Atrios (yes, the real McCoy) found these sentences at the end of a Los Angeles Times article: (emphasis added)
Still, [Douglas J. Feith, the No. 3 official and head of the Office of Special Plans] and other Pentagon officials said, they are studying the lessons of Iraq closely — to ensure that the next U.S. takeover of a foreign country goes more smoothly.
"We're going to get better over time," promised Lawrence Di Rita, a special assistant to Rumsfeld. "We've always thought of post-hostilities as a phase" distinct from combat, he said. "The future of war is that these things are going to be much more of a continuum.
"This is the future for the world we're in at the moment," he said. "We'll get better as we do it more often."
James M. Capozzola of the Rittenhouse Review has a great post about Norah Vincent and her failure to write anything interesting. He also links to her latest essay in the Los Angeles Times where she writes:
[An amendment forbidding gay marriage] probably won't go further than that for the simple reason that, even if such a measure passed Congress with the requisite two-thirds majority, it would be unlikely to win the support of two-thirds of the states.
The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as Part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States, or by Conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other Mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress;
At the brief "press conference" on Thursday: Q: Mr. President, others in your administration have said your words on Iraq and Africa did not belong in your State of the Union address. Will you take personal responsibility for those words? And to both of you, how is it that two major world leaders such as yourselves have had such a hard time persuading other major powers to help stabilize Iraq?
THE PRESIDENT: First, I take responsibility for putting our troops into action. And I made that decision because Saddam Hussein was a threat to our security and a threat to the security of other nations. I take responsibility for making the decision, the tough decision, to put together a coalition to remove Saddam Hussein. Because the intelligence -- not only our intelligence, but the intelligence of this great country -- made a clear and compelling case that Saddam Hussein was a threat to security and peace. I say that because he possessed chemical weapons and biological weapons. I strongly believe he was trying to reconstitute his nuclear weapons program. And I will remind the skeptics that in 1991, it became clear that Saddam Hussein was much closer to developing a nuclear weapon than anybody ever imagined. He was a threat. I take responsibility for dealing with that threat. We are in a war against terror. And we will continue to fight that war against terror. We're after al Qaeda, as the Prime Minister accurately noted, and we're dismantling al Qaeda. The removal of Saddam Hussein is an integral part of winning the war against terror. A free Iraq will make it much less likely that we'll find violence in that immediate neighborhood. A free Iraq will make it more likely we'll get a Middle Eastern peace. A free Iraq will have incredible influence on the states that could potentially unleash terrorist activities on us. And, yeah, I take responsibility for making the decisions I made. posted by Quiddity at 7/18/2003 12:36:00 AM
If you haven't heard about the "senior administration officials" who told Robert Novak that the wife of former ambassador Joseph Wilson IV was a CIA operative, then you really should check out Mark A. R. Kleiman's post. There, you can find links to the original Novak story, David Corn's piece in The Nation about it, and Calpundit's remarks as well.
Former ambassador Joseph Wilson IV speaking about policy and politics surrounding the 2003 Iraqi war
BACKGROUND: In early 2002, the Office of the Vice President requested a check of reports that Iraq was purchasing uranium from Niger. The British claimed to possess a document showing that Iraq had recently made an agreement to obtain yellowcake from Niger. American intelligence was not shown the document, nor was it told the details about how it was obtained. As it turned out, the document was a crude forgery with glaring errors (dates, people involved). When the contents of the document were shared in 2003 with the IAEA, that organization was able to determine in two days that the document was bogus.
In early 2002, a former ambassador to several African states, Joseph Wilson IV, was dispatched to check out the Niger-uranium story. He went to Niger, and determined to his satisfaction that there was no truth to the British claim. He reported back, and presumed that the OVP and intelligence agencies were told of his findings.
However, the Iraq-Niger claim did manage to get into the State of the Union address - but in less specific terms. "Africa" was mentioned instead of "Niger", and it was attributed to British intelligence because the U.S. could not verify the claim.
By June of 2003, and in light of the failure to find any WMD in Iraq, closer scrutiny was given to the SOTU and in particular to the line about Africa. That was when the public learned that a "former ambassador" had gone to check out the story. The issue became so hot that the former ambassador wrote an Op-Ed in the New York Times in early July, identifying himself as Joseph Wilson IV. In the Op-Ed, Wilson was critical of the Bush administration's handling of intelligence and of the case it made for war.
On 14 June 2003, Joseph Wilson IV gave a speech at the Education for Peace in Iraq center.
The Education for Peace in Iraq center has a website with a small item about Wilson, but it's only about his more recent New York Times Op-Ed. The archives section only goes forward to May 2003. Their website is slow, and they have a note about technical problems.
UPDATE: A webpage has (re)emerged which lists all of the speakers at the June 14 forum held at the Education for Peace in Iraq center. Wilson is listed near the bottom of the page, where you can listen to an MP3 (either as an audio stream or after downloading)..
On 10 July 2003, Democracy Now reported on the speech.
