Friday :: Jul 15, 2005

WaPo Editorial on Treasongate


by eriposte

Steve pointed me to today's Washington Post editorial on Treasongate. While they rightly call out the Bush administration's misbehavior in parts, they carry just enough water for the administration's cooked-up theories (on their own uranium claims and against Joseph Wilson) that I should comment on it. I've said before that Wilson was not perfect in his rendition of facts, but that doesn't mean the Bush administration's claims were/are correct. They are simply anything but.

The Post says:

One year after that, reports by two official investigations -- Britain's Butler Commission and the Senate intelligence committee -- demonstrated that Mr. Wilson's portrayal of himself as a whistle-blower was unwarranted. It turned out his report to the CIA had not altered, and may even have strengthened, the agency's conclusion that Iraq had explored uranium purchases from Niger. Moreover, his account had not reached Vice President Cheney or any other senior official. According to the Butler Commission, led by an independent jurist, the assertion about African uranium included in Mr. Bush's State of the Union speech was "well-founded."

Since work beckons, I don't have the time this morning to go into a detailed rebuttal of the Butler Report or the Senate Whitewash Report, but please. If you are going to try and assess the validity of the White House's claims on uranium in Africa, you can't simply be one-sided and refer only to self-serving reports aimed at exonerating Bush and Blair rather than reporting the full truth. I've discussed at length why the most significant evidence against the (uranium in Africa) claims of the Bush administration came from the Bush administration itself. For example, statements from several people within the administration - before and after the Wilson op-ed - clearly referred to the forged Niger document (which is separate from what drove Wilson's trip to Niger) as being the real source for Bush's "uranium in Africa" claim. Additional telling pieces of evidence that clearly dispelled the notion that the "seeking"..."uranium in Africa" claim had any merit includes the following examples (bold text is my emphasis):

1. Ari Fleischer's statement that he had said "many times" that "we don't know if it's true" whether Iraq even sought to purchase uranium in Africa (let alone Iraq actually purchasing uranium).

2. A Bush administration NSC spokesman's statement that: "..."There is other reporting to suggest that Iraq tried to obtain uranium from Africa," the statement said. "However, the information is not detailed or specific enough for us to be certain that attempts were in fact made." In other words, said one senior official, "we couldn't prove it, and it might in fact be wrong."..."

3. Colin Powell's dropping any references to uranium in Africa a few days after the SOTU because it hadn't stood the "test of time" and because "the basis upon which that statement was made didn't hold up"

4. The NSA's Stephen Hadley's statement that: "...George Tenet had a brief telephone conversation with me during the clearance process for the October 7 Cincinnati speech. This was the one -- he asked that any reference to Iraq's attempt to purchase uranium from sources from Africa to be deleted from the speech..." This was reiterated in a report from Dana Priest: "...a senior administration official with knowledge of the Tenet-Hadley conversation disputed the White House version. "The line he asked to take out wasn't about 500 tons of uranium or a single source. It was about Africa and uranium," the official said. Even the broader assertion about Africa "wasn't firm enough. It was shaky." ..."..."

5. The National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) dissent that intelligence officials at the State Department believed "claims of Iraqi pursuit of natural uranium in Africa are highly dubious."

6. Paul Sperry's observation in WND that: "...[the White House] points to the select parts of the NIE it declassified last week citing Somalia and Congo. But there are problems with this explanation, as well... two things are missing from the alleged Somalia and Congo connections: the amounts of uranium and the dates they were sought. The Niger claim, on the other hand, cites both amount and date. Discussed earlier on the same page of the NIE, it says that Iraq was "working out arrangements for ... up to 500 tons of yellowcake" as of early 2001. So it's unlikely the president was referring to Somalia or Congo when he asserted Hussein "recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa." ..."

7. Then-DCI George Tenet's statement that the NIE "...contained three paragraphs that discuss Iraq's significant 550-metric-ton uranium stockpile and how it could be diverted while under International Atomic Energy Agency safeguard. These paragraphs also cited reports that Iraq began "vigorously trying to procure" more uranium from Niger and two other African countries, which would shorten the time Baghdad needed to produce nuclear weapons...Much later in the N.I.E. text, in presenting an alternate view on another matter, the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research included a sentence that states: "Finally, the claims of Iraqi pursuit of natural uranium in Africa are, in I.N.R.'s assessment, highly dubious."...An unclassified C.I.A. White Paper in October made no mention of the issue, again because it was not fundamental to the judgment that Iraq was reconstituting its nuclear weapons program, and because we had questions about some of the reporting. For the same reasons, the subject was not included in many public speeches, Congressional testimony and the secretary of state's United Nations presentation in early 2003. The background above makes it even more troubling that the 16 words eventually made it into the State of the Union speech..."

8. The New Republic's observation that: "...Bush, after all, did not state that the British "believed" Saddam had tried to buy uranium or even that the British "claimed" he had done so. Rather, he said the British "had learned" that this was the case, a phrasing clearly implying that the president believed the Brits to be correct--a position his own intelligence agencies had explicitly disavowed..." Further, Paul Sperry pointed out in WND that: "...Also, other top administration officials, including the president's security adviser and defense secretary, have made the accusation on their own – without any attribution to Britain..."

9. Indeed, knowing how the Bush administration works, why would the Bush administration even announce that the statement should never have been in the SOTU if it had still been "well founded" and there was no evidence suggesting it was wrong? Remember, the announcement came in response to media reports alleging that the Niger evidence was bogus.

[You can click here for more.]

Anyone with a modicum of common sense should know that the Bushies made up the "well-founded" theory after the fact, after they realized the mistake of admitting their mistake about the SOTU claim.

That's also the reason why they've never formally admitted to any such errors subsequent to that.

That's also the reason why they are creating fake, after-the-fact theories to explain Karl Rove's and the administration's behavior regarding Valerie Plame and Joe Wilson. This is where the Post editorial makes another error in peddling the same fake theory about Wilson and Cheney.

At the same time, Mr. Rove and other administration officials had a legitimate interest in rebutting Mr. Wilson's inflated claims -- including the notion that he had been dispatched to Niger at Mr. Cheney's behest.

Even if the officials had a "legitimate interest" here, there was nothing that justified leaking Valerie Plame's identity for this. I've explained in detail that not only was the claim in the GOP talking points document unsubstantiated and false on the face of it, Rove's claim to have been a truth-teller to Matt Cooper was clearly complete B.S. considering he passed on a complete lie to Cooper in the process.

So, it's time to dispense with these fictions.

Contact emails : letters@washpost.com, ombudsman@washpost.com

eriposte :: 8:28 AM :: Comments (11) :: TrackBack (0) :: Digg It!