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July 13, 2003

WHY THE URANIUM MATTERS....The fundamental conservative response to Uranium-Gate has been that anti-war partisans are blowing a single sentence out of all proportion. As Condi Rice put it:

It is ludicrous to suggest that the president of the United States went to war on the question of whether Saddam Hussein sought uranium from Africa. This was a part of a very broad case that the president laid out in the State of the Union and other places.

She's right, of course, but at the same time she's rather studiously missing the point. The uranium story is important not because it was a linchpin of the administration's argument for war, but simply because it's a smoking gun.

In 1987, with Iran/Contra closing in, Ronald Reagan and his advisors were genuinely afraid of the possibility of impeachment. And why not? After all, no one seriously doubts that Reagan knew what was going on. But in the end, John Poindexter took the fall, no smoking gun was ever found, and the Democratic Congress never brought charges.

Flash forward to 1998. Conservatives had been convinced for years that Bill Clinton lied and abused his position relentlessly. But their furious assaults went nowhere until they found a stained dress. Then, despite the fact that sex with an intern was surely the least of all the charges against him, impeachment became a reality.

In both cases, everyone who was paying attention knew what was going on. Both Reagan and Clinton lied about what they did and didn't know. The only difference was the smoking gun.

Likewise, Bush's problem is not that a single 16-word sentence of dubious provenance made it into his State of the Union address. His problem is that he promised us that Saddam was connected to al-Qaeda, he promised thousands of liters of chemical and biological weapons, he promised that Saddam had a nuclear bomb program, and he promised that the Iraqis would greet us as liberators. But that wasn't all. He also asked us to trust him: he couldn't reveal all his evidence on national TV, but once we invaded Iraq and had unfettered access to the entire country everything would become clear.

But it didn't. We've had control of the country for three months, we've had access to millions of pages of Iraqi records, and we've captured and interrogated dozens of high ranking officials. And it's obvious now that there were no WMDs, no bomb programs of any serious nature, and no al-Qaeda connections.

So while the uranium is only a symbol, it's a powerful one. George Bush says we live in an era of preemptive war, and in such an era — lacking the plain provocation of an attack — how else can the citizenry make up its mind except by listening to its leaders? In the end, we went to war because a majority of the population trusted George Bush when he presented his case that Iraq posed an imminent danger to the United States and the world.

Uranium-Gate is a symbol of that misplaced trust. If George Bush's judgment had been vindicated in Iraq, a single sentence in the State of the Union address wouldn't matter. But it hasn't, and he deserves to be held accountable for his poor judgment by everybody who believed him.

And that's why those 16 words matter.

Posted by Kevin Drum at July 13, 2003 04:10 PM | TrackBack


No one expects Bush to be perfect. The trouble I have with this nitpicking is that Iran definitely has nukes coming on line. And, if Iraq doesn't have nukes, then you can thank the Israelis, who took this stuff out in 1981. (Without ever being thanked.)

How do nukes come about now? Do the math. Koreans are doing the math. India's doing the math. Pakistan did the math.

If we just keep picking at Bush who has two years left to his term, aren't we all just asking for continuous primary season?

How did we end up here?

Isn't it the worst cancer that the monies going to political parties keeps them viable AFTER they lose at the polls?

Uranium on the one hand; and the Grey Davis recall on the other worries me because it causes PARALYSIS.

WE ARE AT WAR WITH TERROR! We don't need fake speeches that a president doesn't write, and fake journalism, to give boosts to topics that get in the way!

THERE'S A CANCER HERE. It sticks out because nothing is free. Because we make terrible diplomatic decisions ... and the world may be flying apart. Where's the glue? Basket cases like Russia are supposed to provide stability?

Nukes, by any other name, are destabilizers. They are the component pieces that can be bought on the black market. So how far off course was Bush?

We could ask a few other questions: WHY DIDN'T WE JUST FLATTEN MECCA? Why are we going so easy on our Saudi 'friends?' Why wasn't Saddam taken out in 1991? (Then, the dad would have been re-elected; and all the politics of hate would have been still born.)

Now we're living with MONICA and GOTCHA all of the time. You call this entertainment? WHere's the real business of government? Where's the pride in all of this for patriotic Americans to rally round?

Posted by: Carol Herman at July 13, 2003 04:27 PM | PERMALINK

Tremendous post, Kevin, of course you are absolutely dead on with what you say, so of course, I'm going to nit-pick. The sixteen words matter a lot because there is no weapon of more massive destruction than a nuclear weapon. And there is no more memorable sound bite from the administration than, "We don't want the smoking gun to turn out to be a mushroom cloud." Little did they realize then, how ironic this statement would turn out to be.

Posted by: Another Bruce at July 13, 2003 04:27 PM | PERMALINK

I agree, to a degree. I think George Bush was involved in the process of writing the speech, and I think he was likely informed that the information was bogus. That means that he (or at the very least, many very high ranking people) have extremely poor judgement when it comes to dealing with threats to America. That's not something you can afford to ignore. And being a democracy, we cannot afford to stop scrutinizing our leaders just because we're at war. Because if we're going to defend ourselves as best we can, we need competent people in the White House, and we'd better realize it when the people there don't measure up.

Unfortunately, I think the real danger here is not in criticizing the President. It's in the terribly obvious fact that the President has lost tremendous credibility in the eyes of allies who we need to help us defend ourselves from terrorists. Furthermore, because of his bad judgement (not because of the criticism), we now have far fewer resources to devote towards real threats, and have likely emboldened and motivated real enemies.

Posted by: Jonathan at July 13, 2003 04:42 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, by "agreement" I didn't mean to imply that I'd agree "flattening Mecca" would be a good idea in any way, shape or form. That's a rather extreme reaction, an unjust one and one which would make things far worse for us.

Posted by: Jonathan at July 13, 2003 04:44 PM | PERMALINK

Was the decision to invade Iraq made with better information than the State of the Union speech?

Without the WMD issue what was the hurry?

Is the withdrawal from Saudi Arabia a bigger reason than WMDs? If so is it being downplayed because it is one of OBL's demands?

Why is there room for debate about why we went to war? In particular why isn't there a completely specific document by which the decision can be judged?

Posted by: Jack at July 13, 2003 04:48 PM | PERMALINK

Carol, the world doesn't entirely revolve around the U.S. Hard for many Americans to realize, but true. South Asian nukes were developed as threat and deterrent to other South Asians, not to the U.S.
As for Israel and nukes, part of the reason other Middle Eastern nations are seeking nukes is that we gave some to Israel. If you want to talk games, nuclear brinksmanship is the ultimate.

One thing to add to CalPundit's post:
In both cases, everyone who was paying attention knew what was going on. Both Reagan and Clinton lied about what they did and didn't know. The only difference was the smoking gun.

There was the other difference is that what Reagan did affected the entire nation, while Clinton's actions properly should have affected only his and Monica Lewinsky's families.
Oral sex may be a big deal for DeLay & Co., but normaly people are a bit more concerned by the illegitimate transfer of arms and money.

And in Bush's case, with an inaccurate/dishonest attempt to frighten the American people into supporting war. That's what Bush's foreign policy is based upon: the politics of fear instead of caution and strength. A self-confident case for Iraq would have been based on humanitarian considerations; Bush's was based on Saddam's possessing weapons that could kill millions of Americans.

Aside from the final destruction of American credibility, perhaps it's just as well if the fear case for war is never vindicated.
It will force Bush to ensure that Iraq is not abandoned, because all he will have left is the liberal humanitarian case for war, and the liberal necessity of... nationbuilding.

Posted by: PG at July 13, 2003 04:58 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe people had this naive hope that Shrub would be another Reagan. I never understood their unquestioning loyalty to the guy. I liked him as the spokesman for Boraxo but beyond that I could never really understand his appeal.

People who supported Bush put the blinders on to his war avoidance and his being AWOL for a significant portion of his enlistment term. Certainly, his reputation for *gag* honesty was not forged during his term as the Governor of Texas.

Huckster and charlatan was the way I looked at him after taking a good hard look. Top that with Hubris and the obvious fact that he really does think he has a 'mission from God' and you have the recipe for disaster.

