The New York Times continued its obfuscation on the Niger/uranium issue this morning. The latest article is based on the declassification of a State Department memo written in 2002 that concluded, on the basis of logistical factors, that it was unlikely that Iraq could successfully obtain uranium from Niger.
As it has on various occasions in the past, the Times pretends that this somehow contradicts the famous sixteen words in President Bush’s 2003 State of the Union address, to the effect that the British had reported that Saddam tried to buy uranium in Africa. It doesn’t, of course, and we have been over this ground so many times that it is disheartening to have to plow it again.
It seems clear that, in fact, Saddam did try to buy uranium from Niger. That’s what Joe Wilson reported to the CIA when he returned from his famous mint-tea-sipping excursion there. And, as we pointed out a long time ago, there really wasn’t any plausible purpose to an Iraqi trade mission to Niger, which we know took place, other than to try to buy uranium. This is no doubt one of the reasons why the intelligence agencies’ Consensus Intelligence Estimate of October 2002 concluded that Iraq had been “vigorously trying to procure uranium ore and yellowcake.”
So, there really isn’t any doubt about the facts: Iraq tried to buy uranium in Africa, but didn’t succeed. For the Times to pretend that the fact that it would have been difficult for Iraq to successfully obtain uranium from Niger contradicts the fact that it nevertheless tried, is ridiculous. And just about anyone should be able to understand that the fact that Saddam tried to obtain uranium, albeit unsuccessfully, was itself of great importance, since it indicated an intention to re-start his nuclear weapons program.
These points are so obvious, frankly, that it is difficult to understand how a newspaper reporter, operating in good faith, could confuse them.
UPDATE: Captain Ed has more.
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