AP Parrots Henry Waxman's Lie About the Still-True 'Sixteen Words'

WaxmanIt seems that some in Congress are so upset that our troops and their president have achieved what looks like victory in Iraq to seasoned, on-the-ground observers like Michael Yon that they feel compelled to get in their final digs to somehow discredit the war's legitimacy.

One such congressman is Democrat Henry Waxman of California (image originally found at the Washington Post), whose Committee on Oversight and Government Reform decided to re-hash the famous "sixteen words" President Bush used in his January 2003 State of the Union Speech ("The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa").

The conclusion of Waxman's 10-page Memorandum (a PDF at this link) begins by saying:

One of the President's core arguments for going to war against Iraq was that Saddam Hussein was seeking to build nuclear weapons. We now know that one of the pillars of this argument was illegitimate. For more than five years, I have been seeking answers to basic questions about why the President made a false assertion about such a fundamental matter.

Unfortunately for Waxman, who must believe that repeating a lie often enough turns it to truth, the sixteen words were true when Bush stated them, and remain so today.

But Pamela Hess of the Associated Press irresponsibly parroted Waxman's report and his criticism of numerous administration officials for allowing those words into the president's speech. She also repeated the Left's favorite but long since discredited "Bush lied" meme:

Former White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales misled Congress when he claimed the CIA in 2002 approved information that ended up in the 2003 State of the Union speech about Iraq's alleged effort to buy uranium for its nuclear weapons program, a House Democrat said Thursday.

In a memo to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which he chairs, Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., also expressed skepticism about assertions by then-national security adviser Condoleezza Rice that she was unaware of the CIA's doubts about the claim before President George W. Bush's speech.

..... Iraq's alleged attempt to buy uranium was one of the justifications for the Bush administration's decision to go to war. The claim has since been repudiated.

Gosh, this is soooo tiresome.

First "the Bush administration's decision to go to war" wasn't made without consultation; it had congressional authorization. In fact, the contemporaneous headline of the News York Times's story on that authorization called it a "broad mandate."

Second, of course, the "alleged attempt" has not been repudiated. It, or actually they (there were multiple attempts), really happened.

Christopher Hitchens ran down the chronology in a column entitled "The Sixteen Words Were True" at FrontPage in April 2006 (bolds are mine):

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.

.....At a later 1995 UN special session on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Zahawie was the Iraqi delegate and spoke heatedly about the urgent need to counterbalance Israel's nuclear capacity. At the time, most democratic countries did not have full diplomatic relations with Saddam's regime ..... There was one exception—an Iraqi "window" into the world of open diplomacy—namely the mutual recognition between the Baathist regime and the Vatican. To this very important and sensitive post in Rome, Zahawie was appointed in 1997, holding the job of Saddam's ambassador to the Holy See until 2000.

In February 1999, Zahawie left his Vatican office for a few days and paid an official visit to Niger, a country known for absolutely nothing except its vast deposits of uranium ore. It was from Niger that Iraq had originally acquired uranium in 1981, as confirmed in the Duelfer Report. ..... Italian intelligence (which first noticed the Zahawie trip from Rome) found it difficult to take this view and alerted French intelligence (which has better contacts in West Africa and a stronger interest in nuclear questions). In due time, the French tipped off the British, who in their cousinly way conveyed the suggestive information to Washington. As everyone now knows, the disclosure appeared in watered-down and secondhand form in the president's State of the Union address in January 2003. 

..... The Duelfer Report also cites "a second contact between Iraq and Niger," which occurred in 2001, when a Niger minister visited Baghdad "to request assistance in obtaining petroleum products to alleviate Niger's economic problems."

..... The European intelligence services, and the Bush administration, only ever asserted that the Iraqi regime had apparently tried to open (or rather, reopen) a yellowcake trade "in Africa." It has never been claimed that an agreement was actually reached. 

Hitchens also noted the following at the Weekly Standard in Septemer 2006 (second-last paragraph at link; bold is mine):

Since the war in Iraq began, two independent British inquiries have firmly reiterated that the original intelligence concerning Niger was sound, and has withstood careful scrutiny. ..... The waters here have been slightly muddied by the production of a crudely forged document dated July 6, 2000, purporting to show Zahawie's seal on an actual agreement for the transfer of uranium. This easily discredited fabrication has allowed many people to dismiss the whole case. But such argument is purely anachronistic: The story of Zahawie's visit was known, and had been passed on by London to Washington, well before the bogus document was circulated. And it was never alleged in George W. Bush's famous 2003 State of the Union address that Iraq had actually inked a deal, only that it had "sought" to do so.

Bush's sixteen words were right in January 2003, and they remain right today. The he-said, she-said attempts in Waxman's Memorandum designed to show that the CIA had told Bush national security officials not to utter what has proven to be the truth in other pre-State of the Union speeches are thus totally irrelevant wastes of time, ink, and bandwidth.

That an Associated Press writer is serving as a dupe, willing or not, in putting down a conniving congressman's false historical marker is a disgrace. Typical, but still a disgrace.

Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.