Posted by: Marie Foster at July 13, 2003 05:26 PM | PERMALINK

Excellent, excellent post.

Posted by: Realish at July 13, 2003 05:26 PM | PERMALINK

I hate to sully your comments section with profanity, but:

Hell Fucking Yes!

Excellent post.

Posted by: The Mighty Reason Man at July 13, 2003 05:40 PM | PERMALINK

Yup, great post.


"If we just keep picking at Bush who has two years left to his term, aren't we all just asking for continuous primary season?"

What's so bad about that? The only way to kick out Bush is to turn the heat way up. Lord knows, the press won’t do it on its own. Civility, what the DLC is preaching, will give us another '02. We have to be honest with ourselves, and we have to honest with our citizens: Bush's behavior IS NOT OKAY. It is unprecedented in modern history for the USSC to circumvent the Constitution in an election. It is unprecedented for an administration to actively allow power companies like Enron to ravage California. It is unprecedented to sabotage in independent investigation of a national tragedy like the WTC. It is unprecedented for the Vice President to hide his dealings in a major case of corporate fraud. It is unprecedented to attack a country for an unrelated attack (i.e. Bush leading Americans to think Iraq was behind 9/11). It is unprecedented in modern times to fabricate a case for war.

These people are capable of nuking someone. They have to be stopped, and we can’t do it by being nice.

Kevin hit the nail on the head. It all comes crashing down if we can pin any of these obvious crimes on the top criminal.

Posted by: pacific_john at July 13, 2003 05:49 PM | PERMALINK

Excellent post, Kevin. The Bush administration is wobbling under the weight of its own lies.
Heard anyone touting Bush's vaunted moral clarity today? Me neither.

Posted by: DavidB at July 13, 2003 05:56 PM | PERMALINK

Good post and good comment Carol. The Saudis are the linchpin in this entire thing (Middle East and terrorism) and we haven't done a damn thing about it except begin the process of moving a couple of bases and troops out of there. Although her comment about Mecca may have been extreme Jonathon, at least it acknowledges who the problem is and where it festers. I still can't come up with a coherent reason for why we invaded Iraq. No WMDs of note, no vital national security interest, no nuclear capability. Just a really bad guy we seemed to be tired of fucking around with via the UN. It reminds me of the classic Jerry Tarkanian quote about the NCAA being so mad at Kentucky, they decided to put Cleveland State on probation for another 3 years.

Posted by: Double B at July 13, 2003 05:57 PM | PERMALINK

This is a non-story.

Here's what the British have to say about it.


In a letter to the foreign affairs select committee of the British Parliament, Straw said: "The media have reported that the CIA expressed reservations to us about this element of the September dossier. This is correct."

He was referring to a British government dossier last September which laid out the threat posed by Saddam and said that Iraq had sought to buy uranium from Africa.

"However, the US comment was unsupported by explanation and UK officials were confident that the dossier's statement was based on reliable intelligence which we had not shared with the US (for good reasons, which I have given your committee in private session)," Straw's letter continued.

"A judgment was therefore made to retain it."

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at July 13, 2003 06:47 PM | PERMALINK

Another twist: I expect that the President genuinely expected this lie to go unnoticed because he (and everyone else) genuinely thought that they'd find WMD. But this is just the problem; the President doesn't see that a lie is a lie, no matter how sincerely you believe in it. Furthermore, no one has yet owned up to the obvious problem with this lie: it was necessary. Otherwise the war never would have happened.

Posted by: Emma at July 13, 2003 06:52 PM | PERMALINK

Funny how the President's supporters keep saying "this is a non-story", when it has become THE story.

It really looks rather absurd at this point to be saying "this is a non-story", don't you think?

Posted by: Jonathan at July 13, 2003 06:53 PM | PERMALINK

The British have intelligence they won't share with anyone, not even American intelligence. The only way the sentence is defensible is if you focus not on the purpose of the statement, but instead on its source. Essentially, every person involved is trying to say that the British *did* make this claim while ignoring that the purpose of referencing it was the claim, not that the British made it.

It's a non-story in the same way us not finding WMD is a non-story (because a secondary rationale has very marginal progress being made on it), that not finding Saddam is a non-story, that any other failure on the part of the Bush administration is a non-story - because you say so.

Forgive us if we don't blindly follow. (Unless British intelligence says so, of course.)

Posted by: jesse at July 13, 2003 07:01 PM | PERMALINK

Michael Totten:

Despite Straw's lawyerly response, Brits don't take him seriously. 10 Downing released two "unprecedented" dossiers, one entirely dodgy, one just dodgey. But they have even *more* evidence! Sure they do. They are praying for their political survival that we find depots full of VX rockets.

Posted by: pacific_john at July 13, 2003 07:03 PM | PERMALINK

The issue matters because it was key to the clarity and presence of any danger that Iraq posed against the United States. Chemical weapons, bioweapons, they sound scary, but they're no more efficient that a Ryder truck full of fertilizer. It also matters because it was a wilful exageration in a (Article Two, Section Three) Constitutionally-mandated report by the Executive to the Legislative. If one bit of "information of the state of the union" is deliberately mistated, or passed along because of incompetence, or as part of the "it doesn't matter if this accusation is true, he's guilty of something" argument that Carol proposes), what else in the report was exaggerated, or mis-stated, or thrown up as justification for a policy for which the Executive is afraid to argue with reason? And, frankly, it matters a lot to Tony Blair, our earstwhile ally, because his Parliamentary mandate is much, much less forgiving. There's talk of the war being illegal under British law, now. Condi Rice was busy tossign Tony overboard today, so desperate is she, which suggests that Congress ought to begin an investigation into the faults in that Article Two, Section Three duty that it required the President to execute, in order to make sure Bush isn't "Kenny Boy" in disguise.

Posted by: Brian C.B. at July 13, 2003 07:04 PM | PERMALINK

I wonder if will hear the hue and cry for Government to be ran like a business after our first CEO Prez

Posted by: Texan at July 13, 2003 07:28 PM | PERMALINK


I agree that chemical weapons aren't a terribly serious threat (unless you happen to be on the bus when the guy releases a canister full of VX), but biological weapons are a very serious threat. Not as bad as nukes, it's true, but very, very bad.

Posted by: Joe Schmoe at July 13, 2003 07:33 PM | PERMALINK

It matters for other reasons.

The Bush national security doctrine ednorses preventive war as a way of maintaining US primacy. This is not a completely insane approach to the problems facing the US, but it carries with it two major risks: (1) that the aggressive use of preventive warfare will lead to strategic overextension and (2) that the policy will make US primacy look 'malevolent' and convince other states (hostile ones, neutrals, and even allies) that they have to take measures to ensure their own security by eroding the US position, e.g., by counterbalancing, developing their own WMDs, etc.

There is NO conceivable way the Bush doctrine can avoid these two problems if the administration is willing to "hype" threats and, in doing so, destroy their credibility internationally. It really doesn't matter, in this respect, whether or not the "technically" lied or were merely overzealous based on inadequate informationa and a "gut" feeling that Iraq must have WMDs.

Posted by: dhn at July 13, 2003 07:57 PM | PERMALINK

You're probably going to think this is nuts, but I don't care about the uranium. I think we need to transform the middle east in order to protect ourselves from terrorism. I also think that we have a duty to help the oppressed, and the Iraqis certainly qualifed as oppressed. Finally, I was worried about Sadaam's other weapons.

For these reasons, I don't care about the uranium. Actually, there's one more reason. It seems as if a good chunk of the antiwar types simply are not prepared to listen to reason. The people on Calpundit are eminently reasonable, as are other moderates like Josh Marshall, but the "No blood for oil! Bush lied, people died!" crowd was going to be opposed to the war no matter what. Most of them are still trapped in 1968. Some are so blinded by anti-Americanism that they simply can't admit that Iraq will improve under our governance. Others are so intensely partisan that they simply can't get behind any war led by a Republican president, and especially not one led by Bush, that fundamentalist simpleton. Still others are knee-jerk pacificsts and isolationists, and are simply incapable of taking a long-term view of events.

