Stitch-ups

by Henry on June 21, 2005

Dan Drezner on the Downing Street Memos.

The biggest charge is that the president shaped the intelligence to gin up an excuse for the war. On this point, Fred Kaplan’s essay in Slate does a nice job of encapsulating what I think:
The memos do not show, for instance, that Bush simply invented the notion that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction or that Saddam posed a threat to the region. In fact, the memos reveal quite clearly that the top leaders in the U.S. and British governments genuinely believed their claims….
The implicit point of these passages is this: These top officials genuinely believed that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction—and that they constituted a threat. They believed that the international community had to be sold on the matter. But not all sales pitches are consciously deceptive. The salesmen in this case turned out to be wrong; their goods were bunk. But they seemed to believe in their product at the time.
The administration was clearly wrong about the WMD threat—but I think they thought they were right. They deserve any criticism they get about being wrong—but they don’t deserve the meme that they consciously misled the American people.

I don’t think that this claim holds; and there’s an analogy that I think makes this clearer (Kaplan uses a version of this analogy in his article, but doesn’t develop it). In many countries (including my home country, Ireland), police have a reputation for stitching people up; they seem prepared in some instances to commit perjury in order to get people convicted for crimes. Now in some cases, this is a completely cynical exercise – the police have no idea of whether the accused is guilty or not, but need to get a conviction for political or other reasons. But in others, it’s because the police think that they know who committed a crime, but don’t have the necessary evidence to get the person convicted in court. Therefore, they perjure themselves and lie about the evidence in order to get the conviction.

This, it seems to me, is what happened in the lead-up to Iraq. The Bush administration, like others, probably did genuinely believe that Iraq had an active nuclear program. But it didn’t have the necessary evidence to prove this, either to its allies or to its own people. It therefore cooked the evidence that it did have in order to make its claims more convincing. It didn’t deceive the public about its basic belief that there were WMDs in Iraq. But it did deceive the public about the evidence that was there to support this belief, in order to convince them that there was a real problem. In other words, it did “consciously mislead” the American people (and its allies). When the police are caught perjuring themselves to get convictions, they should (and frequently do) suffer serious consequences, even if they believe that they’re perjuring themselves in order to get the guilty convicted. That’s not what the police should be doing; they haven’t been appointed as judges, and for good reason. If the police persistently lie in order to get convictions, the system of criminal law is liable to break down. Similarly, when the administration lies about a major matter in order to get public support, it shouldn’t be excused on the basis that it thought that it was lying in a good cause. It’s still betraying its basic democratic responsibilities.

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11.21.05 at 1:35 pm

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1

Chris 06.21.05 at 11:02 am

Not to mention that, if the quotes Nader cites are correct, there seemed to be an overwhelming lack of evidence regarding WMDs. I agree with you, Henry. What is cooking the evidence if not an attempt to mislead? Why would they have even bothered doing it if their intent was accurate representation?

2

XLM 06.21.05 at 11:03 am

Can you point to any specific statements the Bush administration made about WMD in Iraq that were knowingly false?

3

Matt 06.21.05 at 11:04 am

This is not to mention the fact that there really wasn’t any very good reason to think that Iraq had WMD, and some pretty good reasons to think they did not (depite what many people want to believe.) It seems pretty clear (and always did!) that unless one had massively pre-judged the case before hand, w/o regard to the evidence, that there just was no good reason to think that Iraq had such weapons. I suppose that in the face of such lying that incompitence and an unwillingness to be lead by evidence seems like a small crime, but we ought not forget about that, either.

4

Ray 06.21.05 at 11:13 am

We could argue all day about whether the US and UK had, at the time of the memo, good reason to believe that Iraq had WMD. The problem is that they refused to accept the validity of new evidence – the weapons inspections – that didn’t support their belief. Why? Because as the memos make clear, the purpose of the weapons inspections was not to get rid of any WMDs they may have found, but to provide a figleaf of UN support, and hopefully provoke Iraq into providing an actual causus belli.

5

Henry 06.21.05 at 11:18 am

bq. Can you point to any specific statements the Bush administration made about WMD in Iraq that were knowingly false?

“The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.”:http://www.houstonjusticenotwar.org/articles/waxman.asp

6

nikolai 06.21.05 at 11:21 am

I’m not sure the analogy is entirely appropriate. Perjury is lying: saying something you believe to be false with the intention of deceiving someone.

Did the Bush administration do this? I haven’t seen anything to suggest they said things they *knew* to be false. They may have not be rigorous about ensuring that what they did say was true, and they may have given people a selective account, and this may have resulted in people being mislead. But it all this falls somewhat short of lying. It also isn’t equivocation, I’m not sure exactly what it is…

7

Ray 06.21.05 at 11:23 am

Deceit.
Is this going to attract another million “okay they’re bad, but they’re not quite _that_ bad, and how dare you even suggest they are” comments?

8

Kevin Donoghue 06.21.05 at 11:36 am

I haven’t seen anything to suggest they said things they knew to be false.

Try this PDF file for starters. Bear in mind that if I say I have evidence of WMD when in fact I don’t, that’s a false statement – even if I honestly believe in the existence of said WMD.

9

Jim Harrison 06.21.05 at 11:36 am

The whole premise of this post is wrong. No doubt a lot of folks thought that Saddam had some residual WMD capacity in the form of chemical agents, but they knew damned well that he didn’t have nuclear weapons or any prospect of building them and that any mustard or nerve gas he might have hidden away someplace was strategically meaningless. WMDs were and are merely convenient excuses for conservative and liberal interventionists. The dishonesty of the administration—and a good part of the erstwhile opposition—isn’t a matter of parsing laws or spinning evidence. It is profound and structural.

10

cs 06.21.05 at 11:41 am

“Knowingly false” is too high a standard. The Bush administration asserted that they were 100% positive that Iraq had large amounts of WMD and active WMD programs. And yet they had no irrefutable evidence to support such claims. That is deception.

11

abb1 06.21.05 at 11:49 am

Yup, they were really concerned about thousands of those killer drones, evil Saddam was about to unleash on our East Coast cities:

A Bush administration official told senators last year that “Iraq not only had weapons of mass destruction, but they had the means to deliver them to East Coast cities,” Florida Today reports.

According to Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), “about 75 senators got that news during a classified briefing before last October’s congressional vote authorizing the use of force to remove Saddam Hussein from power….

“Nelson said the senators were told Iraq had both biological and chemical weapons, notably anthrax, and it could deliver them to cities along the Eastern seaboard via unmanned aerial vehicles, commonly known as drones.”
http://www.defensetech.org/archives/000690.html

Thank you, Mr. President, for being vigilant.

But what are we gonna do about the Martians?

12

Thomas 06.21.05 at 11:49 am

People dismissing the DSM are confusing two separate claims about WMDs:

1) Iraq possesses banned weapons.
2) Iraq possesses banned weapons and therefore is a threat.

The Memos make the case that the administration believed claim, but used claim 2 as window dressing for a war they had decided on waging regardless of what threat Iraq posed. It’s actually really simple. Those saying the DSM is irrelevant are claiming that there is no difference between claim 1 and claim 2, which is flat out ridiculous, but probably the only plausible route left for those who pretend the war was in any way legitimate. It’s telling that nobody serious defending the administration wants to hitch their horse to the administration clearly believing 2.

13

Sebastian Holsclaw 06.21.05 at 11:52 am

“The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.”

You are certainly aware that according to celebrated Bush detractor Joseph Wilson, a high level official from Saddam’s government (namely Information Minister Moham-med Saeed al-Sahaf, more commonly know during the initial stages of the Iraq war as Baghdad Bob) sought a trade deal in Niger which the former prime-minister of Niger interpreted as angling toward uranium production. You are doubtless also aware that uranium is one of the major (and one of the very few) exports of Niger. I would hope you are aware that when uranium exports were not put on the table, that Moham-med Saeed al-Sahaf quickly left Niger, did not secure a trade deal, and apparently did not pursue a further trade deal–unsurprising since Niger has nothing worth trading to Iraq other than uranium.

So it is somewhat surprising that you characterize the quote as knowingly false. It not only fails to seem ‘knowingly’ false. It fails to be false at all. At the very worst it might not rise to the level of evidence that you would desire for the statement–perhaps an engraved invitation from Saddam specifically asking to engage in highly illegal trade with a helpful reminder to not let the US find out about it.

Or perhaps you think the word ‘sought’ means ‘obtained’?

Or perhaps you think Saddam illegally sought uranium because he thought it would be fun to violate the sanctions–but that he no further plans than that?

14

abb1 06.21.05 at 11:58 am

“Baghdad Bob once wanted to meet a Niger offical, though never did” = “Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa”

If that’s not a lie, then I don’t know what is.

15

Henry 06.21.05 at 12:05 pm

Sebastian, I’m not quite clear about what you are trying to argue here. As you know quite well, the specific reference here is to a set of crudely forged documents, which the CIA had made quite clear were unreliable. Are you saying that the US government was in fact correct to rely on these forged documents? Or that the documents were not forgeries? Or that even if the documents were forgeries, that it was appropriate for George W. Bush to pretend otherwise in a State of the Union address, because the government was convinced by the circumstantial evidence that you cite? Which of these is it?

16

gzombie 06.21.05 at 12:10 pm

Remember the days when prominent politicians and their defenders only had to try to weasel their way out of what was said or not said about illicit blowjobs?

I seem to remember that conservatives were so certain at the time about the clear nature of truth and falsity in language. Turns out that now they think things are much, much cloudier.

I guess it really is different when you’re a Republican.

17

Jon 06.21.05 at 12:11 pm

Sebatian,

If you really, truly believe Iraq tried to buy uranium from Niger, then let’s bet on it. I’ve offered this bet to you again and again, so far without success. We could even try to get Drezner to judge it.

But short of that, I have to conclude that repeatedly bringing this up is just some sort of weird rhetorical strategy for you, though I don’t understand what you hope to accomplish.

18

eudoxis 06.21.05 at 12:13 pm

Way too much importance is given the WMD meme as a reason for public support for the invasion of Iraq. There was a desire to remove Saddam (finally!), throw off the yoke of Middle East control over oil supplies, plant seeds of democracy that would grow like weeds over the whole area, and do all that without the UN or Blix. Alone. The American way! As the European anti-war marches grew, so did American support for the war.

And there was no public referendum. Only full congressional support.

Public support is presently waning not because of absent WMD, but because Saddam is turning into a sympathetic character and we are no longer kicking ass in Iraq. Oil prices have tripled, and, maybe, democracy can’t be imposed, afterall. We can always blame the Europeans for not standing with us on this project.

19

Sebastian holsclaw 06.21.05 at 12:26 pm

“As you know quite well, the specific reference here is to a set of crudely forged documents, which the CIA had made quite clear were unreliable. “

Umm, no. I believe your specific reference was that it was a lie that “The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.”

