MoonDawg's Den: Cowpeas, or WMDs?

MoonDawg's Den

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Cowpeas, or WMDs?

Seems like everyone is back on the subject of Niger/uranium/Wilson these days. Yesterday Christopher Hitchens wrote a piece naming names on the Iraqi side of the Niger affair, saying that it was a high-level envoy, Wissam al-Zahawie, who made the 1999 trip to Niger for "expanding commercial relations" - the same trip that Joe Wilson learned about during his "investigation" in Niger but conveniently omitted from his New York Times piece recounting what he learned. Zahawie - a former Iraqi representative to the IAEA - was ambassador to the Vatican at the time, one of the few places in the world where Iraq still had normal diplomatic relations. Says Hitchens,
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.
I would just take issue with Hitch on one small point - besides uranium (which accounts for nearly two-thirds of its export earnings), Niger is also known for other critical export commodities: i.e., livestock, cowpeas, and onions. So maybe Zahawie was just looking for a good deal on cowpeas or onions - right?


  • Just one other thought on the famous 16 words, is 1999 really "recently" in 2003 when Bush made the statement?

    It seems that "recently" is a poor descriptive word for the event, and it is even worse when you consider that the deal didn't go through.

    A botched deal 4 years before hardly seems to rise to the level of threat needed to justify a war, don't you think?


    By Blogger Jeff, At 1:15 PM, April 11, 2006  

  • Well as Hitchens pointed out, the Duelfer Report shows there was "a second contact between Iraq and Niger" in 2001, so hopefully that is recent enough for you.

    Again, the President never said Iraq had purchased uranium from Africa, only that Iraq was attempting to do so - which demonstrated the Saddam government's ill intentions.

    In any case, this "botched deal" wasn't the only issue, or even a primary issue, in justifying the war. Again I will point out that the congress had already voted in favor of the use of force authorization three months earlier. The justifications laid out at that time had nothing to do with Niger.

    By Blogger Garry, At 3:00 PM, April 11, 2006  

  • 2001 would be recent if the deal had happened. 2 years after a deal that didn't happen is hardly a smoking gun.

    The two issues that the administration used to sell the war were WMD and links to al Qaeda. Every speech in the run up to the war was mushroom cloud this, WMD that, al Qaeda this, 9/11 that. Both of those proved to be untrue. I think that is very relevent.

    Where in the initial resolution is establishing a democracy in Iraq given as the reason? That's the talking point now. Whether WMD, nukes, and al Qaeda were the only reasons or not, they were what people were hearing. Those points inspired the fear in people to support the war. They were wrong.

    That's particularly interesting when you read reports like the Downing Street Memo that say the US would "fix the intelligence around the policy." And when former employess of both the intelligence agencies and the administration are saying the same thing. There is some damning evidence there.

    I know we won't agree on this, but I believe that there were some serious problems with the administration's case for war. Whether going was good or not is debatable, but the muffed intelligence and poor execution of the run up to war is not. My problem is that no one is taking responsibility for it. Bush would earn some points by saying he messed up and he was sorry, but he won't.


    By Blogger Jeff, At 5:17 PM, April 11, 2006  

  • Garry,
    You're inserting too much logic. Just hate Bush. That way everything you can form into an impeachable offense makes sense, and is true because you want it to be true. Just hate Bush. After all, he's just the President of the United States. No respect needed.

    By Anonymous Alex, At 7:29 AM, April 12, 2006  

  • Well Alex, one can hardly blame folks like my friend Jeff for their attitudes towards the Administration, give the shoddy - and sometimes intentionally misleading - reporting by major media on some of the issues.

    Speaking of which, Jeff - no, not every speech leading up to the war was only about WMD - people have short memories, apparently. For example, consider this speech from Sept. 2002, given just a few weeks before the House and the Senate voted on the use of force resolution, when Bush addressed the UN General Assembly:

    "The United States has no quarrel with the Iraqi people; they've suffered too long in silent captivity. Liberty for the Iraqi people is a great moral cause, and a great strategic goal. The people of Iraq deserve it; the security of all nations requires it. Free societies do not intimidate through cruelty and conquest, and open societies do not threaten the world with mass murder. The United States supports political and economic liberty in a unified Iraq"

    Or this, from the infamous 2003 SOTU:

    "And as we and our coalition partners are doing in Afghanistan, we will bring to the Iraqi people food and medicines and supplies -- and freedom.

    "Americans are a resolute people who have risen to every test of our time. Adversity has revealed the character of our country, to the world and to ourselves. America is a strong nation, and honorable in the use of our strength. We exercise power without conquest, and we sacrifice for the liberty of strangers."

    And for the record, Iraq did have unaccounted for stocks of WMDs, according to UNSCOM and UNMOVIC. Or was Clinton lying when he said:

    "People can quarrel with whether we should have more troops in Afghanistan or internationalize Iraq or whatever, but it is incontestable that on the day I left office, there were unaccounted for stocks of biological and chemical weapons."

    And Iraq did have links to al-Qaeda - did you not read the 9/11 Commission Report? And Iraq gave support to other terrorist groups that have attacked and killed Americans - Abu Nidal, Abdul Rahman Yasin, and Abu Abbas, for example. Yasin, by the way, was part of the first WTC bombing in 1993.