Here is what I think is really going on here; I don't think that the average person cares much about the uranium. Why is it a big story? Why does it have "legs"? Because the left-wing media is making it a big story. This is a -- and please understand, I mean this in all seriousness -- the work of a left-wing conspiracy.

It's not as if all of the politicians and media figures met in a smoke-filled room somewhere. They didn't have to. As soon as one of them started beating the scandal drums, the rest automatically chimed in without ever being asked.

Has anyone noticed that all of the news coming from Iraq is bad? There is a reason for this: the media refuses to report the good news.

Here are two pieces of good news that I have noticed lately. You probably have only heard about one of them.

First, the Iraqi governing council met today. This is a wonderful, wonderful thing. Iraq is taking the first steps toward democracy! All of the predictions that we'd simply install Chalabi, or some expat general, as dicator of Iraq have been proven to be so much BS. Iraq is governed by a broad coalition of groups. That is a magnificent, epochal event! Twenty-five million people are starting along the road to freedom and democracy!

Naturally, this gets maybe ten seconds of TV time on the cable networks.

The other piece of good news is that we have obviolsy managed to cut some kind of deal with the Sh'ites. Rememebr those awful demostrations the first week of the occupation? The ones in which the marchers guys cut themselves with swords and chanted "no to Bush, no to Sadaam, yes to Islam?" Weren't they scary?

We haven't seen a single demostration like that in several months. This is all the more remarkable becuase a lot of the Sh'ite leaders have ties to Iran. The Iranian mullahs are fighting for their poltical lives, and are desperate to sabotage our occupation. They are hanging on by a thread anyway, and if we do successfully build a democracy in Iraq, they are sure to fall. I am sure that they are doing everything in their power to foment religious unrest. So are the Saudis, for that matter. So are all of the fundamentalists from throught the Muslim world who are streaming into Iraq to fight us. Yet we haven't heard a peep from the Iraqi mullahs. It's impossible to know what kind of deal we cut with them, but it's obviously a major, major triumph.

Naturally, the media hasn't reported anything.

Finally, there's the issue of American casualties. The media has certainly reported this; that's pretty much all they've talked about for the last month.

Any thinking person -- and you don't have to think real hard -- knows that American troops in the Middle East are certain to be the targets of gureilla and terrorist attacks. We all knew before the war that Iraq would become Afghanistan II, with fundamentalists zealots throughout the world booking flights to Baghdad to fight the infidel Americans. OF COURSE there were going to be American casualties during the occupation. Actually, I think the casualties have been quite low. They are all confined to the former Sunni areas, which means that fundamentalists (and ex-Baathists) are unable to operate in the rest of Iraq; the populace is turning them in.

But to heare the media talk about it, the idea that American soldiers stationed in the Middle East are terrorist targets is this shocking turn of events that no one could have possibly forseen. The fact that we have casualties in the postwar period, to them, means that Bush has horribly botched the whole thing.

For these reasons, I really believe that uranium issue, like the postwar news coverage in general, are the products of a left-wing conspiracy. The liberal media (the news is liberal; the conservatives dominate the talk shows)getting their revenge for Watergate, the 2000 election, or whatever.

I cannot tell you how depressing this is. We are at war; this is a serious issue; this is no time for partisan politics. You can just see the media and the Democrats licking their chops at the prospect of a scandal, and that is sickening.

I do admit that to some degree, this is fair. While I do not care about the missing WMDs, it should probably be a bigger story, but no one seems to care about it. And Bush could have done a much better job preparing the nation for the realities of the postwar occupation. It is still going quite well, but he did a lousy job of telling us what to expect. Also, he obvioulsy underestimated the number of troops, and the firing of Garner after only two weeks suggests a pretty bad initial decision there too.

So in some sense, if the uranium story is being hyped, it is fair becuase the other screwups of the administration haven't received adequate attention. But I am convinced that the uranium story wouldn't receive any attention either if the liberal opinion makers weren't deliberately shoving it down our throats.

Posted by: Joe Schmoe at July 13, 2003 08:08 PM | PERMALINK

I'm sure some of you feel I just post stuff off the top of my head. But I read a lot. And, I find that I can be influenced more by what I read, than by what I say.

So, here's a tip. JIM ROGERS wrote one of my favorite books about a dozen years ago. It's called INVESTMENT BIKER. He made a bundle on Wall Street and followed his dream of going around the world (then) on a motorcycle. Political geography. OPENED MY EYES.

And, he's done it again. ADVENTURE CAPITALIST. America has WISDOM offered up in its pages of print. Again, more than one hundred thousand miles of journey over 3 years. Starting in January 1999.

To those out there who think they can label stuff by a current president's name, lose sight of how the world's been going during the 20th Century. (The War years.) Where the 19th had been the technological achievements of steam, rail, telegraph ... roads and all ... to get us to where we are now.

IF YOU LOVE THIS WORLD YOU'LL READ JIM'S BOOK. American taxpayer dollars are behind so much corruption ... the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund ... which don't get relabed every 4 years are the CANCER.

But you've got to learn, like doctors do, to describe diseases, before you can even hope to cure anything. If at first we should do no harm, we'd begin at the library (or the bookstore) ... and order up JIM ROGERS' ( ... and journey in our underpants ... sitting at home ... savoring the flavors of the world.

Can a popular country be hated? Yup. We have managed to make ourselves hated in places we can't even pronounce.

Another tip. I didn't know after Apartied fell in South Africa that many, many Blacks from here (USA) went there ... only to be hated by AFRICANS.

So, let's get this straight: HATED and HATREDS aren't the solution.

Not letting anyone come over to your ears to suck your brains out is the best beginnings I can think of. The best books can be read because they are enjoyable. NO MUMBO JUMBO.

IF Bush is on the hot seat, by the way, what's new to him? He doesn't know Karl Rove? All he has to do is visit Karl's office down the hall, and he can see how political promoters operate. ALL HOOEY.

Forget the labels. Forget the name calling. The world will be a better place when women can go about their business and enjoy life. Right now they can do this here better than they can do this over there.

Other than that, take Richard Feynman's word for it, when he tried to show why Newton's elegant and simple formula (F=MA) fails. It doesn't fail in classical analysis ... it only fails when you want math to give you some degree of accuracy ... and you discover how complex something like acceleration becomes when you realize there are no two simple molecules rubbing against each other causing friction. Something gets in the way of your measurements. Oil from your hands? Something. You just get to a complex world IMMEDIATELY.

Logic dictates taking a breath. And, reading a good book now and then. Now, that's refreshing. Huh? Well, I hope some of ya aren't put off by the idea of actually having to read a good book now and then, ya know.

Posted by: Carol Herman at July 13, 2003 08:28 PM | PERMALINK

If the media were liberal (or just, you know, doing their jobs), they'd have picked up on this story at the time of the State of the Union. The major media were notoriously unwilling to question even the weakest of claims made by the administration about the "necessity" of war.

But then, I'm just one of those people who believe that if you're going to kill human beings it had better be because you have absolutely no goddamned choice. That kind of person just isn't prepared to listen to reason.

Posted by: obeah at July 13, 2003 08:34 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, this could be an NYT op-ed.
The war was based on trust: the trust is gone.
Best of the day was Brzezinski's takedown of Kissinger on Blitzer. He kept saying: "There are no WMD! The White House argument is preposterous!", etc., and managed to look darn convincing as he explained why. US voters simply haven't heard remotely that on air from a serious person: it's what you can't say. Kissinger, history's greatest poker player, finally cracked, admitting points, sweating, fumbling his words, then - my God - heaving a loud sigh and invoking Vietnam out of the blue. What was on his mind? Carter 1, Nixon 0. Sweet.

Posted by: John Isbell at July 13, 2003 08:42 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin nails it. Period.

Posted by: Dano at July 13, 2003 09:28 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, this could be an NYT op-ed.

John, this is terribly unfair to Kevin. He writes clear, unpretentious English, which puts him way ahead of most of the op-ed writers.

Posted by: Roger Bigod at July 13, 2003 09:38 PM | PERMALINK

"I don't care about the uranium. I think we need to transform the middle east in order to protect ourselves from terrorism. I also think that we have a duty to help the oppressed, and the Iraqis certainly qualifed as oppressed. Finally, I was worried about Sadaam's other weapons."