This is in the context of your allegation that Bush was attempting to mislead the public. Since it appears true that Saddam did seek uranium from Niger, which is in fact in Africa, what precisely is your problem with the statement?

Is it that you believe the apparently true allegation was based on apparently false documents? Do you know that the statement was based only on the false documents? Of course not. It was almost certainly based on the documents and other intelligence.

But since the allegation appears to be correct and because the story had been circulating even before the fraudulent documents circulated, it seems silly to say that Bush told an intentional falsehood.

20

Jon 06.21.05 at 12:36 pm

Since it appears true that Saddam did seek uranium from Niger…

Sebastian,

I don’t think I’ve encountered a single person on earth besides you who still claims to believe this. But you say you honestly do. Fine. LET’S BET ON IT. Let’s find an arbiter we both agree on who will judge the available evidence and make a determination.

But again: failing a willingness on your part to make such a bet, I won’t believe you actually think this happened. It would be nice if you would either put your money where your mouth is, or stop making statements that are — at least from the perspective of someone like myself who IS willing to put their money where their mouth is — truly silly.

21

Uncle Kvetch 06.21.05 at 12:37 pm

Way too much importance is given the WMD meme as a reason for public support for the invasion of Iraq.

Fine, Eudoxis–I’m going to take you at your word.

The next time the Bush Administration talks about some country or other posing an intolerable “threat” to national security, I will (1) assume they’re lying through their teeth, and (2) tell myself that it doesn’t matter whether they’re lying or not, because their intentions are good.

22

soru 06.21.05 at 12:42 pm


But since the allegation appears to be correct and because the story had been circulating even before the fraudulent documents circulated, it seems silly to say that Bush told an intentional falsehood.

Sebastian is correct on this issue, the Butler report on UK intelligence into the war concluded that was not one of the things that was got wrong. So that is still the position of HMG, whether or not the CIA disagrees.

soru

23

Henry 06.21.05 at 12:44 pm

Sebastian, the history of what happened here is pretty undisputed. The Bush administration wanted to include the claim that Iraq was seeking materials from Niger in the State of the Union address, on the basis of the forged documents. The intelligence community made it clear that the evidence for this was, at best, insufficient. The administration then white-washed the claim through the British. As Michael Kinsley “noted at the time”:http://slate.msn.com/id/2085612/

bq. Bushies fanned out to the weekend talk shows to note, as if with one voice, that what Bush said was technically accurate. But it was not accurate, even technically. The words in question were: “The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.” Bush didn’t say it was true, you see—he just said the Brits said it. This is a contemptible argument in any event. But to descend to the administration’s level of nitpickery, the argument simply doesn’t work. Bush didn’t say that the Brits “said” this Africa business—he said they “learned” it. The difference between “said” and “learned” is that “learned” clearly means there is some pre-existing basis for believing whatever it is, apart from the fact that someone said it. Is it theoretically possible to “learn” something that is not true? I’m not sure (as Donald Rumsfeld would say). However, it certainly is not possible to say that someone has “learned” a piece of information without clearly intending to imply that you, the speaker, wish the listener to accept it as true. Bush expressed no skepticism or doubt, even though the Brits qualification was only added as protection because doubts had been expressed internally.

If you want to argue, as you seem to be doing, that it’s OK to use bogus claims to defend propositions that you believe to be true, then you’re entitled to do so, of course. But that’s rather what the post was trying to get at in the first place.

24

soru 06.21.05 at 12:46 pm


I don’t think I’ve encountered a single person on earth besides you who still claims to believe this.

You need to expand your social circle, I suspect.

here is the wikipedia entry:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Butler_Review

The report indicated that there was enough intelligence to make a “well-founded” judgment that Saddam Hussein was seeking, perhaps as late as 2002, to obtain uranium illegally from Niger and the Democratic Republic of Congo (6.4 para. 499). In particular, referring to a 1999 visit of Iraqi officials to Niger, the report states (6.4 para. 503): “The British government had intelligence from several different sources indicating that this visit was for the purpose of acquiring uranium. Since uranium constitutes almost three-quarters of Niger’s exports, the intelligence was credible.”

This intelligence (which had controversially found its way into George W. Bush’s 2003 State of the Union speech) had previously (before September 2003 [C. May, 2004]) been thought to rely on forged documents. The Butler Review stated that “the forged documents were not available to the British Government at the time its assessment was made.” (6.4 para. 503) Taking into account the American intelligence community’s findings on the matter, it is true that in December 2003, then CIA director George Tenet conceded that the inclusion of the claim in the State of the Union address was a mistake. (CNN.com, 2003) However, Tenet believed so, not due to any compelling evidence to the contrary, but rather because the CIA (criticized concerning this matter by the Senate Report of Pre-war Intelligence on Iraq [Schmidt, 2004]) had failed to investigate the claim thoroughly; however again, the Butler Review states (6.4 para. 497) in 2002 the CIA “agreed that there was evidence that [uranium from Africa] had been sought.” In the run-up to war in Iraq, the British Intelligence Services apparently believed that Iraq had been trying to obtain uranium from Africa; however, no evidence has been passed on to the IAEA apart from the forged documents (6.4 Para. 502). (Times Online, 2003)

soru

25

eudoxis 06.21.05 at 12:47 pm

sebastian holsclaw, Iraq has huge deposits of urianium ore. It would be senseless to seek yellow cake from elsewhere. For a nuclear weapons program, the key is enriched uranium.

26

Jon 06.21.05 at 12:52 pm

soru,

I don’t mean to be rude, but you really, truly do not understand this issue. I’m happy to explain it to you, but only on the condition that you commit to actually listening and thinking rationally about it. If on the other hand your only desire it to argue endlessly with strangers, I won’t bother.

27

eudoxis 06.21.05 at 12:52 pm

henry, “The administration then white-washed the claim through the British. “
AFAIK, the Italian forgery source independently sent documents to France from which Britain received it’s “independent” evidence.

28

Sebastian Holsclaw 06.21.05 at 1:07 pm

“If you want to argue, as you seem to be doing, that it’s OK to use bogus claims to defend propositions that you believe to be true, then you’re entitled to do so, of course. But that’s rather what the post was trying to get at in the first place.”

Let us be clear so I can understand what you are arguing about. Do you belive it is false that Saddam sought uranium in Africa? Do you believe it is false that British intelligence made such a claim?

Jon, I propose a bet with the same level of linguistic trickey you used last time, but this time I get to choose the question. If you would like to defend the statement “There is no credible evidence that Saddam sought uranium in Africa” I will engage you in a monetary venture. Otherwise you seem to be blathering rather than talking about the issue which is that there is indeed credible evidence that Saddam sought uranium in Africa.

Henery. Did bush mention the documents? Did he have Dan Rather wave them around on 60 Minutes and say “this proves what we have been saying”? Or did he say that Saddam was SEEKING uranium in Africa?

Bush was highlighting Saddam’s not-deterable state of mind in the context of a well-known history of the international community constantly advocating the end of sanctions and a general international unwillingness to maintain inspections over a long period of time. The point of noting (apparently correctly) that Saddam sought uranium during the height of sanctions is that if he is willing to do that even under threat, he cannot be trusted in power in the long run considering the lackluster interest of the international community when it comes to containing him.

29

eudoxis 06.21.05 at 1:10 pm

uncle kvetch, re 21: I recommend sticking with (1) and for any administration.

30

saurabh 06.21.05 at 1:14 pm

Sebastian – whether or not the claim is known to be correct NOW, at issue is whether it was known to Bush at the time. It’s a moot issue whether or not Saddam -was- actually seeking uranium, since we know he had no weapons program, had no weapons, and had only the barest hint of actually creating either.

Furthermore, the international community can hardly be said to have shown “lackluster” interest in containing him, since it enforced a strict sanctions program for many years, subjected Iraq to intense inspections and forebade the production of any complex missile systems. If that is lackluster, what is “intense”?

31

DGF 06.21.05 at 1:19 pm

The Yellowcake forgery refers to a set of false documents that were used in the justification of the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The documents suggested that Iraq attempted to buy yellowcake uranium from Niger. In the 2003 State of the Union address by President George W. Bush and in Secretary of State Colin Powell’s address to the United Nations Security Council, Bush and Powell cited the forgeries as “indisputable” evidence that Iraq was developing nuclear weapons.

The documents had long been suspected as frauds by United States intelligence, and had been investigated and discounted well before these 2003 presentations. In early 2002, Ambassador Joseph Wilson had been dispatched to Niger to investigate the documents. On February 22, 2002 Wilson reported to the CIA and the State Department that the information was “unequivocally wrong” and that the documents had been forged.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yellowcake_Forgery

That’s a little too close to intentional deception for my tastes.

32

eudoxis 06.21.05 at 1:23 pm

South Africa produces highly enriched uranium. Other African countries produce uranium ore and yellow cake, both of which Saddam had plenty. They are utterly useless for nuclear weapons unless highly enriched.

33

fifi 06.21.05 at 1:34 pm

Even if they genuinely believed Iraq had WMD, so what? More to the point, even if Iraq did have WMD, for real, what of it? Iraq *should* have WMD, for the same reasons that we have them.
For example to deter lunatic foreign governments from invading.

34

derek 06.21.05 at 1:36 pm

My belief, since June 2003, has been halfway between Henry’s two options: that they cynically perjured themselves knowing that Saddam had nothing that UN inspectors would call WMDs, but they sincerely thought Saddam would have something they could wave in the air and call WMDs, to show they were right to invade.

They were shocked to find he had even less than they thought. I know, because before April 2003 I thought they would find something that they could use, even though I never believed in the actual WMDs.

What do I think happened? I think they had intelligence of Saddam’s WMD program activity intentions, and were as fooled as he was by his subordinates’ sugar-coated reports of how far the actual programs had advanced. In reality, they never got off the back of an envelope.

35

saurabh 06.21.05 at 1:38 pm

The PDF linked above is instructive and contains far more obvious false statements than the one made in the SOTU. For example, Cheney said on March 16 2003 (three days before the war): “we believe he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons” and did not retract this statement until Sept. 2003. If lying is the debate (rather than that one specific lie) there’s an ample record to draw from.

36

P ONeill 06.21.05 at 1:42 pm

Dick Cheney, Aug 26, 2002:

Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction. There is no doubt he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies, and against us. And there is no doubt that his aggressive regional ambitions will lead him into future confrontations with his neighbors — confrontations that will involve both the weapons he has today, and the ones he will continue to develop with his oil wealth.

This statement is false. It’s also a lie, because it was based on intelligence reports which are subject to uncertainty, yet Cheney repeatedly said there was “no doubt.”

