Patterico's Pontifications


Yet Another False Factual Assertion in an L.A. Times Letter to the Editor

Filed under: Dog Trainer,War — Patterico @ 11:42 am

I have discussed on this blog many times the issue of a newspaper printing a letter to the editor containing an incorrect factual assertion. (See this post for an example and links to others.) Here is the latest example from yesterday’s L.A. Times:

So the official Republican line is that Rove outed Plame “to discourage a reporter from writing a story that was false.” But the story, that there was no evidence of Saddam Hussein trying to purchase weapons-grade uranium, was true, so that line has no credibility.

Rove was clearly trying to punish Wilson for giving the truth about this administration’s lies, to punish him by putting his wife and her co-workers in danger.

This is no witch hunt by the Democrats; it’s a hunt by the administration, and the game is anyone who tells truths that is damaging to it.

David James
Long Beach

As my bold emphasis indicates, the letter asserts that there was “no evidence” of Saddam Hussein’s trying to purchase weapons-grade uranium. It doesn’t say “no credible evidence,” which might be considered an opinion, however wrongheaded. Instead, the letter asserts, without qualification, that there was no evidence at all to support the theory that Saddam was trying to buy yellowcake [UPDATE: actually, the letter says “weapons-grade uranium”] from Niger.

This is flatly incorrect. There most certainly was evidence of Saddam’s efforts to buy yellowcake, and that evidence was provided by none other than “Lyin’ Joe” Wilson — the very guy who claimed to have “debunked” the Saddam-Niger connection.

Let’s go to the source — the Senate Intelligence Committee Report:

[Wilson’s] intelligence report indicated that former Nigerien Prime Minister Ibrahim Mayaki was unaware of any contracts that had been signed between Niger and any rogue states for the sale of yellowcake while he was Prime Minister (1997-1999) or Foreign Minister (1996-1997). Mayaki said that if there had been any such contract during his tenure, he would have been aware of it. Mayaki said, however, that in June 1999,(REDACTED) businessman, approached him and insisted that Mayaki meet with an Iraqi delegation to discuss “expanding commercial relations” between Niger and Iraq. The intelligence report said that Mayaki interpreted “expanding commercial relations” to mean that the delegation wanted to discuss uranium yellowcake sales. The intelligence report also said that “although the meeting took place, Mayaki let the matter drop due to the UN sanctions on Iraq.”

This is indeed evidence that Saddam tried to purchase weapons-grade uranium from Niger. As Captain Ed notes, Niger’s four exports are uranium ore, livestock, cowpeas, and onions. Which of the four do you figure Saddam was interested in?

Why might David James of Long Beach think that there is no evidence of Saddam’s efforts to buy yellowcake from Niger?

Probably because he gets his news from the L.A. Times. The Times has repeatedly splashed Wilson’s “Bush lied!” allegations all over its front pages, as I documented in this post. I’ll now remind you of the diligence with which The Times repeatedly screamed Wilson’s conclusion that Bush had no evidence for the “sixteen words” in his 2003 State of the Union speech. For example, on July 12, 2003, the Times ran a front-page article on the “sixteen words” controversy, which said:

The CIA has acknowledged that in February 2002 — almost a year before the State of the Union speech — it dispatched a former U.S. diplomat to Africa to investigate reports that Iraq had approached Niger for uranium. That envoy, Joseph C. Wilson IV, concluded that the allegations were false and reported his findings to the agency upon his return.

On October 2, 2003, a front-page news analysis by Ron Brownstein repeated the charge:

Wilson had concluded in a study for the CIA that there was no evidence to support claims Bush voiced in his State of the Union speech in January that then-Iraqi President Saddam Hussein had tried to obtain enriched uranium for nuclear weapons in Niger.

On June 25, 2004, The Times reported:

At the CIA’s request, Wilson, who also had served as an ambassador to several African nations, traveled to Niger and determined that the statement [regarding Iraqi attempts to buy uranium in Niger] was untrue.

Now, remember what Bush actually said in his State of the Union speech:

The British Government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.

As I detail above, the Senate Intelligence Committee found evidence to support this statement. The simple fact is that the “sixteen words” had an evidentiary basis. But as far as I can tell, the specific evidence I document in this post was whispered by The Times exactly once, at the tail end of a single story published on July 15, 2004:

The CIA’s summary of Wilson’s 2002 mission said he reported that an Iraqi delegation had attempted to start trade discussions with a former prime minister of Niger and that the former prime minister believed the Iraqis were after uranium.

“That’s legitimate,” Wilson said Wednesday. “But the administration’s assertion was that Iraq had attempted to buy uranium, and what I reported didn’t support that.”

(There’s no free Web link available for the whole story, but you can read the tail end of it near the end of this thread.)

As far as I can tell, that single passage at the very end of a single article is the one and only time that the L.A. Times has ever set forth any of the actual evidence that supported the infamous “sixteen words” in President Bush’s 2003 State of the Union speech. If I’m wrong, and the L.A. Times wrote another article that prominently detailed Wilson’s conversations with former Prime Minister Mayaki, I’m sure someone will let me know.

But if I’m right, it’s no wonder that David James of Long Beach is so confused.

UPDATE: Some commenters have written to clarify that yellowcake is not weapons-grade uranium. That may make the letter technically true — Saddam didn’t seek weapons-grade uranium, just its precursor! I’m pretty sure that’s not what David James of Long Beach had in mind, though.

