The famous Sixteen Words, about an attempted purchase of uranium
from Africa by Iraq, are back in the news again. A British report released this week said Iraqi officials visited Niger in 1999, possibly to purchase uranium. Weirdly, the Senate
Intelligence Committee report found that Joe Wilson's account of his trip to Niger "did not debunk reports of a possible uranium
deal, but rather had reinforced them in the minds of some analysts when he mentioned an overture by Iraq to the Nigerian prime
minister." [Charleston Post and Courier, July 16] That may be telling us that "some analysts" should learn to read, but let's continue ...
I doubt the issue is as settled as the wingnuts wish it were. The International Atomic
Energy Agency (IAEA) is challenging the British report. And a reader of the Boston Globe points out that, in context, the sixteen words from the 2003 State of the Union Address remain misleading:
Building upon collateral assertions that, "with sufficient fissile material
from abroad, [Baghdad] could make a nuclear weapon within several months to a year," and references to "mushroom clouds,"
Bush portrayed the threat of nuclear attack as imminent on March 6, 2003, stating, "I will not leave the American people at
the mercy of the Iraqi dictator and his weapons." In truth, the Niger allegation was that Saddam Hussein had sought to purchase
yellow cake, unenriched uranium, and even the Bush-cowed CIA admitted it would have taken Hussein until "2007 to 2009" to
develop the technology to enrich uranium, "owing to inexperience in building and operating centrifuge facilities and challenges
in procuring the necessary equipment and expertise."
But enough about the Sixteen Words. What about the rest of the paragraph? I
want to repeat something I wrote a year ago, on July 18, 2003:
Out, Damn Paragraph!
I've been off the web and out of the loop for the
past few days, but I notice that everyone is still talking about The Sentence:
Isn't it odd that the pundits suddenly
focused like laser beams on The Sentence (nearly six months after the fact)? Of course, wingnut pundits (e.g., Charles Krauthammer) pooh-pooh the whole thing. It's just one sentence, after all! There are other sentences! Never mind
the rest of the sentences are lies, too.
Take, for example, the sentence before The Sentence:
The International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed in the 1990s that Saddam Hussein
had an advanced nuclear weapons development program, had a design for a nuclear weapon and was working on five different methods
of enriching uranium for a bomb. [2003 State of the Union Address]
This is a gem; a spectacular double lie. At the time it was spoken not only was Saddam's nuclear
weapons development program defunct and buried in a rose garden, but the International Atomic Energy Agency clearly said it
was defunct in documents available to anyone with a web browser.
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is an autonomous agency created by the United Nations in 1957. This is not an agency that keeps secrets. You can go
to their Iraq page on the web and find links to timelines, reports, charts, maps, graphs, whatever, telling you everything the IAEA has
ever said about Iraq.
The "advanced nuclear weapons" sentence
is true in one sense -- it pretty much reflects truth as it stood in 1990. This IAEA fact sheet on Iraq's nuclear weapons program shows that Iraq was working hard to enrich uranium to make
a bomb -- more than a decade ago.
You will not be surprised to learn that freepers
all over the web are grabbing at this flimsy patch of veracity and frantically trying to cover Shrub's butt with it. They
are finding IAEA documents from before the first Gulf War that indeed say Saddam Hussein had an advanced nuclear weapons program
and was working on producing enriched plutonium several different ways. So, technically, the sentence is not a lie.
Of course, by the same reasoning, we should be sending troops to put down the rebellion at Fort Sumter.
More recently, the IAEA said,
All known indigenous facilities capable of producing uranium compounds useful
to a nuclear programme were destroyed during the Gulf War; IAEA inspected and completed the destruction of facilities; IAEA
monitored the sites as part of their OMV activities. [link]
What the IAEA confirmed in the latter part of the 1990s is that they had
confiscated Iraq's entire inventory of research reactor fuel, and
destroyed all equipment and facilities for the purpose of enriching uranium.
Compare/contrast what the IAEA actually said to what George Bush said they said: "The International
Atomic Energy Agency confirmed in the 1990s that Saddam Hussein had an advanced nuclear weapons development program, had a
design for a nuclear weapon and was working on five different methods of enriching uranium for a bomb."
