If You Want to Get Technical…

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The White House has begun arguing that President Bush was "technically correct" when, during his last State of the Union speech, he cited a discredited British report claiming that Saddam Hussein had tried to buy uranium in Africa. On a Sunday talk show, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice conceded the claim "didn't rise to the standard of a presidential speech," inasmuch as the CIA and the State Department had expressed doubts about it. But she added, "It turns out that it's technically correct, what the president said, that the U.K…did say that."

Not quite. The president said, "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa" (emphasis added). If Bush had said, "The British government has reported that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa," Rice would be correct: The president would merely have been passing on the British claim. By saying the British government learned about this alleged uranium hunting, he implied that the report was true.

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  1. Planethoth –

    We funded both Saddam and Osama in the past, and now we pay to wage war against them. Who is next? This should be a sign that we don’t need to be involved in the internal and external politics of other countries, because we can’t predict the outcomes that our actions will have.

  2. “This should be a sign that we don’t need to be involved in the internal and external politics of other countries, because we can’t predict the outcomes that our actions will have.” I’d be fine with just not behaving like assholes when we do get involved. I tend to the think the Marshall Plan, for example, was a pretty good idea.

  3. “We funded both Saddam and Osama in the past, and now we pay to wage war against them. Who is next? ”

    saudi arabia

  4. “Instafascist”! Now we’ve arrived. The Goering quotes are juuuuust around the corner, I can tell.

    in a nutshell:

    http://www.coxandforkum.com/archives/DesperatelySeekingScandal-X.gif

  5. “This scandal is about Bush, and whether he is or is not a scumbag”

    It ain’t a “scandal” on your say so, boy.

    Or the say so of the leftist Democrat squealers or their liberal lackies in the press trying to gin it up.

    In, fact – nothing on this earth in the entire span of human history has EVER been so based on their say so – period.

  6. ” I tend to the think the Marshall Plan, for example, was a pretty good idea.”
    Except that it was essentially the US saying, “Take this money and rebuild your economies. We’ll handle all of the security/military actions for the entire globe.” And that mentality has led us to where we are today: the US playing Globo-Cop and Europe pissing and moaning about it while refusing to shoulder any real military responsibility themselves.

  7. the marshall plan was caused by us butting into european politics during WW2. Were the Germans a real threat to us in 1941? We had a whole ocean between us and they didn’t have any weapons to get us. Oh they sank a few boats, but that isn’t a threat to the contintental US. And no, there wasn’t proof in 1941 that they had any programs to eventually develop weapons to hit us.

  8. Citizen makes a good point. The Democrats rolled over and played dead in the fall. And rather than performing Congress’s Constitutional duty to actually declare war, and rather than doing the responsible thing and specifying an agenda, an end-game, and an exit strategy, they left the entire thing at the President’s discretion.

    Since the Dems in Congress gave Bush a blank check, the Congressional Dems running for President (e.g. Kerry, Lieberman, Graham, Edwards, Gephardt) have nobody to blame but themselves. They didn’t at least try to shape the policy.

  9. You’re right, Gil. There’s no scandal. Nobody cares. Nobody is questioning their assumptions. Everything’s fine. George Bush, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld are the most trusted men in America.

    It was just a staffer in the basement. I was out of the loop. It didn’t reach the President’s office. It was a third rate burglary. I am not a crook.

    Think Shrub will wear the flight suit to the Congressional hearings?

  10. planethoth,

    Re: “refused to account for their status in the present”

    On what grounds do you say that? I know there was a lack of complete documentation of WMD desctruction in the reports given to the UN. But I wonder: if the US government had to account for every weapon in its arsenal in one big report, wouldn’t it be hard to imagine there wouldn’t there be some discrepancies and screwups?

  11. Now I think I heard everything… “libertarian” people on here against intervention against the Nazis in World War II! So much for loving liberty… so much for America’s sense of purpose.

    Of course we should be mindful of the “law of unintended consequences”, who could disagree with that? Should we be skeptical of foreign interventions? Sure. But reducing all analysis of foreign policy to “let’s sit here and do nothing” is more than simplistic–it’s just plain idiotic.

  12. “Nobody has to parse Bush’s speech. We know what we saw and what we heard.”

    Damn the facts, full speed ahead! Bush is a liar and I don’t need your silly “proof!”

  13. “You’re right, Gil. There’s no scandal. Nobody cares. Nobody is questioning their assumptions. ”

    well, you and liberals who hated bush from day one certainly aren’t, thats for sure.