Democracy Now has a website with a page about Wilson's speech. It can be heard with RealAudio (the link is here) To hear Wilson, go to the 30-minute mark.
No transcripts of Wilson's speech could be found on either the Education for Peace in Iraq or Democracy Now websites.
A transcript (below) was made from the audio feed.
In the speech, Wilson speaks about an "unnamed former ambassador." He is referring to himself.
The speech: (emphasis and formatting added)
To those of you who are going out and lobbying tomorrow, I want to assure you that that American ambassador who has been cited in reports in the New York Times and in the Washington Post and now in the Guardian over in London, who actually went over to Niger on behalf of the government - not of the CIA, but of the government - and came back in February of 2002 and told the government there was nothing to this story. Later called the government after the British white paper was published and said, "You all need to do some fact-checking and make sure the Brits aren't using bad information in the publication of a white paper. And who called both the CIA and the State Department after the president's State of the Union, and said to them, "You need to worry about the political manipulation of intelligence if in fact the president is talking about Niger when he mentions Africa."
That person was told by the State Department that "Well, you know, there's four countries that export uranium." That person had served in three of those countries so he knew a little about what he was talking about when he said, "You really need to worry about this." But I can assure you that that "retired ambassador to Africa," Nicholas Kristof called him in his article, is also pissed off and has every intention of insuring that this story has legs. I think it does have legs. It may not have legs over the next two or three months, but when you see American casualties moving from one to five or to ten per day, and you see Tony Blair's government fall because in the UK it is a big story, there will be some ramifications I think here in the United States. So I hope you will do everything you can to keep the pressure on because it is absolutely bogus for us to have gone to war the way we did.
As I used to say when I was doing my interviews before the war, the issue of weapons of mass destruction is primordial. It is important. It was absolutely vital that we correct the policing operation associated with Resolution 687, which was the resolution that said Saddam shall not have weapons of mass destruction. That was the piece that was broken. Correcting that, which we did essentially by 1441, was the right thing to do. Going from 1441 to an invasion, conquest, and occupation war was not the right thing to do.
I am struck also by some of the numbers that keep turning around in my head as I look at this. The president said, "I've got four reasons for going to war in Iraq."
One, weapons of mass destruction,
which was handled by 1441 unanimously, but that wasn't going to get him to war so long as you had an inspection process in place.
We wanted to stamp out terrorism. This was part of our war on terrorism. Now here in the United States on September 11th 2001 we suffered the loss of two buildings in New York and severe damage to one building in Washington, and we suffered the loss of roughly 3,000 lives. In Iraq during the "Shock and Awe" bombing campaign, we now know that over 3,000 Iraqis were killed. We ought to assume that the better part of Baghdad currently suffers from Post Traumatic Shock Syndrome in addition to everything else they suffer from. And lord knows how many buildings in downtown Baghdad and elsewhere in the country were destroyed.
And it was one thing to watch the war on Fox News, CNN, and ABC, where everybody tried to put a bigger American flag on their TV station than the next person. It was quite another thing to watch the war through the lens of al-Jazeera or any of the other Arabic newspapers. Where every child that was killed or maimed, or every building that was hit, or Baghdad in flames by night, resonated in a far different way than it resonated in the United States.
Now in our war on terrorism, how can we possibly assume that the anger that we felt when 3,000 of our fellow citizens were killed, is not going to be felt in spades, not just in Iraq where 3,000 deaths represents by, relative to the total population, ten times the number of deaths that we suffered in our terrorist attack. Or throughout the rest of the world.
So if in fact, you buy into the idea that this is part of our war on terrorism, guess what? We have created - and the polls show this - an entire generation of Arabs who essentially is going to hate the United States and Americans. And if they remain disaffected they are a wonderful recruiting tool for al Qaeda and al Qaeda-like organizations, going forward.
Of course, we didn't find any terrorists when we got to Iraq. Just as we haven't yet found any weapons of mass destruction, though on that score I remain of the view that we will find biological and chemical weapons. And we may well find something that indicates that Saddam's regime maintained an interest in nuclear weapons. It's not surprising if you live in the part of the world where you do have a nuclear armed country - enemy of yours - that is just a country away from you.
The third reason of course, the president mentioned, was the transfer of weapons of mass destruction from a rogue nation and a rogue government to international terrorists.
George Tenet testified up on the Hill, and his testimony was - I wrote something similar in an article I wrote for the San Jose Mercury News - he testified that, "Yeah, it was entirely possible that Saddam would transfer weapons of mass destruction to international terrorists, but only in extremis." That essentially if you are an autocratic thug which Saddam is, and was - certainly was, he's still a thug even if he no longer has the totalitarian powers he once had - you're not going to give up control of something to a group that you don't have any control over. It just doesn't make any sense, particularly given the fact that Saddam's not a dumb man. He's a sociopath. He's a killer. He's not dumb. He knew and has known for years that anytime anything happens to American interests, the first place we look is at Iraq.