A little bit of a stretch, wouldn't you say? Had Bush said, "WE BELIEVE Saddam Hussein has an advanced
nuclear weapons program," etc., at least now he would have an out -- he could say he was mistaken. But that is not what he
More from the IAEA:
As of 16 December 1998, the following assessment
could be made of Iraq's clandestine programme:
There were no indications to suggest that Iraq was successful in its attempt to produce nuclear weapons.
Iraq's explanation of its progress towards the finalisation of a workable design for its nuclear weapons was considered to
be consistent with the resources and time scale indicated by the available programme documentation.
Iraq was at, or close to, the threshold of success in such areas as the production of HEU through the
EMIS process, the production and pilot cascading of single-cylinder sub-critical gas centrifuge machines, and the fabrication
of the explosive package for a nuclear weapon
There were no indications to suggest that Iraq had produced more than a few grams of weapons-grade nuclear
material through its indigenous processes.
There were no indications that Iraq otherwise clandestinely acquired weapons-usable material
All the safeguarded research reactor fuel was verified and fully accounted for by the IAEA and removed
There were no indications that there remains in Iraq any physical capability for the production of amounts
of weapons-usable nuclear material of any practical significance. [link]
We don't have to settle for documents from 1998, either. In January 2003, when President Bush delivered
the State of the Union speech, the IAEA was back in Iraq (inspections resumed in November 2002) catching up on recent developments.
And the recent developments were that there were no recent developments.
On the same day President Bush delivered the 2003 State of the Union speech -- January 28 -- IAEA director
Mohamed ElBaradei told CNN that
I'm talking about the nuclear file, and as I mentioned,
in the area of nuclear I think we're making progress. On the assumption that Iraq will continue to provide us evidence, we
should be able to come to a conclusion that Iraq has no nuclear weapon, which is progress. [link]
I don't want to seem ungrateful that journalists finally have grabbed onto one of Bush's lies, even
one from six months ago, and dragged it into the light of day. But at this rate we'll never get to the end of them. To save
time, perhaps the pundits could search for and reveal Bush statements that are true.
Why the focus on one sentence? Eric Alterman provided a clue in his July 16 blog: "I happen to be paying a lot of attention to Niger lately, but you can view just about any one of this administration’s policies and discover an alarming
mix of extremism, dishonesty and incompetence that is at once so vast and so dangerous the mind cannot fully synthesize it."
In other words, baby steps. [End of quote.]
We've not progressed much in a year, it appears.
Note also that in the same paragraph as the sixteen words and the IAEA fib, Shrub repeated the famous "aluminum tube" story,
as in those evil Iraqis have purchased aluminum tubes to use in centrifuges to enrich uranium. However, at the time
Bush delivered the 2003 SOTU speech the IAEA, as well as at least some weapons experts in American intelligence, had concluded
the aluminum tubes were not usable for uranium enrichment. Here is what I wrote about the aluminum tubes on June 14, 2003:
If Saddam had wanted uranium, there were more than
two tons of the same stuff he allegedly tried to buy in Niger just a short hike from Baghdad (see recent blogs, below). It was in barrels sealed by the IAEA in 1991. He hadn't done a thing with any of that. And he was trying to buy more, because
The International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed in the 1990s
that Saddam Hussein had an advanced nuclear weapons development program, had a design for a nuclear weapon and was working
on five different methods of enriching uranium for a bomb. The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently
sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa. Our intelligence sources tell us that he has attempted to purchase high-strength
aluminum tubes suitable for nuclear weapons production. Saddam Hussein has not credibly explained these activities. He clearly
has much to hide.
This entire paragraph is a lie from beginning
to end. To begin with, the IAEA never said Saddam had an advanced nuclear weapons development program. The IAEA said just
the opposite; that Saddam's nuclear weapons program had been "uncovered, mapped, and neutralized." You can read one of their
Next we have the famous "out of Africa" story, based
on documents that are known to be clumsy forgeries.
