Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
July 22, 2003
WAR: May on Niger

From the conservative side of the aisle, the absolute best coverage of the African uranium story has been from Clifford May on NRO; you can read his analyses here and here. He asks a very pertinent question:

Early in 2002, Vice President Dick Cheney had questions about reports of Saddam buying uranium from Niger. So he asked the Central Intelligence Agency to find out the truth. Consider: Here's a request from the White House on a vital national-security issue. Does the CIA put their top spies on the case? No. Who do they put on the case? No one. Instead, they apparently decided to give the assignment to a diplomat.

I assume they contacted the State Department. Even so, they didn't get the Foreign Service's most talented ambassador, someone with investigative skills and broad experience in nuclear proliferation and related issues. No, the assignment went to a retiree who is far to the left of the Bush administration. Why?

That retiree was Joseph C. Wilson IV, former ambassador to Gabon, and one-time deputy to ambassador April Glaspie in Iraq. (You'll recall she was the U.S. official who reportedly told Saddam: "We have no opinion on your Arab-Arab conflicts, such as your dispute with Kuwait.")

Wilson's investigation, according to his recent New York Times op-ed, consisted of his spending "eight days drinking sweet mint tea and meeting with dozens of people." He added: "It did not take long to conclude that it was highly doubtful that any such transaction [sale of uranium from Niger to Iraq] had ever taken place."

Wilson's conclusion was probably correct. It's likely that no such transaction occurred which begs the question of whether Saddam attempted to complete such a transaction, as the British believe and as Bush said in his SOTU.

But let's imagine for just a moment that one of the officials with whom Wilson met had accepted a million-dollar bribe for facilitating the transfer of uranium to Saddam's agents. What is the likelihood that that information would have been disclosed to Wilson over sips of sweet mint tea? Not huge, I'd wager.

When did the vice president learn that this was the manner in which his orders had been carried out? Is there an explanation for such dereliction of duty by CIA and, possibly, by State as well? Was anyone held accountable?

(emphasis added)

Posted by Baseball Crank at 07:12 AM | War 2002-03 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
Comments

Weak. Very weak.

So its OK to hype data because you (Cheney) felt the agency didn't put their best man on the job?

The fact that Saddam may have "attempted" to purchase uranium made him an "imminent" threat?

The data was hyped, why?

If the threat wasn't imminent, could we still have built a case for war over the coming year? Built up the international support that would be crucial during the aftermath? Provide sources of much needed assistance politically, financially and militarily?

Its called diplomacy. The Bush team had none. And now we find ourselves exactly where we should have expected...essentially going at it alone.

I applaud decisiveness. Brashness on the other hand...

Do you think the Bush team has learned its lesson? Or do you think it will continue to see and hear only what it chooses to?

Posted by: C Giddy at July 22, 2003 10:53 AM

So its OK to hype data because you (Cheney) felt the agency didn't put their best man on the job?

No, that's not the point of noting that the CIA picked the wrong man; it's just a separate issue.

The fact that Saddam may have "attempted" to purchase uranium made him an "imminent" threat?

Again, the whole point of Bush's policy is to recognize threats and stop them before they become imminent.

If the threat wasn't imminent, could we still have built a case for war over the coming year?

And have our troops tied up all year, let the rest of the war on terror fester . . . we spent enough time. More would have been wasteful.

Built up the international support that would be crucial during the aftermath?

Who, exactly, was likely to go along with us who didn't? The only ally we really botched was Turkey. I seriously doubt that the French would ever have supported us, we couldn't wait around for Schroeder's government to fall, and the Russians were never about to provide any help. You can't just theorize about allies; you need to point to somebody who would have helped.

Posted by: The Crank at July 22, 2003 08:30 PM

Apparently we could've given the UN inspectors another 9 months to a year at least. Plenty of time to say that we'd exhausted that route and garner support in such a way that Germany and France would have to get on board.

Then again, if the inspectors found nothing....like the US has found nothing....and the threat wan't really imminent....

Now I'm starting to understand why the administration hyped date and made brash decisions.

Posted by: C Giddy at July 23, 2003 10:35 AM
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