37

Henry 06.21.05 at 1:44 pm

Sebastian – the exact point is that the evidence that you are presenting isn’t smoking gun evidence. It is quite plausible that Hussein was seeking uranium but it’s very far from being proven. And as Kinsley points out, “learned” is a strong word – “The difference between “said” and “learned” is that “learned” clearly means there is some pre-existing basis for believing whatever it is, apart from the fact that someone said it.”

You claim that the reason why the administration brought this up was as evidence that Hussein was non-deterrable, and that the international community would not have been able to contain him over the long run, given its lacklustre level of interest and commitment. This is a defensible analysis of the underlying problem. It is not, however, the public argument that the Bush administration was making at the time. Instead, the Bush administration was trying to justify going to war in Iraq on the basis that there was, in Bush’s words, an “urgent threat,” and that, as Cheney described it, Iraq had “reconstituted nuclear weapons.” They weren’t making the case that this was a long term problem. In other words, as best as I can understand what you’re saying here, it seems to work better as a possible rationale for why the Bush administration was justified in lying and exaggerating, than as an exegesis of what they were saying at the time, since the case that they were laying out was so manifestly different from the one that you’re presenting here. If that’s the argument you’re trying to make, you should be making it directly.

38

Jon 06.21.05 at 1:44 pm

Jon, I propose a bet with the same level of linguistic trickey you used last time, but this time I get to choose the question. If you would like to defend the statement “There is no credible evidence that Saddam sought uranium in Africa” I will engage you in a monetary venture. Otherwise you seem to be blathering rather than talking about the issue which is that there is indeed credible evidence that Saddam sought uranium in Africa.

Sebastian,

I don’t know whether you’ve forgotten this, but here’s the background to our bet:

1. You stated, “It is a complete fabrication that the Bush administration argued in the runup to the war that there was an imminent threat from Iraq.”
2. I asked if you would bet money on that.
3. You agreed.
4. I won the bet.

I’m not sure how asking you to defend a statement you made constitutes “linguistic trickery.”

(I should also say that, while I have no intention of arguing any more about this, for old time’s sake I was amused to read this in one of the recently leaked UK documents: “…we have to be convincing that the threat is so serious/imminent that it is worth sending our troops to die for… we are still left with a problem of bringing public opinion to accept the imminence of a threat from Iraq.”)

Anyway, as I said back on October 21, 2004, I’m happy to bet you a $100 on this: “There is no credible evidence publicly available today that Saddam or the Iraqi government sought uranium in Africa.”

The reason I insert publicly is that we can only go on what evidence is made public; ie, I’m not willing to argue against a claim that the US or UK has some secret evidence they haven’t made public.

Finally, as I said previously, I encourage you to make this bet. I think you’d find losing $100 worth it just to experience the evidence I could likely bring to bear here.

39

Jon 06.21.05 at 1:48 pm

Henry, this statement:

It is quite plausible that Hussein was seeking uranium but it’s very far from being proven…

really isn’t correct. The final CIA WMD report — written, of course, after we’d invaded the country, captured their government’s files, and taken all the relevant figures into custody, said this:

ISG has uncovered no information to support allegations of Iraqi pursuit of uranium from abroad in the post-Operation Desert Storm era.

40

Sebastian Holsclaw 06.21.05 at 1:54 pm

Joe Wilson has provided credible and publically available evidence. You know where to send the money.

41

Jon 06.21.05 at 1:55 pm

Derek,

This statement:

I think they had intelligence of Saddam’s WMD program activity intentions, and were as fooled as he was by his subordinates’ sugar-coated reports of how far the actual programs had advanced.

…isn’t supported by the evidence. Read the final WMD report, and you’ll see there’s no sign Saddam’s subordinates were telling him Iraq had any WMD programs, far advanced or not. Saddam wasn’t “fooled.” He knew Iraq had nothing.

42

Jon 06.21.05 at 1:59 pm

Sebastian,

So, should I ask Drezner whether he’d judge the proposition I made above?

43

saurabh 06.21.05 at 2:01 pm

What evidence did Joe Wilson provide? That al-Sahaf at some time sought to speak to the Niger government, and that someone he spoke to speculated that al-Sahaf might have wanted to speak to him on the subject of illicit trading of uranium? Pretty weak.

44

saurabh 06.21.05 at 2:02 pm

err, “someone he spoke to” should read “someone he sought to speak to”.

45

Sebastian Holsclaw 06.21.05 at 2:05 pm

“This is a defensible analysis of the underlying problem. It is not, however, the public argument that the Bush administration was making at the time.”

This is indeed what the Bush administration was saying at the time. That was the whole point of Bush arguing against an “imminent threat” standard for the war in the first place: “Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent. Since when have terrorists and tyrants announced their intentions, politely putting us on notice before they strike? If this threat is permitted to fully and suddenly emerge, all actions, all words, and all recriminations would come too late.”

46

abb1 06.21.05 at 2:10 pm

Pretty weak.

Well, when it comes to bad guys’ shenanigans, no evidence is too weak. And when it’s about glorious American government’s alleged transgressions – nothing can proven beyong reasonable doubt. Oh, and when it is proven beyong reasonable doubt, it’s just a few bad apples, exception to the rule.

47

Uncle Kvetch 06.21.05 at 2:14 pm

uncle kvetch, re 21: I recommend sticking with (1) and for any administration.

Now that’s the kind of “defense” of the Bushies I’ve been waiting for: “Of COURSE Bush lied! They all lie!”

Thanks for your candor, Eudoxis.

48

Jon 06.21.05 at 2:18 pm

abb1:

Well, when it comes to bad guys’ shenanigans, no evidence is too weak. And when it’s about glorious American government’s alleged transgressions – nothing can proven beyong reasonable doubt. Oh, and when it is proven beyong reasonable doubt, it’s just a few bad apples, exception to the rule.

Yeah, that’s exactly how it works. People just start with whatever conclusion they want to believe, and search for anything at all, no matter how nuts, to support it. Among parts of the right wing in the US, it’s reaching levels akin to holocaust denial.

49

Sebastian Holsclaw 06.21.05 at 2:20 pm

No, Wilson said that Saddam sent a to Niger. It was headed by al-Sahaf. The former prime minister of Niger received the impression that they wanted uranium–which is non-shocking since Niger has very few exports that Saddam could want. When the ex prime minister failed to follow up on that line, the trade delegation didn’t bother getting trade in other areas.

This is exactly the kind of evidence you would expect. If you are looking for a hitman and you are already under the eye of the police, you don’t go right up and say “I would like you to kill my wife.” You say (and this is still too blatant) something like “I see you run one of the largest gun ranges in town. You know guns pretty well. My wife is really annoying. If you shot this at someone’s head it would kill them pretty fast, right? I hear that there are places where you can get rid of annoyances.”

The listener, if not actually a hitman, may very well get the impression that he is being asked about killing someone’s wife. That impression is not speculation, but rather listening closely to the conversation.

If bin Laden level rantings are your only level of acceptable proof, I can’t offer it. But I also wonder how you are able to communicate with 98% of the population.

50

Barry 06.21.05 at 2:21 pm

“What do I think happened? I think they had intelligence of Saddam’s WMD program activity intentions, and were as fooled as he was by his subordinates’ sugar-coated reports of how far the actual programs had advanced. In reality, they never got off the back of an envelope.”

Posted by der

This has been discussed before (on another blog, IIRC), and I tend to disbelieve this. If it was a case of less than everybody thought, then subordinate fraud could explain that. But nothing is far harder to conceal.

Chemical weapons in particular are WWI/II technology. Fooling people is harder; it would
be both easy and prudent to have Mukhabarat agents who were trained in chemical engineering.
Working within the programs, which would make that level of fraud very risky.

The minute that Saddam wanted a test his toys, having nothing at all to show him would also have been very, very risky.

51

Sebastian Holsclaw 06.21.05 at 2:21 pm

hmm, I tagged something wrong. The first sentence should say “…Saddam sent a trade delegation to Niger”

52

Jon 06.21.05 at 2:22 pm

Sebastian,

Let me ask again: should I get in touch with Drezner and ask if he’ll judge this?

53

Henry 06.21.05 at 2:23 pm

Nope Sebastian, no cigar. That’s quite self-evidently _not_ an argument that we have to invade because if we don’t, then sooner or later our untrustworthy allies are going to take their eye off the ball, and let the sanctions program lapse so that Hussein can reconstitute his nuclear weapons program. It’s another version of the Condie Rice smoking-gun-mushroom-cloud shtick, claiming that we don’t know what Hussein is up to _at the moment_ and that he’s an “urgent threat” to repeat Bush’s language(nb that Rice herself argued that Hussein was eminently containable before she became national security adviser).

54

jlw 06.21.05 at 2:25 pm

I believe the key point where the sides are talking past each other concerns the word “seeking.”

Those on the Bush-is-a-liar side believe that for the President to show that “Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium,” he would have to demonstrate that a serious attempt was made: agents were dispatched, contacts were found, offers were made. The analogy would be that you can show that a man sought to rob a bank because he was caught with detailed floorplans, the guards’ duty schedule, guns and explosives.

But from the Holsclavian point of view, that’s overkill. Sebastian writes: “Bush was highlighting Saddam’s not-deterable state of mind . . . .” See? Saddam sought uranium in his mind. He wanted them, and that’s enough to show that he was guilty. You might as well charge every prisoner who dreams of life on the outside with attempted escape.

Without any solid evidence, how did Bush know what Saddam wanted? I suppose we should add mind reading to the list of his other superpowers, along with being able to look into Vladimir Putin’s soul (and finding it good) and clouding the minds of as many as 50.7 percent of American voters every fourth November. Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men . . . ?

55

Grand Moff Texan 06.21.05 at 2:28 pm

In fact, the memos reveal quite clearly that the top leaders in the U.S. and British governments genuinely believed their claims….

So what? What the administration misled people about was the strength of their case.

Bush may believe all kinds of things. If he claims he can prove them, then that’s different. If he omits any reference to the holes in his evidence, that’s dishonesty, and that’s exactly what they did.

Belief means squat.
.

56

Sebastian Holsclaw 06.21.05 at 2:41 pm

“But from the Holsclavian point of view, that’s overkill. Sebastian writes: “Bush was highlighting Saddam’s not-deterable state of mind . . . .” See? Saddam sought uranium in his mind. He wanted them, and that’s enough to show that he was guilty. You might as well charge every prisoner who dreams of life on the outside with attempted escape.”

No. He sought uranium by dispatching a high level envoy to talk personally with people in Niger under the guise of a ‘trade mission’ when Niger did not have anything but uranium which Iraq would want to trade. That is deeply different from wanting uranium ‘in his heart’.

57

abb1 06.21.05 at 2:45 pm

Saddam sought uranium in his mind. He wanted them, and that’s enough to show that he was guilty.