On September 10th, Saddam was riding high. There was absolutely no reason for him to be involved on September 11th. He had essentially worked his way pretty much back into the Arab League. The sanctions regime had been eased so he could get more of the stuff that he needed both to enrich himself and keep his country's population at bay. There's absolutely no reason for him to have been involved in September 11th. And indeed, it's clear that he wasn't. Even though, by the time we went to war the majority of the population thought it was Iraqis who had been involved in September 11th.
The fourth reason ...
And oh, by the way, if you buy into the transfer theory, guess what? That transfer has probably already occurred. You've heard recently reports to the effect that we did not secure the nuclear site, for example, until it had been thoroughly looted. Lord know how many other high priority weapons of mass destruction sites were not secured. If ever there was an indication this was not a weapons of mass destruction war, it ought to be in the sloppiness of the battle plan that did not have the securing of these sites on the first day.
The fourth reason that the president gave was the liberation of the Iraqi people,
which is indeed a noble cause. And everybody who has ever been to Iraq or who knows anything about the Baath regime of Saddam Hussein, knows that it is, or was one of the two most repressive and most dangerous and most belligerent regimes towards its own people, in the world.
The question really comes down to whether it is the job of American soldiers to go over and liberate Iraqi people. And the argument that I would make is that every time we've had this debate - and it happens every four years when we do the Quadrennial Review - we conclude that it is the role of the American military to defend the national security of the United States. We have other organizations. We have other tools. We won the Cold War. We liberated Eastern and Central Europe without killing Rumanians, Bulgarians, Poles, Czechs, Slavs. It takes a little more patience. It takes a little more creativity. People in the intelligence community, people in the diplomatic community, people in the economic sanctions community, people in the political community, have to work a lot harder. It doesn't show up on your television screens as "Shock and Awe," the burning of Baghdad at night. Or the firebombing of Dresden. But it yields results. But this administration could not be patient.
The other figure of course, that strikes me, is we've got about 180 Americans dead. Another 40 or 50 Allied troops dead. That is roughly four times the amount of Iraqis from the Diaspora who actually showed up when the Pentagon said it was going to raise an Iraqi liberation force. Now I don't know how hard the Pentagon went out and recruited Iraqis from the Diaspora of roughly four million. And I don't really know how many Iraqis are of that fighting age. But I do know, and as you see on the streets of Tehran today, that in order to have a liberation strategy you have to have people who are willing to fight for their own liberation. Otherwise you will never get that "liberation bounce" that Ken Adleman promised us, that Richard Perle promised us, when they said Iraqis would be cheering from the rooftops at our marching in there.
And I have always said that no matter how much the Iraqis hated Saddam Hussein, we ought not to assume that that was automatically going to transfer for love and affection for the Americans. 'Cause first and foremost, Iraqis are an extraordinarily proud people. They have a long and distinguished history. More of them remember the exploits of Saladin and Nebuchadnezzar than Americans remember Washington, Lincoln, or Al Gore. (laughter) I mention Al Gore because it's more recent. They know what it's like to be conquered. They were under the Ottomans for several hundred years. They know what it's like to be conquerors. They don't like being conquered. They particularly don't like to be conquered - or one should have assumed from the very beginning they weren't going to like being conquered - by a couple of countries that have been in the forefront of maintaining economic sanctions on the population for twelve long years. Which economic sanctions devastated the middle class - the glue that holds a society together. This is a proud people that we had already brought to it's knees over twelve years.
We could have done this much differently.
Now there were three or four different foreign policy agendas in play here, only one which was true.
There was the weapons of mass destruction agenda, which was handled by 1441.
There was the terrorism agenda, which was handled by Afghanistan.
When Carl Levin and I debated Jim Woolsey and John McCain on Nightline, Ted Kopple started the evening by saying, "There's an old Arab saying ..." (I think actually it's a Chinese saying but he said it was an Arab saying) "that says, 'Sometimes to get the monkey's attention, you kill the chicken'". Well we did that. We did that in Afghanistan.
And if in fact the monkeys whose attention we were trying to get were the other two countries of the Axis of Evil - North Korea and Iran, let me suggest to you that there were two lessons they took away from it.
One was, "We'd better get nuked up real quick so that if these guys decide to come after us we have our deterrence in place."
And two was, "They're not going to come after us. We're too strong. They went after the weak sister. They went after the country whose army they had already defeated twelve years ago. Whose army they'd kept under economic sanctions, whose population they'd kept under economic sanctions for twelve years, and whose anti-aircraft and other defenses they had run a several month long campaign to deteriorate and degrade before they ran the march to Baghdad."
Which by the way, as valiant as our solders was, this was not the liberation of Paris. The only thing that slowed down our juggernaut getting into Baghdad was the speed limit signs on the highways going up there. And I mean no disrespect to our military in this. We run military campaigns very well. But we were not running a military campaign against the elite of the elites. As somebody said, "This was like the New York Yankees playing Podunk High." And even our military - I used to be political advisor to Commander in Chief Armed Forces Europe, I still have contacts with command - even some of our military officers were absolutely dismayed at the slaughter they were inflicting on poorly trained, poorly equipped, Iraqi conscripts on the way up there. All this will come back to haunt us.
