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Sunday, September 19, 2004

Powerline notes that the Niger Yellowcake story has resurfaced. The Italian businessman who apparently obtained the (crudely) forged documents on which the US and the UK based their claim that Saddam was attempting to purchase yellowcake (low grade uranium which would presumably be enriched into weapons grade stuff) from Niger has now testified in an Italian court that he was on France's payroll.

This has lead to a "furious row" between France and Italy in which Italy claims France was attempting to set up the US (and the UK) by inducing us to rely on bogus documents, thus undermining the case for the Iraqi war.

All this sounds very familiar, no? To the best of my knowledge, however, Karl Rove is not alleged to have been involved. But then, Terry McAuliffe has not yet given an interview on the subject.

Powerline notes (and I agree) that Saddam was almost certainly attempting to purchase something from Niger. Niger's exports are livestock, cowpeas, onions, and the products of it's small cotton industry. And yellowcake. I think its reasonable to assume that the high level Iraqi official (Mohammed Saeed Sahhaf, aka "Baghdad Bob") who, according to none other than Joseph Wilson, supposedly contacted Niger to talk about trade was not going to talk about goats.

However, Powerline then adds that Bush was unwise to back off on the yellowcake claim as he did. I disagree. This is precisely the argument now being made by Rather about his Bush/National Guard story. His documents were forgeries and his report was based largely, but not entirely on those forgeries. Rather also had Texas politician and Democratic fundraiser Ben Barnes talking about using his influence to get Bush into the Guard, without, of course, identifying Barnes as a major Kerry contributor or the fact that his story has changed several times over the years.

Rather is now being heavily criticized not only for going ahead with the story based largely on crude forgeries, but for his subsequent stonewalling and his continued professions of belief in the story despite the evidence of fraud with respect to the documents. And his critics are right. Ben Barnes was nothing new. Rather's story was the documents and the documents were fraudulent.

That is why I think Bush was right to not push the yellowcake claim once it was established that the documents were forged. Yes, there was other evidence. But it was both old and somewhat tenuous and therefore not, to my mind, a sufficient basis for a decision to send young kids out to fight die.

And can you imagine the glee with which Terry McAuliffe would have greeted a Bush claim that the documents were fake but accurate?
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