The WikiLeaks de facto declassification of privileged material makes it case closed: Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction — and intended to restart his program once the heat was off.
President George W. Bush, in the 2003 State of the Union address, uttered the infamous “16 words”: “The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.”
Former Ambassador Joe Wilson sprang into action and, in an op-ed piece, in effect wrote, “No, the Cheney administration sent me to investigate the allegation — and I found it without merit.”
Put aside that Wilson’s CIA-employed wife, not the evil Vice President Dick Cheney — as Wilson implied — sent him on the African errand. Put aside that the British still stand by the intelligence on which Bush made the claim. And put aside that the anti-Bush Washington Post, in an editorial, concluded that Wilson had lied about not finding evidence to support the Iraq-in-Africa-for-uranium claim, since he told the CIA the opposite when he reported back from Africa.
Bush claimed that Iraq sought uranium, specifically “yellowcake.” What is yellowcake, and why would its presence or attempted acquisition corroborate the nearly unanimous assumption that Saddam possessed WMD?
The Associated Press called yellowcake “the seed material for higher-grade nuclear enrichment” and said that it “also can be enriched for use in reactors and, at higher levels, nuclear weapons using sophisticated equipment.”
“Bush and Iraq: Follow the Yellow Cake Road” headlined a euphoric Time magazine July 2003 piece — written when the Bush administration began backtracking from the Iraq-sought-uranium-from-Africa claim. Time said no yellowcake equals no WMD equals bogus basis for war.
The article led with this ripper: “Is a fib really a fib if the teller is unaware that he is uttering an untruth? That question appears to be the basis of the White House defense, having now admitted a falsehood in President Bush’s claim, in his State of the Union address, that Iraq had tried to buy uranium in Africa.”
Time hoisted (the now discredited) Joe Wilson on its shoulders as The Man Who Told the Truth to Power: “Just last weekend, the man sent by the CIA to check out the Niger story broke cover and revealed that he had thoroughly debunked the allegation many months before President Bush repeated it.” Never mind that the bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee concluded that Wilson’s report “lent more credibility to the original Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports on the uranium deal” sought by Iraq in Niger.