Is Congressman Henry Waxman, Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, ignorant, lying or counting on the fact that the press is both?
He is now picking a fight with Secretary of State Condi Rice based on utterly false premises.
Chairman Waxman insists that Rice explain why in his 2003 State of the Union address the President "asserted that Iraq sought uranium from Niger" and demands that she provide information about what she knew about this assertion and how it ended up in the address. In this demand, Waxman continues to cite misinformation as fact.
In essence he is asking three contra-factual questions of the Secretary of State.
- whether she had any knowledge that would explain why President Bush cited forged evidence about Iraq's efforts to procure uranium from Niger in the State of the Union address;
- whether she knew before the State of the Union address of the doubts raised by the CIA and the State Department about the veracity of the Niger claim;
- whether she took appropriate steps to investigate how the Niger claim ended up in the State of the Union address after it was revealed to be fraudulent" Here are the responses I would suggest to the Secretary of State:
The Secretary could answer these succinctly:
- Here is the evidence President Bush cited in the State of the Union address. Here is the subsequent review that determined it was "well founded." We are not aware of any indication any of evidence that was "forged," and the Congressman's question appears to be confused on that point;
- Perhaps the CIA and Department of State were raising doubts, but their analytical products continued to assert the uranium issue as fact. As recently revealed, they cited the Nigerian uranium claim in a document on January 24, 2003. It's also worth pointing out that the Congressman tends to conflate "Niger" and "Africa" . . . and the State of the Union claim refers to the latter. On that point, the same document notes that reports indicate Iraq also has sought uranium ore from Somalia and possibly the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
- The Congressman's last question is problematic. In the first place, the State of the Union does not refer to "Niger"--the word is nowhere in the address. In the second, as explained above, the uranium claim referred to in the address is not "fraudulent." While we would like to assist the Committee, we have no way of explaining nonexistent "facts" . . . nor are we able to investigate things that never happened.
That the lies involving the sixteen words in the State of the Union address live on in the mind of many, after having long been exposed as lies, is a tribute to the alliance of the Democrats and the left wing media machine with Joseph Wilson. His lies gave Democratic Congressional allies an easy way out of their vote to go war as soon as the going got tough. They based their vote on trusting the President, and he betrayed them in the State of the Union, or so goes the phony narrative.
These questions were dealt with by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) Tom Maguire of Just One Minute went through the SSCI report and looked for something that might support Waxman's insistence that the administration claimed an Iraqi mission to Niger to buy uranium, the story that Wilson was supposedly exposing as a fraud. Very little of what he found even slightly contradicts the administration's case that it never exaggerated or lied. From the SSCI report:
(U) In a written response to questions from Committee staff, the White House said that on September 11, 2002, National Security Council (NSC) staff contacted the CIA to clear language for possible use in a statement for use by the President. The language cleared by the CIA said, "Iraq has made several attempts to buy high strength aluminum tubes used in centrifuges to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons. And we also know this: within the past few years, Iraq has resumed efforts to obtain large quantities of a type of uranium oxide known as yellowcake, which is an essential ingredient of this process. The regime was caught trying to purchase 500 metric tons of this material. It takes about 10 tons to produce enough enriched uranium for a single nuclear weapon." The text was identical to the text proposed by the White House except that the CIA had suggested adding "up to" before 500 metric tons. The President never used the approved language publicly.
(U) In a response to questions from Committee staff, the White House said that on September 24, 2002, NSC staff contacted the CIA to clear another statement for use by the President. The statement said, "we also have intelligence that Iraq has sought large amounts of uranium and uranium oxide, known as yellowcake, from Africa. Yellowcake is an essential ingredient of the process to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons." The CIA cleared the language, but suggested that "of the process" be changed to "in the process." The President did not use the cleared language publicly.
(U) Some time in September a member of the NSC staff discussed the Niger uranium issue with a CIA analyst. The CIA analyst told Committee staff that during coordination of a speech (he was not sure which one) with an NSC staff member, the CIA analyst suggested that the reference to Iraqi attempts to acquire uranium from Africa be removed. The CIA analyst said the NSC staff member said that would leave the British "flapping in the wind."
In a written response to a question about this matter from the Committee, the NSC staff member said that the CIA analyst did not suggest that he remove text regarding Iraqi attempts to acquire uranium from Africa. The NSC staff member said the analyst suggested that Saddam's meeting with his "nuclear mujahedin" was more compelling evidence of Iraq's effort to resurrect the Iraqi nuclear program than attempts to acquire yellowcake, but said the analyst never suggested that the yellowcake text be removed. He said he had no recollection of telling a CIA analyst that replacing the uranium reference would leave the British "flapping in the wind" and said such a statement would have been illogical since the President never presented in any one speech every detail of intelligence gathered on Iraq either by the U.S. or by the U.K.