So you don't care if your government lies to you? And just which of our client states in the Middle East would you like to transform? It's great that your concerned about "the oppressed" but I don't see the logic in picking and choosing which of "the oppressed" we should help and which we should ignore. Why has Bush said nothing about the Congo? What about our new friends in the "stans" (Tajikistan, etc.)? And finally, what other weapons? Could you be a bit more specific because as far as I know we have so far failed to find any WMDs in Iraq.

Posted by: tersuki at July 13, 2003 09:52 PM | PERMALINK

I'd like to join in the chorus applauding Kevin for a wonderful essay. Just excellent.

Incidentally, Joe Schmoe: "Naturally, [the formation of the Iraqi governing council] gets maybe ten seconds of TV time on the cable networks."

I happened to have been watching the news most of today, so I can personally attest that MSNBC ran that story at least six times today (I believe it was running twice an hour from about 3pm to about 7pm Central during each of their scheduled news updates) and CNN ran it at least twice. The individual segments were, I believe, around 30 seconds apiece; not terribly long, but that's about the standard length of any news update nowadays.

I'd agree with you that it was under-reported but I'd personally blame the excessive coverage of that tanker fire out in Washington (?) for preempting it rather than the media's desperate scramble to cover a story that -- as others have noted -- should have been covered months ago.

Posted by: Anarch at July 13, 2003 10:22 PM | PERMALINK

OK, Joe Schmoe, I don't have much time, but your overzealous optimism is amusing. You screw up a few points.

First, compare the lloya jirga in Afghanistan, which was based on a long-standing traditional system, but included such amazing turns toward progressivism as the inclusion of women, to the council we hand-picked for yesterday's meeting. And I'm sorry, but that was all over CNN. You must have only watched for 10 seconds.

Then there's the Shi'ites. Yes, there have been fewer demonstrations (not the months of no demonstrations like you claim, but whatever), and yes, we did forge links with several leaders of the Shi'ite community. But they aren't as linked to the Iranians as you think. Many Shi'ites in Iraq were unhappy with the Iranian claim to the Shi'ite hierarchy, and have been so for a long time. In fact, the only group with real links to the Iranian government is Hakim's SCIRI, which was trained by Iranian special forces in an attempt to use it as a proxy against Hussein.

But did you notice how few Sunnis were in the council? Seems to have little to do with demographics...

And Chalabi hasn't been installed for 3 reasons, I think. First, the world accused Bush of catering to his interests. This pressure made appointing him a political impossibility. Second, Chalabi has no credibility with the Iraqi people. Third, he embarassed the hawks he convinced about the wmd.

These are just a few examples. The world isn't as simple as you think, the media is decidedly not liberal, and you're sadly missing a lot.

Posted by: zhermit at July 13, 2003 10:25 PM | PERMALINK

Joe Schmoe--

Rather than dissect your entire post, let me just do this little bit, because it by itself was enough to get my blood pressure up:

the "No blood for oil! Bush lied, people died!" crowd was going to be opposed to the war no
matter what. Most of them are still trapped in 1968. Some are so blinded by anti-Americanism that they simply can't admit that Iraq will improve under our governance. Others are so
intensely partisan that they simply can't get behind any war led by a Republican president, and especially not one led by Bush, that fundamentalist simpleton. Still others are knee-jerk
pacificsts and isolationists, and are simply incapable of taking a long-term view of events.

"Still trapped in 1968"? What does that even mean? Are you basing that claim on anything other than assertion? Is the year 1968 even relevant to what we're talking about? Can we discuss pacifism without talking about hippies? Because it's not like the hippies invented pacifism--no, I can think of a guy named Martin and another guy named Mohatmas that were on to that before the whole hippie thing happened.

Then you say Some are so blinded by anti-Americanism that they simply can't admit that Iraq will improve under our governance. Beg your pardon? Anti-American? What is anti-American about opposing a war, especially one in which the merits of the case are found to be so obviously lacking? And you assert that Iraq will improve under our occupation. If you had said Iraq might improve, I could agree with that--it might, eventually. But absolutely will? No. Just because we're Americans doesn't mean every damn thing we do is ordained by God and destined to come out roses.

Don't paint everyone who disagrees with you as "knee-jerk," either. It makes you sound like you're having a knee-jerk reaction. And certainly don't imply, on the basis of nothing at all, that anyone who disagrees is "incapable of a long-term view of events."

P.S. You also said Has anyone noticed that all of the news coming from Iraq is bad? There is a reason for this: the media refuses to report the good news. Um, not to piss on your parade or anything, but if there isn't any good news, how is the media supposed to report any? Have you given that a moment's thought?

Posted by: nota bene at July 13, 2003 11:06 PM | PERMALINK

As for Israel and nukes, part of the reason other Middle Eastern nations are seeking nukes is that we gave some to Israel. If you want to talk games, nuclear brinksmanship is the ultimate.

The Israeli nuclear program was developed with French assistance, PG, over the protestations of the Americans (pretty vociferous under Kennedy, less so under Johnson and every other administration since then). I'm pretty sure that there's never been any direct American nuclear aid to Israel. But your larger point about deterrence in the Middle East is of course a valid one.

Here's a point about Uranium-gate that I don't think the big media coverage is bringing up: what about the other specific piece of evidence that Bush gave in the State of the Union about Iraqi nuclear aims, the thing about how the Iraqis were acquiring aluminum tubes that could be used to develop nukes? The suitability of the tubes for nuclear weapons development was fiercely disputed by a number of technical experts. It's certainly more complicated than the forged document business with Niger, since there are a lot of technical details involved, but that administration claim appears to be just as dubious, if not more so, than the Africa claim. Plus, it made it into Powell's Security Council presentation, unlike the Africa stuff, so there weren't just 16 words from the administration about the aluminum tubes. I hope some big-time reporters go back and give it more coverage as well now.

Posted by: Haggai at July 13, 2003 11:08 PM | PERMALINK

And another thing. Some guy named Teddy Roosevelt once said "To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public."

Posted by: nota bene at July 13, 2003 11:08 PM | PERMALINK

Nota bene, I LOVE THAT QUOTE! (Does 'nota bene' mean notice this? I don't know Latin. I'm just extrapolating that I did, yeah, NOTICE.) Thanks for reminding me why Teddy Roosevelt is considered one of our best presidents. (After a long line of thieves and scoundrels, post Lincoln's assassination, we did get lucky.) What I miss most, now, is the feeling that our president can't go off the cuff.

Don't know why. Reagan's best line was the HE LIVED ABOVE THE STORE. Alas, that's true. He didn't build the store. The store was there. But he admitted the truth. He didn't think he had to lie.

Photo-ops are not doing this White House a bit of good. I wish Bush, Jr., had thought of this before applying for the job. Will we ever go back to a time when we can take what presidents say in stride?

Did you know Truman threatened to PUNCH a journalist in the nose for saying his daughter couldn't sing after she appeared on Ed Sullivan? (Well, she sure was high pitched and screechy to me.) And, Americans laughed when the journalists thought Truman was thin skinned.) Americans, by and large, LOVE their dads to be just like that. IMHO, of course.

Posted by: Carol Herman at July 14, 2003 12:33 AM | PERMALINK

It is amazing that in a matter of less than three years, the moral and political capital built up after decades of American involvement in the world has been completely dissipated, only to be replaced by
anger and hatred among Muslims, consternation among allies like France and pure headshaking among Russia, china and Japan. This is why your
diagnosis of the impact of the Uranium issue matters.

Meanwhile the corruption of our language and the killings in Iraq continue. Remember, absent WMD's and CBW's in Iraq, the intervention in Iraq is an act of aggression and, if we have any fidelity to our own words, the perpetrators can be prosecuted for war crimes in a new Nuremberg trial. I am sure Bertrand Russell would agree. Remember him?

Posted by: Bodhisattava at July 14, 2003 03:44 AM | PERMALINK

With regard to Joe Schmoe's optimistic post, may I remind him of the names Diem, Nguyen Van Thieu and Nguyen Van Ky? Also the names Somoza, Noriega, the Shah of Iran and a few others who were supposed to bring the bleassings of American Style democracy to their benighted countries?

