ARC's 1st Law: As a "progressive" online discussion grows longer, the probability of a nefarious reference to Karl Rove approaches one

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Lies Masquerading as News in the Washington Post

This "news" article in the Washington Post so blatantly distorts the facts that it is amazing that it got past the editors.

Of course, journalistic standards being what they are these days, it's not surprising that we find a Washington Post reporting duplicating the style and methods of a DailyKos diarist.

Here are a few items from the story which are inaccurate or demonstrably false:

How Bogus Letter Became a Case for War
Intelligence Failures Surrounded Inquiry on Iraq-Niger Uranium Claim

By Peter Eisner
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 3, 2007; A01

It was 3 a.m. in Italy on Jan. 29, 2003, when President Bush in Washington began reading his State of the Union address that included the now famous -- later retracted -- 16 words: "The British Government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."

Like most Europeans, Elisabetta Burba, an investigative reporter for the Italian newsweekly Panorama, waited until the next day to read the newspaper accounts of Bush's remarks. But when she came to the 16 words, she recalled, she got a sudden sinking feeling in her stomach. She wondered: How could the American president have mentioned a uranium sale from Africa?

Memo to Ms. Burba: The President did not mention a sale. "Sought" and "Bought" have different meanings. May I suggest Webster's dictionary?
Burba felt uneasy because more than three months earlier, she had turned over to the U.S. Embassy in Rome documents about an alleged uranium sale by the central African nation of Niger. And she knew now that the documents were fraudulent and the 16 words wrong.
See above. The 16 words have actually been shown to be accurate. See the Butler Report.
Nonetheless, the uranium claim would become a crucial justification for the invasion of Iraq that began less than two months later. When occupying troops found no nuclear program, the 16 words and how they came to be in the speech became a focus for critics in Washington and foreign capitals to press the case that the White House manipulated facts to take the United States to war.
Actually, if you read the entire speeches in the run-up to the war, the presentations before the UN, and the Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) passed by Congress, you'll note that WMDs was but one part of the justification against Saddam and that Yellowcake was but one small part of the WMD claim and that the French/Italian forgeries were but one small part of the claim regarding Iraq's desire to acquire uranium. But, hey... facts are useless for a reporter, right?
[...]
The Niger uranium matter was not uppermost in the minds of the CIA analysts. Some of them had to deal with the issue in any case, largely because Cheney, his aide Libby and some aides at the National Security Council had repeatedly demanded more information and more analysis.
Two things: 1) "The Niger uranium matter was not uppermost," probably because there was other evidence that was being investigated; 2) The fact that Cheney & Libby were asking for more detailed information is presented as nefarious, when I view it as a good thing. I seem to recall many bits & ink spent asking why the Bush & Clinton administrations had not "connected the dots." Google it, as Rosie would say.
Burba arrived in Niamey, Niger's capital, on Oct. 17 and began tracking down leads on the Italian letter. Burba's investigation followed a series of similar inquiries by Wilson, the former ambassador, who investigated on behalf of the CIA eight months earlier. It became clear that Niger was not capable of secretly shipping yellowcake uranium to Iraq or anywhere else.
Let's assume this is the case. Let's assume that Saddam's regime discussed yellowcake with Niger, but determined that secretly shipping it to Iraq would be impossible (due to the size of the shipment and the other factors). (Note that this assume 500 tons as outlined in the forged doc - we won't quibble about whether a lesser amount would suffice for Saddam's purposes.) If Saddam sought out yellowcake from Niger and determined that it would be too difficult, is that not a piece of information which should be cause for concern? Isn't there a chance that Saddam, having found Niger to be unsuitable, would seek other sources of supply? Just asking...
[...]
Not long after the invasion, other news media in Italy, elsewhere in Europe and then in the United States reported that the source of the information about a Niger yellowcake uranium deal had been a batch of bogus letters and other documents passed along several months earlier to an unnamed Italian reporter, who in turn handed the information over to the United States.
Yes, but a deal was never what prompted us to go to war. It was the seeking out of uranium, which Wilson himself supported in his "report" back to the CIA , that was but one item in a list of transgressions by Saddam.

Now, the truth about the Yellowcake issue with regard to Niger. From FactCheck.org (emphasis mine):
Two intelligence investigations show Bush had plenty of reason to believe what he said in his 2003 State of the Union Address.

July 26, 2004
Modified:August 23, 2004

Summary


The famous “16 words” in President Bush’s Jan. 28, 2003 State of the Union address turn out to have a basis in fact after all, according to two recently released investigations in the US and Britain.

Bush said then, “The British Government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa .” Some of his critics called that a lie, but the new evidence shows Bush had reason to say what he did.
  • A British intelligence review released July 14 calls Bush’s 16 words “well founded.”
  • A separate report by the US Senate Intelligence Committee said July 7 that the US also had similar information from “a number of intelligence reports,” a fact that was classified at the time Bush spoke.
  • Ironically, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, who later called Bush’s 16 words a “lie”, supplied information that the Central Intelligence Agency took as confirmation that Iraq may indeed have been seeking uranium from Niger.
  • Both the US and British investigations make clear that some forged Italian documents, exposed as fakes soon after Bush spoke, were not the basis for the British intelligence Bush cited, or the CIA's conclusion that Iraq was trying to get uranium.
[...]
The Butler Report

After nearly a six-month investigation, a special panel reported to the British Parliament July 14 that British intelligence had indeed concluded back in 2002 that Saddam Hussein was seeking to buy uranium. The review panel was headed by Lord Butler of Brockwell, who had been a cabinet secretary under five different Prime Ministers and who is currently master of University College, Oxford.

The Butler report said British intelligence had "credible" information -- from several sources -- that a 1999 visit by Iraqi officials to Niger was for the purpose of buying uranium:
Butler Report: It is accepted by all parties that Iraqi officials visited Niger in 1999. The British Government had intelligence from several different sources indicating that this visit was for the purpose of acquiring uranium. Since uranium constitutes almost three-quarters of Niger’s exports, the intelligence was credible.
The Butler Report affirmed what the British government had said about the Niger uranium story back in 2003, and specifically endorsed what Bush said as well.
Butler Report: By extension, we conclude also that the statement in President Bush’s State of the Union Address of 28 January 2003 that “The British Government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa” was well-founded.

Peter Eisner - Staff Writer for Washington Post and an absolute idiot.

*** UPDATE ***
Another question that I had when reading the article was "why is this in the paper today?" What is the "breaking news" that prompted this article to appear?

Then I saw this:
This article was adapted from the book "The Italian Letter: How the Bush Administration Used a Fake Letter to Build the Case for War in Iraq," by Peter Eisner and Knut Royce, to be published today by Rodale Press.
It seems that what prompted this story was just to plug Mr. Eisner's book. How... unprofessional.

*** UPDATE 2 ***
Tom Maguire @ JustOneMinute (best source for all things Plame) joins in the fray.

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: St Wendeler