The Naked Truth

Stopping the world’s spin.

Iraq War: Were Americans lied into conflict?

By Joseph C. Wilson 4th
Published: July 6, 2003 by the New York Times

Did the Bush administration manipulate intelligence about Saddam Hussein’s weapons programs to justify an invasion of Iraq?

Based on my experience with the administration in the months leading up to the war, I have little choice but to conclude that some of the intelligence related to Iraq’s nuclear weapons program was twisted to exaggerate the Iraqi threat.

For 23 years, from 1976 to 1998, I was a career foreign service officer and ambassador. In 1990, as chargé d’affaires in Baghdad, I was the last American diplomat to meet with Saddam Hussein. (I was also a forceful advocate for his removal from Kuwait.) After Iraq, I was President George H. W. Bush’s ambassador to Gabon and São Tomé and Príncipe; under President Bill Clinton, I helped direct Africa policy for the National Security Council.

It was my experience in Africa that led me to play a small role in the effort to verify information about Africa’s suspected link to Iraq’s nonconventional weapons programs. Those news stories about that unnamed former envoy who went to Niger? That’s me.

In February 2002, I was informed by officials at the Central Intelligence Agency that Vice President Dick Cheney’s office had questions about a particular intelligence report. While I never saw the report, I was told that it referred to a memorandum of agreement that documented the sale of uranium yellowcake — a form of lightly processed ore — by Niger to Iraq in the late 1990’s. The agency officials asked if I would travel to Niger to check out the story so they could provide a response to the vice president’s office.

After consulting with the State Department’s African Affairs Bureau (and through it with Barbro Owens-Kirkpatrick, the United States ambassador to Niger), I agreed to make the trip. The mission I undertook was discreet but by no means secret. While the C.I.A. paid my expenses (my time was offered pro bono), I made it abundantly clear to everyone I met that I was acting on behalf of the United States government.

In late February 2002, I arrived in Niger’s capital, Niamey, where I had been a diplomat in the mid-70’s and visited as a National Security Council official in the late 90’s. The city was much as I remembered it. Seasonal winds had clogged the air with dust and sand. Through the haze, I could see camel caravans crossing the Niger River (over the John F. Kennedy bridge), the setting sun behind them. Most people had wrapped scarves around their faces to protect against the grit, leaving only their eyes visible.

The next morning, I met with Ambassador Owens-Kirkpatrick at the embassy. For reasons that are understandable, the embassy staff has always kept a close eye on Niger’s uranium business. I was not surprised, then, when the ambassador told me that she knew about the allegations of uranium sales to Iraq — and that she felt she had already debunked them in her reports to Washington. Nevertheless, she and I agreed that my time would be best spent interviewing people who had been in government when the deal supposedly took place, which was before her arrival.

I spent the next eight days drinking sweet mint tea and meeting with dozens of people: current government officials, former government officials, people associated with the country’s uranium business. It did not take long to conclude that it was highly doubtful that any such transaction had ever taken place. (emphasis mine)

Given the structure of the consortiums that operated the mines, it would be exceedingly difficult for Niger to transfer uranium to Iraq. Niger’s uranium business consists of two mines, Somair and Cominak, which are run by French, Spanish, Japanese, German and Nigerian interests. If the government wanted to remove uranium from a mine, it would have to notify the consortium, which in turn is strictly monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency. Moreover, because the two mines are closely regulated, quasi-governmental entities, selling uranium would require the approval of the minister of mines, the prime minister and probably the president. In short, there’s simply too much oversight over too small an industry for a sale to have transpired.

(As for the actual memorandum, I never saw it. But news accounts have pointed out that the documents had glaring errors — they were signed, for example, by officials who were no longer in government — and were probably forged. And then there’s the fact that Niger formally denied the charges.)

Before I left Niger, I briefed the ambassador on my findings, which were consistent with her own. I also shared my conclusions with members of her staff. In early March, I arrived in Washington and promptly provided a detailed briefing to the C.I.A. I later shared my conclusions with the State Department African Affairs Bureau. There was nothing secret or earth-shattering in my report, just as there was nothing secret about my trip.

Though I did not file a written report, there should be at least four documents in United States government archives confirming my mission. The documents should include the ambassador’s report of my debriefing in Niamey, a separate report written by the embassy staff, a C.I.A. report summing up my trip, and a specific answer from the agency to the office of the vice president (this may have been delivered orally). While I have not seen any of these reports, I have spent enough time in government to know that this is standard operating procedure.

