Say It Ain't So, Joe!

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Confession time: I've tried, mostly unsuccessfully, to follow the most recent twists and turns in the Ambassador Joe Wilson story.

Did his wife, the CIA operative notoriously outed by columnist Robert Novak, recommend him for the trip to Niger, where he found that Iraq had not purchased uranium? (Does that matter much, other than to show that Wilson either lied about/was ignorant of part of his story?) Backhanded by the Senate Intel Committee, the Wash Post, and others, Wilson still has his supporters. I find myself leaning to the position that Wilson, his supporters, and his detractors are all lying.

Beyond the not-insignificant fact that virtually all of the Bush administration's claims about Iraq's weapons programs and capabilities have been disproven, only two things are certain: None of this new stuff is going to help jumpstart the investigation into who in the Bush administration coughed up Mrs. Wilson, a.k.a. Valerie Plame, to Novak; this is an inquiry that's moving along at a speed rivaled only by O.J.'s hunt for the real killer.

And the Salon cruise, which prominently features Wilson along with such dinghy-level stars as former Texas Gov. Ann "Hiccup" Richards and litigation-prone Clintonista Sid "Vicious" Blumenthal, will be about as much fun as watching The Boatniks.

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  1. This story long ago got crushed by the weight of layer after layer of inane detail, with each detail being vigorously debated.

    So what are we at now? Wilson may have said something that wasn’t quite accurate/true about his wife’s role (or lack thereof, or whatever) in him getting this assignment? And this would matter because…?

    I liked it better when we were debating the nature of her covert job that none of us really knew anything about. At least we were bullshitting about something exciting. Now the debate has shifted to how much networking he did to get the assignment? OK…

  2. I’m not familiar with all of Wilson’s statements, but here is the situation with the uranium:

    1)The public and unrevised position of the White House is that including the “16 words” in the SoTU was a mistake.

    2)The British report only said that it was credible to conclude at the time that Iraq had sought uranium, not that it was actually true.

    3)To date no evidence supporting the assertion has been produced other than the forged documents the US provided the IAEA. The British claim they had another source but have not said what it was. Given all the “Curve Ball”s this is not very credible.

    4)Finally, and most importantly, just about everyone besides the vice president now agrees that Iraq has not had a serious nuclear program since the first Gulf war, and the renewed focus on this alleged and unconfirmed feeler for a uranium purchase is just a way of distracting people’s attention from that simple fact.

  3. “…the renewed focus on this alleged and unconfirmed feeler for a uranium purchase is just a way of distracting people’s attention from that simple fact.”

    Untrue! It is also a way of distracting people from the investigation of White House officials leaking the name of a covert CIA employee.

  4. You seem unaware of Joshua Micah Marshall’s blog, Talking Points Memo which is following this story carefully. Marshall is a responsible and skeptical journalist.

  5. Wilson may have said something that wasn’t quite accurate/true about his wife’s role (or lack thereof, or whatever) in him getting this assignment? And this would matter because…?

    Goes to the credibility of the witness.

  6. It is one thing to say that some of the Bush (and Clinton) Administration claims were ‘disproven’, but quite another thing to say ‘unproven’. I think the proper designation is ‘unproven’. Most news sources agree that he had, and used, some WMD in the past.
    The latest news articles indicate that Wilson’s own reports indicated Saddam tried to purchase uranium, yet Wilson publicly claimed otherwise.
    I think most people would conclude that this weakens his credibility and strengthens Bush’s.
    By the way, why “Hiccup”?

  7. Josh Marshall is a hack

  8. How much could these folks be paid to actually go on a cruise with star struck fans and pander to them for a week?

    Are all the jobs in government and at foundations filled?

  9. Untrue! It is also a way of distracting people from the investigation of White House officials leaking the name of a covert CIA employee.

    When’s joe’s heroic truth-telling heroes turn out to have actually been lying, it’s actually a Republican plot. Very devious, that Karl Rove. Wilson was a GOP plant from the start!

  10. the 16 words in the SoTU:

    “The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.”

    from hadayn:

    “2)The British report only said that it was credible to conclude at the time that Iraq had sought uranium, not that it was actually true.”

    I don’t see the conflict. Aside from that, supposedly the Senate Intelligence report indicated that Iraq already had a large supply of uranium oxide. My question is: if it would be a big deal for Iraq to try and buy yellowcake from Africa, why is it not a big deal that Iraq already had a large supply available?

  11. the trip to Niger, where he found that Iraq had not purchased uranium?

    Moving the goalposts, Nick? Who ever claimed that Iraq had purchased uranium from Niger?

