Someone is on trial for conspiracy to commit murder. The defense has just called their star witness, a former investigator for the police who did some investigation on the case at his former employer's behest.
Defense attorney: "What evidence did you uncover to substantiate the prosecution's charges?"
Star witness: "Nothing! There was no evidence that the defendant committed a murder. Everyone I spoke with knew that no murder had been committed. Why, the alleged victim is in court, so how could a murder have been committed?"
Defense attorney: "No further questions."
Sounds absurd, doesn't it? It get's worse.
DA: "Did you uncover any evidence that the defendant attempted to hire someone to murder the victim?"
Star Witness: "Well, I did find someone who said that a freind of the defendant approached him about committing the murder."
DA: "Well, doesn't that support the charge?"
Star Witness: "Is that the best evidence you have? Get real. What I uncovered doesn't prove that he conspired to murder anyone."
What is this farce an analogy of? The claims made by Joe Wilson and the various "Bush Lied"TM proponents, of course.
Re-read Wilson's screed printed in the NYT. Some relevant quotes:
I was not surprised when the ambassador told me that she knew about the allegations of uranium sales to Iraq, and that she felt she had already debunked them in her reports to Washington.
It did not take long to conclude that it was highly doubtful that any such transaction had ever taken place.
Now the conflation begins:
Then, in January, President Bush, citing the British dossier, repeated the charges about Iraqi efforts to buy uranium from Africa.
The next day, I reminded a friend at the State Department of my trip and suggested that if the president had been referring to Niger, then his conclusion was not borne out by the facts as I understood them.
The question now is how that answer was or was not used by our political leadership. If my information was deemed inaccurate, I understand (though I would be very interested to know why). If, however, the information was ignored because it did not fit certain preconceptions about Iraq, then a legitimate argument can be made that we went to war under false pretenses.
However Bush never charged that Saddam purchased uranium from Niger, he instead charged (that the British had intelligence which indicated) that he had ATTEMPTED to purchase uranium from Africa. The actual "16 words" from the SOTU:
The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.
What did Wilson write which contradicted this simple statement? Not a single thing. Yet, as in my analogy, it gets worse.
From Tenet's July 11th statement:
He [Wilson] reported back to us that one of the former Nigerien officials he met stated that he was unaware of any contract being signed between Niger and rogue states for the sale of uranium during his tenure in office. The same former official also said that in June 1999 a businessman approached him and insisted that the former official meet with an Iraqi delegation to discuss "expanding commercial relations" between Iraq and Niger. The former official interpreted the overture as an attempt to discuss uranium sales.
From Condoleeza Rice:
The other thing is that the reporting, at least, of what Ambassador Wilson told the CIA debriefers says that, yes, Niger denied that there had been such a deal made, that they had sold uranium to the Iraqis.
It also apparently says, according to this report, it also apparently says that one of the people who was meeting with the Iraqis thought that they might, in fact, be trying to use commercial activity to talk about yellow cake.
So what the director says in his statement is that they believed, when they looked at what was reported about the Wilson trip, that it was inconclusive. They therefore did not brief it to the president, the vice president or any senior officials.
From British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw:
But, as CNN have reported, Ambassador Wilson's report also noted that in 1999 an Iraqi delegation sought the expansion of trade links with Niger -- and that former Niger government officials believed that this was in connection with the procurement of yellowcake.
"Uranium is Niger's main export. In other words, this element of Ambassador Wilson's report supports the statement in the government's dossier.
So, according to three different officials who had access to Wilson's debriefings, he DID uncover evidence regarding Saddam seeking to purchase uranium. This evidence SUPPORTED Bush's statement. Yet, somehow, the only truly relevant information that Wilson uncovered missed being included in his article. I wonder how that happened.
To make matters even worse, when Wilson was informed that his lie of ommission had been uncovered and exposed, what was his response? In an interview by Time:
Wilson dismissed the suggestion, included in CIA Director George Tenet's own mea culpa last week, that this validates what the President claimed in this State of the Union address: "That then translates into an Iraqi effort to import a significant quantity of uranium as the President alleged? These guys really need to get serious."
Of course, no Administration source has made the claim that his report was the only basis for the claim. In fact, they readily acknowledge that his report in and of itself was 'weak' and 'inconclusive'. What they DO say, a charge that is completely supported (in stark contrast to, say, Wilson's), is that his investigation in fact buttressed the claim Bush made in the SOTU, and did nothing to dimish it.
PS Most of the information here came from:
However, as Mickey Kaus might say, he completely buried the lead (or does Kaus use the pretentious 'lede'?), by instead haring off against one of Josh Marshall's more flagrant inaccuracies.