    And I can't believe you bring up the Downing Street Memo, which all but the battiest of moonbats still cling to. Perhaps you should read the whole thing, and you will see that in context "intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy" meant "being assmebled around". If those present at the meeting really believed "fixed" meant "manufactured", then one wonders why they were so concerned about Iraq using WMD. From the DSM:

    "For instance, what were the consequences, if Saddam used WMD on day one, or if Baghdad did not collapse and urban warfighting began? You said that Saddam could also use his WMD on Kuwait. Or on Israel, added the Defence Secretary."

    The above doesn't make a lot of sense if the British cabinet ministers "knew" that Iraq had no WMD, and intelligence was being "fixed" simply to justify war. "Daming evidence" indeed...

    By Blogger Garry, At 11:37 AM, April 12, 2006  

  • Garry,

    From the 9/11 report:

    “We have no credible evidence that Iraq and al-Qaida cooperated on attacks against the United States.”

    The two quotes from Bush's speeches that you pull aren't too good either considering that the majority of both speeches concerned WMD and links to al Qaida. That was the major selling point. To say otherwise is naive at best and willfully misleading at worst.

    From the Downing Street Memo:

    "C reported on his recent talks in Washington. There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. The NSC had no patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime's record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action."


    "The Foreign Secretary said he would discuss this with Colin Powell this week. It seemed clear that Bush had made up his mind to take military action, even if the timing was not yet decided. But the case was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbours, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran. We should work up a plan for an ultimatum to Saddam to allow back in the UN weapons inspectors. This would also help with the legal justification for the use of force.

    The Attorney-General said that the desire for regime change was not a legal base for military action. There were three possible legal bases: self-defence, humanitarian intervention, or UNSC authorisation. The first and second could not be the base in this case. Relying on UNSCR 1205 of three years ago would be difficult. The situation might of course change."

    A couple of points stand out:

    1- Bush was already decided on going to war. However, he was telling the American public that war was not inevitable at the time.

    2- WMD and terrorism were to be the justifications for war. BUT, "the case was thin," so the "intelligence was being fixed around the policy."

    3- There was little talk of what to do in the aftermath. We're seeing the results of that now.

    Your interpretation of that statement on "fixing the intelligence around the policy" is puzzling. The quotes you cite are from planning the war. They are contingency plans, "what if" scenarios. They are not from the section dedicated to the justification of the war. I think that your point of view is a stretch. "Fixed" is a very poor choice of words to say "being assembled around." But, even with your reading of it, it implies cherry-picking intel that supports the policy, hardly a method of finding the truth.

    Clinton lied. Okay, it wouldn't be the first time. I'll buy that since there is ample evidence to support it.

    I guess I'm just a moonbat with no logic, but I find my point of view very logical. Especially with new reports every day that Bush knew the evidence he was supplying was bogus.

    Considering that I voted for Bush in 2000, I'd hardly say that my position on him is based purely on hatred. I've changed my mind based on his policies and inconsistencies. But, Alex, if it makes you sleep better at night to think that all of this evidence is just hate-speech toward the president and illogical, go right ahead. Logic indeed....


    By Blogger Jeff, At 12:50 PM, April 12, 2006  

  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    By Blogger Jeff, At 12:50 PM, April 12, 2006  

  • Jeff - WMD was of course a major "selling point", but not the only one. I would remind you that the name of the mission was 'Operation Iraqi Freedom' - not 'Operation Iraqi WMD'.

    And the quote you cite is not from the 9/11 Report, in fact it appears nowhere in the report. The following, however, does appear (page 128):

    "On November 4, 1998, the U.S.
    Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York unsealed its indictment of Bin Ladin, charging him with conspiracy to attack U.S. defense installations.The indictment also charged that al Qaeda had allied itself with Sudan, Iran, and Hezbollah. The original sealed indictment had added that al Qaeda had 'reached an understanding with the government of Iraq that al Qaeda would not work against that government and that on particular projects, specifically including weapons development, al Qaeda would work cooperatively with the Government of Iraq.' This passage led Clarke, who for years had read intelligence reports on Iraqi-Sudanese cooperation on chemical weapons, to speculate to Berger that a large Iraqi presence at chemical facilities in Khartoum was 'probably a direct result of the Iraq­-Al Qida agreement'. Clarke added that VX precursor traces found near al Shifa were the 'exact formula used by Iraq.'"

    As to your other points:

    1. If you'd read Bob Woodward's book 'Plan of Attack', you'd know that Bush began considering war against Iraq began in late December 2001, well before the date of the meeting in the DSM memo. As well he should have - we'd just experienced the worst attack on our soil ever, and in light of the above, waiting for the UN to act after they'd already dithered for a decade was not an option.

    2. The "case was thin" according to the UK Foreign Secretary (as well as their Attorney-General ), in the context of legal justification for war, not as to whether Iraq had ties to terrorism and WMD capability.

    3. There indeed may have been "little talk of what to do in the aftermath" at that time - which makes sense since they were still formulating plans for the invasion itself. I imagine when Allied commanders were planning the Normandy invasion, not much thought was given at the time to planning for the post-war occupation of Germany.

    By Blogger Garry, At 4:44 PM, April 12, 2006  

  • Jeff,
    I don't believe you're looney. Cognitive dissonance or resentment (or boredom) will sometimes cause people to latch on to any plausible-sounding conspiracy theory instead of conceding the obvious. I never lose sleep over it.

    By Anonymous Alex, At 12:11 PM, April 14, 2006  

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