    The public and unrevised position of the White House is that including the “16 words” in the SoTU was a mistake

    Of course it was a mistake; the press took those 16 words, reworded them (either through incompetence or malice) as a claim about Niger, ran with a now-provably-fradulent “BUSH LIED” story for weeks, and buried the “Oh wait, Bush told the truth — it’s his accuser who lied” follow-up story. So yes, it’s fair to say that even though Bush’s “16 words” were completely true, including them in the speech was a mistake.

    The British report only said that it was credible to conclude at the time that Iraq had sought uranium, not that it was actually true

    “Credible to conclude that Iraq sought uranium” *means* “to the best of our knowledge, it is true that Iraq sought uranium”.

    To date no evidence supporting the assertion has been produced other than the forged documents the US provided the IAEA

    That’s simply not true at all. Read this article on the Butler inquiry, for example; not only do the Brits have multiple sources for their “uranium from Africa” theory, but they arrived at that theory without having even seen the fake documents.

    The British claim they had another source but have not said what it was. Given all the “Curve Ball”s this is not very credible.

    Ah, the ad hominem fallacy. There has been exactly one “curve ball” (the fradulent documents), which the British weren’t involved in. You’ll have to do better.

    Finally, and most importantly, just about everyone besides the vice president now agrees that Iraq has not had a serious nuclear program since the first Gulf war

    It is now widely believed that the sanctions had made it too difficult for Iraq to maintain its nuclear program, yes. However, it is also true that Iraq had done its best to maintain that nuclear program (including, of course, the well-documented attempts at uranium purchase from various countries) and had the means, the knowledge base (i.e., scientists) and the money to resume development as soon as the sanctions were lifted. So certainly, a rational analysis of the known facts shows that our only options were (a) to maintain the sanctions forever and hope Hussein didn’t get lucky or (b) war. The second choice was, of course, the smart one.

    and the renewed focus on this alleged and unconfirmed feeler for a uranium purchase is just a way of distracting people’s attention from that simple fact.

    There’s no distraction. Here are the simple, proven, facts: Hussein had all the WMDs he was able to buy or retain, and continued to seek more. Since no amount of policing can ever be completely effective, removing him was the only rational choice.

    But that’s beside the point. The people pointing to the latest revelations about Wilson aren’t trying to sell the war. The war’s sold; it’s the anti-war crowd that can’t move on. No, what makes the latest revelations about Wilson interesting is that they provide interesting evidence of the anti-war crowd’s track record of lies and smear campaigns, and the media’s willing assistance in it.

  12. How about a Reason Cruise with Martha Nussbaum, John Perry Barlow, and the ghost of Joey Ramone?

  13. Josh, “heroic truth-telling heroes” is very poor writing. C’mon, you’ve got a thesaurus right there on your task bar.

    Anyway, Wilson’s accusations have always struck me as a sideshow. One more professional says Bush has his head in his ass, and fudges a lot. Ho hum. It’s the outing of his wife that’s important here, and Amb. Wilson’s credibility has squat to do with that.

  14. This isn?t a sideshow because Wilson?s (now baseless) assertions formed the base themselves for the anti-war credo, ?Bush Lied, People Died.? Wilson, in his own report to the CIA upon returning from Niger, was that he was told by their president that the Iraqis had sought to buy uranium from Niger, but that Niger had spurned their attempts.

    Even without evidence we now have concerning not-quite-abandoned uranium mines in the Congo, this tidbit confirms the 16 words in Bush?s SOTU speech, that Iraq had sought to purchase uranium from Africa.

    As for Marshall, yes, he?s quite a principled skeptical journalist, as long as you are talking about weaving his lefty principles into his reporting, and being skeptical of anything that any non-Democrat says. Marshall?s current argument is that because some intelligence fraud at some point forged up some papers billed as a uranium purchase agreement from Niger, that everything else is ?fruit of the poisonous tree.? Not only is this a thoroughgoing misusage and abusage of a relatively narrow Constitutional law principle, but it is also ridiculously applied to the intelligence world, a place where bad information can indeed lead to good information, and vice versa. Oh yeah, and his other assertion, at the heart of it, is that it doesn?t matter that Wilson lied because Bush sux.

  15. Joe,

    Apparently Kerry disagrees with you

    http://www.johnkerry.com/honesty

  16. Hey, a REASONable cruise!

    Where would we go, Amsterdam?

    Who’s bringing the kind bud?

  17. “It’s the outing of his wife that’s important here, and Amb. Wilson’s credibility has squat to do with that.”

    Oh, NOW the 16 words aren’t important, just the “outing”… about which Wilson is the star witness and has provided the media with a sizable amount of what we “know” about the investigation into it…

  18. “not only do the Brits have multiple sources for their ‘uranium from Africa’ theory, but they arrived at that theory without having even seen the fake documents”

    Simply stating that one has evidence is not the same thing as producing it. For example, the President stated that there was intelligence which left “no doubt” that Iraq still had WMD.

