Jack Kelly, writing for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, decisively argues against the idea that Bush lied about Iraqi attempts to purchase yellowcake in Africa.
Britain’s Financial Times reported Wednesday that an official British government inquiry into the intelligence used to justify the war in Iraq has concluded that Britain’s MI-6 was correct to conclude that Saddam Hussein’s regime had sought to buy uranium ore from Niger.
If so, this gives the lie to the charge that “Bush lied!” when he said in his 2003 State of the Union address: “The British government has learned that Saddam recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.”
I like how Mr. Kelly quickly gets to the key point: the keystone of the “Bush lied” campaign is gone. It didn’t vanish — it never existed.
The “Bush lied!” charge hung on two slender reeds. The first is that the only “evidence” the CIA had at the time of an Iraq-Niger-yellowcake connection was a fairly obvious forgery obtained through Italian sources. The second was the “investigation” conducted in early 2002 by former Ambassador Joseph Wilson on behalf of the CIA.
Wilson spent less than two weeks in Niger. In his July 2003 New York Times op-ed about the investigation, in which he described his methodology as “drinking sweet mint tea and meeting with dozens of people: current government officials, former government officials, people associated with the country’s uranium business.” The people he talked to told him that Niger hadn’t sold uranium to Iraq. Wilson’s op-ed accused the Bush administration of manipulating intelligence — and ignoring his report on Niger — to justify a war on Iraq.
There were two problems with Wilson’s investigation. The first is that the people to whom Wilson was talking might not have been telling him the truth. The second is that to say that Niger did not sell uranium to Iraq is not the same as saying Iraq did not try to buy yellowcake ore from Niger.
In fact, Wilson himself has confirmed that Iraq did indeed try to buy uranium from Niger.
Game, set, match.