Friday, April 30, 2004
What the...?: In his soon-to-be-released book, former ambassador Joseph Wilson reveals that Iraq may indeed have attempted to buy uranium from Niger.
It was Saddam Hussein's information minister, Mohammed Saeed Sahhaf, often referred to in the Western press as "Baghdad Bob," who approached an official of the African nation of Niger in 1999 to discuss trade -- an overture the official saw as a possible effort to buy uranium.
That's according to a new book Joseph C. Wilson IV, a former ambassador who was sent to Niger by the CIA in 2002 to investigate reports that Iraq had been trying to buy enriched "yellowcake" uranium. Wilson wrote that he did not learn the identity of the Iraqi official until this January, when he talked again with his Niger source.
This raises a couple of questions:
First: Was this really a serious attempt to acquire uranium? The fact that the envoy was Baghdad Bob tends to make someone lean toward the answer being no. Do you send your PR flack to float the idea of sending a little nuclear material your way?
Second: Wilson has repeatedly said there was no evidence that Iraq tried to acquire uranium from Niger. Today's revelation makes that out to be a lie -- a lie Wilson knew he was making. Why lie other than to score political points?
Anti-America/Anti-War/Anti-Bush types will, perhaps correctly, downplay this news because it is Baghdad Bob we're talking about. But Wilson didn't know it was Baghdad Bob that made the inquiry until January, long after he had appeared on most every news talk show in the nation. So when Wilson was going on TV to rail against the Bush administration, the Niger uranium claim had more credibility than it does today.
An honest assessment from Wilson in the months leading up to the war might have been: "Iraq may have made half-hearted inquiries regarding the possibility of acquiring uranium from Niger, but they were in no way serious, nor were they pursued by the Iraqi government. I found one Nigerian official who half-remembered one Iraqi official who made comments suggesting some sort of trade deal that might have involved uranium."
Of course, an honest assessment with so many qualifiers is of little use in bashing Bush -- Wilson's ultimate goal.
Baghdad Bob shot his credibility long ago. Joseph Wilson shot his with this lie.