A lack of historical perspective and complete ignorance of local conditions has been wreaking havoc over American policy for a long time. People like Joe Schmoe would be well advised to follow
reader Carol Herman's advice and cool off with a good book on the history of Iraq. There are 700 years worth to learn, starting with the Garden of Eden.

Posted by: Bodhisattava at July 14, 2003 04:01 AM | PERMALINK

Recommended reading for this group


Posted by: NICK BERIO at July 14, 2003 05:22 AM | PERMALINK

Note bene: note well. There's someone at Kos who comments as NB, the standard abbreviation.

Posted by: John Isbell at July 14, 2003 07:18 AM | PERMALINK

Nguyen Cao Key

Posted by: Margaret at July 14, 2003 07:39 AM | PERMALINK

Joe Schmoe is being civil, and I think his opinion isn't unreasonable, at all, on its face. But, if one took reshaping the Middle East to be a good, then one should have put forward such a rationale for the war. It needn't have become an all-American enterprise, one based on a demand immediate action sold with limited aims. In fact, as I wrote Bush and my Congressional delegation, I understood that no other reason for this invasion could be taken seriously--reshaping the Middle East might be it. Of course, it might be largely hopeless, and we need to seek another way to protect ourselves. That said, reshaping the Middle East is a long-term, expensive project and the only interpretation one can make is that the Administration lacked the skill, courage, moral fiber, energy, care, intelligence, respect, or God knows what other virtue necessary to make an honest argument before the Republic. So it engaged in wishful thinking and gross exaggeration designed to scare the people, instead.

Posted by: Brian C.B. at July 14, 2003 07:58 AM | PERMALINK

"It is amazing that in a matter of less than three years, the moral and political capital built up after decades of American involvement in the world has been completely dissipated, only to be replaced by anger and hatred among Muslims, consternation among allies like France and pure headshaking among Russia, china and Japan."

What are you talking about? You think "anger and hatred among Muslims" appeared only in the past three years? Is that so you can take the easy road and blame everything on Bush?

Bush has handled things badly, sure. He's going to get kicked out, and he deserves it. But he's not going to be replaced by someone much better if Americans can't figure out what went wrong, and when - and it didn't start with Bush.

Posted by: Andrew Boucher at July 14, 2003 08:05 AM | PERMALINK

Does the market place teach lessons?

Who thought up the name "yellow cake?" It sounds like something you'd find in a men's urinal.

And, I mention this because once, on Madison Avenue, men got paid to come up with the jingle "I wonder where the yellow went."

Well, name that toothpaste!

Some things don't work.

Saying, somehow, that people that can't find the story here, here ... are deficient in moral character and have gone and spent all of America's 'earned' capital abroad miss so many points, where do I begin?

Or, why bother?

I think Bush will OWN the response to this story. I think there's something about the way Bush operates (because it drives me crazy!) ... is that he becomes 'this patient man' ... just when I want to see him rise up out of his White House chair and 'throw the first ball.'

How long did I wait for him to go into Iraq? I was consumed with stories about military's needing the element of 'surprise.' And, such darkness, the moon couldn't even shine up your ass. Guess what, he went in practically in the noonday sun ... And, America stretched its muscles from the South ... all the way into Baghdad. For a tank race, this was very impressive.

Not that I know a thing about arabs ... but don't they tend to stick to their tents a lot? Where they can beat their females into submission.

Anyway, I didn't vote for Bush. I fell off his bandwagon so hard, so often, while he was being a patient man that I can hardly stand up now. HOWEVER, he's got two years to go. And, an arsenal full of toys.

I expect one day he's gonna come out as Dr. Mom, with flour on his face, and say "NEXT." And, we're all gonna laugh.

We only get one president at a time.

When will ya all begin laughing at the color yellow showing up in cakes ... to make us all afraid? Was your mom incapable of baking a cake out of a box? Didn't someone notice where this story lost its legs?

And, as I said, I'm not even Republican. Nor did I ever pull the lever for a Bush man. But I love my country. And, every day, I'm impressed that our government runs, in spite of the nudniks in the press who think we're enlightened by headlines refering to "yellow cake." NOT.

Posted by: Carol Herman at July 14, 2003 08:50 AM | PERMALINK


Bodhisattava is right. Spend just an hour reading about pretty much any US foreign involvement, not including WW2, and you'll realize pretty quickly that there's a very good chance we won't make things any better than they were. Some things may be better, and that's what folks like yourself will cling to (girls can go to school in Kabul!), but if this plays out like any other country we've decided to shape the government and policies of, it won't turn out good.

We'll see what happens, but if you really care about any of it (beyond your desire to see the Bush docterine succeed) you'll make critical assessments and not "knee-jerk", over-confident evaluations based upon pathetic, infimitesimal baby steps here-and-there.

Taken a look at Afghanistan lately?

Posted by: Tim at July 14, 2003 09:15 AM | PERMALINK

"We could ask a few other questions: WHY DIDN'T WE JUST FLATTEN MECCA?"

Please don't ever say bullshit like this, or I may hurt my computer by throwing stuff at it.

I think we need to transform the middle east in order to protect ourselves from terrorism.

Down this path leads imperialism. It's the same kind of claim that can justify all sorts of nasty stuff. "We have to impose our will on those people over there, so that we can be safe."

Frightening, frightening stuff to contemplate. I think what we really need to do is to find a way to live in peace with everyone, not to remake everyone so that they're compatible with our luxurious and safe lifestyle (often lived at their expense).


Posted by: Kynn Bartlett at July 14, 2003 09:20 AM | PERMALINK

"Not that I know a thing about arabs ... but don't they tend to stick to their tents a lot? Where they can beat their females into submission."

Jeezus Karrist.


Posted by: Kynn Bartlett at July 14, 2003 09:26 AM | PERMALINK

Carol--as John pointed out, it means "note well." You see it in footnotes in academic papers, and it's a fancy way of saying "by the way." Usually it's abbreviated NB, which happens to be my initials.

Anyway, Carol, I think I understand where you're coming inre: scandalmongering, and to some extent it does end up being a circular firing squad. But when something truly monstrous is prepetrated by our leaders, we have a duty to hold them accountable. Unfortunately for truth, the way that process starts is in the media. Sometimes they will get it right (cf. Watergate). The thing is, like Watergate, it's not the actual crime that's the problem. It's the cover-up, and then the cover-up of the cover-up. That's what guilty people do, is lie about their lies. That's why all this is so important. Once we get to third-order lying, which I suspect is going to begin very soon, particularly if the press drives a wedge between the Blair and Bush teams, this house of cards will come down very quickly.

Andrew B--good point about Islamic anger not actually having been caused by Bush. That's been going on since the 70s, hasn't it? On the other hand, Bush has gone quite out of his way to stir that particular hornet's nest up. Here's hoping we replace him with someone with some damn sense.

Posted by: nota bene at July 14, 2003 09:54 AM | PERMALINK

Islamic anger at outsiders has been going on for centuries, NB, as detailed by Bernard Lewis in the New Yorker not long after 9/11.

Posted by: Haggai at July 14, 2003 10:01 AM | PERMALINK

Haggai--whoa, good link. Still reading, but this is interesting:

In the Western world, the basic unit of human organization is the nation, which is then subdivided in various ways, one of which is by religion. Muslims, however, tend to see not a nation subdivided into religious groups but a religion subdivided into nations.

Things are going to seriously get weird when Blair visits DC this week. Heh heh. Everyone make sure you've got your BS detector handy....wonder if they'll have an unscripted British-Question-Time-style press conference (ha!).

Posted by: nota bene at July 14, 2003 10:11 AM | PERMALINK

Andrew B. —

Agree with your point about looking at causes for our horrible standing in the Arab world, the roots of which long precede President Codpiece. But I suspect that Bodhisattava was talking about Bush's utter trashing of America's relationships with the rest of the world generally. I still can't quite get my mind around that one. Why go out of your way to piss off 95% of the world? Why behave so contemptuously, so publicly? Did BushCo think that we'd never have to negotiate another international treaty? Or coordinate intelligence gathered in many countries? Or ask for help disentangling ourselves from some not-a-quagmire? If Bush had had the simple common sense to build on the world-wide outpouring of support and sympathy post-9/11, he could've built a truly international and powerful coalition against stateless terrorists, instead of this half-assed, ineffectual "coalition of the billing." There's so much that's baffling about Bush's alleged thought processes but this one is really astonishing.

