Clearing the Fog
in the
War of Words


  logomachy--1. A dispute about words. 2. A dispute carried on in words only; a battle of words.
logomachon--1. One who argues about words. 2. A word warrior.



Democrats twist lies into truth

Democrats twist lies into truth

By now, you have probably gotten the e-mail from Sonny Emerson (shak91@comcast.net), inviting you to play Twister: The Game That Ties the Truth in Knots .

For once the Democrats have labeled something truthfully. Their "game" does twist the truth in knots. The game claims to show that Bush lied in the State of the Union speech when he said that Iraq had tried to buy uranium in Africa. On the first spin (and I won't quibble that it is always on the first spin--the spins are not random), they tell us about Ambassador Joseph Wilson's fabled most excellent tea-drinking adventure in Niger. According to Time magazine, says the Web site, "Wilson reported in March 2002 to both the CIA and State Department that the reports were false."

First of all, what Bush said was that British intelligence believed that Iraq had tried to buy uranium in Africa. Second, what Wilson reported and has been repeating for the past several months is that Iraq had not bought uranium.

In fact, Wilson reported that he found no confirmation of purchases by Iraq, but he did report a probable attempt : The Wall Street Journal reported on October 17 :
When Mr. Wilson returned from Niger's capital Niamey in early March, he said he told CIA officials it was "highly doubtful" any transfer of uranium took place. Current and former Niger officials he talked to said they were unaware of any contract being signed with Iraq. According to an official CIA summary of Mr. Wilson's report, released last summer, Mr. Wilson did report that one former Niger official told him he had been urged by an unidentified businessman to meet with an Iraqi trade delegation in June 1999. The former official interpreted that overture as an invitation to discuss uranium sales. (p. A4, "Memo May Aid Leak Probe", para 21) [My emphasis]
Just to be perfectly clear: what Wilson debunked was not what Bush said. Wilson's actual report supported the British. The only thing that Wilson could have debunked is stories that Iraq had actually bought uranium from Niger. Such stories were not part of the administration's case.

The rest of the game rehashes the CIA's attempts to dissuade the White House and State department from mentioning Iraqi activities in Africa. The Democrats present this as proof that the administration lied. It's not surprising that the Democrats believe this constitutes proof. Most of their view of political reality seems to consist of asserting as true whatever must be true to reach the conclusions they want. If they were consistent about the definitiveness of accusations, Al Gore would have run as an incumbent.

The British stand by their estimate. There are always conflicting reports, estimates, and agendas in the intelligence mix. The Democrats and the press treat Wilson's accusations--and more recently Richard Clark's--as the gold standard for no reason other than that it can be distorted to polemical purposes.

Step back and think. On the one hand you have British intelligence.
  • Who operates Niger's uranium industry? French companies.
  • What Western intelligence service would certainly have informants in that industry? The French.
  • What country would certainly like to see Bush embarrassed in this matter? France.
  • What presumably informed intelligence service has been strangely quiet on this matter? The French.
  • What Western service would almost certainly have sensitive sources in French intelligence. The British.
On the other hand, you have the CIA, which is so bereft of information and assets in Niger that it has to send Wilson to make an open inquiry. The CIA then uses an irrelevant conclusion (that Iraq did not buy uranium) in an unwritten report of a sloppy inquiry by a biased source and two other similar reports to declare a British intelligence estimate that Iraq tried to buy uranium to be unverified. Incidentally, it seems that the CIA was doing some twisting on its own. Judging by the WSJ story, it did not mention to the White House that Wilson had reported information that confirmed the British assessment.

Given the irrelevance of the CIA's protest, the administration was perfectly justified in adding the British intelligence estimate to a list of ways in which Saddam (1) was in violation of UNSC resolutions and (2) constituted a threat on his own and as a possible source of material for Islamofascist jihadists.

So pace Time, the Democrats have been making false charges, and this Twister game is just another exercise in twisting. No need to ask what they knew and when they knew it. They have certainly known what Wilson reported at least since last October.



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