Weapons of mass destruction, terrorism, liberation, were the three agendas.
The real agenda in all of this of course, was to redraw the political map of the Middle East.
Now that is code, whether you like it or not, but it is code for putting into place the strategy memorandum that was done by Richard Perle and his study group in the mid-90's which was called, "A Clean Break - A New Strategy for the Realm." And what it is - cut to the quick - is if you take out some of these countries, some of these governments that are antagonistic to Israel then you provide the Israeli government with greater wherewithal to impose its terms and conditions upon the Palestinian people - whatever those terms and conditions might be. In other words, the road to peace in the Middle East goes through Baghdad and Damascus. Maybe Tehran. And maybe Cairo and maybe Tripoli if these guys actually have their way. Rather than going through Jerusalem.
Now it's pretty clear to me, looking at the way in which the Palestinians and the way Hamas has reacted to the road map, that in fact, you've got real problems on two fronts in the Middle East now.
But that is the real agenda.
You can put weapons of mass destruction out there. You can put terrorism out there. You can put liberation out there.
Weapons of mass destruction got hard-headed realists on board - through a bunch of lies as I've said.
Terrorism got everybody who was still reacting viscerally to 9-11 on board.
And liberation got liberals, bleeding hearts, on board. Americans who hate dictators, on board.
End of speech
NOTE: We are well aware that when speaking about Israel one must be careful, lest the argument be misconstrued as modern day form of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. However, we felt that Wilson was a person of long experience whose views were worthy of exposition - especially since he is a key figure in the current Niger affair.
... Senate Budget Committee Democratic aides said yesterday that the $450 billion deficit understates the problems, because it is offset by more than $150 billion in Social Security taxes that are being spent on other programs. If those taxes were not included, the deficit would jump from about 4.2 percent of the gross domestic product to 5.6 percent, a level rivaling the Reagan-era deficits.
The graphic that went with the story should be modified from this:
In the wake of the SOTU flap, we thought we'd drop by Brent Bozell's (conservative and hapless) Media Research Center to see what they had to say. Alas, not very much. Nothing at all about the Sunday political talk shows. In fact the only item of note was this scorcher:
Clift Puts Bush Team’s Credibility Gap at 9 on 1 to 10 Scale Newsweek’s Eleanor Clift put the Bush administration’s “credibility gap” at a very high “eight or a nine,” she asserted on the McLaughlin Group over the weekend. In the wake of the controversy over the State of the Union address and the lack of any weapons of mass destruction being found, John McLaughlin asked the group to rate the administration’s “credibility gap” with zero representing no gap and ten representing a “metaphysical gap.” Clift replied: “With all of that, and also throw in the fact that they’re stonewalling the 9-11 commission, making it hard for them to do their work, it’s up to an eight or a nine.”
There you have it. A pundit offering an opinion on a freewheeling and generally-conservative forum is considered another instance of liberal media bias. Wow.
Defenders of Bush, like Fred Barnes, point out that the Africa-uranium line in the State of the Union speech was only sixteen words long, and therefore a trifle and not worth a big fuss. But you can say very important things in sixteen words. For example:
It turns out you can get a transcript of Rumsfeld's recent interview on ABC's This Week over at the DoD. Here is our favorite exchange (emphasis added, of course!):
STEPHANOPOULOS: They've found weapons? [in Iraq]
RUMSFELD: They have found things-- they have not found things that when one aggregates them and looks at them that they would say, "Aha, there it is," but they are finding things, and then what they do is, they take the materials, and they send them to several different laboratories to be tested. Then it comes back, and it's not what you thought it might be. They send some more out, and it comes back, and it's a dual use. It could be this or it could be that -- something civilian or something military, and that process just -- we just have to be patient.
Timeline for the Niger/Africa/yellowcake story (derived from information at Altercation and Time)
Iraq made two purchases of uranium oxide from Niger totaling more than 300 tons.
Iraq's nuclear-weapons program was dismantled after the first Gulf War.
The Italian government came into possession of evidence suggesting that Iraq was again trying to purchase yellowcake from Niger.
The Vice President asked a question about the implication of the Italian report.
Joe Wilson IV dispatched to check out the story. Spends eight days in Niger.
late Feb 2002
The State Department's intelligence arm had sent a memo directly to Secretary of State Colin Powell that also disputed the Italian intelligence.
Wilson gave an oral report about his trip to both CIA and State Department officials.
9 Mar 2002
CIA circulated a memo on the yellowcake story that was sent to the White House, summarizing Wilson's assessment.
After Tenet left a closed hearing on Capitol Hill, the nuclear question arose, and a lower-ranking official admitted to the lawmakers that the agency had doubts about the veracity of the evidence.