Posted by: jupiter at July 14, 2003 10:35 AM | PERMALINK

Joe Schmoe- Thank you, Thank you. A note of sanity and reason in what I'm afraid has become a cesspool of hatred, irrationality, and paranoia. Amazing to me how Bush' 16 word statement, I'm paraphrasing, that- according to the British, Iraq has attempted to buy enriched uranium from Niger- is labeled as a lie. When the fact is that the statement, taken in full, is and was verifiably, absolutely true. The Brits continue to stand by the validity of what they said, and I'm sure are now very glad they did not share their sources & methods with CIA. Now, maybe nothing short of having Blair reveal the exact sources and methods of this intel will apparently suffice. Now, one may argue, wrongly I would say, that we should never consider or act on intelligence from any source other than our white bread suits sitting in Langley, or that this should not have been one of the many, many building blocks cited in the State of the Union, for war on Iraq. But to label this a lie, Kevin, is to lower oneself into the sewer which now "mainstream" Democratic political thought has very unfortunately become.

Posted by: Lloyd Albanol at July 14, 2003 11:05 AM | PERMALINK

When did Congress authorize the war against Iraq?

When did Bush make the "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa"? A claim which Blair still stand by I might add.

For liberals obsessed with odd timelines, the order of these two events seems to have escaped notice.

Posted by: Sebastian Holsclaw at July 14, 2003 11:06 AM | PERMALINK

Lloyd--I hate to point this out, but the President of the United States made a claim in the biggest speech any President gives (the SOTU) based on forgeries. Someone put that in there. Who?

Let's review. Tenet said he didn't stop it from going in, so the responsibility lies with him. But who put it in there?

Citing the British isn't looking terribly smart at this point in time; Blair and his cronies may very well be on the way out already. Short has called for Blair to resign twice, I believe.

Sebastian--centrists need to pay attention to that. Liberals already know about it, I promise you. Bush started this thing, Congress enabled him. I have not forgotten the Iraqi war resolution; we have bigger fih to fry at the moment.

And don't give me any bullshit about scandalmongering. I don't know how it works in other countries, but I do know that here in America, our leaders answer to us, not the other way around. My leaders (and their apologists) had better not question my ability to question them--seems to me the repression of dissent is exactly what defines tyranny. This whole thing has gotten beyond right and left, Dem and Repub.

Posted by: nota bene at July 14, 2003 11:22 AM | PERMALINK

And if other countries' intelligence counts for something, then the opinion of their populace should count for something too. Unfortunately, when somewhere between 6,000,000 and 10,000,000 people protested worldwide in 600 cities on 2/15/03, the largest simultaneous worldwide political demonstration of any sort in human history, in opposition to a war which had not begun yet , your President George W. Bush, when asked about the protests, dismissed them as "focus groups."

Blair took his country to war in spite of massive popular opposition. Even here in the States, still understandably rattled and emotional somewhat from 9/11, the county was split pretty much down the middle.

Never trust anyone who thinks a war will be easy. Cf: both sides in the American Civil War, both sides in WWI and WWII, Vietnam, etc.

Posted by: nota bene at July 14, 2003 11:28 AM | PERMALINK

I have one word for Dr. Rice's arrogance: "Staggering."

Posted by: cazart at July 14, 2003 11:36 AM | PERMALINK

And another thing, Lloyd....
Now, maybe nothing short of having Blair reveal the exact sources and methods of this intel will apparently suffice.

Why on earth should we settle for less? Dammit, people can't just assert stuff without backing it up. Bush's evidence for that line was forged . Not even forged well. So when challenged, he hung it on the British intel....which had already been deemed "highly dubious" by the CIA. So Tenet says it's his responsibility. Right. Since when is the DCI the ultimate arbiter of presidential speeches? Even worse, there's now evidence Tenet got references to the Niger connection taken out of speeches before the SOTU.

Now Jack Straw says they have intel nobody knows about, from an unnamed third country.


I'll believe it when I see it. An unnamed third country? That's called begging the question.

Posted by: nota bene at July 14, 2003 11:38 AM | PERMALINK

This is bigger than that "16 words in one speech" thing, too. Freaking Cheney claimed on national TV that "we believe Saddam Hussein has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons." Not with his centrifuges buried under gardens, he didn't.

Posted by: nota bene at July 14, 2003 11:41 AM | PERMALINK

Nota bene, my point is that the Congressional authorization for the war predated the Bush comments by months . Clearly Congress was not 'relying' on the Nigeria documents for the war authorization. That fact would normally cut down on the 'sent to war on a lie' concept if people understood that things which happen after events can't cause the things which happen before them.

Posted by: Sebastian Holsclaw at July 14, 2003 12:07 PM | PERMALINK

Misdirection. Congress did not sign off on the resolution based on this specific piece of intelligence. Point conceded. However, this does not in any way, shape, or form let the President off the hook for lying. Oops, exaggerating. What's the euphemism we're supposed to be using instead of lying? I keep forgetting.

This is not about Congress right now. Perhaps if Congress would mount a full, proper investigation, I wouldn't be as pissed off at Congress still.

Remember--it's not the lies, it's the lies about lies. Keep your eye on the ball.

Posted by: nota bene at July 14, 2003 12:17 PM | PERMALINK

So many lies, so little time.

Posted by: nota bene at July 14, 2003 12:29 PM | PERMALINK

Bhodi, Tim-

I really think that you presume a lot when you say that I don't have much knowledge of history.

I think that Iraq is almost certain to improve under our occupation. For one thing, Sadaam set the bar pretty low.

For another, the people of Japan, South Korea, Germany, Panama, Bosnia, Kosovo, and Greneda would probably beg to differ with your assertion that life is always better under a brutal, ruthless dictatorship than under a democratic government installed by Americans.

To be sure, we've had our share of failures; Somalia comes immediately to mind. But based on our record of successes, there is every reason to think that Iraq will be a much better place once we have gone.

Posted by: Joe Schmoe at July 14, 2003 12:50 PM | PERMALINK

Nice summary of the other hundred or so questionable 'words':

Posted by: squiddy at July 14, 2003 01:04 PM | PERMALINK

By the way, the examples I cited above involve having United States troops actually on the ground in the country, and Americans appointing the first heads of government and supervising the rebuilding of civil society.

They are more pertinent than the examples you cite, in which the US provided aid and support to a pre-existing dictator and did not actually run the country. We did have troops on the ground in South Vietnam, and we even approved of the coup which resulted in whats-his-name coming to power, but I don't know that we actually ran South Vietnam the way we are running Iraq.

Posted by: Joe Schmoe at July 14, 2003 01:16 PM | PERMALINK

Last I heard from Democrats, only pertinent exaggerations or confusions count. Since Congress signed off on the war before the State of the Union address I suggest that the Nigeria statement didn't sell the war.

Never mind that it is still uncontradicted that British intelligence continues to claim that Saddam was seeking uranium in Africa.

BTW did anyone see the Meet the Press with Joseph Wilson (source that 'debunked' the uranium claim)? He basically says that he went to Africa and asked people 'Are you guys in violation of trading restrictions with regard to nuclear material and Iraq?'. Sheesh what tin-pot dictator is going to say yes to a loaded question like that?

Posted by: Sebastian Holsclaw at July 14, 2003 01:29 PM | PERMALINK

The intervention that resembles Iraq the most is Afghanistan, and that's not going terribly well. The US is still negotiating with the Taliban (!) who are reconstituting. Another parallel is that Saddam, Bin Laden, and Omar are all still at large.

Wow. You're not very good at this misdirection thing. No, I'm not claiming that the Brits are not standing by their intelligence. That is not the issue. The issue is, is the British intel credible? Didn't the CIA already mark the Niger intel as being "highly dubious" prior to the publication of the British dossiers? If so, making the "British government has learned" claim in the SOTU to be disingenious at best.