    When the IAEA, with whom the US as well as Britain were supposed to be cooperating, asked for evidence of the uranium claim, all they got were forged documents. The British have still not disclosed the nature of their supposed evidence othe than to say they know it from “sources”, and until they do I will assume that the information is just as accurate as the rest of their WMD intel, which is to say not at all.

    “There has been exactly one ‘curve ball’ (the fradulent documents)”

    “Curveball” was the code name for the Iraqi defector who provided descriptions of Iraq’s alleged mobile weapons lab, and who is no longer considered credible.

  19. It’s the outing of his wife that’s important here, and Amb. Wilson’s credibility has squat to do with that.

    No, the fact that his wife recommended him for his trip to Niger, and was an analyst for WMD non-proliferation, is very relevant, and would constitute part of any defense to criminal charges. The statute requires outing a covert agent with the intent to blow their cover. Since his wife was, shall we say, intimately involved with the trip at issue, whoever disclosed her identity to Novak could have done so with no bad intent, but rather with only the intent of giving him relevant background info.

  20. “Marshall is a responsible and skeptical journalist.”

    Who knew it, we have a brilliantly ironic comedy writer lurking here at H&R.

  21. I guess the fundamental point is, that rather than Bush Lied, it’s Joe Wilson Lied…

  22. Those infamous “16 words” just won’t go away…Bush’s announcement that Iraq made an active effort to procure weapons-grade uranium from “an African country” was derived from documents that turned out to be crude forgeries.

    Who forged these documents ? and, more interesting, from a legal and political point of view, how did they go unvetted until months after the President’s 2003 State of the Union speech was delivered?

    From:

    “The New Credibility Gap
    Look who’s going after Joe Wilson?”
    http://www.antiwar.com/justin/

  23. So blowing the covers of covert personnel is fair game for political football?

    No, but it is just political football. On the whole I wouldn’t consider it a vastly important issue, and nowhere near as important as the Nigerian uranium debate.

    Then add that it’s especially strange to see a hawk justify outing an undercover CIA employee.

    Why? Feeling that the war was justified has nothing to do with whether you feel it’s consequential that one of our spies has been outed. Are any of you under the impression that the intelligence industry is anything more than a self-serving money pit for fear mongering and statism?

  24. The point is that hawks are supposedly concerned about national security, which makes it odd that they’d be so nonchalant about a spy’s identity being publicly revealed. I have no illusions that she’s like the chick from Alias, always stopping some deadly scheme with 1 second left on the timer, but I don’t see any justification for blowing her cover in a game of political football.

    And as to political football, bullshit allegations and hypocrisy are supposed to be the stuff of political football, not revealing the identity of somebody who does sensitive work for reasons of national security. Especially if it jeopardizes lives. Once again, I have no illusions that there will be a trail of bodies over this, or that she was the only thing standing between us and nuclear Armageddon. But she’s probably talked to some people who would be safer if it was never known that they talked to a CIA employee.

    Point is, I don’t see any justification for undermining her sensitive work on national security simply for a game of political football.

  25. thoreau is right – outing her is not right and is not justified, regardless of what she and her husband did.

    I propose the investigating committee haul Robert Novak’s ass to the hearing and ask who leaked her ID. He can tell them who outed her, or cool his heels in a cell for a few days.

    Now I need to hide from thoreau’s wrath since I am advocating something or the other that he doesn’t like 🙂

  26. My wrath? No, it’s not my wrath you need to worry about. It’s my rabbit. That’s no ordinary rabbit, let me tell you! 🙂

  27. ‘Wilson?s (now baseless) assertions formed the base themselves for the anti-war credo, ?Bush Lied, People Died.?’

    No, they did not. They were one example of a broad patten of dishonesty on the part of the president.

    Though you’ve got your talking points down; since there are questions about Wilson’s credibility, everything Bush has said in the last three years is true. That’s some great logic you’ve got there. Maybe if you sprinking in the phrase “9/11” a few times, the dumbist third of Americans might be induced to buy it.

  28. That might have worked better if I’d spelled “dumbest” properly.

  29. For me the entity which really lost what little respect it had in this is Salon. I know they had very little journalistic ethics to begin with, but watching story after story defending Wilson on their site recently without a single disclosure that I’ve seen about their business relationship with him via the Salon Cruise still surprised me.

