I know I try to stay away from political writing on this site, and I know the surest way to bury a story is to put it out on a Friday afternoon and hope people lose interest over the weekend. (They often do.) But George Tenet’s statement accepting “responsibility” for the Iraq seeking uranium reference in Bush’s State of the Union speech is just too great to let slide. Here’s the concluding paragraph (emphasis added) -
Although the documents related to the alleged Niger-Iraqi uranium deal had not yet been determined to be forgeries, officials who were reviewing the draft remarks on uranium raised several concerns about the fragmentary nature of the intelligence with National Security Council colleagues. Some of the language was changed. From what we know now, Agency officials in the end concurred that the text in the speech was factually correct - i.e. that the British government report said that Iraq sought uranium from Africa. This should not have been the test for clearing a Presidential address. This did not rise to the level of certainty which should be required for Presidential speeches, and CIA should have ensured that it was removed.
I’m not going to even get into the timeline issues or debate whether the CIA and the Bush administration knew the documents were forgeries yet (although it seems likely they did.) Let’s just take George Tenet at his word.
He’s saying that the CIA saw a draft of the speech, and told administration officials the Niger claim was not strong enough to put in a State of the Union Speech. (Probably because they knew without any doubt it was completely absurd, but, hey, let’s just take Tenet at his word here.)
Now, after raising these doubts, the language of the claim is changed such that it merely states that the British have made this claim.
Tenet doesn’t say exactly how this language change happened, or who suggested it, but in the CBS News version of the story -
The White House officials responded that a paper issued by the British government contained the unequivocal assertion: “Iraq has sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.” As long as the statement was attributed to British Intelligence, the White House officials argued, it would be factually accurate. The CIA officials dropped their objections and that’s how it was delivered.
So, to recap - Bush administration has a
complete lie dubious claim in the State of the Union Address. The CIA tells them it is a ridiculous, bold-faced lie based on fragmentary intelligence and not conclusive enough to put in the speech. The Bush administration “compromises” and leaves a slightly less bold claim in, but attributes it to the British, so that the sentence is factually correct. The CIA relents and signs off on the technically factually statement.
This raises a number of questions.
First, why was it so important to put that particular nuclear materials claim in the speech, even with CIA reservations? Why didn’t they just remove it or use something else? (My guess would be something along the lines of, that really was the best “evidence” they could come up with for a nuclear program which had basically been destroyed in 1981 by Israel.)
Most importantly, this is the CIA’s, and George Tenet’s in particular, fault how, exactly?
Were the CIA officials supposed to lecture the Bush speechwriters on ethics? And that purposefully misleading statements in an attempt to build support for war are generally considered “wrong?”
Was George Tenet supposed to calmly explain to George Bush that it’s not becoming of a President to tell the world a lie, even if you can cite the British as your source?
Or was it just the CIA’s fault because George Bush shouldn’t be responsible for anything he says?
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What a bunch of assholes. If you’re going to lie, at least take responsibility for it when you get caught. Is there only outrage in this country if you lie about oral sex? You can impeach a President over lying about blowjobs, but lying about a nuclear program in order to help build support for a war isn’t that big of a deal?
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Finally, and this point seems to be lost in the mainstream media, there were lots of people who questioned the Bush administrations claims about Iraq’s supposed nuclear program and terrorist links. These claims were very, very hard to swallow, at least for me. (Why would secular Saddam want to help religious extremists bent on establishing a fundamentalist empire?) Most people in this country didn’t have a problem with these claims, because the mainstream media, and the public in general, failed to question a popular president on “secruity” issues because of that whole WTC/Pentagon bombing.
Few people, however, questioned the claims that Iraq still had chemical and biological weapons and was hiding them, or still had some remnants of a program to develop them. (I thought it didn’t matter and obscured the larger issues that they weren’t an actual security threat to anyone in the region, let alone the United States.)
My point is, it shouldn’t be surprising that the evidence of a reconstituted Iraqi nuclear program isn’t panning out. But it seems that now the Bush administration can’t even manufacture evidence to support the chemical and biological weapons claims.
Were they telling the truth about anything?
Does it even matter anymore?
Meanwhile, North Korea is well on its way to becoming a nuclear weapon superstore for the discerning terrorist or rogue state.
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