Let's review, once again. The President says "The British govt has learned yada yada." The CIA objected to the statement "Saddam is trying to buy uranium from Niger." It was apparently revised to say "the British said..." The CIA signed off on that statement, which was technically true.

Let's do some logic. A says X. X is based on a forgery, and is not true. B says X, which is also, apparently, not true. If A says "B says X," that statement is true, even if X is still false.

Get it yet? Do I have to draw a picture?

I did not see the MTP you refer to, but I do not believe that Wilson "basically went to Africa and asked people." The forged documents were 1) signed in crayon, for fuck's sake, and 2) included signatures of people who hadn't been in government for years.

Wilson is not the only source for debunking the Niger claim. See Josh Marshall's site for more details. If you think you're a better investigative reporter than JM is, by all means start a blog.

Posted by: nota bene at July 14, 2003 01:58 PM | PERMALINK

And, no, Congress still has nothing to do with what I'm talking about. Their caving is irrelevant to the issue of whether or not the President lied in the only speech mandated by the Constitution. The "Nigeria [sic] statement" did not sell the war to Congress, as you assert. Obviously, that sentence made it into the SOTU.

Reading at Josh's site, I see he's posted a transcript on Ari Fleischer's last day (sidebar: rats fleeing a ship usually means it's sinking). Somebody asks about the speech Bush gave in Cincinnati, which if I recall correctly, preceded the SOTU. The Niger connection was not cited in that speech, apparently because of concerns expressed by none other than the CIA. Now, in the SOTU, Bush said "...from Africa." Plausible deniability. They knew it was bullshit and used it anyway.

Speaking of bullshit....anyone remember the story about Powell rehearsing for his 2/5/03 address at the UN? The one where he threw a bunch of documents in the air saying, "I'm not reading this, this is bullshit"? The address that didn't cite the Niger connection?

Anybody connecting any dots yet?

Posted by: nota bene at July 14, 2003 02:07 PM | PERMALINK

Josh Marshall writes:
"A number of administration officials have stated that Joseph Wilson's report from Niger was largely made up of Nigerien officials denying that their country had sold uranium to Iraq. My reporting tells me something different. Wilson's report went into great detail about how the uranium ore was processed, how the processing was regulated, and most particularly who had physical custody of the product from the time it was in the ground to the time it was delivered to the customer. Wilson adduced various findings relating to the custody, oversight and regulation of the state uranium mining industry which, in his view, made the alleged sale highly unlikely."

This isn't any more information. Wilson extensively documented the official channels that one would go through to obtain uranium. Of course no one would think that Saddam was going through official channels.

Saudi Arabia officially doesn't support Al Queda. But smart people everywhere have been suggesting that Bush needs to convince Saudi Arabia to crack down on Al Queda, because they support them through UNOFFICIAL channels.

Posted by: Sebastian Holsclaw at July 14, 2003 02:30 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, so very clever. Keep reading on TPM. I'm also Googling to look for a transcript of Wilson's op-ed in the NYT.

Inre: "unofficial channels"--if Bush has evidence Saddam tried to get yellowcake from Niger via "unofficial channels" why in the sam-hell didn't he say so? Why doesn't he provide evidence? Why did the CIA send Wilson in the first place? How come Cheney himself apparently was asking the CIA to investigate the matter? Nothing you're saying holds any water at all.

And as far as Saudi Arabia goes, well, I understand the 9/11 report is going to open some eyes about Saudi Arabia. We'll talk about that next week some time.

Posted by: nota bene at July 14, 2003 02:44 PM | PERMALINK

Meet The Press, 7/6/03, with Ambassador Wilson.

Bush's team was citing specific intelligence. It was forged. You have not disputed this. Why did forged evidence become the basis for claims made in the SOTU? Who inserted the language? Why can't we get answers to these questions? That's what the issue is, not Wilson's report.

Posted by: nota bene at July 14, 2003 02:50 PM | PERMALINK

If you scroll down on the MTP transcript after the Wilson segment, they have a segment with Carl Levin and John Warner.

Here's more Carl Levin with Wolf Blitzer. Wolf tries to interrupt him at one point and Levin rides right over him, saying:

Let me just finish this, if you would, Wolf, because this is a very significant point. You can't just say that the
British learned something if you yourself don't believe it and if you tried to persuade the British they were wrong.

That is highly misleading. It is intended to create a false impression. And someone in the White House was pushing
the CIA. The CIA finally concurred, to use Tenet's word. They shouldn't have. But the White House should not have
been pushing to create a misleading statement.

Couple that with the WSJ editorial about making intelligence fit policy instead of the other way around that CalPundit linked to today, and you're starting to see why I don't trust anything that comes out of any of those phonies' mouths, including "and" and "the."

Posted by: nota bene at July 14, 2003 03:03 PM | PERMALINK

"Why did forged evidence become the basis for claims made in the SOTU?"

That would be an interesting question. Not an important question, since the war had already been authorized months before, but definitely an interesting question.

1) Bush's statement is "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa" Please note that Nigeria is not mentioned, nor is it the only possible country where uranium could be obtained.

2) The British still stand by their report, and they say that it isn't based on the forged documents.

So, by all appearances, a forged document did NOT become the basis for claims in the State of the Union Address. And even if it had, it isn't important because the authorization to invade Iraq had already been made months before.

Unless you are willing to believe that spies should work in the open, you just have to trust Bristish intelligence while also realizing that no intelligence agency is perfect. It is clear that the uranium claims never became a huge part of the war justification, because nothing much was made of them until after the war. So I don't see the point of the discussion because:
a) the claim was not a highlighted war talking point
b) the claim was not based on the forged document
c) intelligence agencies are not always right

As for your other questions, Bush may not have the evidence, the British have it. The British may need to keep their source alive by not revealing it. Wilson may have been expected to do more than he actually did.

Posted by: Sebastian Holsclaw at July 14, 2003 03:17 PM | PERMALINK

Nota bene, my point is that the Congressional authorization for the war predated the Bush comments by months . Clearly Congress was not 'relying' on the Nigeria documents for the war authorization.

Then it's OK to lie to Congress and the public in the SOTU, as long as the lie wasn't the basis for getting Congressional authorization?

Posted by: Roger Bigod at July 14, 2003 03:36 PM | PERMALINK

So, by all appearances, a forged document did NOT become the basis for claims in the State of the Union Address.

Then why was Tenet forced to apologize?

Posted by: Roger Bigod at July 14, 2003 03:47 PM | PERMALINK

"I did not have sex with that woman (as far as Hillary knows)" = "technically accurate"

Three issues here: Pre-war intelligence pointing to Iraqi WMD has proved, post-war, to be so much rosebush fertilizer. (Though, as Ari says, it someday "may be an absolute fact.") Second, some bogus pre-war intelligence may have been known, pre-war, to have been bogus. That's what we've been trying to find out. Third, and perhaps most damning, is that the Administration doesn't seem to care about faulty intelligence. "Nothing to see here, folks," is what we're getting. Which leads me to conclude they are either incompetent or malicious.

Posted by: Grumpy at July 14, 2003 03:55 PM | PERMALINK

Wilson said the following on Hannity and Colmes:

He doesn't have nuclear weapons, to the best of anybody's knowledge, even though he has an aggressive program to try and get them.

This has been consistent from the start. The administration never tried to sell the public or anybody else that Saddam had nuclear weapons, but rather that he was trying to develop them, a claim not in dispute.

And Kevin, there ARE links between Iraq and Al-Qaeda, and we WERE greeted as liberators, contrary to the nonsense we heard early on.

We've been there only 3 months (you write as though the same timeframe is an eternity) and a provisional government has already been set up. Contrary to media reports, aimed at attempting to cause controversy (the same media who is talking 'quagmire' now were saying the same thing one week into the war), things are going better in Iraq than most people thought.

Posted by: Jay Caruso at July 14, 2003 04:06 PM | PERMALINK

"but I don't know that we actually ran South Vietnam the way we are running Iraq."