Differing accounts from the NSC and CIA, to be sure. But nothing indicating any chicanery
(U) On October 2, 2002, the Deputy DCI testified before the SSCI. Senator Jon Kyl asked the Deputy DCI whether he had read the British white paper and whether he disagreed with anything in the report. The Deputy DCI testified that "the one thing where I think they stretched a little bit beyond where we would stretch is on the points about Iraq seeking uranium from various African locations. We've looked at those reports and we don't think they are very credible. It doesn't diminish our conviction that he's going for nuclear weapons, but I think they reached a little bit on that one point. Otherwise I think it's very solid."
Tom Maguire calls this troubling. But he points out that by December the CIA had waffled again:
(U) On December 17, 2002, WINPAC analysts produced a paper, U.S. Analysis of Iraq's Declaration, 7 December 2002. The paper reviewed Iraq's "Currently Accurate, Full and Complete Disclosure" to the UN of its WMD programs and made only two points regarding the nuclear program - one noted Iraq's failure to explain its procurement of aluminum tubes the IC assessed could be used in a nuclear program, and the other noted that the declaration "does not acknowledge efforts to procure uranium from Niger, one of the points addressed in the U.K. Dossier."
Maybe Waxman was taken in by the originally false claims by Wilson that he'd seen the forged documents and they were the basis for the President's claim,but Wilson folded on that story when the SSCI probed him, something his earliest press megaphones-especially Nicholas Kristof and Walter Pincus-obviously did not do. Before the SSCI, Wilson conceded he could not have seen the forged documents when he said he did because we didn't have them then. Further, he admitted that when he said they knew the documents were forgeries "because the names were wrong, the dates were wrong", mysteriously the wrong dates and names were different than the ones he said they were.
Maybe, too, Waxman missed this story which never received the attention it merited:
The head of the Democratic Republic of Congo's dilapidated and poorly guarded nuclear reactor plant has been arrested on suspicion of illegally selling enriched uranium, following the disappearance of large quantities of the material.
The commissioner general for atomic energy, Fortunat Lumu, was detained on Tuesday along with an aide. Congo's state prosecutor, Tshimanga Mukeba, said Mr Lumu was being questioned about the disappearance of unspecified quantities of uranium in recent years.
In any event, he is not alone in his confusion. Peter Eisner makes the same mistake in his forthcoming book , touted by his employer the Washington Post, where he continues to confuse "sought" and" bought" and Africa and Niger.
Or perhaps Waxman's been listening to Daniel Schorr who in 2005 knew the truth and now reports lies about the Sixteen words.
It is simply amazing how so few words can be so badly, and consistently, twisted into a partisan lie. Regardless of the forged "Italian letter," the famous "sixteen words" were in fact accurate as of the time they were spoken, as documented in both the Butler Report (at page 123 (page 137 of the .pdf file), paragraph 499) from the U.K. and the bipartisan, joint section of the Senate Intelligence Committee Report from the U.S. (See generally this discussion at Factcheck.org (h/t Justin Levine), which is hardly a mouthpiece of the Bush Administration. And this seems to be a pretty thorough fisking of the WaPo excerpt on the new book.) Nevertheless, Mr. Schorr absolutely, positively knew better than to say what he said yesteday - and that was not very long ago at all. Per Mr. Schorr in another NPR "news analysis" broadcast on July 13, 2005 (emphasis mine): In 2002, President Bush, having decided to invade Iraq, was casting about for a casus belli. The weapons of mass destruction theme was not yielding very much until a dubious Italian intelligence report - partly based on forged documents, as it later turned out - provided reason to speculate that Iraq might be trying to buy so-called yellowcake uranium from the African country of Niger.... Of course, the famous sixteen words did not claim that Iraq "was buying" or "had bought" uranium, nor even that Niger or any other African government or company had agreed to sell uranium to Iraq. Rather, the President actually said (emphasis mine):
The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.
That Mr. Schorr once got it right - that he once was an accurate reporter of this particular critical fact, the difference between "bought" and "sought" - is what distinguishes Daniel Schorr from, for example, the authors of the (equally misleading) WaPo piece. Their stupidity is patent, but perhaps not demonstrably inconsistent with things they've said before.
It truly is a Sisyphean task to keep rolling the truth up the mountain of lies on this issue. I beg you: Please clip and paste this article and send it on to Congressman Waxman, his friends in Congress and the media whenever they try to peddle these lies again.
Or just remember: Based on good British intelligence the President said that Saddam sought-not bought-uranium in Africa-not Niger.