That’s right, he committed a thoughtcrime, nogood son of a bitch.

This is well-rooted in tradition, though; Bush’s most favorite philosopher once said:

Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.

58

Jon 06.21.05 at 2:46 pm

Sebastian,

Let me ask you A THIRD TIME: should I contact Drezner and ask if he’ll judge this bet?

59

Grand Moff Texan 06.21.05 at 2:49 pm

He sought uranium by dispatching a high level envoy to talk personally with people in Niger under the guise of a ‘trade mission’ when Niger did not have anything but uranium which Iraq would want to trade.

He already had uranium ore. He had no refining capacity. No one in Niger, apparently, spoke to him about uranium. The uranium trade is monitored far too closely for Saddam to risk exposure for something he did not need and could not use.

Creationist epistemology (in the form of your argumentum ad ignorantiam fallacy) is not going to justify this war. Not outside the Bush-o-sphere, anyway.
.

60

Henry 06.21.05 at 3:01 pm

jon – thanks for the correction.

61

Sebastian Holsclaw 06.21.05 at 3:11 pm

“He already had uranium ore.” It was monitored by the UN (in theory). The point of getting uranium from Niger would be to get uranium that was not monitored. It may be that the former prime minister of Niger didn’t persue the issue because his uranium was too closely monitored as well (if you don’t want to presume he is honest). In neither case does your argument speak to the fact that Saddam was seeking something which he A) should have no use for and B) which was very dangerous for him to seek.

Jon, do you read drezner? He is going out of the country. I have already presented enough evidence to breach the “no evidence” standard which you are currently persuing.

62

Jon 06.21.05 at 3:34 pm

Jon, do you read drezner? He is going out of the country.

I didn’t know that, but does that make a difference? He can access the internet while out of the country. Or we could set it up now and wait until he gets back. I’m in no hurry.

I have already presented enough evidence to breach the “no evidence” standard which you are currently persuing.

Well, no “credible” evidence. But since you’re convinced you’ll be successful, should I go ahead and ask Drezner?

63

Grand Moff Texan 06.21.05 at 3:36 pm

The point of getting uranium from Niger would be to get uranium that was not monitored.

Except that it is monitored, as is the entire trade. (I wonder why?) This was also the conclusion of State and even the Marines looked into it. (I won’t bring up the other guy, since he’s been effectively neutralized, which is only more evidence of dishonesty).

Many things were monitored by the UN. They were not monitored by the US. Now they are gone. At what point am I supposed to believe that the US government had these things on their minds (because, outside their political rhetoric, they have never demonstrated their concern)?

In neither case does your argument speak to the fact that Saddam was seeking something which he A) should have no use for and B) which was very dangerous for him to seek.

Are we speaking in hypotheticals here? Where is the evidence that he did any such thing? And if he sought to do something that would not profit him (since he still couldn’t do anything with it, a point you did not address), then that intent won’t justify much of anything. So why, other than the usefulness of a big scary Saddam bogeyman, would you continue to pursue it? The slaughter of thousands won’t be vindicated by this thin gruel.
.

64

Grand Moff Texan 06.21.05 at 3:37 pm

Well, no “credible” evidence. But since you’re convinced you’ll be successful, should I go ahead and ask Drezner?

I had brought up creationism as a metaphor. Perhaps it was more apt than I thought?
.

65

Uncle Kvetch 06.21.05 at 3:43 pm

E.J. Dionne has his own take on this in today’s WaPo:

The notion that the president led the country into war through indirection or dishonesty is not the most damaging criticism of the administration. The worst possibility is that the president and his advisers believed their own propaganda. They did not prepare the American people for an arduous struggle because they honestly didn’t expect one.

How else to explain the fact that the president and his lieutenants consistently played down the costs of the endeavor, the number of troops required, the difficulties of overcoming tensions among the Sunnis, the Shiites and the Kurds? Were they lying? The more logical explanation is that they didn’t know what they were talking about.

So even if, for the sake of argument, one proceeds from the assumption that the administration was acting entirely in good faith, one is left with the conclusion that they’re merely a bunch of earnest, well-intentioned incompetents. But hey, they believed they were doing the right thing…the rest is just noise, right?

66

Jon 06.21.05 at 3:46 pm

Uncle Kvetch,

As I’ve often said: we’d better pray to god that they’re lying. Because if they actually believing what they’re saying, we’re in even more trouble than I think.

67

roger 06.21.05 at 3:49 pm

I would think that the practical test of the Administration’s beliefs would lie in how they invaded Iraq. If they really believed that Saddam Hussein possessed chemical weapons in extraordinary amounts or that they were preparing nuclear weapons, then I think supporters of the administration must surely convict them of gross criminal negligence. They neither supplied the invading troops with the kind of material appropriate for chemical warfare, nor, when Iraqi territory was secured, did the administration make any outstanding effort to secure and sort through the weapons dumps. No, by May of 2003 we knew that the Tuwaitha Yellowcake Storage Facility and the adjacent Baghdad Nuclear Research Center, the Ash Shaykhili Nuclear Facility, the Baghdad New Nuclear Design Center and the Tahadi Nuclear Establishment were all allowed to be looted.

Now, if the Bush supporters weren’t merely partisan hacks, if they were sincere conservative patriots, I think they would say, obviously, the people who did this should be impeached for their conduct of the war, since these WMD posed a danger to the U.S. and you disgracefully left these areas open to looting. I think they should say, since we think Saddam and Osama are connected, we have allowed this material to be imprudently annexed by our greatest enemy. They should say, this is intolerable. The greeks, after the collapse of their campaign in Turkey in 1922, shot all their generals; the Bush people, meanwhile, fired nobody, including the Secretary of War (or Defense, to use the Orwellian offical term).

But who really believes that the conservative supporters of Bush care? They don’t. They have drunk the koolaid, and believe only what the leader, or the system of flunkies, tell them to believe. Nothing matters, there are no standards to which they will hold this administration, no tergiversation they will not mimic, no lapse in logic they won’t countenance and even find amazingly cool.

That is the good thing about the Downing Street memos — the penetration past the scrim set up by the MSM and Bush’s factotums. It is beginning to sink in: the destruction of America’s volunteer army on a mission that began in lies and has aimed, in vain, to even state a reasonable goal, financed by 350 billion dollars that has basically been borrowed by selling T notes to the Chinese, who are no doubt totally happy at what Bush and Rumsfeld have done to America’s military.

68

BigMacAttack 06.21.05 at 3:50 pm

Hey, I want some free money.

I know not to eat yellow snow. I am a little less clear about yellow cake. I thought it was yummy. But some people here seem to be indicating it might not be.

But it seems to me that the main issue is did Bush knowingly present false evidence in order to lead the US into war.

So Jon how about a 100 on that? You seem to think this Drezner guy is impartial so he can be the judge.

LMAO.

69

Jon 06.21.05 at 3:54 pm

bigmacattack,

Sure. If Drezner’s willing to adjudicate, I’ll bet you $100 on this proposition:

“The Bush administration knowingly lied about the WMD evidence in order to lead the US into war.”

Before you make the bet, however, I should tell you that I only bet on sure things. Among these are the bet I previously made with Sebastian for $100, and the $1000 I bet someone that Iraq had no banned weapons.

70

Grand Moff Texan 06.21.05 at 3:57 pm

Kvetch: I’ve always considered that the more terrifying possibility.

bigmac: I don’t know if we’ll ever know if Bush was dishonest or simply being used. He talked about going after Iraq in 1999, and his administration first met on a post-Saddam Iraq before the end of January, 2001, but who knows if he was paying attention?
.

71

Grand Moff Texan 06.21.05 at 4:00 pm

“The Bush administration knowingly lied about the WMD evidence in order to lead the US into war.”

You might start with the use of and special protections issued to the OSP and INC.
.

72

Uncle Kvetch 06.21.05 at 4:01 pm

No, by May of 2003 we knew that the Tuwaitha Yellowcake Storage Facility and the adjacent Baghdad Nuclear Research Center, the Ash Shaykhili Nuclear Facility, the Baghdad New Nuclear Design Center and the Tahadi Nuclear Establishment were all allowed to be looted.

Who’s “we”?

You know it, Roger. I know it. The True Believers, however, have apparently decided that because it doesn’t fit the master narrative (and because it was reported in the New York Times), it’s not true. Head on over to PowerLine or Red State or LGF with your comment: you’ll find that all of this “looting” business is a figment of the Islamofascist mainstream media’s imagination.

We are well and truly down the rabbit hole here. And as Iraq sinks further into the muck and mire, the lunacy is only going to get more breathtaking in its audacity.

73

Jon 06.21.05 at 4:05 pm

grand moff texan,

It’s actually a lot easier than that. There’s been glaringly obvious evidence that’s been sitting around for a while that hasn’t gotten much attention.

74

ogmb 06.21.05 at 4:11 pm

Do you belive it is false that Saddam sought uranium in Africa?

Even if true, how would this amount to an imminent threat?

75

Jon 06.21.05 at 4:22 pm

ogmb:

Even if true, how would this amount to an imminent threat?

In fairness to Sebatian et al, if it had been true it would have been fairly strong evidence Iraq had restarted its nuclear weapons program. That’s why it was thrown into the big stew of crap.

Now, having said that, I think the evidence is conclusive that Sebastian does not believe anything he’s said here on this subject. You’ll note his unwillingness — despite being asked over and over and over and over again — to put his money where his mouth is.

I can’t pretend I understand his motivation, though. It’s a peculiar way to behave.

76

BigMacAttack 06.21.05 at 4:25 pm

Jon,

Mine is simpler and makes more sense.

I am not sure adminstrations have a collective conciousness and thus I am uncertain how they can either lie or knowingly do stuff.

77

Jon 06.21.05 at 4:31 pm

bigmacattack,

Okay. Let’s define “the Bush administration” as:

George Bush
Dick Cheney
Colin Powell
Condoleezza Rice
George Tenet

What do you say?

78

BigMacAttack 06.21.05 at 4:42 pm

Jon,

We would still have the same problem.

79

ogmb 06.21.05 at 4:43 pm

That there was a major disconnect between what they believed and what they claimed could be seen in the way the GWB administration treated Hans Blix. If you know for sure WMD’s exist you treat inspectors on the ground as your friends. If you know your evidence is bogus or at least “sexed up” you treat them as your enemies.

80

Jon 06.21.05 at 4:46 pm

Bigmacattack,

I’m not sure whether you’re splitting hairs for some real reason or to avoid making this bet. But how about this:

“George Bush and/or Dick Cheney and/or Colin Powell and/or Donald Rumsfeld and/or Condoleezza Rice and/or George Tenet knowingly lied about the WMD evidence in order to lead the US into war.”

Note that I added Rumsfeld, because the evidence is extremely strong that he’s one of the ones who lied.

