Eight Years Later, Washington Post Still Defending The Saddam-Niger-Yellowcake Story

I’ve not seen the new film Fair Game, the story of how CIA agent Valerie Plame was outed by the Bush administration by way of discrediting her husband Joe Wilson’s public contradiction of one of the administration’s multiple false claims on Iraqi WMD, so I can’t speak to how much it does or doesn’t play with the truth of what happened.

This, however, from the Washington Post’s editorial “review” of the film, is pretty clearly dishonest:

The movie portrays Mr. Wilson as a whistle-blower who debunked a Bush administration claim that Iraq had tried to purchase uranium from the African country of Niger. In fact, an investigation by the Senate intelligence committee found that Mr. Wilson’s reporting did not affect the intelligence community’s view on the matter, and an official British investigation found that President George W. Bush’s statement in a State of the Union address that Britain believed that Iraq had sought uranium in Niger was well-founded.

“Well founded,” I suppose, in the sense that (some in) Britain “believed” it. But as we now know, and as the Washington Post itself has reported, our own intelligence agencies, as well as those of other countries, were highly skeptical of the claim.

Maybe the Washington Post’s editors should try reading their own paper. From April 2007:

Dozens of interviews with current and former intelligence officials and policymakers in the United States, Britain, France and Italy show that the Bush administration disregarded key information available at the time showing that the Iraq-Niger claim was highly questionable.

In February 2002, the CIA received the verbatim text of one of the documents, filled with errors easily identifiable through a simple Internet search, the interviews show. Many low- and mid-level intelligence officials were already skeptical that Iraq was in pursuit of nuclear weapons.

The interviews also showed that France, berated by the Bush administration for opposing the Iraq war, honored a U.S. intelligence request to investigate the uranium claim. It determined that its former colony had not sold uranium to Iraq.

It’s somewhat pathetic that now, years after the Niger uranium claim has been debunked, the Washington Post’s editors are still hiding behind the “Britain believed…” formulation. Just as in the U.S., Britain’s investigation found that leaders had relied on questionable intelligence and disregarded key intelligence caveats in making their case for war. Even so, the Butler report is generally regarded as a whitewash, finding no one responsible for one of the most disastrously consequential propaganda efforts in modern history, just as in the U.S.

It’s not as if the Post’s editors are a disinterested party here, having played a key role themselves in pushing the case for the Iraq war. Hilariously, the editors write that “the film’s reception illustrates a more troubling trend of political debates in Washington in which established facts are willfully ignored.” I quite agree, though I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect greater respect for those established facts from the Washington Post than from a Hollywood movie.