I thought the Niger matter was settled and went back to my life. (I did take part in the Iraq debate, arguing that a strict containment regime backed by the threat of force was preferable to an invasion.) In September 2002, however, Niger re-emerged. The British government published a “white paper” asserting that Saddam Hussein and his unconventional arms posed an immediate danger. As evidence, the report cited Iraq’s attempts to purchase uranium from an African country.

Then, in January, President Bush, citing the British dossier, repeated the charges about Iraqi efforts to buy uranium from Africa.

The next day, I reminded a friend at the State Department of my trip and suggested that if the president had been referring to Niger, then his conclusion was not borne out by the facts as I understood them. He replied that perhaps the president was speaking about one of the other three African countries that produce uranium: Gabon, South Africa or Namibia. At the time, I accepted the explanation. I didn’t know that in December, a month before the president’s address, the State Department had published a fact sheet that mentioned the Niger case.

Those are the facts surrounding my efforts. The vice president’s office asked a serious question. I was asked to help formulate the answer. I did so, and I have every confidence that the answer I provided was circulated to the appropriate officials within our government.

The question now is how that answer was or was not used by our political leadership. If my information was deemed inaccurate, I understand (though I would be very interested to know why). If, however, the information was ignored because it did not fit certain preconceptions about Iraq, then a legitimate argument can be made that we went to war under false pretenses. (It’s worth remembering that in his March “Meet the Press” appearance, Mr. Cheney said that Saddam Hussein was “trying once again to produce nuclear weapons.”) At a minimum, Congress, which authorized the use of military force at the president’s behest, should want to know if the assertions about Iraq were warranted.

I was convinced before the war that the threat of weapons of mass destruction in the hands of Saddam Hussein required a vigorous and sustained international response to disarm him. Iraq possessed and had used chemical weapons; it had an active biological weapons program and quite possibly a nuclear research program — all of which were in violation of United Nations resolutions. Having encountered Mr. Hussein and his thugs in the run-up to the Persian Gulf war of 1991, I was only too aware of the dangers he posed.

But were these dangers the same ones the administration told us about? We have to find out. America’s foreign policy depends on the sanctity of its information. For this reason, questioning the selective use of intelligence to justify the war in Iraq is neither idle sniping nor “revisionist history,” as Mr. Bush has suggested. The act of war is the last option of a democracy, taken when there is a grave threat to our national security. We have a duty to ensure that their sacrifice came for the right reasons.

Joseph C. Wilson 4th, United States ambassador to Gabon from 1992 to 1995, is an international business consultant.

March 18, 2008 Posted by | iraq, war | , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Real Reason the U.S. is in Iraq

By Harley Sorensen
Published: September 13, 2004 by the San Francisco Chronicle

We should get out of Iraq immediately. Let me explain …

But, first, bear in mind why we’re in Iraq. It has nothing to do with weapons of mass destruction, and it has nothing to do with the brutal dictatorship of Saddam Hussein.

It has a lot to do with ambition.

Before we invaded Iraq, our politicians told us that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction in great quantities. Secretary of State Colin Powell even went to the United Nations and described Iraq’s cache in detail, down to the pound of certain weapons.

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld told us that not only did Iraq have these weapons but he knew exactly where they were.

This is why I seriously doubted that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. What our government told us defied logic and common sense.

The United Nations had inspectors in Iraq looking for weapons. They couldn’t find any. Logic and common sense, then, would have dictated that our government tell those inspectors where to look. After all, if we knew, why wouldn’t we share our knowledge with the inspectors?

We wouldn’t, of course, because we didn’t know. Our government explained its unwillingness to help by explaining that it didn’t want to compromise confidential sources.

How much sense does that make? Saddam has enough weaponry to attack the western world, and we can’t lead the UN inspectors to it because we don’t want Saddam to know how we got the information? Give me a break!

(As a footnote, it should be noted that a favorite trick of pathological liars is to “protect” their nonexistent sources of information.)

Iraq cartoon

We now know for certain that Saddam did not have the weapons we used to go to war against Iraq.

And common sense tells that we didn’t attack Iraq because Saddam is a brutal dictator. He was a brutal dictator back in the days when we played footsie with him as he fought Iran. (Do a Google image search for Rumsfeld and Saddam, and you’ll find pictures of Rummy and Saddam shaking hands.)

Historically, the United States has always been friendly with brutal dictators if it’s to our financial advantage. Currently, there are other dictators afoot; Saddam wasn’t the only one.

And anyone who can read knows that Saddam had nothing whatsoever to do with the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

So why did we go to war with Iraq?

The short answer is “oil.” But that’s not the whole story.

