Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Twisting the Story

The Washington Post has an editorial today with their take on the new updates to the Niger uranium story. They, like most coverage of the issue are missing the point. The editorial cites the Butler report as saying that intel was reasonable until October 2002 and that Joe Wilson's report did not change their assessment. While it may be true that it did not change the assessment of the British intelligence, that was not the case with the CIA. As you may recall George Tenet accepted responsibility for the charge being included in Bush's state of the union, and said the CIA should not have allowed him to say that. Previous to Tenet's statement there were numerous reports that various people in the CIA had attempted to contact the administration to warn them off of this intel, but those efforts were ignored. These claims, to my knowledge, have never been satisfactorily explored. The point is that regardless of what data has come up now, at the time of the speech, George Bush was presenting data that US intelligence believed to have been discredited.

This is not to say that the new light that has been cast on the issue is meaningless. If it is the case that Saddam Hussein was actively trying to acquire nuclear materials, that would certainly support the administration's claims that Saddam was, in fact, still pursuing nuclear weapons and it will bolster their claims that the war was necessary. What it does not do is have any impact on whether the administration was out of line in pumping the uranium claims when the US intelligence community thought those claims were bogus.

Unfortunately much of the press coverage seems to suggest that maybe Bush was right to include the famous 16 words in his speech, because now evidence justifies it. Whether or not the accusation ultimately proves to be true, the administration promoted it at a time when it was believed to not be true which demonstrates dubious judgment and ethics on their part. Nothing that happens now will change that.

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