Sixteen Truthful Words
But when word leaked about the fake documents Ã¢€” which were not the basis of the previous reporting by our allies Ã¢€” Wilson launched his publicity campaign, acting as if he had known earlier about the forgeries. The Senate reports that in his misleading anonymous leak to The Washington Post, “He said he may have misspoken . . . he said he may have become confused about his own recollection. . . .” The subsequent firestorm caused the White House to retreat prematurely with: “the sixteen words did not rise to the level of inclusion in the State of the Union address.”
That apology was a mistake; Bush had spoken the plain truth. Did Saddam seek uranium from Africa, evidence of his continuing illegal interest in a nuclear weapon? Here is Lord Butler’s nonpartisan panel, which closely examined the basis of the British intelligence:
“. . . we conclude 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.”
A bit behind the blog curve but correct all the same.
Michael Barone is more to the point with his piece, “The ‘Bush Lied’ folks can’t be taken seriously.”
As the Brookings Institution’s Michael O’Hanlon — a frequent Bush critic — puts it, “It would have taken an overwhelming body of evidence for any reasonable person in 2002 to think that Saddam did not possess stockpiles of chemical and biological agents.” So Bush was justified in relying on the intelligence. And “the committee did not fund any evidence that administration officials attempted to coerce, influence or pressure analysts to change their judgments related to Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction capabilities.” So much for the wild charges that Bush manipulated intelligence and lied about weapons of mass destruction. He simply said what was believed by every informed person — including leading members of the Clinton administration before 2001 and Sens. John Kerry and John Edwards in their speeches in October 2002 supporting military action in Iraq.
All this is significant because for the past year most leading Democrats and many in the determinedly anti-Bush media have been harping on the “BUSH LIED” theme. Their aim clearly has been to discredit and defeat Bush. The media continue to fight this battle: contrast the way The New York Times, The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times front-paged the Wilson charges last year with the way they’re downplaying the proof that Wilson lied deep inside the paper this year.
Yale historian John Lewis Gaddis has argued that George W. Bush has transformed American foreign policy, in response to the threat of Islamist terrorism, more than any president since Harry Truman transformed our foreign policy in response to the threat of aggressive communism. But there is one big difference. In the late 1940s, Truman got bipartisan support from Republicans like Arthur Vandenberg and Thomas Dewey, even at a time when there were bitter differences between the parties on domestic policy, and received generally sympathetic treatment in the press. This time, George W. Bush has encountered determined opposition from most Democrats and the old-line media. They have charged that “BUSH LIED” even when he relied on the same intelligence as they did; they have headlined wild and spurious charges by the likes of Joseph Wilson; they have embraced the wild-eyed propaganda of the likes of Michael Moore. They have done these things with, at best, reckless disregard of the effect their arguments have had on American strength in the world. Are they entitled to be taken seriously?
So far, the Big Lie seems to be working on this one, though. The retractions aren’t getting nearly the attention that the drumbeat of lies got and the impression that Bush got us into the war on the basis of lies is now received wisdom, despite a steady flow of evidence to the contrary.
Update: Also rather late to the show, the AP has more:
Philadelphia Inquirer (AP) – Hussein may have sought uranium
Bush said the Iraqi leader was buying it, then repudiated his remarks. New reports say he may not have been wrong.
It was one of the first signs that the intelligence used to go to war in Iraq was wrong: White House repudiation of 16 words in last year’s State of the Union speech that had suggested Saddam Hussein tried to buy uranium in Africa. Yet even as two recent reports sharply criticized prewar intelligence, they also suggested President Bush’s claim may not have been totally off-base.
A British report concluded that Bush’s statement and a similar one by Prime Minister Tony Blair were “well-founded.” In his speech, Bush had attributed the uranium claim to the British government. A Senate intelligence committee report found inadequate evidence that deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein had been rebuilding his nuclear-weapons program. It cited various reports, however, that Iraq had sought uranium in Africa. The committee chairman, Sen. Pat Roberts, said he believed last year that the White House was correct in repudiating the uranium claim. “Now I don’t know whether it’s accurate or not.”