Sunday, July 30, 2006

Finally, It All Comes Together On Plamegate

Here is, hopefully for the last time (not likely since the Wilsons have filed a ludicrous lawsuit), the definitive word on Valerie Plame (wife of Joseph Wilson), Joseph Wilson and Saddam’s real attempt to purchase ‘yellowcake’ for uranium production. Christopher Hitchens is a highly respected writer and a liberal on all matters except the war on terror, which he accepts as a necessary condition to save modern civilization from those who would return the world to the seventh century.

fighting words (excerpts)
Case Closed
The truth about the Iraqi-Niger "yellowcake" nexus.
By Christopher Hitchens
Posted Tuesday, July 25, 2006, at 12:46 PM ET

“Now that Joseph and Valerie Wilson's fantasies of having been persecuted by high officials in the administration have been so thoroughly dispelled by Robert Novak (and now that it seems the prosecutor has determined that there was no breach of the relevant laws to begin with), we may return to the more important original question. Was there good reason to suppose that Iraqi envoys visited Niger in search of "yellowcake" uranium ore?

In a series of columns, I have argued that the answer to this is "yes," and that British intelligence was right to inform Washington to that effect. Iraq—despite having yellowcake of its own—had bought the material from Niger as early as 1981 and had not at that time informed the International Atomic Energy Agency (weapons inspectors effectively stopped Iraq's domestic yellowcake production after 1991).

On Oct. 31, 1998, Iraq announced the end of its cooperation with the U.N. inspectors, who were effectively barred from the country. A few days later, the U.N. Security Council condemned this move in Resolution 1205, dated Nov. 5, 1998. The following month, the Clinton administration ordered selective strikes in and around Baghdad. A few weeks after that—on Feb. 8, 1999, to be precise—an Iraqi delegation visited Niger. It was headed by the improbable figure of Saddam Hussein's ambassador to the Vatican. But the improbability becomes more intelligible when it is understood that this diplomat, Wissam al-Zahawie by name, was a very experienced Iraqi envoy for nuclear-related matters….

To summarize, then: In February 1999 one of Saddam Hussein's chief nuclear goons paid a visit to Niger, but his identity was not noticed by Joseph Wilson, nor emphasized in his "report" to the CIA, nor mentioned at all in his later memoir. British intelligence picked up the news of the Zahawie visit from French and Italian sources and passed it on to Washington. Zahawie's denials of any background or knowledge, in respect of nuclear matters, are plainly laughable based on his past record, and he is still taken seriously enough as an expert on such matters to be invited (as part of a Jordanian delegation) to Hans Blix's commission on WMD. Two very senior and experienced diplomats in the field of WMDs and disarmament, both of them from countries by no means aligned with the Bush administration, have been kind enough to share with me their disquiet at his activities. What responsible American administration could possibly have viewed any of this with indifference?

The subsequent mysteriously forged documents claiming evidence of an actual deal made between Zahawie and Niger were circulated well after the first British report (and may have been intended to discredit it) and have been deemed irrelevant by two independent inquiries in London. The original British report carefully said that Saddam had "sought" uranium, not that he had acquired it. The possible significance of a later return visit—this time by a minister from Niger to Baghdad in 2001—has not as yet been clarified by the work of the Iraq Survey Group.

This means that both pillars of the biggest scandal-mongering effort yet mounted by the "anti-war" movement—the twin allegations of a false story exposed by Wilson and then of a state-run vendetta undertaken against him and the lady wife who dispatched him on the mission—are in irretrievable ruins. The truth is the exact polar opposite. The original Niger connection was both authentic and important, and Wilson's utter failure to grasp it or even examine it was not enough to make Karl Rove even turn over in bed. All the work of the supposed "outing" was inadvertently performed by Wilson's admirer Robert Novak. Of course, one defends the Bush administration at one's own peril. Thanks largely to Stephen Hadley, assistant to the president for national security affairs, our incompetent and divided government grew so nervous as to disown the words that appeared in the 2003 State of the Union address. But the facts are still the facts, and it is high time that they received one-millionth of the attention that the "Plamegate" farce has garnered.”

Christopher Hitchens is a columnist for Vanity Fair. His most recent book is Thomas Jefferson: Author of America.

Copyright 2006 Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive Co. LLC

Go here to read his entire article

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At 4:42 AM, Anonymous Joe Alves Jr. said...

It's funny that no information has come out about whether Valerie's job at that time was covert. I'm thinking that they are trying to save her the embarrassment by not letting the folks know that she was a desk jockey. This whole thing is laughable. They've wasted more time and money on these two fools and completely ignored the questionable actions of Sandy "Burglar", who was caught stuffing classified info in his stockings and underwear. All I can say is, thank God for Howard Dean. This country can use a laugh now and then.


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