Sunday, July 18, 2004

AP: Uranium Claim Gets Some Support

This may be one of the most flagrant examples of media bias, laziness or ignorance in a long while. Almost a week after the release of the Senate report on pre-war intelligence, days after the release of Britain's Butler Report and Roberts Report, the AP has gotten around to reporting that Iraq did try to by "yellowcake". However they try as best they can to downplay the story and turn what is a known truth, that Joseph Wilson lied, into a question of partisan politics. The Senate report that found that there was evidence that Iraq did try to purchase nuclear material from Africa was bi-partisan, but the AP attempts to cloud the issue with the suggestion that is only Republicans on the panel that support the claim. The AP makes no attempt to hide their bias in this story, they make it clear in the opening paragraphs:
It was one of the first signs that the intelligence used to go to war in Iraq was wrong: White House repudiation of 16 words in last year's State of the Union speech that had suggested Saddam Hussein tried to buy uranium in Africa.

Yet even as two recent reports sharply criticized prewar intelligence, they also suggested President Bush's claim may not have been totally off-base


The AP declares in the first sentence that the pre-war intelligence was wrong. That is something that the Butler report was not even willing to do. The Butler Report stated that weapons of mass destruction may yet be found:
Even now it would be premature to reach conclusions about Iraq's prohibited weapons. Much potential evidence may have been destroyed in the looting and disorder that followed the cessation of hostilities. Other material may be hidden in the sand, including stocks of agent or weapons. We believe that it would be a rash person who asserted at this stage that evidence of Iraqi possession of stocks of biological or chemical agents, or even of banned missiles, does not exist or will never be found.


Maybe the CIA and the US and British governments should have saved time by simply asking the AP whether or not Iraq had stockpiles of weapons because they are apparently in the position to know. The AP continues their sham journalism with the statement that the reports imply that President Bush's claims may not have been "totally off base". What did the Butler Report atually have to say about the statement in the State of the Union that British intelligence had learned that Iraq had attempted to buy large amounts of uranium from Niger? The report states:

We conclude that, on the basis of the intelligence assessments at the time, covering both Niger and the Democratic Republic of Congo, the statements on Iraqi attempts to buy uranium from Africa in the government's dossier, and by extension the prime minister in the House of Commons, were well founded. By extension, we conclude also that the statement in President Bush's state of the union address of 2003 that "the British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa" was well founded


The President's statement was "well founded". The AP avoids having to mention this fact by never giving the reader any of the text of the report. The difference in meaning between "not completely off-base" and "well-founded" is immense.

Then the AP makes this unbelievable claim (at least in the face of the US and British reports) in the fourth paragraph:
A Senate Intelligence Committee report found inadequate evidence that deposed Iraqi President Saddam had been rebuilding his nuclear weapons program. It cited various reports, however, that Iraq had sought uranium in Africa. Thus, although Bush cited only British evidence that was determined to have been inconclusive, other intelligence files clearly contained other inconclusive evidence of the truth of the claim.


As well as being poorly written, this paragraph is misleading. The Butler reports that based on the evidence the claim was "well founded". If all of the evidence was inconclusive as the AP reports, the claim would not have been considered "well-founded". Interesting note, filed at the bottom of this srticle is what appears to be an author's correction to this paragraph:
(SUBs 4th graf, A Senate ..., to correct that inconclusive evidence, not forged documents, was basis of Bush claim; INSERTS new 11th graf, `He said ...,' to UPDATE with Wilson request for committee to look again)


It is difficult to guess what the correction at the end of the paragraph is supposed to mean, but it does appear that it was not meant to be published with the story.

Both the US and British Reports found that there was faulty intelligence given to both governments before the war, but the reports also found that neither the Prime Minister nor the President made any attempt to mislead the public or coerce the intelligence community into producing damning reports about Iraq. The Butler Report did state that Iraq had indeed reconstituted it programs and maintained the capability to produce weapons as soon as sanctions and inspections were lifted:

Even now it would be premature to reach conclusions about Iraq's prohibited weapons. Much potential evidence may have been destroyed in the looting and disorder that followed the cessation of hostilities. Other material may be hidden in the sand, including stocks of agent or weapons. We believe that it would be a rash person who asserted at this stage that evidence of Iraqi possession of stocks of biological or chemical agents, or even of banned missiles, does not exist or will never be found. But as a result of our review, and taking into account the evidence which has been found by the ISG and debriefing of Iraqi personnel, we have reached the conclusion that prior to the war the Iraqi regime:

a) Had the strategic intention of resuming the pursuit of prohibited weapons programmes, including if possible its nuclear weapons programme, when UN inspection regimes were relaxed and sanctions were eroded or lifted.

b) In support of that goal, was carrying out illicit research and development, and procurement, activities, to seek to sustain its indigenous capabilities.

c) Was developing ballistic missiles with a range longer than permitted under relevant United Nations security council resolutions, but did not have significant - if any - stocks of chemical or biological weapons in a state fit for deployment, or developed plans for using them.


The AP fails to mention any of this of course. However the author of the story does make the claim that the Republicans were looking to discredit Wilson:

Republicans said Wilson was trying to boost John Kerry's presidential campaign and looked to discredit him and his mission.


Again, maybe the investigator who is trying to determine whether or not the leak of Valaie Plame's name to the press should just ask Ken Guggenheim of the AP, because according to him it is a fact that Republicans were trying to discredit Joe Wilson. That is an amazing and contradictory claim considering that the AP story does note the fact that the White House apologized for referring to the uranium claim after Joe Wilson wrote an op-ed for the New York Times. If the Republicans were set on discrediting Wilson, why would they apologize for making the statement? Of course we now know from separate government reports that te claim about the Uranium was correct and most of what Joe Wilson wrote in that op-ed was false.

When the AP does finally state in the article that the British and US reports cite evidence that suggest that the claim is true, it immediately tries to cast doubt on the intelligence:

But how much credibility these reports had was not clear. The Senate committee criticized the CIA for "inconsistent and at times contradictory" reports to policy-makers on the uranium issue.


There is an obvious question that needs to be asked of those who believe that Saddam had no weapons or weapons programs at the time fo the invasion: Why would he attempt to buy yellowcake if he did not intend to produce nuclear weapons? The fact is he was intent on producing nuclear weapons, and as the Butle Report found, he had maintained his ability to produce other weapons as well. Despite the blatant spin the AP puts on the story we now know that Joseph Wilson is the only person that has been found to have misled the public.

The AP and other elite are frantically trying to spin the results of the intelligence reports as they undermine the "Bush Lied!" mantra they have been spouting the past year. It also highlights their gullibility when it comes to promoting anyone that has an openly anti-Bush agenda, like Joe Wilson.