  14. During the run-up to the war, every piece of intelligence since 1998 used to prove that Saddam was an imminent threat to the US was de-bunked in about two seconds by the non-mainstream press.

    Would this be the same non-mainstream press that thinks Bill Clinton is a radical right winger, that Mumia was framed, and anything that Rage Against the Machine ever said was clever?

  15. No, we’re not.

    If it helps, I wish I’d been wrong about the man.

  16. planethoth,

    Considering that we didn’t enter WWII till one of Germany’s allies attacked us AND Germany declared war on us, I’d say that’s all a nonissue.

    But I’m still very curious to know if there’s any basis to say Hussein refused to account for the status of his former WMD’s other than the incomplete data in the report to the UN.

  17. “By saying the British government learned about this alleged uranium hunting, he implied that the report was true.”

    Which, in all likelihood, it was. I know, I know, truth is not a defense to the BushLied (TM) meme.

  18. To be fair, fyodor, we weren’t exactly sitting on the sidelines and fasting for peace before Pearl Harbor.

  19. let me spell it out for y’all in FIVE letters:
    D-E-C-E-I-T!

  20. The proof’s in the puddin’, HH. No WMD.

  21. Glad to see Bob Graham’s reading blogs…

    No Saddam Hussein. Guess we were just making him up too, right?

    I guess the blogosphere is more successful than even I thought. Apparently citing internet rumors is better than citing British intelligence…

  22. Don’t know about anyone else here, but thinking back I remember “learning” a lot of things that later turned out to be wrong.

    And if you had repeated what you “learned” before you realized it was wrong…would you have been “lying”?

  23. Mark Harden,

    Only plenty of folks in the administration knew it was wrong BEFORE Bush repeated it, and that’s what makes it an issue, not whether or not Bush’s words were technically “accurate,” which is the smokescreen they’re trying to hide behind.

  24. President Bush included the assertion about Iraq trying to buy uranium in order to convince Americans that the Iraqi nuclear weapons program was a clear a present danger. He needed this to justify a pre-emptive attack against a country that has not attacked the United States.
    If Bush or Blair had better proof, why did Bush rely on such questionable information.
    The pro-war writers in this blog seem to think that an assertion is the same thing as evidenc.
    Blair stands by his statement, but refuses to provide evidence to back it up.
    If Clinton acted this way, every Republican in Congress would be making speeches about the liar in the White House.

  25. Leading up to the SOTU speech, there were massive protests around the world the likes of which have never been scene. There was questions regarding proof of the imminent threat posed by Saddam. The Bush administration responded their proof would jeopardize national security. Days before the SOTU, tid bits from the administration claimed that some proof would be provided in the SOTU. Bush rode the uranium claim as the proof and in the speech he said that Colin Powell would go before the UN Security Council with additional proof. The context and the delivery of those 16 words was the “scary” proof for immediate pre-emptive attack. I took it as so, my family and friends took as so, and people around my office took as so. Thus, we all felt that the protestors around the world should now be convinced that Iraq had to be dealt with immediately and to pipe down.

    Was I mislead? Not entirely, however I became a bit critical towards the protestors thinking they didn’t (and they didn’t) know everything. Those 16 words helped marginalized the dissent in this country and around the world.

  26. Only plenty of folks in the administration knew it was wrong BEFORE Bush repeated it, and that’s what makes it an issue

    Right – it’s an issue of CIA internal policy and review processes. I’m all for an audit of the CIA’s actions. The ones who “knew it was wrong” (actually, even the Brits stand behind the report today) did not have their views made known at the highest levels. Why not? Tenet is ultimately responsible for the communication failure.

  27. An audit of CIA actions will clearly “jeopardize” national security so it can’t and won’t ever materialize under this admin.

  28. Joe,

    Some background on the Marshall Plan:

    The total value of U.S. industrial plant and equipment had been increased roughly two-thirds during the war, at taxpayer expense. With demobilization, industry would lose a taxpayer-financed outlet for its produce equivalent to about half the GNP. At the same time, millions of ex-soldiers would be dumped on the labor market.

    There was not enough free market demand to buy the product of U.S. industry, which had been overbuilt as a result of state intervention in the economy. Without government subsidies to the consumption of American output overseas, the economy would have sunk back into a depression and the whole capitalist system would have been been faced political instability like the ’30s on steroids. The Marshall Plan, like the Bretton Woods system, was simply a form of state intervention to guarantee a market for American industry. All the “humanitarian” stuff was just a marketing gimmick for the U.S. taxpayer.