Bush said that intelligence
sources say that Saddam attempted to purchase high strength aluminum tubes suitable for nuclear weapons production. But the
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), quoted favorably by the president elsewhere, reports that the tubes are for rockets,
not nuclear production, and that there is no evidence of Saddam trying to buy uranium. [Jonathan Alter, "Scoring the Speech," MSNBC, January 29, 3003]
the Alter link is broken; story no longer on the web. This is why I go to the trouble of keyboarding in sources of quotes
and information along with links; I still know where the quote came from.)
"Our intelligence sources tell us that he has attempted to purchase
high-strength aluminum tubes suitable for nuclear weapons production," Bush said again, repeating the charge that he first made at the U.N. last September.
As everyone knows who listened to (or read) Mohammed ElBaradei's
report to the U.N. Security Council on nuclear research and development in Iraq, he found that the emphasis on those tubes
by Bush and Condoleezza Rice was misplaced if not misleading. Today's Washington Post carries yet another story -- buried for some inexplicable reason on page A13 -- that
sums up the International Atomic Energy Agency findings in Iraq so far. According to ElBaradei, who heads the IAEA, the tubes
"can not be used" for the purpose of enriching uranium. He also inspected the eight buildings formerly used in Saddam's nuclear
program, which U.S. intelligence -- and Bush -- have suggested were being refurbished for the same purposes. There was "no
evidence" to support the president's allegations, he said. [Joe Conason, Salon, January 29, 2003]
Last Sunday, Condi Rice hit the television
news show circuit to say that the Niger story was not central to the President's case that Iraq was hiding weapons of mass
destruction. They might want to figure out what is central to the argument, and let the President know.
Jay Leno, "The Tonight Show": "According to the latest issue of Newsweek
magazine, Bush administration officials are reviewing a proposal that would allow for the postponement of the presidential
election in the event of a catastrophe. You know, like Kerry winning."
Stephen Green of the rightie site VodkaPundit says that John Kerry is marching about telling a big lie -- that there are more African Americans in jail than in college. A fact
check of Department of Justice and U.S. Census Bureau data shows the opposite is true; there are more African Americans in
college than in jail. I skimmed around and looked at the numbers sited, and it appears the righties are correct, to a point.
If you compare total number of blacks in college in 2000 (2,224,181, according
to the Census Bureau) to those in prison in 2003 (899,200, according to the DoJ) Kerry looks way off. However, if you add
the qualifier "African American men," Kerry is correct.
According to this story from Global Black News, reports that compare black prison populations to black college populations do have a statistical
Data compiled by a new study, Cellblocks or Classrooms?: The Funding of
Higher Education and Corrections and Its Impact on African American Men, reports that while 603,000 black men were in college
in 2001, 791,600 were imprisoned. The study, conducted by the Justice Policy Institute, a nonprofit organization in Washington,
D.C., analyzes money spent on incarceration vs. higher education.
Media outlets reporting on the study's findings stated that more black men
are behind bars than in college but failed to mention that in compiling its incarceration data, the Justice Policy Institute
included African American men of all ages (see More Black Men in Jail than in College, an MSNBC/BET.com report).
President Vincent Schiraldi admits that there are more college-aged African
American men in college than incarcerated. College age is roughly 18 to 24, but the study researched incarcerated men ages
18 to 55 plus. Thus, because it is a larger sample group, the number of men in jail is higher than the number of men in college.
Kerry may have been misquoted, of course. Perhaps he did say "African
For more on what the righties are saying, go to this
genuinely alarming site. The rant is that Kerry says he is not attacking Bush in "personal ways," when in fact Kerry has said dreadful
things about Bush:
This week alone, Kerry has criticized Bush personally in speeches for lying,
professional laziness, waiting until right before the election to indict Enron Corp.'s former chief executive, Kenneth L.
Lay, lacking values and even having worse hair than the two Democrats.
Hey, facts are facts.
Some advisers are privately counseling Kerry to tone down his attacks on Bush.
If true, those "advisers" need to be fired immediately. We've got to stop pretending the Bush Regime represents
anything close to politics as usual.
