URANIUM FROM AFRICA….Peter Wallsten and Bob Drogin of the LA Times report that the French intelligence service tried repeatedly to warn the Bush administration that the idea that Saddam Hussein had tried to procure uranium from Africa was crazy. Their source is Alain Chouet, France’s former chief of counterintelligence, backed up by a former CIA official:

The French-U.S. communications were detailed to The Times last week by Chouet, who directed a 700-person intelligence unit specializing in weapon proliferation and terrorism. Chouet said the cautions from his agency grew more emphatic over time as the Bush administration bolstered the case for invading Iraq by arguing that Saddam Hussein had sought to build a nuclear arsenal using uranium from Niger.

….When President Bush gave his State of the Union address in January 2003, citing a report from the British that Iraq had attempted to purchase uranium from Africa, other French officials were flabbergasted.

One government official said that French experts viewed the statement attributed to the British as “totally crazy because, in our view, there was no back up for this.” Nonetheless, he said, the French once again launched an investigation, turning things “upside down trying to find out what was going on.”

The French say that American queries appear to have been based almost solely on the infamous Niger forgeries and nothing else. However, the British continue to claim that they had independent evidence of Saddam’s procurement attempts, which means that even if George Bush’s 2003 SOTU statement (“The British government has learned….”) was mendaciously misleading, at least it was still technically correct.

But was it? Maybe someone from MI6 ought to think about leaking the real story about this, since at this point it appears that the British actually had no more evidence than we did. Which is to say, bupkis.

This story just gets more ragged with every telling.