Wednesday, January 18, 2006

A Four-Star General Debunked the Niger-Iraq Uranium Claim

The New York Times reports that "a high level intelligence assessment" debunked the story of the sale of uranium ore to Iraq:
Among other problems that made such a sale improbable, the assessment by the State Department's intelligence analysts concluded, was that it would have required Niger to send "25 hard-to-conceal 10-ton tractor-trailers" filled with uranium across 1,000 miles and at least one international border.
The assessment came nearly eleven months before Bush's infamous "16 words" in his 2003 State of the Union address.
The White House later acknowledged that the charge, which played a part in the decision to invade Iraq in the belief that Baghdad was reconstituting its nuclear program, relied on faulty intelligence and should not have been included in the speech. Two months ago, Italian intelligence officials concluded that a set of documents at the center of the supposed Iraq-Niger link had been forged by an occasional Italian spy.
Unfortunately, President Sluggo, in his effort to scare us half to death, gave more credence to an Italian forgery than to his own State Department and a four-star general:
A four-star general, Carlton W. Fulford Jr., was also sent to Niger to investigate the claims of a uranium purchase. He, too, came away with doubts about the reliability of the report and believed Niger's yellowcake supply to be secure. But the State Department's review, which looked at the political, economic and logistical factors in such a purchase, seems to have produced wider-ranging doubts than other reviews about the likelihood that Niger would try to sell uranium to Baghdad.
The review concluded that Niger was "probably not planning to sell uranium to Iraq," in part because France controlled the uranium industry in the country and could block such a sale. It also cast doubt on an intelligence report indicating that Niger's president, Mamadou Tandja, might have negotiated a sales agreement with Iraq in 2000. Mr. Tandja and his government were reluctant to do anything to endanger their foreign aid from the United States and other allies, the review concluded. The State Department review also cast doubt on the logistics of Niger being able to deliver 500 tons of uranium even if the sale were attempted. "Moving such a quantity secretly over such a distance would be very difficult, particularly because the French would be indisposed to approve or cloak this arrangement," the review said.
Even now, a White House spokesman maintained the fiction that this is a story about failures in collecting intelligence, instead of failures in the White House's use of intelligence:
"The White House is not an intelligence-gathering operation. The president based his remarks in the State of the Union address on the intelligence that was presented to him by the intelligence community and cleared by the intelligence community.
White House claims that Bush based his case for invading Iraq on errors made well down the chain of command of the intelligence community are even less credible than before.

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