  30. It’s the outing of his wife that’s important here

    Maybe only slightly more important as whether Clinton had “sexual relations with that woman.” Wilson’s wife was outed in retribution, and it was a 0-sum game. The Niger uranium debate on the other hand is part of a rallying cry for many to oust Bush over “lying” to give credence to our jus ad bellam. Wilson’s wife can swing, they both played the game and played it poorly.

  31. So blowing the covers of covert personnel is fair game for political football? Shouldn’t the well being of the country, knowledge about other countries WMD programs, etc. be a little more important than scoring a point agains the Dems?

    This country used to be able to gain important information about WMDs from through this woman’s work. Now, that spigot has been turned off. That matters; everything else is commentary.

  32. Careful, joe, when you claim that his wife’s work in particular was significant to national security. The hawks can jump all over it because we really don’t know (and probably shouldn’t know) the details of her work. By making it look like she was a particularly significant source of info you just invite them to use the “Oh, she wasn’t so important” talking point to counter your unsubstantiated claim.

    Better to simply say that she worked undercover for the CIA and that spite cannot justify outing an undercover CIA employee. Then add that it’s especially strange to see a hawk justify outing an undercover CIA employee. It focuses on the crime without appearing to suggest that the fate of the Republic rested on her shoulders.

  33. hadayn,

    If Joe Wilson is to be believed (which story?) Iraq did try to get uranium from Niger.

    I won’t go into the rest of the points because they have been dealt with elsewhere.

    So let me tell you where I’m coming from. I liked Clinton. I like Bush.

    Joe Wilson is melting faster than the Wicked Witch of the West (does that make Bush the Wicked Warlock? could be). And yet there are partisans out there who still cling to the story in the hopes it may smear Bush. Well I can tell you the Wilson bit is smearing many. And they are not Bush supporters.

    It looks to me like the biggest liars are in the Kerry Camp. We keep finding bits and pieces of Saddams WMD program and various scientists involved and yet there are people out there who say that because we haven’t found megatons of WMDs there was no Iraqi program. When a pound or two can kill thousands, isn’t finding a few pounds incriminating?

    So let us see what Kerry has going for him.

    1. His lies are less effective than Bush’s and more easily outed
    2. He has very bad judgement in advisors (he is looking for advisors who will give him good news. What he needs is advisors who will tell him the truth)
    3. He is a self confessed war criminal

    Bush in a landslide.

    You see if Wilson really lied that means that all those who said Bush lied based on Wilson’s “evidence” are liars. Fine. Kerry is backed by people who will say anything for partisan advantage (say is’t that the accusation against Bush?). How do you suppose this will play to those in Peoria paying attention. A year of saying “Bush-Liar” has morphed into just the opposite. Bush antagonists are liars.

    Admitted.

    Just read the pro Michael Mooore reviews. (You know the ones – “Moore is rather liberal with the truth but he serves a higher truth” type reviews.).

    Guys. Politics is rotten enough without your making lying for the cause acceptable. I thought that was your complaint about Bush. Shouldn’t your side be more scrupulously honest to make the charge stick?

    Or is it “we are good and can lie for our cause, they are bad and their lies are worse” type of politics?

    I’d watch it. People notice.

    Bush in a landslide.

  34. thoreau,

    I’d be careful for what you ask for.

    Suppose a pro-Palme/Wilson/Kerry person outed Palme (low risk for all involved) in order to use the outing against Bush? Or for some other reason.

    Suppose it was a Kerry supporter who did the outing? Then what? Bush will be stronger and anti-Bush will be weaker. So far learning the truth about a number of these matters has been to Bush’s advantage. Given that fact why would you want to find out who outed Palme? It might ruin the game.

    Given the whole shady nature of the Wilson/Palme enterprise, which has the look of a “get Bush” effort, if it was me I’d want all investigations in this matter to go away quietly. If I was a betting man I’d bet that finding out who outed Palme will not be to anti-Bush’s favor.

    Bush is a poker player. He folds bad hands and holds good ones. If he is holding on this one I’d say yer goose is cooked.

    Bush in a landslide.

  35. This is Bush’s favorite tactic.

    He waits for the opposition to call for blood. His blood. He waits till the opposition gets the crowd excited. Then he gives the crowd the blood of those calling for his blood.

    After a while people get to like the blood of Bush’s opponents and forget about Bush (other than to hope he will supply them with another tastee meal of his opponents).

    You might want to read my article on this: “Tactics of Mistake”. Dumb Bush is playing you guys like a piano. Wise up.

  36. Simon, that must be why the incumbant is losing less than three months before the election. Yup, a real political genius, that one.

    And your entire argument about Palme’s outing amounts to “hey, look over there.”

    Nothing Joe Wilson has said, right or wrong, is even close to being as important as a top level White House staffer blowing a CIA employee’s cover.

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