We did run South Vietnam, as we were the only means by which the government there remained in power. This is irrelevant to the question of Iraq, as the US occupation is both illegal and immoral- how would you feel about Denmark running the US? Even if done with noble intentions?
The war was justified as pre-emptive self-defense, both to the people of the US and the international community. No threat has been found. So then the question must be asked: why was a threat claimed by the administration, when evidence shows there was not one? Was it a mistake, or a deliberate deception to cause the people of the US to support a war they otherwise would not? A war, I might add, that has cost the lives of over 15,000 people and large sums of money.
To claim this is political mudslinging is to show a very limited grasp of the issues at stake. Firstly is the legitimacy of our government as a representive government - those who lie and manipulate do not represent their constituents. Second is the fact that by launching this war, which it cannot now legally defend (Article 21 of the UN charter) the US has become a rouge state. Last is the detrimenttal effect of the US as a terror target. Even the CIA concluded the war in Iraq would increase terrorism against the US. The right is fond of saying 'we are at war', referring to the war on terror. My question then is why did George Bush manipulate the US into a seperate war on Iraq?

Posted by: prozacrefugee at July 14, 2003 05:05 PM | PERMALINK

"The US has become a rouge state..."

If only Gore had been president, we'd be a bleu state. :)

Posted by: Grumpy at July 14, 2003 07:09 PM | PERMALINK

Sebastian, you'll have more weight in this discussion if you refer to them as Niger documents, not Nigeria documents (two different countries), and to Al Qaeda instead of Al Queda (Arabic has no u after the q).
Joe, try Saddam instead of Sadaam.
These spelling corrections will suggest to Calpundit readers that you've both been reading, and haven't just got your opinions off Fox News.

Posted by: John Isbell at July 14, 2003 10:25 PM | PERMALINK

Come on, John I., criticizing typos on the web is a bit much. It's reasonable to guess that Sebastian doesn't need anyone's help in realizing that Niger isn't the same as Nigeria, and there's no single convention for transliterating Arabic into English. I mean, I wouldn't write "fr Tzhid" for "al Qaeda," to make an absurd randomly-typed example, but typing "al-Queda" hardly suggests anything substantive about one's knowledge level.

Posted by: Haggai at July 14, 2003 10:50 PM | PERMALINK

Hey, cool, Sebastian is still missing the point.

Jay C: "We believe he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons."--Dick Cheney, 3/16/03.

If the media is trying to stir up controversy now, why didn't they try to do the same thing during Afghanistan?

John--typos is typos. But I figured he didn't know what he was talking about because he kept changing the subject.

Posted by: nota bene at July 14, 2003 11:26 PM | PERMALINK

Caught Michael Smith of the Daily Telegraph this morning on, yes, FoxNews. He makes the point that MI-6 undoubtedly got their information on yellowcake sales to Iraq from French intelligence, who, does this need to be explained, explicity did not want their role or sources divulged to U.S. The Brits kept their word, revealing the content, but not the source, if even they know that. The companies which mine and process Niger's uranium (3rd largest producer in world) are French, and Niger, unlike Nigeria, itself is a former colony. Iraq has documented history of dealings with Niger, at least prior to the Israelis bombing their reactor. So, maybe Nota bene, you can start questioning the French on how, exactly, they seem to believe Saddam was involved here. Are they now part of the neo-con cabal?

The only real question here is- Why the hell is Bush being such a pussy? Probably has to do with Tenet & the CIA having their tailfeathers ruffled over the fact this interesting tidbit of intel did not pass through their hands and yet made it into SOTU. Tenet now wants to retroactively score points vs Rumsfeld & co for actually deigning to consider other sources of intel & analysis outside of Tenet's umbrella. That said, there's a mixed case as to whether Tenet, like Powell, should be kept. Of course this whole thing is incredibly childish & partisan. That said, it may well reveal some interesting truths with regards to the French and our own processes.

Posted by: Lloyd at July 15, 2003 08:55 AM | PERMALINK

Nota- Check the transcripts. Cheney referred to Saddam's "program", as opposed to "weapons", five times in the same interview. Its hard for me to believe too, but even our man Dick can slip on his words every now and then.

Posted by: Lloyd at July 15, 2003 08:59 AM | PERMALINK

Funny thing John, I doubt any spelling of Al-Queda will get you to agree with me. If I were writing in Arabic or if there were a standard transliteration I would worry about it. The Niger/Nigeria thing was just a goof, quite correct that I should change it, tho' once again I don't think such cosmetic changes will magically bring you around to seeing things from my point of view. :)

But I'm relying on British intelligence for that opinion, so I'm sure I'll be called a liar soon.

Posted by: Sebastian Holsclaw at July 15, 2003 09:27 AM | PERMALINK

Nolte Bene, remember the EDSEL?

The problem I have with all this bruhaha about yellow cake is that Bush had to deal with us, Americans, on 9/11. (It took him about a day. And, he was a day late, after Guiliani.) We didn't get a break in 2000. We got two similar parties to cheat us with their ticket choices. You could tell a difference between Gore and Bush? One was taller. One sighed a lot. Niether got AMericans very excited.

Forgotten in the primary season, where I was hoping us 'middle-of-the-roaders' could flag down the republican gentry so they'd put McCain on the top; got us Bush, instead. (Because McCain was a single individual. WHile Karl Rove owned the 50-state appartus of the republican party.)

Now you know. There's a small agenda, owned by a few families ... and to hell with everybody else.

It wouldn't have mattered, except that the Bush Family friends, the Saudis, brought the terror to our shores ... (yeah, we've been getting deliveries from them since the early 1970's. They'd like to use OUR money, and their oil, to destabilize the world.) To fear. Or not to fear. That is the question.

My biggest concern with Bush is how slow he's moved against terrorism, and how fast he was to move against us all with Homeland Security. I kept seeing one Trojan Horse after another line the streets. (And, I do worry about jobs and money. The politicians are gonna bankrupt us before we even have to worry about other stuff.) Americans have learned to use plastic. We've forgotten specific issues of industry and thrift that were American mainstays. (And, remain mainstays in other parts of the world.)

Beyond Bush, I see Condi Rice as a menace. Her background has been to study Russia. She's unaware of CHina. And could care less. So when Bush tells you he looks into Putin's eyes and sees his soul, I jump out of my skin. He didn't see the KGB?)

Russia's not even one country. It's a conglomeration of about 15 nations ... all deep in shit ... without a ruble or a work ethic. It's as if all of this stuff is mafia, all of the time. And, we're playing with these people?

Yes. Because it's Condi's specialty.

So who the hell has Bush's ears? FAMILY MEMBERS. People with agendas. LOYALISTS. We're in trouble folks.

And, yet this is it for the next two years.

As to scandals that lead to congressional investigations over 'forged words' ... I'm outta here. Can't count on me to tune in. I don't care. (I should have cared when it happened to Nixon. And, I didn't.) But we've got this disease spreading ... as if the NY Times thinks it can get a whole load of kids to Washington to make Bush shake in his shoes. Why?


Bush doesn't need a defeat now. Instead, we the AMerican People, are desperate for a real victory.

Forget the personal politics stuff. Clinton beat the wrap and gave us a tee-shirt to wear in exchange. Move on. We need to do better stuff. Whether or not the press is friendly. Whether or not someone says Bush didn't touch a base ... I'd like to point out in life we're not running bases ... Bush didn't have to give the speech he did.

HE COULD HAVE GOTTEN UP IN CONGRESS AND SHOUTED "ARE YOU ALL CRAZY?" Let's MOVE!! There's now a big split between what the politicians want Bush to do (from Tony Baloney to republican operatives) ... let's leave the EDSEL MODEL ... and work the American system. People will back the president. We don't need yellow cake to know we've been threatened BIG TIME. Does this rant help anybody else? NB?

Posted by: Carol Herman at July 15, 2003 02:17 PM | PERMALINK

The administration never tried to sell the public or anybody else that Saddam had nuclear weapons, but rather that he was trying to develop them, a claim not in dispute.

Well, what is in dispute is whether the nuclear programme had been mothballed in 1991, as seems to be the case from what the leading Iraqi nuclear scientists are now saying. It's like saying that the fact that the US was supporting slavery is 'not in dispute'.

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