81

jet 06.21.05 at 4:52 pm

Jon,
You bet a $1000 that Iraq didn’t have any banned weapons? That must have hurt paying out a sucker’s bet.

82

soru 06.21.05 at 4:54 pm


I don’t mean to be rude, but you really, truly do not understand this issue. I’m happy to explain it to you, but only on the condition that you commit to actually listening and thinking rationally about it.

Go ahead.

The evidence that saddam was at least investigating the possibility of getting his hands on unmonitored yellowcake seems pretty strong, but I always try to be open to new information that contradicts what I think I know.

soru

83

Jon 06.21.05 at 4:55 pm

jet,

I can clarify the terms of the bet for you if you’re genuinely curious. Of course, I’m sure you’re not.

84

Jon 06.21.05 at 4:56 pm

soru,

Okay. But first, please clarify for me what you think this evidence is.

85

Steve White 06.21.05 at 4:58 pm

One can’t use the failure of the Blix mission to find WMD as a reason to say, aha, there were no WMD in Iraq. We now know that Saddam’s intel people had penetrated Mr. Blix’s mission and generally knew what was coming. Because of this, the inspections process could really “repudiate” nothing. Mr. Blix and his team, with only a few exceptions, only saw what Saddam wanted them to see. And the Bush team knew this.

Remember one important point in this equation: Saddam acted guilty. He was buying protective biochem suits, atropine syringes, and other protective gear on the sly. He threatened the use of WMD even as he proclaimed he didn’t have any. A fair number of his generals (generally a mediocre bunch) thought that it was the next unit around the corner with the biochem weapons.

And remember another point: Saddam had used chemical weapons on the Kurds. So there wasn’t much doubt about Saddam’s willingness to use WMD.

Put it together post 9/11: the man acts like he has them, he threatens to use them, he’s penetrated the Blix mission so that the information provided by Blix has to be considered at least some suspect, he’s never come clean on the storage and production even as inspectors thought he had few (or no) stocks, he was known to be consorting with various terror groups who had fewer qualms than he had — put it together and you have a reasonable (not air-tight by any means) case. Good enough to go to war? That’s what we ask Presidents to judge, and hold them accountable afterwards.

A final note: the hullabaloo about the 9/11 Commission was why didn’t the Bush team connect all the dots to stop 9/11. Now we’re blaming the Bush team for connecting dots.

86

jet 06.21.05 at 5:05 pm

Jon,
I’m sure the terms run along the lines of “No banned weapons were found after Saturday, 1 March, 2003, 20:21 GMT.” And we certainly won’t take into account Saddam’s retainment of key nuclear scientists along with their research.

87

Jon 06.21.05 at 5:10 pm

jet,

Do you know what the nickname is in British journalism circles of the reporter whose article you just linked to?

88

soru 06.21.05 at 5:27 pm


Okay. But first, please clarify for me what you think this evidence is.

Start with the 2004 Butler report statement, authored by a group of disparate backbenchers with intelligence experience, that:

‘The British government had intelligence from several different sources indicating that this visit was for the purpose of acquiring uranium. Since uranium constitutes almost three-quarters of Niger’s exports, the intelligence was credible’

soru

89

ogmb 06.21.05 at 5:48 pm

Remember one important point in this equation: Saddam acted guilty.

Remember the other important point: After Blix finally got the so-called intelligence from the U.S. he declared it, in so many words, worthless. A couple of days later, after the Azores summit, the Coalition called an ultimatum on Saddam.

90

Jon 06.21.05 at 5:58 pm

soru,

The most important thing to understand about the Butler report is that it was NOT an investigation into whether all the WMD claims made by the British government before the war were actually true. It was an investigation into whether the UK government’s claims were reasonable based on the intelligence available to them at the time — ie, before Iraq had been invaded and occupied, with the government’s files captured and the relevant regime figures in custody. By contrast, it was the job of the CIA’s Iraq Survey Group, led by David Kay and then Charles Duelfer, to investigate what kind of WMD programs Iraq had had in reality.

I trust you understand the distinction. So, here’s the conclusion from the Butler report:

“We conclude that, on the basis of the intelligence assessments at the time… the statements on Iraqi attempts to buy uranium from Africa in the Government’s dossier, and by the Prime Minister in the House of Commons, were well-founded.” (Paragraph 499; emphasis added)

Now, here’s the relevant conclusion from the ISG, AFTER the invasion of Iraq:

“ISG has uncovered no information to support allegations of Iraqi pursuit of uranium from abroad in the post-Operation Desert Storm era.”

I could go into a lot more detail, but that’s the basic story. The ISG reports are the final word on what actually happened (as opposed to what was “reasonable” to think based on pre-war intelligence). For instance, the Butler report also found it was “reasonable” for the British government to have said before the war that Iraq was “seeking mobile biological agent production facilities” (paragraph 530). However, the ISG report concluded this was wrong and Iraq actually had not been not doing so.

(Note there are lots of reasons to think the Butler report overlooked, on purpose or otherwise, lots of obvious evidence about the shoddiness of the “uranium from Africa” claims. But there’s no reason to go into that here.)

91

soru 06.21.05 at 6:27 pm

Can you clarify why you think the ISG report contradicts the Butler one? It merely says it ‘has uncovered no information’, not that it had access to the british info and found it wanting.

It’s not an issue like the claim of actual production facilities that can be visited and checked out, absent a time machine.

soru

92

Mike 06.21.05 at 6:57 pm

In 1999, just after UNSCOM left Iraq, a prominent UN weapons inspector made a very alarming assessment of Iraq’s nuclear weapons program:

” The Iraqis maintain, at a minimum, the capability to conduct active research and development in the field of gaseous centrifuge enrichment and the weaponization of a nuclear device.

Iraq has retained a considerable nuclear weapon manufacturing production base. This consists of numerous declared and undeclared dual-use machine tools wich have been dispersed among a wide variety of enterprises and plants. In addition, there are several vital undeclared instruments capable of carrying out machining operations essential for nuclear weapons manufacture. Finally, despite the official termination of the nuclear weapons program, the vast majority of its infrastructure remains in place.”

*Snip*

” Concerning uranium enrichment, Iraq has retained critical centrifuge-enrichment capability in operation possibly since mid-1994. Undeclared feedstocks are also thought to be retained in support of this effort.”

*Snip*

” Iraq has retained components relating to the most recent weapons design, which have not been turned over to the IAEA. THESE COMPONENTS MAY BE COMPLETE ENOUGH FOR ASSEMBLY INTO SEVERAL WEAPONS, LACKING ONLY THE HIGHLY ENRICHED URANIUM CORE.” (my emphasis).

This assessment was followed by 4 years of no inspections. There was reason to believe Saddam had an interest in off-the-books uranium from phased out mines. The Butler Inquiry’s conclusions cannot simply be brushed aside because the ” Bush Lied ” crowd find them inconvenient.

93

Mike 06.21.05 at 7:00 pm

A correction to my previous post:

Insert the word ” intellectual ” before the word ” infrastructure,” in the following sentence:

“Finally, despite the official termination of the nuclear weapons program, the vast majority of its infrastructure remains in place.”

94

Jon 06.21.05 at 7:00 pm

Can you clarify why you think the ISG report contradicts the Butler one? It merely says it ‘has uncovered no information’, not that it had access to the british info and found it wanting.

It’s not an issue like the claim of actual production facilities that can be visited and checked out, absent a time machine.

Yes, but it was the case that all the people involved, including those who supposedly had been doing the uranium-seeking, couldn’t be interrogated before the war. After the war they could be, and were.

Also, it would be bizarre in the extreme if the ISG did not have access to the British intelligence. Note that section of the ISG report deals with meetings examined by the Butler report, and finds nothing to them.

To believe at this point that this happened you must believe that:

1. Iraq had no nuclear program since 1991, hence no need for uranium;
2. None of the Iraqi scientists or government officials interrogated, including the people puportedly involved, provided any evidence Iraq had ever sought uranium despite every incentive to do so;
3. There was no documentary evidence found in Iraq that Iraq was seeking uranium;
4. There was documentary evidence found in Iraq that Iraq had been approached with an offer of uranium from Congo and turned it down;
5. The British intelligence was indeed at least in part relying on the forged Niger documents, although this is neatly elided by the Butler report
6. The British government has been unwilling to make public its intelligence despite every incentive in the world to do and no discernable reason to refuse…

… and yet, Iraq was still seeking uranium from Niger.

95

Mr.Murder 06.21.05 at 7:19 pm

Mushroom Cloud scenarios. Yellowcake is mot really an effective item for weapons grade material yet Bush trumpeted this an argument for war?

It would like throwing all people who go to court in jail for the same amount of time for different things.

Someone with three unpaid parking ticekts gets the same sentence as a murder one.

They both did wrong and deserve to pay for their crimes.

Or for instance, a person who got a speeding ticket pays as much as Ken Lay for the Enron fiasco. So far that much can be said as well. Except for the speeding ticket guy paid for speeding.

By the way Enron’s energy task force of Cheney’s did a lot of deliberations regarding appropriations for a pipeline deal with the Taliban.Forty three million dollars worth of aid which Cheney had stricken from the record.

SO the company that helped Bush buy the election and perpetuate some of the biggest frauds ever took place in foreign policy(energy pricing, several state pensions and compensation funds, tort reform and tax cuts, foreign aid appropriations).

Bush’s words matter in terms of intent. He used language that was strongher than the evidence, and this tangent tactical ‘evidence’ was presented as reasons for war. That consitutes INTENT.

The current state of iraq is in shambles. COINTELPRO type operations currently target Mosques to inflame war even more.

The Hague awaits. You bloggers who are also media employees, remember, Nuremburg set one hell of a precedent.

You war supporters need to go sign up. They need more human shields for the next election. You also need to pay for my share of the deficit since my taxes did not decrease.

Bush has made a record deficit in regards to telling truth. The truth deficit remains unpaid.

96

Mike 06.21.05 at 7:20 pm

“6. The British government has been unwilling to make public its intelligence despite every incentive in the world to do and no discernable reason to refuse…”

As I recall it Jon, the British government refused from day one to reveal the source of its ” African uranium ” claim because the nation which provided the intelligence to Britain refused to allow the British to identify it (the providing country) or make the intelligence public.

97

Jon 06.21.05 at 7:36 pm

Mike,

The British government isn’t making it public because it’s so embarrassingly weak. I’m a writer, and I follow this stuff very closely; I’ve discussed it extensively with people in England. Believe me, if they wanted to make it public, they’d find a way to do so. But they don’t — as I say, it’s mostly based on the forged documents.

98

Mike 06.21.05 at 8:05 pm

Jon:

That could be true, then again it might not be. I don’t think anyone here is in a position to be definitive one way or another. Didn’t the Butler Inquiry come to the conclusion that the British intelligence assessment was not “mostly based on the forged documents?”