13 Responses to “Yet Another False Factual Assertion in an L.A. Times Letter to the Editor”

  1. Maybe David James of Long Beach is simply ill-informed.

    Maybe David James is dumb as a rock.

    Maybe David James hates G.W. Bush so much that lying is justified (works for Wilson).

    Maybe David James doesn’t really exist and some other nutter is venting through a fictitious personage.

    The possible explanations are endless– remember, we are talking about the LA Times here.

    Mike Donley (24c398)

  2. And not just the LA Times. This morning I was listening to Daniel Schorr on NPR, and he had the same confusion about Niger. (Scott Simon seemed to be trying coax Schorr into saying something mildly critical about Joe Wilson, but was not having any luck.)

    I doubt this error will ever die. It simply is too important to many of those who believe in it.

    Jim Miller (7d9df2)

  3. Jones is obviously a progressive. Progressives tend to stretch the truth so far it becomes a lie. He is either telling lies or is very dumb. Take your pick.

    Jo macDougal (01f1b7)

  4. Patterico:

    You may be too young to remember, but “truth” is whatever advances the cause of international socialism, while “a lie” is whatever drives it back.

    Thus, David James of Long Beach told only “the truth” — or in Russian, pravda.


    Dafydd (f8a7be)

  5. Dafydd – you are right! I am not too young to remember. I fought the real JKF’s war in Nam 40 years ago. I remember. And it has applied to the LAT since the Commie from the Farm took charge 45 years ago.

    Rod Stanton (7b6143)

  6. This reminds me a lot of all those IPCC (UN global warming) reports where the “executive summary” that the press reads and regurgitates doesn’t quite match the info in the full report that no one reads and is a good place to bury information.

    One didn’t have to wait for Joe Wilson’s later statements to see that he was a liar. His own summary of his Niger trip flatly contradicts the information contained in his full report.

    Joe Wilson himself said that at least one Nigerian said that Saddam sought nuclear materials from Africa. Don’t bother with British intelligence. That Wilson was ever held up as the opposition to the 16 words is astounding.

    Brian O'Connell (858f0c)

  7. Oh sure, and next you’ll be telling me that those letters to the Playboy Forum were some sort of fantasized projection of what teenage boys wanted to believe. We know the truth when we read it.

    capitano (f6cfb0)

  8. Gawd, you’re as bad as meester “weapons grade”. It’s PENTHOUSE, man!

    TCO (3c2924)

  9. Not to mention the fact that Niger is not the only country in Africa that has uranium. Even if it could be proven that nobody in Iraq had ever inquired into purchasing uranium in Niger, that wouldn’t be enough to disprove that Saddam sought quantities of uranium from Africa.

    (Correction to Brian O’Connell: the nationality term for people from Niger is “Nigerien,” not “Nigerian” which refers to Nigeria.)

    Joshua (5f0de0)

  10. Anyone who depends upon Joe Wilson for the truth is a fool. Wilson is the kind of guy that would out his own wife and blame it on the Evil Republicans.

    Boman (39cade)

  11. Not to quibble or anything but “weapons-grade uranium” means U-235 suitable for constructing a bomb not uranium ore. As far as I know Niger is not capable of producing weapons-grade uranium so the claim in the letter appears to be true although perhaps disengenuous.

    James B. Shearer (fc887e)

  12. MSM’s Plame Shame:

    Shame on the MSM for their mendacity. They know the whole sorry issue is as phony as Dan Rather’s memos, but they push it anyway. The matter involves exposing the identify of CIA covert agents. True, outing a covert agent is a crime, but Valerie Plame wasn’t a covert agent, and hadn’t been since 1997. Plame, wife of Joe Wilson, does work for CIA at Langly, but in the nonproliferation section, not in any covert capacity. Her job was no secret, many friends and neighbors knew what she did, and so did many reporters in the DC MSM.

    When the question of Saddam’s attempt to purchase yellowcake from Niger surfaced, CIA wanted to investigate, and referred it to the nonproliferation section. There, Valerie Plame suggested her husband to look into it. The CIA accepted her recommendation and Wilson went to Niger, sat around the hotel pool, asked a few questions, returned, and wrote his report. It was inconclusive.

    Subsequently unemployed, Wilson then embarked on a new career, attacking the Bush administration on the reasons for the Iraqi war. Joe claimed the Vice President had sent him to Niger on a secret mission. But, the VP never heard of Joe Wilson. So, quite logically, the key question more than suggested itself: if it wasn’t the VP who sent Joe Wilson to Niger, who did?

    So, that’s how Valerie Plame’s name came up. Joe Wilson’s lies put her job at CIA in the media spotlight. Not that her desk job was undercover, but since she had been covert 6 or 7 years prior, Joe and the MSM decided to play the “Blame Game.”

    Exposing an undercover CIA agent is against the law, but Joe’s wife wasn’t undercover, and hadn’t been for years. Karl Rove didn’t “out” Valerie Plame and neither did anyone else in the Bush White House.

    Her involvement in the matter became known exclusively because Yellowcake Joe wouldn’t tell the truth about the origins of his trip to Niger. These facts are well known to the MSM. But their red-hot hate for Bush and his proxy, Karl Rove, goads them to suppress the truth and spew obvious disinformation to the very public they have a responsibility to inform.

    Black Jack (ee9fe2)

  13. Rove – no crime
    Valerie Plame – no secret agent
    Joe Wilson – no truth
    MSM – no shame

    Boman (39cade)

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