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Fritz Feds

Tuesday, April 11, 2006


Chris Hitchens on Niger, enriched uranium, and Joe Wilson. The article told me a few things I did not know before. Check it out here. Here are the first three paragraphs, which I find very interesting.

In the late 1980s, the Iraqi representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency—Iraq's senior public envoy for nuclear matters, in effect—was a man named Wissam al-Zahawie. After the Kuwait war in 1991, when Rolf Ekeus arrived in Baghdad to begin the inspection and disarmament work of UNSCOM, he was greeted by Zahawie, who told him in a bitter manner that "now that you have come to take away our assets," the two men could no longer be friends. (They had known each other in earlier incarnations at the United Nations in New York.)

At a later 1995 U.N. special session on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Zahawie was the Iraqi delegate and spoke heatedly about the urgent need to counterbalance Israel's nuclear capacity. At the time, most democratic countries did not have full diplomatic relations with Saddam's regime, and there were few fully accredited Iraqi ambassadors overseas, Iraq's interests often being represented by the genocidal Islamist government of Sudan (incidentally, yet another example of collusion between "secular" Baathists and the fundamentalists who were sheltering Osama Bin Laden). There was one exception—an Iraqi "window" into the world of open diplomacy—namely the mutual recognition between the Baathist regime and the Vatican. To this very important and sensitive post in Rome, Zahawie was appointed in 1997, holding the job of Saddam's ambassador to the Holy See until 2000. Those who knew him at that time remember a man much given to anti-Jewish tirades, with a standing ticket for Wagner performances at Bayreuth. (Actually, as a fan of Das Rheingold and Götterdämmerung in particular, I find I can live with this. Hitler secretly preferred sickly kitsch like Franz Lehar.)
In February 1999, Zahawie left his Vatican office for a few days and paid an official visit to Niger, a country known for absolutely nothing except its vast deposits of uranium ore. It was from Niger that Iraq had originally acquired uranium in 1981, as confirmed in the Duelfer Report.

In order to take the Joseph Wilson view of this Baathist ambassadorial initiative, you have to be able to believe that Saddam Hussein's long-term main man on nuclear issues was in Niger to talk about something other than the obvious. Italian intelligence (which first noticed the Zahawie trip from Rome) found it difficult to take this view and alerted French intelligence (which has better contacts in West Africa and a stronger interest in nuclear questions). In due time, the French tipped off the British, who in their cousinly way conveyed the suggestive information to Washington. As everyone now knows, the disclosure appeared in watered-down and secondhand form in the president's State of the Union address in January 2003.


Wilson knew Iraq was serious about acquiring uranium in Niger. The question was whether there was a serious possibility they could ever succeed. Wilson concluded that there wasn't, but the President put those infamous 16 words in his state of the union address anyway.

So what's your point?
The point is that there actually was a serious possibility that they would obtain uranium, at least arguably. It's not the slam dunk that critics of the war have claimed. Joe Wilson wasn't a saintly and inerrant man whose opinion was without legitimate detractors. My point is that the choice to go to war was not as illegitimate as either some bloggers or those participating in polls believe it was.
Senate Intelligence Committee report from 2004:

On Oct. 6, 2002, the CIA sent a second fax to the White House that said, "More on why we recommend removing the sentence about procuring uranium oxide from Africa: Three points (1) The evidence is weak. One of the two mines cited by the source as the location of the uranium oxide is flooded. The other mine cited by the source is under the control of the French authorities. (2) The procurement is not particularly significant to Iraq's nuclear ambitions because the Iraqis already have a large stock of uranium oxide in their inventory. And (3) we have shared points one and two with Congress, telling them that the Africa story is overblown and telling them this is one of the two issues where we differed with the British." (page 56)

They knew this and put it in the speech anyway, only to have to retract it later. Will you ever stop defending these liars?
I think it's time to make something clear, something I thought I had been making clear, lo, these many times. I'm not "defending these liars". My point is that there are (and especially, were) reasonable arguments for the administration's actions. Reasonable people can disagree on these points. It's not the slam dunk that you and others have categorized it as. The report you just cited notes that the CIA suspected Iraq already had uranium. Why Bush put it into the speech is beyond me. I'm not privy to the speechwriting. Perhaps it was as a hat-tip to Britain. In any event, I'm saying that perhaps you don't think there was enough evidence of Iraq's nuclear ambitions, ties to terrorists, and past offenses to justify war. That's a reasonable position. I haven't decided one way or the other. But to say that going to war was so unreasonable as to at least partially justify impeachment is, in my view, an unreasonable argument, and based on partisan feelings, not an open-minded opinion. IMHO.
Bush is responsible for the increase of steroids use in major league baseball. Staff members expressed to him in June of 2001 that Barry Bonds was hitting far too many home runs, but the President simply brush these concerns aside.

Stop the lies and blatant cover-ups! Impeach Bush!
The irony of blabla's comment is that steroids in major league baseball is the ONE area where congress has actually done some oversight. Not no-bid contracts. Not selectively declassified intelligence. Not the abysmal failure to display anything even remotely resembling competance. Not on the numerous lies told to propel us into war.

No: they had hearings on steroids in major league baseball.

This irony is undoubtedly lost on blabla.

blabla, I miss you! Return to your trolling ways on my blog! Your jackassery was always so much fun to smack down. Please come back, blabla! PLEASEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE
No Nick, you're already enough of your own lampoon, you don't need my help. You're starting to make even Barbara Boxer look sensible.

And I don't recall you ever smacking anything I've ever said, except to come back with more lines from some other liberal blogger you enjoy paraphrasing. It usually turns into a discussion of apples vs. Hungarian banana peppers so I must respectfully decline.
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