause for war. The only real legwork they did, sending Joe Wilson to Niger, turned up nothing conclusive and added no new information. In fact, that trip and concurrent conversations with the ambassador to Nigeria tended to reiterate how committed Niger was to staying clean. We get no more information about the rumored deals with Congo and Somalia. We get no confirmation of transport of uranium, money changing hands, no substantial indication that there is processing going on… really nothing but rumors of envoys in 1999 and some forged documents… and yet in the NIE there is this: “A foreign government service reported that as of early 2001, Niger planned to send several tons of "pure uranium" (probably yellowcake) to Iraq. As of early 2001, Niger and Iraq reportedly were still working out arrangements for this deal, which could be for up to 500 tons of yellowcake. We do not know the status of this arrangement.”
Let’s take one minute to dissect this. The intelligence reports from the ‘foreign government’ brought up the idea that Iraq had sent out feelers to Niger, but from what we know there were never any indications, and several assurances to the contrary (Joe Wilson included) that a deal could never get done in that country due to tight regulatory oversight. How this got twisted into Niger "planning" to send yellowcake seems particularly bizarre. “500 tons of yellowcake” seems to be pulled out of a hat – the discredited documents possibly talk about a deal of 400 tons per year, an amount too large to plausibly be true without other indicators, and it appears the drafters of the NIE just rounded it up and lopped off the “per year” and signed off. “We do not know the status of this arrangement” pretty much sums it up.
This NIE and the lame-ass, confused and contradictory intelligence reports that preceded it, which amount to just so much paper shuffling and very very little actual-on-the-ground intelligence, became the basis for the 16 words, which became the basis for taking this country to war.
In the end, I think the focus on the “16 words” is overblown and off the mark. The reason Hadley had to fall on the sword and admit they should never have been in SOTU is not because they were wrong, but because they were essentially true and all they had. The British did indeed hear of such reports, but there was no more to the story and still it was used to scare the American people into believing we had to go to war immediately. The question is not whether they were true, the question is, how on earth did they become the operational rationale for war?

George

How is it that Pakistan got uranium from Niger (through Libya) where such "a deal could never get done in that country due to tight regulatory oversight?"

Frank Warner

Chasm, what’s wrong with you? You studied this honestly and with an open mind. That kind of approach is too rare in today’s debates. Can’t you be a little more irrationally partisan?

For me, the only justification needed to liberate Iraq was the liberation itself. For decades, Saddam Hussein had tortured, murdered and starved the Iraqi people by the hundreds of thousands, and he had sent them into bloody wars of aggression. He also showed no sign by 2003 that he or his sons would grant the Iraqis the kind of lives and liberties that are their right.

So that’s it. U.N. Resolution 688, the first resolution cited by President Bush in making his case against Saddam at the United Nations on Sept. 12, 2002, required in 1991 that Saddam end his repression of Iraqis. Saddam didn’t end his repression, so he effectively invited his ouster. Now Iraq has a chance to establish a democracy, which is that nation’s best chance for a lasting peace.

Saddam’s support for terrorists was another justification for his forced removal. So was his failure to return 600 prisoners of war after the liberation of Kuwait. His violation of U.N. sanctions, and his siphoning of billions of dollars in U.N. Oil-for-Food money, guaranteeing the deaths of more Iraqis, were added reasons for the liberation. Each of those acts, many of which were continuous, violated U.N. resolutions and the 1991 cease-fire.

Then there were those weapons of mass destruction. Because Saddam was an especially irresponsible tyrant, it was his obligation, under other U.N. resolutions, to prove he had destroyed his WMDs, not the world’s responsibility to prove he still had them. He was supposed to cooperate immediately and fully with the U.N. arms inspectors way back in 1991. He never did. Had the U.S.-led coalition not invaded Iraq in 2003, we still would have little idea whether Saddam had kept his WMDs.

Bush might have been wrong to say Saddam had WMDs. No one has found any major WMD stockpiles in the three years since the invasion, and experts have concluded most must have been destroyed. But Bush was right to assume Saddam had WMDs until Saddam proved he didn’t have them.

One last point: Bush did not exactly say the U.S. "had to go to war immediately," at least not in the sense of arguing Saddam’s WMDs were an "imminent threat." In that same 2003 State of the Union message in which he mentioned Saddam seeking uranium, Bush said he didn’t know if Saddam was an imminent threat, but because of Saddam’s record and because Saddam wasn’t cooperating, Bush wasn’t going to wait until he knew.

Bush said:

Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent. Since when have terrorists and tyrants announced their intentions, politely putting us on notice before they strike? If this threat is permitted to fully and suddenly emerge, all actions, all words, and all recriminations would come too late. Trusting in the sanity and restraint of Saddam Hussein is not a strategy, and it is not an option.

With everything we now know, that decision still makes sense. And so does the liberation of 25 million Iraqis. The only way to remove a totalitarian threat forever is to defeat it and replace it with democracy. In this case, the victory of freedom will be good for the Iraqis and good for the whole world.

Seixon

Hmmm.

How about...

Wilson...

Damn it. Can't be done. The former PM told Wilson he thought the Iraqis were there to bag some uranium. You can't really come up with anything else to claim that they definitely were not...

Of course, that would be trying to prove a negative, which is virtually impossible.

So, nope, nothing Wilson found disproves the 16 words.

Which is exactly why he claimed anonymously to the New York Times and the Washington Post that he had debunked the forgeries that were supposed to have been the source of all the claims. Of course, that too was a lie.

Wilson will get what's coming to him one of these days. Maybe at the end of the Libby trial.

I'm curious though, why doesn't the government indict Wilson for leaking classified information? Or his wife, who leaked it to him?

Frank Warner

Hi Seixon,

That question has come up, and somehow Wilson and his pals have come up with a defense for his leaks.

For one thing, he could say that, in making his case against the liberation of Iraq, he didn't reveal anything gained on his semi-secret CIA trip to Niger, simply because he hadn't found anything in Niger to make that case.

Chasm

Frank,
I enojoyed our debate so much about why it doesn't matter what Joe Wilson found out that I wrote a little piece about the whole Niger/Plame affair. I hope you will come by Progressive Blend Radio and check it out - I would really welcome your comments.

An excerpt:


Feb 5, 2002 – CIA’s DO issues a second intelligence report which again cited its source as a “government service.” This report provided more details about the previously reported Iraq-Niger uranium agreement and also provided what was said to be "verbatim text" of the accord, which it contended was agreed upon during meetings held July 5-6, 2000. The report mentions 500 tons of uranium per year. Information in this report supposedly matches reports from 1999 indicating the preparations for Iraqi Ambassador and businessman Wissam al-Zahawi’s visits to and other African countries which took place in Feb 1999. According to the Senate report, INR analysts continued to doubt the accuracy of the reporting because they thought Niger would be unlikely to risk such a risky transaction. [SSCOI Report, p 38]

The spooks are going over those documents tooth and nail, squeezing every last bit of intelligence from them. Just as a side note, Areva, the large French-owned consortium, used to operate a large uranium mine in Wyoming.I wonder if Dick Cheaney knows any of those guys? Speaking of Dick, around this time he is reading a yet another report, this one issued by the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), though it is based on the earlier CIA reports: p>

Feb 12, 2002 – DIA writes finished report titled “Niamey signed on agreement to sell 500 tons of uranium a year to Baghdad” (NMJIC [National Military Joint Intelligence Center] Executive Highlight, Vol 028-02) [SSCOI Report, p.38]

The notable thing about this report, other than it’s the only one we know Dick read, is that it’s the only one that contains none of the caveats regarding the credibility of the reporting or its claims. Oh yea - that it was within the DIA that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld set up the Strategic Support Branch (Project Icon), a super-duper secret unit that he and the administration “used to bypass the limitations of the CIA after 9/11.” I guess one of the limitations of the CIA is that they tend to acknowledge the lameness of their intel (apparently, another is that they don’t like to torture people, so the DIA got that job too - but that’s another story).

So Dick reads his boys’ piece, and then asks the CIA to give him their analysis. According to the Senate report, in response the Director of Central Intelligence’s Center for Weapons Intelligence, Nonproliferation, and Arms Control (WINPAC) then issued an intelligence assessment with limited distribution which said

“information on the alleged uranium contract between Iraq and Niger comes exclusively from a foreign government service report that lacks crucial detail, and we are working to clarify the information and to determine whether it can be corroborated”


Again, thanks Frank for rhe inspiration.

George

The Butler Report revisited.

Frank Warner

I meant to get back to this, but I can't help but think here was Saddam Hussein, murdering Iraqis, cutting out tongues, terrorizing would-be dissidents, torturing others, staging fake elections, and letting tens of thousands more starve to death as he stole their Oil-for-Food money in 2002 and 2003, and yet he still had defenders nitpicking over WMDs.

Those who focused only on whether Saddam had WMDs or was shopping for WMDs totally missed the point. Saddam at the time held the world record among living dictators for deaths by wars, genocide and state-ordered executions, and most of those deaths were by conventional weapons and ancient means.

Screw the WMDs. Saddam was required to prove he had none way back in 1991, and he didn't. I couldn't have been the only liberal relieved that no WMDs showed up in 2003 to interfere with the liberation of 25 million Iraqis.

It's good the WMDs weren't there. It's good Saddam is in jail.

George

Joe Wilson: Clueless Liar

Christopher Taylor

"I couldn't have been the only liberal relieved that no WMDs showed up in 2003 to interfere with the liberation of 25 million Iraqis."

Some days I wonder, but I know that you aren't, you're just in the same class as George Orwell was. It probably feels quite alone, though.

jonathan

i stumbled onto this site and whilst i agree that the president's 16 SOTU words quoted above were correct, surely the accuracy of the statement must be taken within the climate of debate during the time the president uttered them.
the nation was steeled towards military action against saddam and iraq. we had been terrified by imagery of 'mushroom clouds', jangled by terror alerts and anthrax scares (the initial culprits being iraq's germ labs according to clueless pundits). the nation was still grieving and thirsting for revenge post 9/11. iraq was the catharsis.
so the words of the SOTU were carefully crafted to leave the impression that iraq had sought (maybe since 9/11, the most traumatic day the nation had witnessed since the assasination of JFK) materials to construct these devastating weapons. inevitably one's thoughts turned to whether saddam, an implaccable foe since his expulsion from kuwait, would use them in a terror attack?
i won't address the cynicism and the dishonesty because one could flippantly reply, 'that's just politics'.
but i am not reassured that this president has fully considered nor indeed cares to what the consequences of our entry into iraq will be.
it has been commented on by others more skilled than me, but there is no moral case for intervention on humanitarian grounds long after the fact. in 2003, saddam was not engaged in mass slaughter, was not in the WMD business, and was not threatening his neighbours. even if he were there can be strong arguments put that china was a better candidate for invasion, let alone north korea (for china see tibet, ethnic cleansing of chinese muslims, it's WMDs are well documented and taiwan is constantly menaced by military 'exercises' in the straits).
even the 'democracy' justification has been shown to be selectively applied (hamas).
at the end of the day, history will record that many lives were lost based on a hunch, the precise locale of such critical thinking being unknown (perhaps the gut?)
excellent site by byw.

Frank Warner

Just because Saddam Hussein did not appear to be mowing down Iraqis by the hundreds of thousands in 2003 didn't mean his repression had ended.

He already held the world record among living dictators for deaths by war, genocide and state-ordered murders. He was inflicting regular slaughters of opponents, suspected opponents and their family members, and he was directing the U.N. sanctions to (and siphoning Oil-For-Food money from) the hungry and sick of Iraq, allowing 5,000 to 10,000 Iraqis to die each month.

About 1.5 million people died in wars Saddam started. Possibly another 400,000 Iraqis died of his mass murders. Almost all of these deaths were by conventional weapons and ancient means. Saddam allowed no free elections, no free speech, no free opposition parties, no independent courts, no free press.

With the cease-fire agreement of 1991, Saddam was placed on probation. He already was guilty, and to prevent further action against him, he was ordered to do some basic things, like ending his repression, fully cooperating with arms inspectors, cutting off aid and comfort to terrorists, and returning 600 Kuwaitis POWs.

He was a like a sex predator ordered to wear an ankle tracking bracelet. By refusing to comply, for 12 years, with the conditions that saved his sorry arse in 1991, he was the sex predator who had ripped off his ankle bracelet and was heading for the rape rooms.

That anyone could imagine his regime deserved another day, legally or morally, is beyond comprehension. The only justifiable question is, why did Iraq's liberation take so long?

On Hamas: Free elections are important to democracy, but one election does not make a democracy. There are those other institutions, those independent courts, free speech, a free press, free opposition parties. And there are some habits that might take three or four elections, with three or four power changes, to take root.

The Palestinian territory also is not yet a nation, and never was. But even if it were, and its people elected a government promising to destroy a democratic neighbor, no other outside government would be required to support that government's destructive ends.

Democracies tend not to go to war with one another, and they tend never to kill their own people by the hundreds of thousands (by murder or famine), primarily because each democratic government is open enough to its neighbors and accountable to its own people.

What makes the Palestinian authority a closed system is the interference of outside dictatorships. What makes it unaccountable is the idea that it will keep getting aid no matter how bad its policies are.

Once the whole Middle East is democratic, that will change. Freedom will produce a lasting peace. But the full liberation of the Muslim Middle East can't happen overnight. It will happen one nation at a time.

The shocking thing is, some people didn't want the liberation to start anywhere.

jj mollo

Jonathan,

Bush considered every angle, I assure you. The President always has people, very smart people, pushing their points of view. The President hears more eloquent arguments than anyone on the planet. It may be that the Neo-cons had his ear, but so did Colin Powell and a lot of other people, including his father. It's his job to cut through the noise and make a decision that serves the American people best. I believe he did that. Some folks believe that he didn't. Some of those pretend that he's just stupid and uninformed. Some of those are willing to take whatever steps they can to undermine his efforts. Is it reasonable to expect that they know better than he does? They call him arrogant! Even if they do know better than he, it is their duty to support the decisions that have been legally arrived at by legally elected governments. To the extent that he exceeds his authority, such as Guantanamo or Abu Ghraib, maybe you have the moral high ground, but his choices on the war were based on the fact that Saddam was a dangerous psychotic and we were losing control.

Now you should also be aware by analogy that the KKK wasn't lynching many people in the 50's. Most of that had been done earlier. Do you think we should have been willing to tolerate the KKK's reign of terror because of the relative lack of violence? We were risking a civil war by sending in the National Guard. Ike and JFK and LBJ were just lucky. Is that right?

And don't think that the President isn't just as afraid as we are of mushroom clouds and anarchy. He knows a lot more of the scary stuff than we do. He's leading a canoe caravan down the rapids, and he's got to make choices. It's not all politics.

Neo

The first impossible hurtle is this statement from a letter by Joe Wilson to the Senate Intelligence Committee: "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 occurred and did not occur."

He later told the Senate Intelligence Committee when asked how he knew the documents were forgeries (considering the CIA did not have the documents when he went on the trip to Niger) that he had "mispoken."

So it seems Joe proved nothing.

YT

Joe didn't double the number of PC like CIA.

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