Political Animal

Yet More on the Niger Uranium

YET MORE ON THE NIGER URANIUM….I didn’t really intend to become obsessed with the WMD hunt this evening, but the news just keeps rolling in. The latest comes from David Martin of CBS:

Senior administration officials tell CBS News the President?s mistaken claim that Iraq tried to buy uranium from Africa was included in his State of the Union address — despite objections from the CIA.

….CIA officials warned members of the President?s National Security Council staff the intelligence was not good enough to make the flat statement Iraq tried to buy uranium from Africa.

The White House officials responded that a paper issued by the British government contained the unequivocal assertion: “Iraq has … sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.” As long as the statement was attributed to British Intelligence, the White House officials argued, it would be factually accurate.

Once again, we have the White House acting like a five-year-old. No, scratch that. More like a too-clever-for-his-own-good 15-year-old. “All we did is say that the British said it, and they did, so technically it’s completely true.”

What’s the definition of “is”?

Democratic Balls

DEMOCRATIC BALLS….Over at Needlenose, Swopa notes that the Democratic presidential candidates seem to have grown some cojones recently, and wonders if it has anything to do with the surprising second quarter fundraising success of Howard “I’m Mad As Hell” Dean.

Maybe so, maybe so. Of course, I imagine that the ongoing problems in Iraq combined with the public unraveling of the administration’s WMD stories might have something to do with it too….

The Latest WMD Excuse

THE LATEST WMD EXCUSE….I am slowly detecting a new meme developing in the great WMD debate. The latest from the Wurlitzer is that no, there was no real evidence of WMD after all, but Saddam used to have WMD so we figured he still had it.

Donald Rumsfeld kicked things off yesterday with this:

“The coalition did not act in Iraq because we had discovered dramatic new evidence of Iraq’s pursuit” of weapons of mass destruction, Rumsfeld told the Senate Armed Services Committee. “We acted because we saw the evidence in a dramatic new light — through the prism of our experience on 9-11.”

Over at NRO James Robbins continues the meme, telling us that maybe Saddam didn’t try to buy uranium from Niger anytime recently, but he sure did it back in the 1980s:

Saddam was a major buyer of African uranium in the years before the Gulf War; based on recent discoveries we know he retained a capability to reconstitute his nuclear program when the opportunity presented itself; and it would be reasonable to assume that he would seek replacement uranium for the hundreds of tons destroyed in earlier rounds of inspections. That is not intelligence so much as inference, but if one accepts the model, it is easy to see how someone might be overly eager to accept supporting evidence from a foreign intelligence service.

Tony Blair makes a similar claim here. And Glenn Reynolds links approvingly to Right Wing News, which tells us that Saddam had WMD programs back in 1998 and that pretty much everyone agreed that he must therefore still have had them in 2003. So why pick only on President Bush?

Glenn himself, on the other hand, takes a much more direct approach to the whole thing:

I probably should take these more seriously, just because the mainstream media are pretending to. But it’s the same bogus crap from the same desperate people, who — as Randy Barnett notes here — want to blur the line between “mistakes” and “lies” in a way that they certainly never did during the Clinton Administration.

It’s partisan backstabbing, pure and simple, and it doesn’t deserve to be taken seriously.

Hmmm, all the probative evidence has gone missing ? all of it ? and the fact patterns increasingly indicate that the administration knew that its testimony was, um, something less than the whole truth. You’d think a law professor might indeed think that deserved to be taken seriously.

Given this latest batch of explanations, it looks like we’re being told that we went to war based not on any particular evidence, but rather on the simpleminded inference that because Saddam was a bad guy who built WMD five years ago, then he must have been building WMD last March too. For chrissake, folks, a five year old child could do better than that. The administration’s story must really be on the verge of crumbling if this is what they’re reduced to.

Yellowcake-Gate Update

YELLOWCAKE-GATE UDPATE….It’s getting awfully hard to keep up with the Niger-Uranium story. Here is Colin Powell’s version from earlier today:

And at the time of the President’s State of the Union address, a judgment was made that that was an appropriate statement for the President to make….Subsequently, when we looked at it more thoroughly and when I think it’s, oh, a week or two later, when I made my presentation to the United Nations and we really went through every single thing we knew about all of the various issues with respect to weapons of mass destruction, we did not believe that it was appropriate to use that example anymore. It was not standing the test of time.

This is getting ridiculous. Powell’s statement is only open to three interpretations:

  1. Something happened between January 28 and February 5 that made the Niger story less credible.

  2. Nobody “really went through” all the claims in the State of the Union address.

  3. The claim was known to be bogus when Bush made it, but he went with it anyway.

I don’t think anybody believes #1, but if that’s the excuse then I think we all deserve to hear a bit more about what supposedly happened during that week to weaken the intelligence. #2 is barely credible either, since the speech was vetted by the CIA, Pentagon and State Department, and in any case seems almost as bad as deliberate deception. So that leaves #3.

The noose is tightening.

UPDATE: On the other hand, Tony Blair is hanging tough, claiming that Britain has evidence that the United States doesn’t:

The government of British Prime Minister Tony Blair, however, has stood behind its September conclusion that Iraq “sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa” for a possible nuclear weapons program despite the release of a report by a British parliamentary commission this week that challenged the allegation and, in effect, Bush’s decision to include it in his address.

British officials have insisted that the Bush administration has never been provided with the intelligence that was the basis for the charge included in the Blair government’s September intelligence dossier.

It would be nice to know just what evidence they have, wouldn’t it?