I’d also be interested in any reply you might have to my post # 92, concerning the prominent UN weapons inspector’s alarming evaluation of Iraq’s nuclear weapons efforts at the time of UNSCOM’s departure from Iraq.

That inspector, by the way, was none other than Scott Ritter, one of the leading standard bearers of the ” Bush Lied ” brigade. They come from pages 239 and 240 of his book ” Endgame, Solving the Iraq Crisis.”

It is beyond surreal to accuse Bush of lying, when the leading proponents of the crusade to vilify Bush are on record making statements of the kind I cite above.

One of the most accurate analysis of the question of WMD intelligence was Kenneth Pollock’s Atlantic Monthly piece from early 2004. Pollock accused the Bush administration of manipulating the intelligence in the build-up to war, by emphasizing the worst case assessments of Saddam’s suspected capabilities. He stressed, however, that the intelligence was consistent with what he had access to as a leading Middle east analyst in the Clinton administration. In short, Pollock says there was no raw intelligence that was fabricated.

99

Steve J. 06.21.05 at 8:20 pm

Can you point to any specific statements the Bush administration made about WMD in Iraq that were knowingly false?

Posted by XLM · June 21st, 2005 at 11:03 am

“We know for a fact there are weapons there.” – Ari Fleischer, Jan. 9, 2003

100

Steve J. 06.21.05 at 8:25 pm

#6 nikolai – “Perjury is lying: saying something you believe to be false with the intention of deceiving someone.

Did the Bush administration do this? I haven’t seen anything to suggest they said things they knew to be false. “

Five months later, the truthfulness of one claim in George W. Bush’s State of the Union address has become the focus of growing media scrutiny. The attention media are paying to this single assertion should be part of a larger journalistic inquiry into other misstatements and exaggerations that have been made by the Bush administration about Iraq.
In the January 28 speech, Bush claimed that “the British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.” That assertion was similar to claims made previously by administration officials, including Secretary of State Colin Powell (CBS Evening News, 12/19/02), that Iraq had sought to import yellowcake uranium from Niger, a strong indication that Saddam Hussein’s regime was reconstituting its nuclear weapons program.
In fact, the Niger story, as documented by journalist Seymour Hersh (New Yorker, 3/31/03) and others, was based on crudely forged documents. In addition, the administration’s own investigation in March 2002 concluded that the story was bogus. As one former State Department official put it, “This wasn’t highly contested. There weren’t strong advocates on the other side. It was done, shot down” (Time, 7/21/03).

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Jon 06.21.05 at 8:38 pm

That could be true, then again it might not be. I don’t think anyone here is in a position to be definitive one way or another. Didn’t the Butler Inquiry come to the conclusion that the British intelligence assessment was not “mostly based on the forged documents?”

Yes, you’ve fallen for the extremely slippery phrasing of the Butler report. This is how they put it, in paragraph 503: The forged documents were not available to the British
Government at the time its assessment was made.

That does seem to be true — they didn’t have the documents themselves. But they did have summaries from foreign intelligence services of the forged documents, and these summaries were one of their main sources.

Also, whether any of us is in a position to know, I strongly disagree. In fact, it’s obvious to anyone who’s willing to use some common sense, even without going into the level of detail I’ve done here. Tell me which of these scenarios is more likely:

1. Tony Blair has come under gigantic pressure over the lack of WMD. There is now a UK government document available saying “the facts and intelligence were being fixed around the policy.” 50% of Americans think George Bush was purposefully misleading about WMD.

Meanwhile, the British government has convincing evidence that Iraq was seeking uranium in Africa. Nevertheless, the British government can find no way to make this public, and indeed Tony Blair and George Bush NEVER MENTION THE ISSUE.

2. Tony Blair has come under gigantic pressure over the lack of WMD. There is now a UK government document available saying “the facts and intelligence were being fixed around the policy.” 50% of Americans think George Bush was purposefully misleading about WMD.

Meanwhile, the British government has no good evidence Iraq ever sought uranium in Africa. Therefore, they won’t release it and Tony Blair and George Bush never mention it again.

102

Sebastian Holsclaw 06.21.05 at 9:18 pm

“Meanwhile, the British government has convincing evidence that Iraq was seeking uranium in Africa. Nevertheless, the British government can find no way to make this public, and indeed Tony Blair and George Bush NEVER MENTION THE ISSUE.”

Depends upon the source of the information now doesn’t it.

And since we know for a fact that there was a ‘trade’ mission to Niger staffed by a high level Iraqi minister, which is more likely:

A) that they wanted uranium

or B) that they wanted goats, but for some reason were unable to get them?

103

Jon 06.21.05 at 9:24 pm

Sebastian,

Should I write to Drezner and ask him if he’ll judge this bet?

104

Sebastian Holsclaw 06.21.05 at 10:17 pm

Sure, feel free. Though it would have been nice for you to contribute to a live thread instead of having “Bet Me” as your only rejoinder to the points I’ve made.

The terms are “There is no credible evidence publicly available today that Saddam or the Iraqi government sought uranium in Africa.” No variance in language will be acceptable.

105

Jon 06.21.05 at 10:41 pm

EXCELLENT!

As I say, if I can provide the sources and evidence I think I can, you’ll find the experience so enriching you won’t mind losing the $100.

If Drezner can’t do it, who else would work from your perspective?

106

jlw 06.21.05 at 10:41 pm

Sebatian bases his entire case on a single factoid: that Joe Wilson has a contact in Niger that remembers a trade delegation from Iraq. That’s a pretty slender thread to support a claim that the Bush Admnistration was not engaging in a criminal conspiracy to mislead Congress and initiate an unprovoked invasion of a sovereign nation.

Myself, I’m not convinced. But suppose we grant that a) there was a delegation and b) it inquired about the availability of uranium. That still falls short of intent to purchase. Nations, organization and individuals make inquiries all the time about goods and services that they have no intention of acquiring. I’ve trekked to the Apple Store to look at new computers when I knew good and well I wasn’t going to upgrade from my iBook. My wife and I have gone to open houses for million-dollar brownstones that we could in no way afford.

Pre-war Iraq was well stocked in yellowcake. There was no need for it to purchase any more–even if it were operating a secret nuclear program. Which it wasn’t. God knows why the Iraqi delegation was in Niger (if it actually was in Niger) but making an actual purchase of uranium was not part of the program.

But I have to hand it to Holsclaw. He’s been able to drive the conversation away from the indisputable truth–that the Bush Administration was engaged in a criminal plot to deceive Congress and the American people–by tenaciously repeating a single factoid of dubious importance.

Bravo, Sebastian. Bravo.

107

Tom Doyle 06.22.05 at 1:41 am

http://www.tomdispatch.com/index.mhtml?pid=2949

One welcome distinction between the times we live in and those other periods I have mentioned is the relative frankness of our government officials — I should call it unprecedented frankness — in explaining how they conceive the relationship of power and truth. Our officials believe that power can determine truth, as an unnamed senior adviser to the President explained to a reporter last fall:

“We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. [3]

The reporter, the adviser said, was a member of what he called “the reality-based community,” destined to “judiciously study” the reality the administration was creating. Now it is important that we realize — and by “we” I mean all of us members of the “reality-based community” — that our leaders of the moment really do believe this, as anyone knows who has spent much time studying September 11 and the Iraq war and the various scandals that have sprung from those events – the “weapons of mass destruction” scandal and the Abu Ghraib scandal, to name only two.

What is interesting about both of those is that the heart of the scandal, the wrongdoing, is right out in front of us. Virtually nothing of great importance remains to be revealed. Ever since Watergate we’ve had a fairly established narrative of scandal. First you have revelation: the press, usually with the help of various leakers within the government, reveals the wrongdoing. Then you have investigation, when the government — the courts, or Congress, or, as with Watergate, both — constructs a painstaking narrative of what exactly happened: an official story, one that society — that the community — can agree on. Then you have expiation, when the judges hand down sentences, the evildoers are punished, and the society returns to a state of grace.

What distinguishes our time — the time of September 11 — is the end of this narrative of scandal. With the scandals over weapons of mass destruction and Abu Ghraib, we are stuck at step one. We have had the revelation; we know about the wrongdoing. Just recently, in the Downing Street memo, we had an account of a high-level discussion in Britain, nearly eight months before the Iraq war, in which the head of British intelligence flatly tells the prime minister – the intelligence officer has just returned from Washington — that not only has the President of the United States decided that “military action was…inevitable” but that — in the words of the British intelligence chief — “the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.” This memo has been public for weeks. [4]

So we have had the revelations; we know what happened. What we don’t have is any clear admission of — or adjudication of — guilt, such as a serious congressional or judicial investigation would give us, or any punishment. Those high officials responsible are still in office. Indeed, not only have they received no punishment; many have been promoted. And we — you and I, members all of the reality-based community — we are left to see, to be forced to see. And this, for all of us, is a corrupting, a maddening, but also an inescapable burden.

Let me give you a last example. The example is in the form of a little play: a reality-based playlet that comes to us from the current center of American comedy. I mean the Pentagon press briefing room, where the real true-life comedies are performed. The time is a number of weeks ago. The dramatis personae are Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld; Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs (and soon to be promoted) General Peter Pace of the Marine Corps; and of course, playing the Fool, a lowly and hapless reporter.

The reporter’s question begins with an involved but perfectly well-sourced discussion of Abu Ghraib and the fact that all the reports suggest that something systematic — something ordered by higher-ups — was going on there. He mentions the Sanchez memo, recently released, in which the commanding general in Iraq at the time, Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, approved twelve interrogation techniques that, as the reporter says, “far exceed limits established by the Army’s own field manual.” These include prolonged stress positions, sensory deprivation (or “hooding”), the use of dogs “to induce stress,” and so on; the reporter also mentions extraordinary “rendition” (better known as kidnapping, in which people are snatched off the streets by U.S. intelligence agents and brought to third countries like Syria and Egypt to be tortured). Here’s his question, and the officials’ answer:

Hapless Reporter: And I wonder if you would just respond to the suggestion that there is a systematic problem rather than the kinds of individual abuses we’ve heard of before.

Secretary Rumsfeld: I don’t believe there’s been a single one of the investigations that have been conducted, which has got to be six, seven, eight or nine —

General Pace: Ten major reviews and 300 individual investigations of one kind or another.

Secretary Rumsfeld: And have you seen one that characterized it as systematic or systemic?

General Pace: No, sir.

Rumsfeld: I haven’t either.

Hapless Reporter: What about-?

Rumsfeld: Question?

[Laughter] [5]

And, as the other reporters laughed, Secretary Rumsfeld did indeed ignore the attempt to follow up, and went on to the next question.

