Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Christopher Hitchins on Niger Uranium: Missing the Point?

Christopher Hitchins offers evidence that Iraq was, in fact, trying to obtain uranium from Niger. (And Instapundit links to it approvingly).

It seems, however, that Hitchins may be missing the--or at least a--point here. As far as I know, no one is arguing that

(a) There is no evidence that there was an attempt to purchase the uranium.

Rather, they are arguing one or both of the following:

(b) There was (and/or is) insufficiently strong evidence that Iraq was trying to purchase the uranium.

(c) The NIE concluded that there was insufficiently strong evidence that Iraq was trying to purchase the uranium.

There are various issues here, but since the invasion is already a done deal, it is no longer terribly important to determine whether or not there was in fact an attempted purchase. The salient questions now have to do with whether or not the decision to invade was rational and whether or not we were mislead. That's why (b) and (c) are more important now.

There was, of course, a tangle of evidence, some pointing one way, some pointing others. It's reasonably clear that the administration picked all of the evidence pointing in their preferred direction, exaggerated it, made up some more, and ignored all the evidence pointing in the other. So it seems irrelevant to point out that there was, in fact, some evidence pointing in their preferred direction. We know that, but it doesn't matter. What matters is that the balance of evidence in the NIE (etc.) was inconclusive at best, that the administration knew this, and that they deceived us by cherry-picking evidence and releasing it selectively.


Blogger rilkefan said...

From my POV, what's important is that a) Saddam had 500 tons of yellowcake b) not the least chance of getting any more from Africa c) the previous point was widely known and easy to independently verify d) he had no way of using the yellowcake e) the previous point was known pre-war.

3:34 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

According to Hitchens,

In the late 1980s, the Iraqi representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency—Iraq's senior public envoy for nuclear matters, in effect—was a man named Wissam al-Zahawie...

In order to take the Joseph Wilson view of this Baathist ambassadorial initiative, you have to be able to believe that Saddam Hussein's long-term main man on nuclear issues was in Niger to talk about something other than the obvious.

I heard Hitchens saying today that when asked who Iraq sent to Niger, Joe Wilson guessed it might have been Baghdad Bob.

Oh, well, as Hitchens also noted, that since Joe Wilson has been canonized and the "16 words" as false is now a matter of dogma on the left, there's no point in bringing up the facts. It is now a religious belief.

But I do, anyway, in my Quixotish fashion. For the record.

8:51 PM  
Blogger rilkefan said...

tvd, Bush said, The British have learned X. His own govt had good reason to doubt X, which is specifically why he didn't say, We know X. E.g., he was deceiving his audience about his state of knowledge, aka lying. In the meantime, it's clear X is false, so obviously the Brits couldn't have learned X, so the 16 words are false.

1:28 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

From my understanding, the Brits had a completely different set of intelligence from ours. That our intelligence may have been unreliable in no way invalidates the Brits'.

4:01 PM  

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