Tues. July 8, 2003
The facts: The story was 100% false, and the administration had known this for months before it began citing it as true.
White House national security spokesman Michael Anton has just done a song-and-dance for the press. From the AFP's reporting on it today:
"...Anton stressed the allegations that Iraq sought uranium 'was not an element underpinning the judgment' of most US intelligence agencies that Saddam had revived his stalled nuclear weapons program."
The facts: It was one of the three key elements cited by the "President" in this year's State of the Union address as evidence of Iraq's efforts to reconstitute nuclear weapons. With the White House's concession that the Niger story was nonsense, we now know that all three of those elements were either flatly false or grossly misleading.
"The International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed in the 1990s that Saddam Hussein had an advanced nuclear weapons development program, had a design for a nuclear weapon and was working on five different methods of enriching uranium for a bomb."
The facts: The IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) did document a nuclear weapons program--a program it had dismantled by the late 1990s. The organization's 1998 report concluded that, "[based on all credible information available to date], the IAEA has found no indication of Iraq having achieved its programme goal of producing nuclear weapons or of Iraq having retained a physical capability for the production of weapon-useable nuclear material or having clandestinely obtained such material."
Skipping to the third:
"Our intelligence sources tell us that he has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes suitable for nuclear weapons production."
The facts: The aluminum tubes were designed for use with conventional rockets, and were, in fact, useless for nuclear weapons production. Both the State Department and the Energy Department agreed on this--Bush and co. simply chose to ignore them and lie about the matter in public for months.
And the second was, of course, the one that fell today:
"The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."
The facts: This claim had been discredited by an investigation carried out by a former U.S. ambassador at the request of the Vice President six months before the administration began publicly referencing it, and 10 months before Bush spoke those words. The conclusion that the story was baseless was apparently backed up by three other seperate investigations, as well.
Anton was playing a game of dodgeball when it came to these facts. From the AFP report on his performance:
"'We now know that documents alleging a transaction between Iraq and Niger had been forged,' Anton told AFP, stressing that the White House did not learn the documents were fraudulent before including the charge in Bush's speech."
The facts: The documents upon which this claim was made were, in fact, forgeries--forgeries so crude that it took IAEA investigators only a few hours to expose them. They aren't the important part of the story, though. The important part is what Anton excluded: that, the question of the documents aside, the administration was well aware of the falseness of the allegation regarding Niger for nearly a year before the State of the Union address. As recorded in Left Hook! Sunday, the conclusions of multiple investigations into the matter, all concluding that the story was bogus, had circulated throughout the highest levels of the administration long before Bush or his people began citing the story in public.
Clearly, this suggests that the "President" and his henchmen were either consciously lying about this in an effort to drag the United States into war on a false premise or are utterly incompetent and, in their rush to war, didn't bother with even a cursory check of the facts before throwing out such incendiary allegations. Neither conclusion inspires much confidence.
with an assist from CL2
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