Joseph Wilson story just won't hunt


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by JackCashill

© WorldNetDaily
April 14, 2006

Last week, the major media breathlessly trotted out variation 36D of the “Bush Knew” gambit, the “D” being for deception.

If you recall, the president knew about 9-11 in advance. And wanting an excuse to invade Iraq for oil or for re-election or to cozy up to the Jews (Joseph Wilson’s own theory), he let the terrorist attacks proceed. Of course, when the much discussed August 2001 briefing document was made public, that charge faded from the news if not from the nether regions of our national psyche where it continues to fester. Festering alongside it is the knowledge of the president’s treachery in New Orleans. For half of a news cycle the media assured America that Bush knew the levees were about to be breached. This charge too lapsed into absurdity with the first objective look at the notorious taped proof, but who was looking?

This most recent go-around of the media’s “Bush Knew” ploy had the president authorizing Scooter Libby to blow Valerie Plame’s CIA cover in the Joseph Wilson affair. So overheated did the rhetoric get and so quickly that Senator John Kerry went public before the first pajama-ed blogger could wipe the sleep from his eyes. Claimed the Senator with his storied wit, “Now we know that the president's search for the leaker needs to go no further than a mirror.” And if anyone knows mirrors, Kerry does.

This story too lasted less than a full news cycle when it became apparent that Bush had authorized no such thing. What Bush did declassify—and this in July 2003—was the National Intelligence Estimate prepared by the CIA and completed on October 1, 2002. As revealed in the document, the American intelligence community painted a scarier picture of Iraq’s WMD capabilities than Bush ever did or would.

Inspired by the report, Joseph Wilson first put his anti-war sentiments in writing for the San Jose Mercury News on October 13, 2002, two weeks after the report’s completion. At this time, he did not argue that Saddam had no WMDs. That would be implied later. At this time, he cited the CIA report as proof of the opposite. Deposing Saddam, he argued, “will ensure that Saddam will use every weapon in his arsenal to defend himself.”By every weapon, of course, Wilson meant the soon-to-be mocked WMDs. “As the just-released CIA report suggests,” Wilson continued, “when cornered, Saddam is very likely to fight dirty.”

Wilson had reason to be concerned. “ Iraq [has been] vigorously trying to procure uranium ore and yellowcake,” read the October 2002 report. “Acquiring either would shorten the time to produce nuclear weapons.” Wilson’s wife, Valerie Plame, was a WMD specialist at the CIA. Her husband’s famed trip to Niger eight months earlier, in February 2002, had obviously failed to persuade Plame and her colleagues that Iraq was not seeking yellowcake.

Although Wilson would later make his reputation ridiculing the yellowcake story, Iraq was indeed seeking it. As Christopher Hitchens recently reported, Saddam dispatched Iraq's senior public envoy for nuclear matters, Wissam al-Zahawie, to Niger in February 1999. Zahawie would later contend that he visited this benighted country to persuade its rulers to break the embargo on flights to Baghdad, but that contention has bogus written all over it. This West African hell hole had no other claim to fame or Zahawie’s time than its rich deposits of uranium ore.

As Hitchens notes, the Duelfer Report on Iraq’s WMD program cited "a second contact between Iraq and Niger” as well. This took place in 2001 when a Niger minister visited Baghdad "to request assistance in obtaining petroleum products to alleviate Niger's economic problems." Iraq would later claim that Niger offered only cash in exchange for petroleum, but this makes no sense on the face of it either. There was a whole lot more petroleum in West Africa than cash. Why would a diplomat cross a continent to offer something Niger had almost nothing of for something it had easy access to?

On January 28, 2003, in his State of the Union speech, President Bush famously claimed, “The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.” Bush attributed the report to the British only because the CIA suggested he do so lest its own sources be compromised. The CIA did not object to the language itself. These famous “16 words” might have been more significant were they not part of the more than 1400 words the President dedicated to the Iraqi threat in general, a threat that at the time Wilson and the CIA thought more ominous than did Bush.

About a week after the State of the Union address, the U.S. government honored a request from the United Nation’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to review its documentation on the uranium transaction. Among the documents given to the IAEA was one that had been transparently forged.

Wilson immediately smelled an opportunity. He began planting the seed with sympathetic reporters that the forged documents, about which little was still known, were the very same ones that he had allegedly discredited on his trip to Niger in February 2002.

“The envoy’s debunking of the forgery was passed around the administration and seemed to be accepted—except that President Bush and the State Department kept citing it anyway,” wrote Nicholas Kristof of The New York Times on May 6, 2003. This was the first article to result from a Wilson leak. If Kristof had merely Googled Wilson’s article from October 2002, he would have seen through the scam that Wilson was about to run. But why spoil a good “Bush Knew” expose.

In fact, though, Wilson never debunked anything. He did not know about the forged documents, which appear to have been the product of two named employees of the Niger Embassy in Rome. Hitchens cites a UN report, which notes that the pair sold a genuine document on Zahawie’s Niger mission to Italian and French intelligence agents. The pair then forged an additional document to make an extra buck. Unfortunately, the forged document served to discredit the real information and inspired Wilson’s treasonous mischief.

Given the damage Wilson’s false reporting caused, it is no wonder that Scooter Libby sought to set the record straight. Time will straighten the record out for the public to see, at least for that stalwart fraction of the public that cares about the truth.




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