But what did the hapless reporter want to say? All we have is his truncated attempt at a question: “What about-?” We will never know, of course. Perhaps he wanted to read from the very first Abu Ghraib report, directed by US Army Major General Antonio Taguba, who wrote in his conclusion

“that between October and December 2003, at the Abu Ghraib Confinement Facility, numerous incidents of sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses were inflicted…. This systemic and illegal abuse was intentionally perpetrated…. [Emphasis added.] [6]

Or perhaps this from the Red Cross report, which is the only contemporaneous account of what was going on at Abu Ghraib, recorded by witnesses at the time:

“These methods of physical and psychological coercion were used by the military intelligence in a systematic way to gain confessions and extract information or other forms of co-operation from persons who had been arrested in connection with suspected security offenses or deemed to have an “intelligence value.”

108

gzombie 06.22.05 at 2:49 am

I have a suggestions: from now on, the defense of the Bush administration sincerely believing things for which there was no credible evidence should be called the “They’re not dishonest; they’re just incompetent” argument.

109

Brendan 06.22.05 at 4:04 am

Could I add another minor grammatical point?

The questions of whether Saddam was a ‘threat’ is in fact meaningless unless you add a clause stating to WHOM he was a threat. Bush and Blair consistently simply used the phrase ‘threat’ to imply (without actually stating it) that if Saddam was a threat per se (i.e. to anyone) it automatically followed that he was therefore a threat to the United States or Britain.

But of course this doesn’t follow. In fact in the case of the US it’s ridiculous. How? In what way was he a threat? What has been discovered since the war that would indicate that he might have been a threat TO THE UNITED STATES???

I might also add that all the statements defending Bush and Blair merely show that they believed that they were doing the right thing. I’m sure this is true. But so what? EVERYONE ALWAYS BELIEVES THEY ARE DOING THE RIGHT THING. Peter Sutcliffe believed he was doing God’s work when he killed prostitutes. Hitler believed he was saving the German people from the Jewish/Marxist conspiracy. Stalin genuinely believed that the people in the show trials were guilty. And so on.

Bush believed many things, and they are all irrelevant. The question is, were his beliefs actually correct? Did Saddam in fact have WMDs and did he pose a threat TO THE UNITED STATES?

110

Brendan 06.22.05 at 4:16 am

One last point. In his last speech, Bush stated:

‘We went to war because we were attacked, and we are at war today because there are still people out there who want to harm our country and hurt our citizens. Some may disagree with my decision to remove Saddam Hussein from power, but all of us can agree that the world’s terrorists have now made Iraq a central front in the war on terror.’

Note the sentence: we went to war because we were attacked (i.e. on September 11th). And the next sentence makes it clear he is talking about the Iraq war, not the war in Afghanistan. Answers.com defines ‘because’ as ‘For the reason that’. So Bush is stating that the reason he invaded Iraq is 9/11. Now does that strike anyone as a bit of a strange statement to make? Misleading? Mendacious even?

Note, incidentally, his reference to ‘MY decision’ to remove Saddam Hussein from power. Not that of the United Nations, or Tony Blair. Mine.

Bush worshippers are so bound up with their emotional desire to invade other countries for no reason that they won’t even listen, won’t even let reasonable interpretations of what Bush actually said be heard. But to those who have ears, Bush states clearly and precisely what he means.

111

soru 06.22.05 at 5:39 am


Meanwhile, the British government has no good evidence Iraq ever sought uranium in Africa. Therefore, they won’t release it and Tony Blair and George Bush never mention it again.

This seems to be falling for the same ‘someone seems to be hiding something, so I am free to assume what it is they are hiding’ fallacy that got a lot of people into trouble in the first place.

MI6 told the MPs of sources, but no mention of interviews with those sources were included in the ISG report.

Unless that’s a pure accidental ommission, someone is hiding something. Certainly, the thing they could be hiding is that they misled the MPs, but there are other possibilities.

One is that the source is someone currently involved in Iraqi politics, another could be that the CIA was up to something murky in Niger.

I’ve got a feeling we haven’t heard the last of this. But right now, if all you want is a stick to beat Bush with, there are sturdier ones.

soru

112

abb1 06.22.05 at 8:57 am

EVERYONE ALWAYS BELIEVES THEY ARE DOING THE RIGHT THING. Peter Sutcliffe believed he was doing God’s work when he killed prostitutes. Hitler believed he was saving the German people from the Jewish/Marxist conspiracy. Stalin genuinely believed that the people in the show trials were guilty. And so on.

That’s true, but to this one could reply that he was, apparently, elected by a majority in 2004 (which I still find hard to believe), so that his believing in doing the right thing has been somewhat vindicated, at least in a political sense.

Of course it’s also true that Hitler, Stalin and Mao were, apparently, at some point incredibly popular in their countries too.

113

Jon 06.22.05 at 9:23 am

One is that the source is someone currently involved in Iraqi politics, another could be that the CIA was up to something murky in Niger.

Sure, you can always create alternate scenarios for any situation in order to come to the desired conclusion. Pretty soon you get to the point where you’re earnestly speculating that the reason ABC won’t cover the obvious existence of aliens is that Peter Jennings is one of them.

I’ve got a feeling we haven’t heard the last of this.

May I suggest that that’s exactly what it is — a “feeling”? Lots of people seem to have a deep emotional need to believe there was SOMETHING to all the pre-war claims. With all due respect, you might consider whether you’re one of them.

In any case, I’ll tell you what: if we do hear something more about this in the next three years, get in touch with me and I’ll send you the $100 I’m going to take off Sebastian. Also get in touch with me at the end of the three years if we haven’t heard anything, and tell me what you’re thinking then.

114

nic 06.22.05 at 9:23 am

I’ve thought more, and I think the WMD issue isn’t the big story that comes out of the DSM. The big story is that it is a very credible source and (together with related documents) portrays the administration, together with Downing Street: (a) as hellbent on wanting to go to War, (b) trying to inflate the case for War, (c) and trying to entrap Saddam into starting a War.

That’s not much by itself. But publicly – at the same time – they were totally disingenuously saying that they didn’t want war and were doing all they could to avoid it.

115

David W. 06.22.05 at 11:15 am

Dan Drezner is still too much the GOP partisan to want to acknowledge the ugly truth about how Bush misled us into war in Iraq. The fact is that any real due diligence on the part of the U.S. and U.K. regarding those alledged Iraqi WMDs would have quickly shown how unfounded it was. But that wasn’t what Bush or Blair were interested in, as what they wanted to generate was enough fear, uncertainty and doubt to grease the skids for war.

116

Fred Smoler 06.22.05 at 11:39 am

Roger wrote “If they really believed that Saddam Hussein possessed chemical weapons in extraordinary amounts or that they were preparing nuclear weapons, then I think supporters of the administration must surely convict them of gross criminal negligence. They neither supplied the invading troops with the kind of material appropriate for chemical warfare, nor, when Iraqi territory was secured, did the administration make any outstanding effort to secure and sort through the weapons dumps”

Prior to the fall of Baghdad, a journalist friend embedded with two battalions, first combat engineers then armor, was on a couple of occasions warned of imminent chemical attacks, warnings taken very seriously at the time, i.e. people were genuinely alarmed, and suited up. So there is evidence that the US army believed the weapons were there. Rumors held that the source of these warnings were sigint, i.e. transmisions orderingt Iraqi units to prepare to use such weapons. If these rumors were accurate, it seems likely that someone in Baghdad mistakenly believed that the regime possessed chemical weapons.

117

soru 06.22.05 at 12:31 pm


Pretty soon you get to the point where you’re earnestly speculating that the reason ABC won’t cover the obvious existence of aliens is that Peter Jennings is one of them.

I can remember similar sarcasm being used by those saying the existence of WMD was self-evident.

Wish I’d bet cash money then against the people who were so sure of things they couldn’t possibly know.

soru

118

Jon 06.22.05 at 12:57 pm

I can remember similar sarcasm being used by those saying the existence of WMD was self-evident.

Actually, I wasn’t being sarcastic. I honestly think the evidence for UFOs is significantly stronger than the evidence for this uranium kerfuffle. And I don’t believe in UFOs.

There’s some evidence (or “evidence”) for literally anything you wish to believe. But you will never know everything, and at certain point you have use your own judgement.

As someone who DID bet $1000 cash money about the existence of WMDs, I think my judgement is pretty good in these matters. But perhaps I’m wrong — as I say, I’m happy to send you $100 if you’re proved correct and there turns out to be something to this. If you want to take advantage of this offer, send me email. I’m sure enough about this that all I ask you to risk is a willingness to admit your feeling was wrong.

119

Tom Doyle 06.22.05 at 1:37 pm

“Well, I guess I’m reminded a little bit of what Will Rogers once said about Hoover. He said it’s not what he doesn’t know that bothers me, it’s what he knows for sure just ain’t so.”

Walter Mondale, first presidential debate, Oct.7, 1984

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/debatingourdestiny/84debates/1prez1.html

120

Tom Doyle 06.22.05 at 3:07 pm

Source: href=”http://balkin.blogspot.com/2005/06/our-president-stupid-or-evil.html”>Balkanization

Our President: Stupid or Evil?

President Bush to reporters yesterday:[June 20, 2005]

Q Mr. President, many in Europe are worrying that with the fight against terrorism the commitment of the United States to human rights is not as big as it used to be — that is not only to do with Guantanamo, but also with the secret prisons where the CIA holds terror suspects. My question is, what will happen to these people who are held in these secret prisons by the CIA? Will they ever see a judge? Or is your thinking that with some terror suspects, the rule of law should not apply or does not have to have applied.

PRESIDENT BUSH: First of all, I appreciate that question, and I understand we — those of us who espouse freedom have an obligation, and those who espouse human rights have an obligation to live that to those — live up to those words. And I believe we are, in Guantanamo. I mean, after all, there’s 24 hour inspections by the International Red Cross. You’re welcome to go down yourself — maybe you have — and taking a look at the conditions. I urge members of our press corps to go down to Guantanamo and see how they’re treated and to see — and to see — and to look at the facts. That’s all I ask people to do. There have been, I think, about 800 or so that have been detained there. These are people picked up off the battlefield in Afghanistan. They weren’t wearing uniforms, they weren’t state sponsored, but they were there to kill.

And so the fundamental question facing our government was, what do you do with these people? And so we said that they don’t apply under the Geneva Convention, but they’ll be treated in accord with the Geneva Convention.

And so I would urge you to go down and take a look at Guantanamo. About 200 or so have been released back to their countries. There needs to be a way forward on the other 500 that are there. We’re now waiting for a federal court to decide whether or not they can be tried in a military court, where they’ll have rights, of course, or in the civilian courts. We’re just waiting for our judicial process to move — to move the process along.