The CIA tried to persuade the British government to drop the allegation completely
In with caveats
CIA officials included the Brits' yellowcake story in their classified 90-page National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq's weapons programs. The CIA said it could neither verify the Niger story nor "confirm whether Iraq succeeded in acquiring uranium ore and/or yellowcake" from two other African nations. The agency also included the State Department's concerns that the allegations of Iraq's seeking yellowcake were "highly dubious"though that assessment was printed only as a footnote.
Tenet personally intervened with National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice's deputy, Stephen Hadley, to remove a line about the African ore in a speech that Bush was giving in Cincinnati,
The State Department included the Niger claim in its public eight-point rebuttal to the 12,200-page arms declaration that Iraq made to the U.N. two weeks earlier.
When the International Atomic Energy Agency, a U.N. group, asked the U.S. for data to back up its claim in December, Washington sat tight and said little for six weeks.
In an op-ed column in The New York Times titled Why We Know Iraq Is Lying, top Bush aide Rice appeared to repeat the yellowcake claim, saying, The declaration fails to account for or explain Iraqs efforts to get uranium from abroad.
A top cia analyst named Alan Foley objected to including the allegation in the speech.
CIA allegedly allowed it back in the Jan. 28 State of the Union
Colin Powell omitted any reference to the uranium when he briefed the U.N. Security Council.
The State Department-funded Voice of America broadcast a story on Feb. 20, claiming, U.S. officials tell VOA [that] Iraq and Niger signed an agreement in the summer of 2000 to resume shipments for an additional 500 tons of yellow cake,
You can read the transcript at Fox News, or in the table below. Of interest is Rice's assertion that "we put together a lot of documentation from all kinds of sources and give that to the speech writers" (mentioned twice).
The White House since has disclaimed the statement, and CIA Director George Tenet has accepted responsibility for failing to strike the sentence from the text. But was the sentence, in fact, untrue? Joining us to discuss this and other matters is National Security Advisor, Condoleezza Rice
Good morning Tony.
Good morning. Let's talk about the president's statement. Is it not true that the British had in fact an intelligence estimate that Saddam was seeking uranium from Africa.
Absolutely. And their are two things about this Tony. First of all it is ludicrous to suggest that the President of the United States went to war on the question of whether Saddam Hussein sought uranium from Africa. This was part of a very broad case that the president laid out in the State of the Union and other places. But the statement that he made was indeed accurate. The British government did say that. Not only was the statement accurate, there were statements of this kind in the National Intelligence Estimate and the British themselves stand by that statement to this very day, saying that they had sources other than sources that have now been called into question. to back up that claim. We have no reason not to believe them. What we have said is that we have a higher standard for presidental speeches than just "was this accurate". And we don't put everything into presidential speeches - intelligence documents like the NIE. We send them out to [sic] clearance to the relevant agencies and to the NSC principals and we ask the question, "Will you stand behind this statement?"
They weren't "called into question". They were known to be false. What could be better than "accurate"? Who are the NSC principals?
Allright, so the statement is true and if the president said it today, it would still be true.
If the president said that statement, it would still be true today. But the problem is we have a higher standard, as George Tenet said in his statement, than just the accuracy of the statement. We wante it to be based - for the president - on the firmest possible intelligence, and that's why we go through the clearance process.
Higher standard than true.
Do you believe Iraqi businessmen in Niger were trying, maybe not successfully, trying to cut deals to get uranium?
Given Saddam Hussein's history of trying to get nuclear weapons, and being close when the IAEA got there in 1991, I think it's entirely possible he was doing that. However, we can't base a claim like that on speculation. We cannot place it even on the fact that there was some reporting - if we're going to put it into a presidential speech.
But that's what Wolfowitz has been doing all the time - speculating about Hussein's actions.
Just to follow up, was Iraq trying to procure uranium elsewhere in Africa?
We have reporting that the Iraqis were trying to procure uranium in countries other than Niger (which has been called into question). And again, what is cited in the president's speech is the British report. The British stand by their statement. They have told us that dispite the fact that we had some concerns about that report, that they had other sources, and that they stand by the statement.
What's meant by "we have reporting that ..."?
Have you been privy to those sources and that information?
The British have reasons because of the arrangements that they made, apparently in receiving those sources, that they cannot share them with us.
British cannot share! Some allies.
When they have information of that sort and they've passed on in the past, has it generally been reliable?
We have every reason to believe that the British services are quite reliable, but I want to return to the point that we are making, first of all this was a point in a very broad speech, and secondly, we do have a standard for the president's speech, that was not met here.
Kind of implies that for non-presidential speeches (e.g. Fleischer press briefing, Cheney speeches, Rumsfeld testimony) the standard is less than the truth.
Well he also talked about aluminum tubes, and it turns out that wasn't the case. Why was that included in the speech?
The Central Intelligence Agency, the DCI, said that the aluminum tubes - dispite the fact that there was an objection from one agency - from a couple of intelligence agencies - the collective judgement of the intelligence agencies was that he had aquired those nuclear tubes for the purpose of centrifuge construction.
A couple of agencies objected. Nuclear tubes!
