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July 20, 2004

William Safire Hungers For The Brains Of The Living

In his latest column, William Safire writes that "Bush had spoken the plain truth" when he made the claim about Iraq seeking uranium from Africa in the 2003 State of the Union address. As evidence, Safire cites this sentence from the British government's Butler report:

...we conclude that the statement in President Bush's State of the Union Address of 28 January 2003 that "The British Government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa" was well-founded.

Well, case closed! George Bush was right all along! I mean, the Butler report said Iraq was trying to buy uranium in Africa!

Except that's not what the Butler report said. Here's the paragraph Safire was citing, in full:

We conclude that, on the basis of the intelligence assessments at the time, covering both Niger and the Democratic Republic of Congo, the statements on Iraqi attempts to buy uranium from Africa in the Government's dossier, and by the Prime Minister in the House of Commons, were well-founded. By extension, we conclude also that the statement in President Bush's State of the Union Address of 28 January 2003 that:
The British Government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought signiicant quantities of uranium from Africa.
was well-founded. (Paragraph 499; emphasis added)

In other words, the Butler report takes no position on whether Iraq actually DID try to buy uranium in Africa. That's because the Butler report had neither the time, resources, nor charter to seriously investigate the actual truth of any of the pre-war claims about Iraq, including the ones about uranium and Africa. That's what the Iraq Survey Group, run first by David Kay and now by Charles Duelfer, is for. The Butler report merely investigated whether the Blair government made proper use of the intelligence available "at the time." And at the time, the US and UK had not invaded and occupied Iraq, captured all of its top government officials, and seized its government's files.

So did the intelligence available at the time turn out to be accurate? Well, the Iraq Survey Group has "found no support for the report that Hussein was seeking uranium in Africa. In fact, [David] Kay said, the group found that the Iraqis had turned down an offer of uranium from a still-unidentified country."

What's funny is that before the war, people like William Safire took information about Iraq that was weak and hazy to start with, and then twisted and exaggerated it until it bore little resemblance to reality. Once we occupied Iraq, their claims collapsed in the most spectacularly embarrassing way imaginable.

Now, normal people might be chastened by this. Normal people might start behaving differently. Fortunately, William Safire has no sense of shame whatsoever. So when the Butler report comes out -- detailing how weak and hazy information was twisted and exaggerated before the war -- William Safire goes ahead and twists and exaggerates what it says until it bears little resemblance to reality.

Safire is sort of like a zombie, with a single monomaniacal goal from which nothing can dissuade him. He knows not hunger, nor thirst, nor the experience of worldwide public humiliation. The one difference is that rather than trying to eat human brains, Safire is merely trying to confuse them.

Posted at July 20, 2004 12:23 PM | TrackBack