Bu-lat-lat (boo-lat-lat) verb: to search, probe, investigate, inquire; to unearth facts
Volume 3, Number 24 July 20 - 26, 2003 Quezon City, Philippines
One War 'Fact' On Iraq Is False, What Of Others?
by Jay Bookman The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
this year, when President Bush used his State of the Union address to make his
case for war on Iraq, a central claim in his argument was false. And he had
every reason to know it was false.
to what the president told the American people, the Iraqi government had not
recently attempted to acquire uranium from Africa. But that false assertion was
fundamental to backing the president's larger claim that Iraq posed a nuclear
threat to the United States, which we now know it did not.
question then arises: Did Bush make an honest mistake, or did he and his
administration intentionally deceive the American people, in effect leading us
into war under false pretenses?
evidence so far suggests -- but does not prove -- that some officials, perhaps
officials high in the administration, knew the report was false but allowed it
to be included in the speech anyway. We do know that the president based his
claim on documents that we now know to have been forged. At first glance, that
might seem reassuring: After all, even the most sophisticated intelligence
agencies can be fooled by a sufficiently clever forgery.
all parties in this case concede that the forgeries were crude and easily
exposed. For example, U.N. officials were able to state unequivocally that the
documents had been forged, a finding that has never been challenged, after
investigating for less than two days.
the time the president made his speech in January, the CIA had possessed those
same documents for more than a year.
11 months before the president's speech, U.S. officials had dispatched a retired
ambassador to Niger to investigate whether the documents in question were valid.
That official, Joseph Wilson, quickly and easily determined that they were not,
and he reported that finding to the CIA. According to Wilson, his mission had
been instigated by questions from the office of Vice President Dick Cheney, and
the results would have been reported back to that office.
office of the vice president, I am absolutely convinced, received a very
specific response to the question it asked and that response was based upon my
trip out there," Wilson now says.
Bush administration's subsequent handling of the issue has served to compound
suspicion. It had earlier tried to defend the president's statement by
suggesting that it was also backed by some unspecified evidence in addition to
the forgeries, a line it abandoned only this week. Even then it did so
grudgingly, only after it had been cornered by Wilson's decision to go public.
it seems rather odd that the administration has demonstrated no curiosity
whatsoever about how such a misleading statement could have made its way into
such an important speech. If the CIA knew that the documents were frauds but
failed to share that data with the White House, Bush officials ought to be
outraged by that incompetence and should be scrambling to trace exactly how such
an embarrassment could have occurred.
they are not.
all that we know now, the reference to Iraq's attempt to acquire uranium from
Africa should not have been included in the State of the Union speech," an
unidentified senior Bush official conceded this week.
that's just the point. What they know now, many of them also knew back in
really comes down to the administration misrepresenting the facts on an issue
that was a fundamental justification for going to war," notes Wilson, a
career diplomat whose reputation for discretion is best illustrated by the fact
the administration selected him to go to Niger in the first place.
begs the question, what else are they lying about?"
(Jay Bookman is the deputy editorial page editor. His column appears Thursdays and Mondays.)