Since then it's been knocked down.
Since then there have been questions raised about it, but the DCI continues to stand by the view that all of this was a part of a procurement effort ...
Passing the buck.
The DCI is the Director of Central Intelligence.
Right. Continues to stand by the procurement effort that was under way to reconstitute the Iraqi nuclear program. The president relies on a National Intelligence Estimate which is a coordinated product of the intelligence agency, coordinated by the Director of Central Intelligence.
Isn't that the NSC's job?
Based on what you know, would it be safe to say Saddam did not have nuclear weapons. He wanted to reconstitute the program but did not have nuclear weapons when the war commenced.
I believe that if you look back, Tony, we never said we thought he had nuclear weapons. This was an issue of reconstition. How quickly he might be able to reconstitute a vast infrastructure that was still in place. Of the fact that we missed the last time around how close he was to a nuclear weapon. The reconstitution case was based on a number of issues: the procurement, the brainpower of the scientists, the effort to get high quality components for centrifuges. We have found, for instance, with the scientists that we found that he was buring pieces of centrifuges in back yards.
You get a scientist who buried stuff in his front yard for a dozen years. Does that take it to the president and to your satisfaction, provide proof positive of a program of weapons of mass destruction?
We are looking at an entire range of documents, and there are thousands and thousands of documents to be reviewed, interviews with scientists, the fact that there were missing or unaccounted for weapons. What we've done is to have David Kay, respected former inspector, go out to Iraq. He's going to put together the whole picture of how he, Saddam Hussein, concealed. But we're quite certain there was an advanced weapons of mass destruction program, and indeed what happened to the missing weapons of mass destruction that were cited in numerous U.N. reports.
Rice & Co. know for a fact that Hussein "concealed."
So you believe that David Kay will find weapons of mass destruction.
I believe that we will find the truth, and I believe that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.
David Kay has given a briefing recently to members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, who, in turn, have said that he has put together what they call a smoking gun. Now, Americans have heard this before, and they're becoming skeptical about such reports. Number one, does David Kay have evidence that, if the American public saw it, it would resolve the issue immediately?
Tony, we're going to wait until we can put together a picture that is more complete than the one that we have now. It took Saddam Hussein 12 years to get into a position of deceiving weapons inspectors. He built a program that we believe was built for concealment. And it's going to take some time to unravel this. We've got lots of people to interview, lots of documents to go through. And I don't think we want to get into a premature discussion or characterization of what we're finding.
Is it the case that many of your sources are going to be afraid to talk until they're sure Saddam Hussein's dead?
Well, there's no doubt that there is still some residual fear among the Iraqi people. If you remember, way back at the time of the U.N., when we were working with Hans Blix, we wanted him to take people out of the country, because we didn't think they would speak freely. They certainly are in a position to speak more freely now, but, obviously, Saddam Hussein still has henchmen around who are trying to threaten their fellow countrymen in the way that they threatened their countrymen before he was thrown out of power.
Speaking of which, do you think Saddam has any role in coordinating attacks against Americans or allies right now?
I don't know, but I will say this: He's not in power. He ruled the old-fashioned way, which was by secret police and torture chambers and prisons and the army and territory and wealth. And he's stripped of all of that. Now, there is no doubt that it will be a very good thing for the reconciliation and closure for the Iraqi people when we can say precisely what happened to Saddam Hussein and his sons. But let's remember, he's out of power. And just today, there's about to be a new governing council of Iraqis who will start to look toward the future for Iraq, to appoint ministers, to put together a budget, to do the things that the Iraqi people really want to do. And those henchmen who spent almost 30 years oppressing the Iraqi people are still trying to stifle their success. They're not going to succeed.
I want to talk more about Iraq in a moment. But let's get back to the State of the Union address and some of the stories. "The Washington Post" today has a story that when the president spoke in Cincinnati, Ohio, on October 7th last year, the CIA director, George Tenet, directly struck out a reference to yellow cakes from Niger. And he passed that word on to Steve Hadley, who was your deputy. Did you know at the time about the striking of that sentence?
I saw the speech after it has been struck. But let me just say, the Cincinnati speech was constructed apparently with a reference to a specific incident, one specific incident, based on a specific source. The director told Steve Hadley in a brief conversation that he didn't want taken out, without question, taken out. Now, the State of the Union was then constructed with language that was broader than a single incident and a single place and a particular quantity.
It was based instead on broader information, including the British report, which the British say is broader.
Brtish say broader. Again, going on British say-so.
All right, so when people are saying that the sentence in the State of the Union is simply a clever way of covering up a discredited story about yellow cakes from Niger, you say that's not true. There were more sources of what?
There were broader statements taken out of the NIE than this...
The National Intelligence Estimate.
The National Intelligence Estimate than that particular story which had been in the Cincinnati speech. We then sent what was in the State of the Union out for clearance. There was some discussion about what should be said, how much could be said. The sentence that was agreed upon, which is the one that appeared, "The British intelligence services have found" so forth and so on, was then cleared as a part of the speech in its entirety by the DCI.