Briefly, we went to war with Iraq because an influential group of conservatives (now known as “neo-cons”) convinced President George W. Bush that it was in America’s best interests to conquer Iraq as a first step toward dominating the oil-producing nations in the Middle East and eventually the world.

Not insignificantly, these same neo-cons wanted to eliminate Iraq as a threat to their darling ally, Israel.

Their plan is laid out in detail on the Web at newamericancentury.org.

So we invaded Iraq not to save ourselves from weapons of mass destruction, not to rid the world of a brutal dictator and not to avenge the murders of Sept. 11. We invaded Iraq because Bush and his pals think America should rule the world.

That’s why we can’t win. The rest of the world isn’t going to let us win. The rest of the world might admire us, but they do not want to be dominated by us.

And that’s why we should get out of Iraq today. Not tomorrow, not next week, not a year from now, but today.

Try as we may, we are not going to turn Iraq into a model democracy. The Sunnis don’t want democracy. The Shiites don’t want a democracy. The Kurds don’t want a democracy.

The Saudis do not want a new democracy as a neighbor. Nor do the Kuwaitis. Nor do the Syrians. None of the countries in that region with despotic rulers want us to succeed. And don’t think for a moment they’re above slipping terrorists into Iraq to kill Americans.

The plan to conquer Iraq was half-baked from the start. Our troops were not properly trained or equipped to do the job given them. (Sent to the desert in jungle fatigues? Not given body armor? Completely untrained in handling prisoners?)

There was no “exit plan” because we never intended to exit. The plan was, and is, to build military bases in Iraq and stay there forever as cock of the walk in the Middle East.

Many of our European friends, who have a sense of history, knew better than to get involved in such a fool’s mission.

Bush may be the idealist other people think he is, but his grandiose plan for controlling the world has at least one fatal flaw: it depends, childlike, on the good will of all involved.

Yet, not even the U.S., the alleged “good guy” in this mess, has demonstrated purity. Our leaders see Iraq as a place to make money. So Bush & Co. have set up their friends to cash in on the rebuilding of Iraq, a job that should be done (for pay) by the people who built it in the first place: Iraqis.

We can’t win in Iraq. Hardly anybody wants us to. The longer we stay there, the more Iraqi children end up maimed or dead, the more of our young men and women die.

Clearly, our government lied to us, and to the world, to get us into this war. That alone should tell us it’s wrong.

Several years ago, George W. Bush made a decision to quit drinking. As one of my e-mailers suggests, we would have been better off if he had decided, instead, to quit lying.

It’s not too late, George. (edit, It’s too late, George.)

March 18, 2008 Posted by | iraq, war | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why the U.S. is in Afghanistan, the Hidden Agenda

The media and the Bush administration states that this is a war on terror, to capture Osama bin Laden, destroy al-Qaeda, and remove the Taliban regime. Is this the complete truth?

Bin Laden opened the way for the military might of the U.S. to be committed to make the Caspian Sea and Central Asian region safe for the U.S. led oil and gas pipelines. There is a great battle between Russia, the United States, China, Iran and the European companies, for control of the vast oil and gas resources, estimated at $4 trillion by US News and World Report. Afghanistan’s significance stems from its geographic position as a potential transit route for oil and natural gas exports from Central Asia to the Arabian Sea. This potential includes proposed U.S. led multi-billion dollar oil and gas export pipelines through Afghanistan to Pakistan and down to the Arabian Sea. The problem with existing and proposed routes, across northern Russia, or to ports on the Black Sea, or under the Caspian Sea and down to Turkey, is that they all lead to European markets. Further, the facilities are by and large under the control of Russia. Of course, the corporate-controlled U.S. media giants don’t ever report any of this.

Caspian Sea pipelines

The advantages of the Afghanistan route is that it would terminate in the Arabian Sea, which is much closer than the Persian Gulf or northern China to key Asian markets, where demand is high. The proposed pipeline would be beneficial to Central Asian countries because it would allow them to sell their oil in expanding and highly prospective Asian markets. The pipeline would benefit Afghanistan, which would receive revenues from transport tariffs. On a regional level, the pipeline would promote stability and encourage trade and economic development between South Asia and Central Asia. Finally, because of the combination of short pipeline distance and the relatively low cost of tankerage, this southern route will result in the most competitive export route to the Asian market.

The construction of this route can only begin if and when an internationally recognized government is formed in Afghanistan. The U.S. is determined to make this happen. Some have even suggested that the entrance of the U.S. into Central Asia serves as a springboard from which to prevent China from expanding its influence in the region.

Central Asia map

March 16, 2008 Posted by | war | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment