Getting It Backwards

The board of the International Atomic Energy Agency met today to decide whether to reappoint Mohamed ElBaradei to a third term as the head of the UN’s atomic watchdog agency. They had to postpone the decision: thirty-four out of the 35 IAEA board member countries support naming Mohamed ElBaradei to a third term. One, however, opposed: The United States wants to block his nomination.

Yep, it’s payback time. El Baradei, remember, spoke up against the White House’s campaign of misinformation in the days before the invasion of Iraq, providing intelligence that shot down White House rationales for going to war. And he made the grievous mistake of being right:

He Was Right About Nuclear Weapons: IAEA Director ElBaradei told the United Nations that nuclear experts had found no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. In February 2003, he warned the White House “We have to date found no evidence of ongoing prohibited nuclear or nuclear-related activities in Iraq.” President Bush’s nomination to the U.N., John Bolton, attacked him, saying that was “impossible to believe.” (Today, two years after the invasion of Iraq, no weapons of mass destruction have been found and, in fact, the “intelligence” provided by Bolton’s Office of Special Plans turned out to be “dead wrong.”)

He Was Right About Uranium: In March 2003, El Baradei said the “documents which formed the basis for [the White House’s assertion] of recent uranium transactions between Iraq and Niger are in fact not authentic.” Vice President Cheney, asked about this a week later, said, “Mr. El Baradei frankly is wrong.” (The documents turned out to be fakes. Cheney, frankly, was wrong.)


He Was Right About Aluminum Tubes: In March 2003, ElBaradei said nuclear experts found “no indication” that Iraq tried to import high-strength aluminum tubes for a centrifuge to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice ignored that finding and claimed in July 2003 that “the consensus view” in the intelligence community was that the tubes “were suitable for use in centrifuges to spin material for nuclear weapons.” (The tubes, in fact, were not for use for weaponizing uranium. They were the wrong size — “too narrow, too heavy, too long” for a centrifuge. They had a special coating to protect them from the weather, which was “not consistent” with use in a centrifuge, as it could cause bad reactions with uranium.)

Guess the White House would rather have people who are serially wrong — like John Bolton — in positions of international power than those who’ve been consistently proven right. Way to get it backwards.