But last month on Meet the Press, Rice said "The president quoted a British paper. We did not know at the time. No one knew at the time, in our circles. Maybe someone knew down in the bowels of the agency, but no one in our circles knew that there were doubts and suspicions that this might be a forgery."
As you know, I've worked on State of the Union addresses. And typically, guidance for that kind of language comes from your office, from the National Security Council. The CIA doesn't talk to speech writers, at least not very often.
No, that's right.
Well, in fact, what we do is that we put together a lot of documentation from all kinds of sources and give that to the speech writersas grist to write from.
Who put the Niger-uranium story into the documentation that was given to the speech writers?
Yes, and you approve I mean, quite often, your office drafts language. Did your talking points include mention of the possibility that Saddam was trying to obtain uranium from Africa?
What was given to the speech writers was, in effect, data from various sources about the nuclear activities of Saddam Hussein. The National Intelligence Estimate had references to uranium acquisition, not only to the specific source, the specific case. And that was, I understand, given to the speech writers; they wrote it. But what we do, Tony and I want to be very clear is that it is also the practice, once something is written, to send it out to the agencies and to say, "Will you stand by this?"
Who collected the "data from various sources"? What kind of references? Were the references to the effect that the story was likely false?
Right. So you now say that it doesn't rise to the standard. Is the president mad? The president ought to be ticked about this.
The president understands that what he said was, first of all, accurate, but secondly, that we have higher standards for what he says. And the reason that we send this out in the clearance process is because we're trying to meet that higher standard.
OK, the question that people have is I mean, you keep talking about a higher standard, and yet this got through. There had been specific requests to delete something that was similar from an October speech. How did it happen?
Tony, first of all, it was not something that was similar. It was based on different sourcing, and it was broader. It was also, with the British report, in the British report in a way that it's actually sourced in the speech. Now, what we have to depend on, and this is what the director said, we have to depend on the intelligence agencies to say, "No, we're not confident enough in that for the president of the United States to say it."
All news reports are to the effect that is was similar. Passing the buck.
Do you I look at "The Washington Post" story and I think, you know what, this looks like something somebody at the CIA is leaking to fire back at the White House. How'd you read it?
I don't know. I don't know where the story comes from. I've said what the story is. The story is that, for Cincinnati, there was a reference in the speech that was specific to an amount, and therefore came from a particular source about a specific place. The director said, "Can't stand with that," took it out without question. In the State of the Union, we looked at the intelligence. We did say, do you have anything more? They said there was in the NIE, the National Intelligence Estimate, a broader story that had to do with other places in Africa. And so it says, "The British have said" which is accurate "The British have said that" so forth and so on. Now, as Director Tenet has said, he is responsible for his agency's process. I am a have a very close working relationship with the director. We both agree it was a mistake for this to go in, because it didn't meet the president's standards.
The "accurate" claim again. Passing the buck.
OK, I'm going to let you off the hook on this one. I want to do a lightning round on a couple of things. [This was followed by a discussion about Liberia, Charles Taylor, North Korea, and Iran.]
Rumsfeld was on both NBC's Meet the Press and ABC's This Week. The tone of the two appearances was quite different. On This Week with George Stephanopoulos, it was more interesting, contentious, and revealing. Alas, we can't find a transcript for that program. However, Meet the Press has a transcript we can refer to, and while it was a softer interview by Russert, it wasn't a total waste. Here are some lowlights from that show: (this is a quasi-Fisking, something we don't like to do, but feel is appropriate in this case)
MR. RUSSERT: How organized is the resistance? SECY RUMSFELD: Theres a lot of debate in the intelligence community on that, and I guess the short answer is I dont know.
He doesn't know.
MR. RUSSERT: Do you think that Saddam Hussein is still in Iraq? SECY RUMSFELD: I dont know.
He doesn't know.
MR. RUSSERT: Robert Byrd, the Democratic senator from West Virginia, said its an urban guerrilla shooting gallery. SECY RUMSFELD: I heard that. MR. RUSSERT: Do you agree? SECY RUMSFELD: Well, it is not restricted to urban areas, for one thing.
It's not an urban shooting gallery, you see. It's bigger than that. Therefore Byrd is wrong.
SECY RUMSFELD: Are people being shot at? Yes. Is it a difficult situation? You bet. Are more people going to be killed? Im afraid thats true.
Rumsfeld interviews himself
MR. RUSSERT: ... This was the headline in The New York Times just on Thursday. Rumsfeld Doubles Estimate For Cost of Troops in Iraq. Its now a billion dollars a week, which is double what we had predicted. Or you had predicted. SECY RUMSFELD: No. I didnt have a prediction.
No prediction means you can't get called on it.
MR. RUSSERT: In terms of the money allocated by the administration its now double what had been allocated and predicted. SECY RUMSFELD: Thats notI dont know that thats true.
He doesn't know.
