AGAIN WITH THE YELLOWCAKE DEBATE?…. I haven’t yet seen “Fair Game,” the critically-acclaimed film about Bush administration officials outing CIA operative Valerie Plame, but the editorial board of the Washington Post apparently has. The editors apparently didn’t like it.
In a piece yesterday, the editorial board complains that the movie is “full of distortions — not to mention outright inventions.” I can’t speak to this in any real detail without having seen it, and it doesn’t surprise me when Hollywood takes some liberties with real-life events to create a more dramatic story.
But the Post makes at least one claim that warrants some pushback.
The movie portrays Mr. Wilson as a whistle-blower who debunked a Bush administration claim that Iraq had tried to purchase uranium from the African country of Niger. In fact, an investigation by the Senate intelligence committee found that Mr. Wilson’s reporting did not affect the intelligence community’s view on the matter, and an official British investigation found that President George W. Bush’s statement in a State of the Union address that Britain believed that Iraq had sought uranium in Niger was well-founded.
A few things. First, whether Wilson’s work affected the intelligence community’s views or not, he did, in fact, help expose the Bush administration’s claim as false.
Second, what some British officials believed at the time is irrelevant. Bush’s claim wasn’t “well-founded”; it was highly dubious, and the Bush administration knew it. Matt Duss flagged this report from the editorial boards’ own newspaper.
Dozens of interviews with current and former intelligence officials and policymakers in the United States, Britain, France and Italy show that the Bush administration disregarded key information available at the time showing that the Iraq-Niger claim was highly questionable.
In February 2002, the CIA received the verbatim text of one of the documents, filled with errors easily identifiable through a simple Internet search, the interviews show. Many low- and mid-level intelligence officials were already skeptical that Iraq was in pursuit of nuclear weapons.
The interviews also showed that France, berated by the Bush administration for opposing the Iraq war, honored a U.S. intelligence request to investigate the uranium claim. It determined that its former colony had not sold uranium to Iraq.
And third, let’s also not forget that even the Bush White House abandoned its support for the bogus claim, explaining in 2003 that the presidential argument failed to “rise to the level” of accuracy needed for a State of the Union address.
Nearly eight years after the Washington Post editorial board got the war in Iraq wrong, the editors are still flubbing key details.