Make no mistake, however, that many of those folks being detained — in humane conditions, I might add — are dangerous people. Some have been released to their previous countries, and they got out and they went on to the battlefield again. And I have an obligation, as do all of us who are holding office, to protect our people. That’s a solemn obligation we all have. And I believe we’re meeting that obligation in a humane way.

As well, as we’ve got some in custody — Khalid Shaykh Muhammad is a classic example, the mastermind of the September the 11th attack that killed over 3,000 of our citizens. And he is being detained because we think he could possibly give us information that might not only protect us, but protect citizens in Europe. And at some point in time, he’ll be dealt with, but right now, we think it’s best that he be — he be kept in custody.

We want to learn as much as we can in this new kind of war about the intention, and about the methods, and about how these people operate. And they’re dangerous, and they’re still around, and they’ll kill in a moment’s notice.

In the long run, the best way to protect ourselves is to spread freedom and human rights and democracy. And — but if you’ve got questions about Guantanamo, I seriously suggest you go down there and take a look. And — seriously, take an objective look as to how these folks are treated, and what has happened to them in the past, and when the courts make the decision they make, we’ll act accordingly.

Thank you. I appreciate that. Thank you all very much for coming.

[Balkan writes]
As a matter of fact, reporters– and many others too– have taken a look at what has been going on at Guantanamo, aided by information from the FBI … And yet the President keeps insisting that we are treating our prisoners consistent with democracy, human rights, and the rule of law.

Two questions come to mind. First, does the President actually believe what he is saying? If so, then he is being willfully blind to the evidence. The second is whether he indeed does know what is going on but believes that he can continue with the status quo and that the American public and the rest of the world won’t pay attention or hold him accountable. If so, then his repeated announcements that nothing wrong is happening at Guantanamo are not only cynical, but deeply immoral.

Which word, then, best describes our President, the leader of the free world, the self-proclaimed champion of democracy, human rights, and the rule of law? Stupid or evil?

My only disagreement with Balkin is that willful blindness isn’t stupidity. It can be evil, depending on what one is being willfully blind to. I also do not believe ANY person should be characterized as evil. But Bush is pursuing an evil course of action, by perpetrating the torture, and by misleading those inclined to accept his assertions about what has happened and what is happening not only in Guantanamo, but in other sites known and unknown.

To paraphrase Mark Danner in the article to which I linked at #107 above, “What are we going to do with this?”

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soru 06.22.05 at 3:52 pm


But perhaps I’m wrong—as I say, I’m happy to send you $100 if you’re proved correct and there turns out to be something to this.

If there are any further developments, whether WMD, speis or aliens, to the story, rather than track me down, make a contribution to http://www.labourfriendsofiraq.org.uk/, or something equivalent.

If nothing comes up for a couple of years, I’ll do the same to some relevant cause.

soru

122

abb1 06.22.05 at 3:55 pm

Yeah, I’m always curious too: cynical opportunist or messianic megalomaniac? Almost inevitably the answer is: messianic megalomaniac. It’s like the ‘soldier’s dad’ guy observed up in the next thread here: little details are not that important when you’re changing history.

123

Mike 06.22.05 at 7:29 pm

“That does seem to be true—they didn’t have the documents themselves. But they did have summaries from foreign intelligence services of the forged documents, and these summaries were one of their main sources.”

Jon:

Has anyone seen what the Italian summaries actually say? It’s presumptuous to claim the September 2002 dossier is based on summaries of the forged documents, until we know the specific content of the summaries.

The stories run by the Financial Times indicate there was other intelligence, independent of the forgeries, revealing Iraqi interest in Niger uranium. Moreover, some of this intelligence pre-dates when the forgeries were produced. The Blair government has suggested, if not come right out and stated, that the intelligence used to back its dossier uranium claims is based on intelligence provided to it by France, not the Italian summaries.

By the way, do you have any thoughts on the problems that people like Ritter create for the case that Bush lied about Iraq’s WMD status?

JLW:

“Pre-war Iraq was well stocked in yellowcake. There was no need for it to purchase any more—even if it were operating a secret nuclear program. Which it wasn’t.”

Iraq’s yellowcake was under IAEA seal, and had been since the end of Gulf War 1. Even during the period where no UN weapons inspections occurred (late 1998-late 2002), Iraq still allowed the IAEA to regularly inspect Iraq’s sealed yellowcake to ensure none had been removed. Tampering with the seals would have been the equivalent of Saddam placing an “ Attack Me “ sign on his own back.

As a result, this uranium was of no use to Saddam whatsoever. If Saddam had decided to covertly resume work to build even a crude nuclear weapon, he would have needed to acquire suitable uranium from somewhere other than Iraq.

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Jon 06.22.05 at 9:22 pm

Has anyone seen what the Italian summaries actually say? It’s presumptuous to claim the September 2002 dossier is based on summaries of the forged documents, until we know the specific content of the summaries.

Well, it was the conclusion of the September, 2003 parliamentary committee report chaired by Ann Taylor. You can call that presumptuous if you’d like.

And with this, even my energy for discussing this subject is exhausted. But if you’d like to make it your life’s work to lobby the British government to release the extraordinarily convincing information on this subject they have heretofore kept secret, then go with God.

125

Mike 06.22.05 at 9:51 pm

Jon:

I had a look at the Intelligence and Security Committee Report chaired by Taylor. The report doesn’t claim that the Italian summaries constitute the evidence for the Niger uranium claim.

Here is the relevant passage:

93.” The SIS stated that the documents did not affect its judgment of its second source and consequently the SIS continues to believe that the Iraqis were attempting to negotiate the purchase of uranium from Niger. We have questioned the SIS about the basis of its judgement and conclude that it is reasonable. “

The second source is most likely the French intelligence, for which approval to release specifics was never granted.

Still nothing to say about Ritter? I’m disappointed. The nuclear stuff was bad enough, but you should see what he said about Iraq’s chemical and biological weapons. It’s enough to make even a neo-con blush.

126

Jon 06.22.05 at 11:24 pm

Mike,

You’re free to believe whatever you want to believe about the second source or anything else. Go to town.

Regarding Ritter, why don’t you read what he’s said about Endgame? Or go ahead and read Endgame itself, which I must say I doubt you have. I don’t have anything in particular to add to what he’s said himself, and I have no intention of arguing with you about it.

And now, I really am through discussing this.

127

Jim 06.23.05 at 4:11 am

Well,that Saddam once had WMD and used it on the kurds etc.is a no brainer.You got a CIA report-2004-reporting a secretly taped meeting of Saddam talking WMD with his advisors – http://www.newscracker.com/wmdreport.html – I do think that tape is from the 90′s,but,if he had the WMD back then,when and why did he destroy them? Could it not have been the pressure of war coming from the Bush administration that made him get rid of the WMD?

128

Mike 06.23.05 at 8:35 am

Jon:

I owe you an apology.

I was actually taking you seriously up until that last post. Sorry about that. Won’t happen again.

Generally, when someone quotes passages from a book, it’s because

a) they own it

and

b) they’ve read it.

I own ” Endgame,” have read it in its entirety, and refer to it frequently. It has proven to be an invaluable example of the hypocrisy exhibited by many on the subject of Iraq’s WMD.

Have you read it Jon? And may I ask, what explanation from Ritter are you alluding to? I’ve spent hours online looking. I must have missed it. Maybe you can fill me in.

The fact is, he has provided no plausible explanation or excuse for his astoundingly contradictory positions. On the rare occasions when he was confronted during interviews, he would stubbornly deny that he had ever been inconsistent in his statements on Iraq and WMD. The closest he has ever come to even a pathetic rationalization of his antics was a claim that his earlier alarmist statements represented his official UN inspector persona. Interesting, that, since he wrote “Endgame,” after he had resigned from UNSCOM.

And yes, I will ” feel free to believe whatever (I) want to believe about the second source or anything else.”

That belief happens to be that we don’t know what the other intelligence is. We only know that it is has been judged plausible by two separate government commissions (one of whom you attempted to use to suggest the opposite).

The additional intelligence may be rubbish, but until it’s revealed, I’ll leave open the possibility that it isn’t. You see, I don’t have your gift for knowing it’s rubbish, without knowing what it is. But then again, you’re also able to determine people haven’t read certain books, so I shouldn’t be surprised.

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Brendan 06.23.05 at 8:45 am

Look: all this prattling about WMDs etc. is really beside the point. The point has been made neatly here by Steve Gilliard: ‘We need to be honest here: Iraq is not worth one more dead American.

People on the right and left want some deus ex machina to save Iraq, but we have., collectively, come to a simple conclusion:

Iraq is not worth dying for. Not for the warmongers on the right or the liberal hawks on the left.

It’s bad the soldiers are trapped there, but we have made it their problem, No one is willingly going to join them, and 5,000 have deserted so far.

When you ask liberal hawks to enlist, they are offended by the question.

When you ask conservatives to enlist, they are offended by the question.

And America’s parents are NOT sending their kids to die in Iraq if they can, at all, help it. No one blows up IED’s at Wal Mart.

We have a volunteer army with fewer and fewer volunteers, and people reenlisting only to save their friends. There is a time limit to their ability to be in combat. They cannot serve forever. They will have to be replaced. And fewer and fewer are willing to replace them,

What I want people to do is be honest.

If you will not serve in Iraq, and no one you know will serve, stop expecting someone else to do what you will not.

Therefore, it is time to stop calling for more troops, or the US to make Iraq safe. We cannot do this and even Americans are refusing to join the fight. It is time to look at your actions and realize, that despite your ideals, you oppose continuing this war. In practical terms, you have decided that this war is not worth your life or anyone you know. And million of Americans have joined you in this decision.

So, with this fact evident, it is time to call for US troops to withdraw from Iraq. Not save it, not add more boots on the ground. You have already voted by your actions. It is time that you match it with your words.’

http://stevegilliard.blogspot.com/2005/06/honest-conversation.html

The US and the UK did not have enough troops to pacify Iraq in the beginning, and now they are running out of troops in an absolute sense. Moreover as Chuck Hagel has had the nerve to point out, the US/UK are losing the war.

There is only one way to win the war: for all the pro-warriors to get up out of the armchairs, put aside the remote, and join up. If they genuinely believe in what they say, if they genuinely want to conquer Iraq, then let them pick up a gun and fight. If they don’t they are hypocrites and liars.

And it’s as simple as that.

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soru 06.23.05 at 11:00 am


There is only one way to win the war

And it’s all down to actions taken or not taken by americans.

Have you learnt nothing?

soru

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Brendan 06.23.05 at 11:19 am

‘Have you learnt nothing?’

Er……….obviously not. I mean……….er……….what?

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Uncle Kvetch 06.23.05 at 12:12 pm

Excellent comment, Brendan. I run hot & cold on Gilliard, but when he’s good, he’s damn good.

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