Just One Minute
Balanced Fare: We Report, You Deride

Saturday, July 12, 2003


Pejman Yousefzadeh and Josh Marshall are having a brawl on the Uranium/Urain'tium Bush State of the Union speech "scandal".

For my own selfish convenience, I am throwing in some links: a round-up by Pejman, and a Talking Point about Rumsfeld.

Now, for Pejman's benefit (and shouldn't I put this in his comments?), let me respond to his argument that we should "keep in mind the fact that the Brits are standing by their story".

Duly noted. However, here is a WaPo story from March 22, 2003 addressing that point. Yes, this story broke in March, and I can't tell you why it is headline news now. Regardless, the IAEA declared the documents to be false on March 7, and here is the follow-up:

British officials said they "stand behind" the original allegation. They note they never mentioned "Niger," the subject of the forged documents, and imply, but do not say, that there was other information, about another African country. But an informed U.N. official said the United States and Britain were repeatedly asked for all information they had to support the charge. Neither government, the official said, "ever indicated that they had any information on any other country."

Emphasis added.

Now, a tidbit for Josh, who is puzzled by the news-unconsciousness of Donald Rumsfeld:

Is he kidding? Here's a clip from John Lumpkin's Wednesday evening AP story ...

"Rumsfeld, in a terse exchange with Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., said he learned only "within recent days" that the Africa claims were based on faulty evidence. U.N. officials determined the documents were forgeries before the war."

I guess it depends on what the definition of 'recent' is...

Roll the transcript, please, and let's check the "terse exchange":

SEN. MARK PRYOR (D-AR): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Secretary Rumsfeld, I only have six minutes here, so I'm going to try to keep my questions very short, and I'd appreciate you if you could try to keep your answers fairly concise, if you could.

... when did YOU know, Secretary Rumsfeld, when did YOU know that the reports about uranium coming out of Africa were bogus?

SEC. RUMSFELD: Oh, within recent days, since the information started becoming available.

SEN. PRYOR: So in other words, you didn't -- right after the speech, you didn't know that, or even before the speech you had no knowledge of that?

SEC. RUMSFELD: I've just answered the question.

SEN. PRYOR: You're trying to say that in no briefing, in no documents that you had or that you were exposed to, that was never communicated to you in any way?

SEC. RUMSFELD: I didn't say that. I see hundreds and hundreds of pieces of paper a day. And is it conceivable that something was in a document? It's conceivable. Do I recall hearing anything or reading anything like that? The answer is as I've given it. No.

Ok, I find this a bit weird, since I knew about the forgery question in March. I've got Mark Kleiman, he has George Tenet - go figure. Still the obvious responses are, first, their was a war on, and he may have been pre-occupied; secondly, Rumsfeld may not believe everything he sees in the Washington Post, or hears from the IAEA.

In his famous chat with Tim Russert on March 16, Cheney was directly asked about the March 7 IAEA report, although not about the specifics of the uranium allegation. From Meet The Press:

MR. RUSSERT: And even though the International Atomic Energy Agency said he does not have a nuclear program, we disagree?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: I disagree, yes. And you’ll find the CIA, for example, and other key parts of our intelligence community disagree. Let’s talk about the nuclear proposition for a minute. We’ve got, again, a long record here. It’s not as though this is a fresh issue. In the late ’70s, Saddam Hussein acquired nuclear reactors from the French. 1981, the Israelis took out the Osirak reactor and stopped his nuclear weapons development at the time. Throughout the ’80s, he mounted a new effort. I was told when I was defense secretary before the Gulf War that he was eight to 10 years away from a nuclear weapon. And we found out after the Gulf War that he was within one or two years of having a nuclear weapon because he had a massive effort under way that involved four or five different technologies for enriching uranium to produce fissile material.

We know that based on intelligence that he has been very, very good at hiding these kinds of efforts. He’s had years to get good at it and we know he has been absolutely devoted to trying to acquire nuclear weapons. And we believe he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons. I think Mr. ElBaradei frankly is wrong. And I think if you look at the track record of the International Atomic Energy Agency and this kind of issue, especially where Iraq’s concerned, they have consistently underestimated or missed what it was Saddam Hussein was doing. I don’t have any reason to believe they’re any more valid this time than they’ve been in the past.

Fans of Mr. Cheney will notice the infamous "reconstituted nuclear weapons" mis-statement. And if the Admin didn't believe the IAEA (broadly, not on the specific uranium point), this issue may have remained as background noise for Rumsfeld. If Rumsfeld has been asked about this point since March, the Defense Dept. transcripts should show it. Things To Do!

Sidebar: Admin critics will find this transcript to be a target rich environment. 'Nuff said.

More for the To Do list - what did Bush say in his March pre-war address? The transcript is helpfully titled "Iraq: Denial and Deception", which is a boon for the irony-poor dieters amongst us. And let's put his September 2002 Remarks at the UN General Assembly in the mix.

Comments: Post a Comment