October 07, 2003


1) The crisp feel of a brand new computer mouse;
2) "Nessun Dorma" in the headphones. "Vincero! Vincero!"

Erm, that's it.

Posted by BruceR at 04:45 PM


Well, now it's official... it was the forces of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar that laid antitank mines that killed two Canadians last week.

We've talked in the past about Hekmatyar, and his leading Canadian defender here, and here. We can now look forward to Wormtongue Margolis' piece saying his old friend was falsely accused, no doubt.

Posted by BruceR at 09:52 AM


Andrew Sullivan and Glenn Reynolds are dissembling on the whole Niger-Africa thing, again. (So's Clifford May, but I expect it of him.)

The story, so far: The January, 2003 State of the Union refers to British intelligence claims that the Iraqi government is seeking uranium "in Africa." The only publicly known evidence that could support that is documents implicating the country of Niger, that would be discredited publicly by the IAEA by March, and disbelieved by the CIA long before that. (Partly due to the investigative efforts of one Joe Wilson.) The only reason Bush's statement is even only technically true when it's made is because of an ace-in-the-hole that the British are presumed to have that they haven't made public yet. Some even suggest that, since Niger so clearly isn't appearing plausible any more, that maybe the British secret evidence relates to Iraqi inquiries in a different country altogether.

Unfortunately the continued survival of that belief is no longer possible now. The British Intelligence and Security Committee(p. 28) listed all the evidence available to the British, in September 2002, AFTER the doubts had been raised by the CIA but BEFORE all the facts of the forged documents were known, to determine whether the British belief was still "reasonable" at that time. (No surprise, they concluded it was, because the documents were not then firmly identified as forgeries.) We now know that ALL the evidence relating to Iraqi uranium procurement that the British had had to do with Niger, and Niger alone. All of it. And in total, it amounted to:

*those forged documents; and
*a 1999 trip by Iraqi diplomat Wissam Al-Zahawie to Niger.

Erm, that's it: Al-Zahawie's trip was the big unknown, up until this month. We all wondered what else the British had, and now we know. And now that Al-Zahawie has said in Time that his trip had nothing to do with uranium (he has been saying so in the British press for months, but this is the first time I've seen it in North America), the total amount of evidence for Iraqi nuclear purchasing ambitions in Africa falls to exactly zero. I'll say it again: with all the evidence in our possession, we can say conclusively now that ALL the British evidence about Iraqi activity in Africa had to do with Niger. All of it. And once the forged documents are left out, all you've got is Al-Zahawie's trip.* That's the entire body of evidence that the famous "16 words" was based on. The British based their September, 2002 dossier on the forged documents the Americans had but no longer trusted, plus this additional trip they knew about, and the Americans in turn based their speech on their dossier. Garbage in, garbage out.

So, on Oct. 1, Time runs its interview with Al-Zahawie, which should by rights have put the final nail in the "Iraqi activity in Africa" claims. How do Sullivan and Reynolds comment?

Sullivan, Oct. 6: "The famous sixteen words are: "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa." Not Niger - Africa, a critical distinction."

Sullivan again, later the same day: "He said Africa. There's an important difference. The writers of this story are excellent journalists. If they cannot get this right, what hope for the rest of the crew? The truth is: they have internalized this stuff. They don't even see their own biases any more."

And again: "Untrue: the claim was about Africa, not Niger, for the umpteenth frigging time. And, of course, the claim was not insupportable. It was, in fact, supported by British intelligence agencies, who still stand by their work."

It's like he's not even reading the news stories any more. Meanwhile, Instapundit, writing in support the same day, adds: "Niger is only part of Africa, which is, like, an entire continent. What this means is that 'Niger' is not, in fact, a synonym for 'Africa.'"

So, let me see if I get the argument straight. The President was still technically correct when he said that British intelligence had said Iraq was trying to buy uranium in Africa, because he didn't know that all the secret British intelligence he'd heard about also related to Niger as well, the same country that the CIA was telling him was "clean." So if he'd known the British only had that single additional signal log in their back pocket relating to a now-apparently innocuous diplomatic visit to Niger, in addition to all the other stuff about Niger the CIA had already discredited for him, he might well have dropped that sentence? Is that what's left of this argument now?

*UPDATE: I said Hutton inquiry above at first, where I meant the Intelligence and Security committee. Post corrected. I also neglected to mention that ISC report also cites an additional "intelligence source," one not possessing any additional documentary evidence, as approaching British officials in 2002 to corroborate the Niger allegations, and that intelligence services continue to stand behind the dossier's Iraq-Niger claims, apparently now based solely on this last remaining source.

Posted by BruceR at 01:29 AM