April 17, 2006


It turns out Bush was right about Iraq's quest for uranium (John Leo, Apr 17, 2006, Townhall)

In a surprising editorial, The Washington Post deviated from the conventional anti-Bush media position on two counts. It said President Bush was right to declassify parts of a National Intelligence Estimate to make clear why he thought Saddam Hussein was seeking nuclear weapons. And the editorial said ex-ambassador Joseph Wilson was wrong to think he had debunked Bush on the nuclear charge because Wilson's statements after visiting Niger actually "supported the conclusion that Iraq had sought uranium."

In the orthodox narrative line, Wilson is the truth-teller and the Bush is the liar. But Wilson was not speaking truthfully when he said his wife, Valerie Plame, had nothing to do with the CIA sending him to Niger. And it obviously wasn't true, as Wilson claimed, that he had found nothing to support Bush's charge about Niger when he (Wilson) had been told that the Iraqis were poking around in that uranium-rich nation.

Testifying before the Senate intelligence committee, Wilson said that the former prime minister of Niger told him he had been asked to meet with Iraqis to talk about "expanding commercial relations" between the two countries. Everybody knew what that meant; Niger has nothing much to trade other than uranium.

Clueless Joe Wilson: How did the CIA's special envoy miss Zahawie's trip to Niger? (Christopher Hitchens, April 17, 2006, Slate)

The person whose response I most wanted is Ambassador Joseph Wilson, who has claimed to discover that Saddam was guiltless on the charge of seeking uranium from Niger, and has further claimed to be the object, along with his CIA wife, of a campaign of government persecution. On Keith Olbermann's show on April 10, Wilson was asked about my article and about Zahawie. He replied that Zahawie:

is a man that I know from my time as acting ambassador in Baghdad during the first Gulf War. ... He was ambassador to the Vatican, and he made a trip in 1999 to several West and Central African countries for the express purpose of inviting chiefs of state to violate the ban on travel to Iraq. He has said repeatedly to the press, he's now in retirement, and also to the International Atomic Energy Agency, to their satisfaction, that uranium was not on his agenda.

Once again, the details and implications of Zahawie's own IAEA background are ignored (as they were in the IAEA's own report to the United Nations about the forged Italian documents that were later circulated about Zahawie's visit). In the same press interviews to which Wilson alludes (and which I cited last week), Zahawie went a bit further than saying that uranium was "not on his agenda." He claimed not to know that Niger produced uranium at all! You may if you wish choose to take that at face value—along with his story that all he was trying to do was violate sanctions on flights to Iraq. Joseph Wilson appears to be, as they say, "comfortable" with that explanation.

And it's true that the two men knew each other during the Gulf crisis of 1990-1991. Indeed, in his book The Politics of Truth, Wilson records Zahawie as having been in the room, as under-secretary for foreign affairs, during his last meeting with Saddam Hussein. (Quite a senior guy for a humble mission like violating flight-bans from distant Niger and Burkina Faso.) I cite this because it is the only mention of Zahawie that Wilson makes in his entire narrative.

In other words (I am prepared to keep on repeating this until at least one cow comes home), Joseph Wilson went to Niger in 2002 to investigate whether or not the country had renewed its uranium-based relationship with Iraq, spent a few days (by his own account) sipping mint tea with officials of that country who were (by his wife's account) already friendly to him, and came back with the news that all was above-board. Again to repeat myself, this must mean either that A) he did not know that Zahawie had come calling or B) that he did know but didn't think it worth mentioning that one of Saddam's point men on nukes had been in town. In neither case, it seems to me, should he be trusted with another mission that requires any sort of curiosity.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 17, 2006 8:54 PM

The NY Times has bet its credibility on L'Affaire Plame, and the WaPo has called them. It's winner-take-all for the "American Newspaper of Record" title.

Posted by: ghostcat at April 17, 2006 10:13 PM

Perhaps. But the meme that Bush lied to go into Iraq, much like the Bush is responsible for Katrina meme, have taken hold and don't show any signs of being displaced.

Posted by: AWW at April 17, 2006 10:25 PM

They'll forget after he lies us into Iran.

Posted by: oj at April 17, 2006 10:29 PM

I'm betting on the paper that employs Bob Woodward.

Posted by: ghostcat at April 17, 2006 10:53 PM

The full revelation about Wilson's trip and his wife's status, and his partisanship after his 'retirement', were always going to doom the story the left wanted to hear.

But, 30 years from now, there will be leftists defending Wilson's honor, just like they did for Alger Hiss.

Posted by: jim hamlen at April 18, 2006 8:42 AM