Matthew Yglesias is a bright young man and a first-class blogger. However,
I was taken aback by his blog on the possible election postponement:
I'm sympathetic to the view that there should be a process which can be invoked
under any sort of circumstances that might arise. In the aftermath of an attack would it really be a good idea to delay
an election? I don't know. My gut says "no." But the day after an attack isn't the best time for the congress to start figuring
out how such a thing would be done, were it to be done. Vesting Tom Ridge with discretionary power over this seems like a
terrible idea but there's probably a better solution we can come up with.
[And, yes, the subtext here is that the Bush administration has a secret plot
to destroy democracy, but I'm trying to stay level-headed. If the time comes to mount the barricades, I'll be there. Until
then, the blog comment on the substantive policy issues.]
Have we learned nothing? The vast right-wing conspiracy has nearly
succeeded in its quest for unlimited power. And the reason it has nearly succeeded is that those who would oppose it try to
There's a pattern here; in fact, pretty much the same story can be
told about energy policy, environmental policy, health care policy, and so on. In each case the officials making policy within
the Bush Administration have a history of highly radical views, which should suggest the administration itself has radical
goals. But in each case the administration has reassured moderates by pretending otherwise--by offering rationales for its
policy that don't seem all that radical. And in each case moderates have followed a strategy of appeasement, trying to meet
the administration halfway while downplaying both the radicalism of its policies and the trail of broken promises. The young
Kissinger had it right: people who have been accustomed to stability can't bring themselves to believe what is happening when
faced with a revolutionary power, and are therefore ineffective in opposing it. [p.12]
We must always treat the Bush Regime as a revolutionary power, and we must
assume that all of its policies are about power -- keeping and increasing the scope of its power; paying off the complicit;
Of course, it's not unreasonable to plan for a catastrophe that might
disrupt the elections. Just as it was not unreasonable to investigate connections between al Qaeda and Saddam
Hussein and prepare an invasion plan for Iraq. And it's not unreasonable for the administration to keep some
of its doings secret -- national security, you know. And speaking of national security, it's not unreasonable
to give government more power to pry into the private lives of citizens when there are terrorists about.
Back in 2002 I couldn't believe the Bushies would really invade Iraq. It was
too absurd. It was too unreasonable. They can't be that nutty, I thought. They're just saber-rattling to scam the
We must assume, based on its history, that the Bush Regime will
be unreasonable. We must assume that no violation of the Constitution or the principles of democracy are out
of bounds, if such violation helps the Bush Regime maintain power. And you know they will stop at nothing to keep the White
House, not only for the sake of power but to keep the worst of their crimes and corruptions hidden from public view. For the
Bushies, losing the election in November must be unthinkable.
We have never postponed or suspended a national election in the United States
for lo these two centuries plus. We held presidential elections during the Civil War, when big chunks of the nation were in
an active state of rebellion and even some "union" states along the borders of the Confederacy were boiling in anarchy.
And the possibility of disruption has always existed. There always could be hurricanes, or earthquakes, or invasions
on Election Day.
But we never planned for a delay of elections, because it was unthinkable.
By planning for a delay, the Bushies want to make a delay thinkable.
And the Bushies will continue to talk about it--just planning for disaster, mind you--so that when it happens, the electorate
will have been prepared to accept it.
But that must not be. Suspending the national election on the first
Tuesday of 2004 must not even be thinkable. Nothing--not terrorists, not disaster, not war, and certainly not Bush--must stop
I've not only been away from computers; I've been away from television
and newspapers as well. I went through political news withdrawal and survived. It doesn't seem that I missed much, either.
My flight out of New York's LaGuardia Airport on Wednesday was postponed for
two hours because of security concerns (the terminal was shut down for a time) and my flight back to LaGuardia from St. Louis
was postponed for two hours yesterday because LaGuardia wasn't accepting flights, or some such thing, also because of security
New Yorkers live with these little inconveniences, along with the armed National
Guard patroling Grand Central and Penn stations and many daily reminders of 9/11. Even so, after nearly three years,
we're still not ready for another 9/11. So says Stanley Greenspan, professor at George Washington University Medical Center, in today's Washington Post.