  29. Insert “depends on the meaning of what ‘is’ is” reference here.

  30. Jacob,

    Yeah, I thought of the same thing myself. It feels silly to put so much weight on the subtle nuance of a single word, but as your title points out, they started it!

    Besides, what was it doing in his speech if it wasn’t supposed to be meaningful information?

    anon @ 11:15 AM,

    Yup!

  31. “The British have learned X” means that the speaker believes the British account of things. If the speaker has other knowledge of the facts, he may believe the facts for other reasons too and just be reporting that the British (too) have discovered it.

    If you know X not to be true, the inclination _not_ to say “The British have learned X” would be irresistable to everybody but a sociopath. So I doubt Bush disbelieved the British account; and in fact the British are standing by their account.

    If the US intelligence was that X was doubtful, then it has to be that Bush did not believe that US evaluation. And in fact US intelligence appears to be the doubtful one, as Bush suspected.

    It is true that stuff is encoded in “learned” but you have to get the right stuff out. Not just anything will do.

  32. Apparently, some in British intelligence are standing by the report.

  33. “You’re right, Gil. There’s no scandal. Nobody cares.”

    That’s exactly right – there isn’t and no one does except the leftist squealers who’ve been squealing about it all along.

    And, of course, anything they’re squawking about can always safely be summarily discounted 100% since there has never been a single one of them who’s ever drawn breath on this earth in the entire span of history who was ever a legitimate authority on ANYTHING.

    And not a single one of them ever will be – it’s an absolute PHYSICAL impossibility.

  34. Don’t know about anyone else here, but thinking back I remember “learning” a lot of things that later turned out to be wrong.

  35. I’d be more inclined to believe British or French intelligence. They have far more counter terrorism experience, even less scruples and oversight holding them back & they never pulled out of W. Africa as US Intel did.

  36. “what was it doing in his speech if it wasn’t supposed to be meaningful information?”

    politicking

  37. Who really believes that this enriched uranium comment makes or breaks the argument for the military operation in Iraq? Sure, it’s easy to make a case to say that it shouldn’t have been in the State of the Union address if it wasn’t known to be true in absolute terms. In and of itself, that’s a valid point. But this says nothing about the validity of deposing Saddam Hussein, and it is just plain dumb that anti-Bush people use this as a yardstick for this purpose.

  38. Bush dumps this on Blair’s head when he’s in the middle of a scandal, after Blair sticks his neck out and defies his own party by siding with Bush.

    Bush slaps tarrifs on Pakistani textiles, after Musharraf sticks his neck out and sides with Bush against the Taliban.

    Bush hangs Tenent out to dry, after he sides with Bush and publishes fudged intellgence to in support of Bush’s war aims.

    Will someone please explain to me why anyone would want to make a deal with this man?

  39. hilarious. in our exploration of the 16 words in the SOTU we find ourselves reduced to arguing about what one word, “learned,” means. what a country.

    yeah. “some in british intelligence” are standing on the report. that “some” would include a cat name of “tony blair” and this other guy with the excellent moniker “jack straw.”

    in other news the telegraph is reporting that our french friends concealed intelligence on this very subject. gee, why would an ally hide info about uranium controlled by a former french colony like that? stumper, this is.

    well anyway, doesn’t really shed much light on the nuances of “learned” and “reported.” carry on, wordsmiths!

  40. snopes is just an anti-french bigot!

  41. joe – Bush and Clinton clearly have one thing in common. Both are very adept at stepping on others. I suppose you don’t rise to the stature of President of the United States by always playing nice. Also, both are very skilled at laying blame on scapegoats when things don’t go well.

  42. In the past, it depended on what was was.

    Today, it depends on what is is.

    In the future, it depends on what will be will be.

    Any questions questions?

  43. What strikes me is how the “news” people finally got a hold on this. During the run-up to the war, every piece of intelligence since 1998 used to prove that Saddam was an imminent threat to the US was de-bunked in about two seconds by the non-mainstream press. From yellow cake to Al Quaeda connections to aluminum tubes to underground facilities to CIA brow beatings, all were effectively reported and promptly buried.

    Nobody has to parse Bush’s speech. We know what we saw and what we heard. Blinded by the flag, apple pie and a stooge press we ran headlong into a tar pit and now that same stooge press wants to blame somebody. Disgusting.