MR. RUSSERT: Let me turn to the action of the United States Senate last Thursday. They voted by 97-to-nothing ... . The U.S. Senate unanimously approved a measure calling on the White House to consider requesting NATO and U.N. troops in Iraq. In a 97-0 vote, the senators said President George W. Bush should consider requesting formally and expeditiously that NATO raise a force for deployment in postwar Iraq similar to what it has done in Afghanistan, Bosnia and Kosovo. ..." Will we formally request... SECY RUMSFELD: We did. MR. RUSSERT: Youre not... SECY RUMSFELD: We already did. MR. RUSSERT: Formally requested NATO and U.N.... SECY RUMSFELD: We wentTim, the reason that was 97-to-nothing is because weve already done that. We... MR. RUSSERT: Formally requested. SECY RUMSFELD: You bet.
Doesn't make sense. If we already did it, then why should the Senate call on the White House to do it?
SECY RUMSFELD [about NATO]: Paul Wolfowitz went over there, Im told, in December and requested NATOs assistance.
Apparently the Secretary of Defense doesn't have first-hand knowledge of what his Deputy Secretary of Defense is doing on an issue as important as NATO, and has to "be told."
MR. RUSSERT: When Senator Pryor asked you on Wednesday when did you know that reports about uranium coming out of Africa were bogus, you said Oh, within recent days. SECY RUMSFELD: I should have said within recent weeks, meaning when El Baradei came out. MR. RUSSERT: Back in March SECY RUMSFELD: In March, exactly, because Im told that I wasthat after ElBaradei came out with his statement publicly, I read it, and Im told by the CIA briefer who briefs me that I, on that next day, said, Whos right on this? And they said, Well check.
El Baradei came out with his statement on March 6 (or 7). Rumsfeld's exchange with Pryor took place on July 9. That's 125 days (more than 1/3 of a year), and hardly recent. Plus, a couple more "I'm told"s to savor.
MR. RUSSERT: Vice President Cheney did say on this program they have reconstituted their nuclear weapons. Whether he misspoke or not, Ill ask him next time hes here. SECY RUMSFELD: Yeah. MR. RUSSERT: But he did make that phrase. Only one time on the program he said it, five other times he said program. SECY RUMSFELD: Im sure he meant... MR. RUSSERT: One time he said weapons. SECY RUMSFELD: Im sure he meant program.
This exchange establishes absolutely nothing.
SECY RUMSFELD [about eventually findinng WMD in Iraq]: I say we will. MR. RUSSERT: You will? SECY RUMSFELD: I think so. MR. RUSSERT: Absolutely. SECY RUMSFELD: I believe so. I dont say absolutely. No one can know.
He doesn't know. No one can know. So stop asking.
SECY RUMSFELD [about U.S. intelligence]: Is it perfect? No. Almost every month something changes. They come in and they say, You know we told you this last month? This monthand now we have some additional information from another human source or somebody else and we now think this. Now, does that surprise me? No. Do we have perfect visibility into a vicious dictatorship like that? No.
Rumsfeld interviews himself again.
MR. RUSSERT: ... would we disarm North Korea the way we tried to disarm Iraq? SECY RUMSFELD: What we know is that North Korea, as a country, is one of the worlds leading proliferators of ballistic missile technology, that they are engaged in drug trafficking, theyre engaged in counterfeiting, they are a vicious repressive dictatorship. And they have a nuclear program and say they have nuclear weapons. They would undoubtedly sell those weapons or sell the fissile material if they felt it was in their interest.
CONDOLEEZZA RICE: "The president quoted a British paper. We did not know at the time. No one knew at the time, in our circles. Maybe someone knew down in the bowels of the agency, but no one in our circles knew that there were doubts and suspicions that this might be a forgery."
CONDOLEEZZA RICE: "The CIA cleared it. There was even some discussion on that specific sentence, so that it reflected better what the CIA thought," Rice said. "Now I can tell you, if the CIA, the director of central intelligence, had said, 'Take this out of the speech,' it would have been gone without question."
ALSO: Henry Waxman's letter of 10 June asking Rice for clarification about the forged evidence.
FRED BARNES: That's the problem with the new position of Condoleezza Rice [who] said "We have new evidence of our own that says it's okay to make this claim but the evidence isn't good enough for the president to state it." You either have good evidence or not ...
JUAN WILLIAMS: ... it begins to erode the sense of public trust, and I think that's the biggest issue and the biggest challenge for the Bush administration.
WILLIAM KRISTOL: "Reality is going to be the key test. It's not trust. It's is Iraq better off a year from now? Was Saddam reconstituting the weapons of mass destruction? Have we killed Saddam? Have we pacified Iraq?
We always like to check in to Democratic Veteran to see what's up. There's some really good material there - especially dealing with soldiers in-the-field and veteran issues. Guess what? Democratic Veteran doesn't think much of Bush's treatment of our men and women in uniform and he's got the evidence to back up that position. And DV doesn't hold back when criticizing folks like Ledeen and Kristol when they spoke at the American Enterprise Institute.