Would the average person really know what to do if there were a nuclear,
biological or chemical attack in his or her neighborhood? Do people know a great deal more now about what to do than they
did before Sept. 11?
The answer is no.
Almost as compelling is a logical follow-up question: Are there fully developed,
organized plans between the federal, state and local governments to handle any type of nuclear, biological or chemical attack?
If these plans are organized, in place and well-rehearsed, does the general public know about them?
The answer is no.
Have we fully solved the pre-Sept. 11 challenge of agency coordination and
response to terrorist threats? It's been three years. Are we treating this challenge as a true emergency and harnessing our
best efforts? Have we used every bit of skill, leadership and leverage available to fully engage the international community
in preventing terrorism?
Of course not. We're pissing away lives and resources in Iraq.
We're fighting a war we didn't need to fight to vanquish an enemy who was no threat to us. And on top of that, our so-called
"war on terror" has made our real enemies stronger, not weaker. Lose/lose!
Today's pathetic attempt by Bush to justify the Iraq War contained enough howlers to keep me blogging for weeks. (Just one example: "We are using the Patriot Act to track terrorist
activity and to break up terror cells." Can anyone name a certifiable "terror cell" the Patriot Act broke up?) We can count
on the establishment news media to ignore these howlers, of course, and we can count on the Kool-Aiders of the Right to swallow
whatever Bush dishes out. But by now it ought to be clear to anyone over the age of 12 who is bright enough to tie his own
shoes that the war in Iraq is counter-productive to keeping America safer from terrorism.
Americans are catching on, it seems. According to a recent NBC News/Wall
Street Journal poll, 47 percent of registered voters believe Bush deliberately misled the people to make his case
for war in Iraq. Only 44 percent think he gave the country the most accurate information he had. According to a
June CNN-US Today-Gallup poll, 55 percent of Americans believe that the Iraq war has made them less safe from terrorists. And by a ten-point
margin, Americans believe the invasion of Iraq was a mistake.
You can't fool all of the people all of the time, unless they're journalists.
Rare Exception Department: Be sure to read Bob Herbert's
column in the Times today, "The Real Enemy."
"To announce that there must be no criticism of the
president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is
morally treasonable to the American public." --Theodore Roosevelt, 1918
The War Prayer
I come from the Throne -- bearing
a message from Almighty God!... He has heard the prayer of His servant, your shepherd, & will grant it if such shall be
your desire after I His messenger shall have explained to you its import -- that is to say its full import. For it is like
unto many of the prayers of men in that it asks for more than he who utters it is aware of -- except he pause & think.
"God's servant & yours has prayed his prayer. Has
he paused & taken thought? Is it one prayer? No, it is two -- one uttered, the other not. Both have reached the ear of
Him who heareth all supplications, the spoken & the unspoken....
"You have heard your servant's prayer -- the uttered
part of it. I am commissioned of God to put into words the other part of it -- that part which the pastor -- and also you
in your hearts -- fervently prayed, silently. And ignorantly & unthinkingly? God grant that it was so! You heard these
words: 'Grant us the victory, O Lord our God!' That is sufficient. The whole of the uttered prayer is completed into
those pregnant words.
"Upon the listening spirit of God the Father fell also
the unspoken part of the prayer. He commandeth me to put it into words. Listen!
"O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our
hearts, go forth to battle -- be Thou near them! With them -- in spirit -- we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved
firesides to smite the foe.
"O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody
shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown
the thunder of the guns with the wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire;
help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with their
little children to wander unfriended through wastes of their desolated land in rags & hunger & thirst, sport of the
sun-flames of summer & the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of
the grave & denied it -- for our sakes, who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter
pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded
feet! We ask of one who is the Spirit of love & who is the ever-faithful refuge & friend of all that are sore beset,
& seek His aid with humble & contrite hearts. Grant our prayer, O Lord & Thine shall be the praise & honor
& glory now & ever, Amen."
(After a pause.) "Ye have prayed it; if ye still desire
it, speak! -- the messenger of the Most High waits."
· · · · · ·
It was believed, afterward, that the man was a lunatic,
because there was no sense in what he said.