  44. planethoth said:

    “Who really believes that this enriched uranium comment makes or breaks the argument for the military operation in Iraq?”

    I don’t think this single detail makes or breaks the argument…yet. But the President said that American security is in serious jeopardy because of Hussein, and now we find out that a particularly dramatic piece of evidence, one deemed important enough to put in his address to the nation, is false.

    When you start looking at the govt’s “intelligence” track record (didn’t see 9/11 coming, didn’t see the fall of the Soviet Union coming) and the propensity of public officials to lie, it raises questions. Remember: The burden of proof should always be on politicians who want to use force, not on citizens who are skeptical of the use of force. Bush has to prove his credibility, I don’t have to prove his lack thereof.

  45. “and a stooge press ”

    yes we all know that the mainstream media (NY Times, major news networks, washinton post, etc) is bushes biggest friend

    are you crazy? with the exception of fox news which is considered a rebellious outsider the entire press haets bush

  46. The neolibertarian warbloggers were worse (looking at you Instafascist, Samizfascist, etc) – they bought the whole WMD thing hook, line and sinker, made their whole case for war soley on it and now pretend it didn’t matter.

  47. “Who really believes that this enriched uranium comment makes or breaks the argument for the military operation in Iraq?” This is not about the wisdom of the Iraqi operation, since it is now widely admitted that protecting the US from an Iraqi WMD strike was not the reason for this operation (despite the dozens of times people like me were accused, in all seriousness, of wanting to see a mushroom cloud over an American city during the “product’s” rollout.) At this point, the judgement of the wisdom of this invasion and occupation will be decided by how things go from here.

    This scandal is about Bush, and whether he is or is not a scumbag. Lying in order to create a war that didn’t have to happen is about the lowest thing a president can do. If, as seems increasingly likely, the uranium story turns out to be a deliberate lie, it won’t prove that PNAC’s splendid little war was a bad idea; but it will be a smoking gun that the administration lied about an imminent threat to the safety of millions of Americans, and the need to send our military personnel to war.

    Flem,

    “sixteen words” Good boy. You can get your liver snap at the RNC.

  48. Congress had agreed to go to war long before the President made the SOTU address. Now many of the dems who supported the war are looking to this once issue and saying “We were fooled! We didn’t have the proper info!” Yes you did. You made your decision before this statement and you would have made it without it entirely. Buck up and face your actions.

  49. How can a serious political discussion include someone who invents ways to call people in favour of the Iraq war “fascists”? What a disgrace to history and the millions of victims of actual fascism.

    No one said the case for war rested on the CURRENT, immediate existence of “WMD”… it rested on the very real fact that Saddam had been developing them in the past, was ordered to dismantle them, then refused to account for their status in the present, and was the subject of no less than 12 international agreements in the Security Council as such.

    The legal argument was sound; the moral argument was even more sound. The United States had helped further Saddam’s Stalinist regime in the beginning; it was moral justice that they be responsible for undoing that mistake.

  50. Flem, this’ll give you more detail about who the “some” are, and they are, as I said, in British intelligence – http://www.portal.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2003/07/14/wdoss114.xml&sSheet=/news/2003/07/14/ixnewstop.html

  51. The evidence the Brits have that supports Bush’s SOTU statement is not the same evidence the CIA has shown to be a forgery, therefore the CIA has not disproved the statement.

    The British stand by their source; until and unless their evidence is also shown to be false, it is intellectually dishonest to use this point in order to claim that Bush lied in his SOTU speech.

    People, this is not just a matter of parsing the meaning of “is”. I dislike Bush, too, but this sort of dishonest exaggeration reflects far worse on those making the accusation than it does on Bush.

  52. Kevin,

    So it was a win/win. Gotta love those.

  53. “The evidence the Brits have that supports Bush’s SOTU statement is not the same evidence the CIA has shown to be a forgery, therefore the CIA has not disproved the statement.”

    So, what is this evidence? I heard Sen Roberts say he had some evidence a couple weeks ago, too, that would prove everything. Where is it?

  54. It only matters to lefties and the mainstream press which is running with this as if it were the war itself… even the Daily Howler isn’t buying into it.

    But remember there’s “no liberal media”…

    And hasn’t anyone heard the phrase “what you learned was wrong?” You can learn wrong information.

  55. Technically, it’s not true that George Bush eats shit sandwitches. He doesn’t like bread.

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