Another Anti-Bush Slander Debunked

“Truth is generally the best vindication against slander.” — Abraham Lincoln.

An important principle for civil discourse is to never assume maliciousness when incompetence is a sufficient explanation. Even with the best of motivations, it is possible for the wisest of us to make errors and misjudgments. Errors can be remedied with more information or additional consideration. However, maliciousness requires greater effort to cure. Nonetheless, when someone accuses others of deliberate mendacity and is subsequently proved wrong, grossly wrong, they deserve to be treated by the same harsh and unforgiving criteria they eagerly applied to others. Having been unforgiving of others, they waive the right to expect forgiveness.

Former Ambassador Joseph Wilson is an adviser to Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry who boldly asserts that the “value system” of the Bush Administration “is distorted and not based on truth.” To much media attention, including a cover of Time magazine, Wilson also wrote a book with a title long enough to match his ego, The Politics of Truth: Inside the Lies that Led to War and Betrayed My CIA Wife’s Identity: A Diplomat’s Memoir. Hence, Wilson has made much of being the proud and self-described bearer of the truth against the forces of deception.

New information now challenges Wilson’s assertions. With the release of the report from the US Senate Intelligence Committee and the Butler Report in Great Britain, we now have bi-partisan and bilateral conclusions that Wilson’s claims were radically wrong.

Most of the major media has ignored the determination that it was Wilson, if anyone was, who was lying. One exception is Susan Schmidt, staff writer for the Washington Post. She was quick to actually read the Senate Intelligence Committee Report and wrote on July 10, 2004:

“Wilson’s assertions — both about what he found in Niger and what the Bush administration did with the information — were undermined yesterday in a bi-partisan Senate Intelligence Committee report.”

Wilson became the poster boy for the Hate-Bush Fan Club as a consequence of disputing President Bush’s State of the Union address were Bush said that, “The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.”

Joseph Wilson followed with a triumphant article in the New York Times claiming that on his visit to Africa for the CIA he did not find evidence of such efforts by Iraq. Moreover, Wilson claimed that Bush knew or should a have known there was no evidence that Iraq was seeking uranium but irresponsibly made the claim anyways, with the implication that Bush was misleading the country to buttress the case for war against Iraq.

However, after a thorough review of the evidence, the Senate Intelligence Report now concludes that, the “Nigerian prime minister had told embassy personnel that there were buyers like Iraq who were seeking to pay more for Niger’s uranium…” Indeed, Wilson’s report to the CIA lent credence to the notion that Iraq was seeking nuclear materials. Wilson’s CIA report confirmed the claim by Nigerian officials that the Iraqi delegation in 1999 was “interested in purchasing uranium.” As the Senate Report concludes, “[f]or most analysts, the information in Wilson report lent more credibility to the original Central Intelligence Agency…reports on the uranium deal…”

The Butler Report in Great Britain came to much the same conclusion about Hussein’s nuclear ambitions. Given the evidence at the time, it was reasonable to conclude that Saddam Hussein was seeking uranium from Africa. The Butler Report was even more explicit in its support of Bush concluding, “that the statement in President Bush’s State of the Union Address of 28 January 2003 that: `The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa,’ was well founded.”

Perhaps it will assuage Wilson’s self-image to know that not many people can manage to be repudiated by two fact-finding commissions on two continents in a single month.

There was another small discrepancy in Wilson’s public assertions, small with respect to issues of weapons of mass destruction, but illuminating nonetheless. At the time of Wilson’s claims, it seemed peculiar that the CIA would send a former diplomat with no particular investigative background or WMD expertise to Niger to gather additional intelligence. Conservative columnists Robert Novak reported that Wilson’s wife, who worked for the CIA, suggested Wilson for the job. Wilson denied that his wife had anything to do with his hiring. The Senate Report found the actual memo where Wilson’s wife made the recommendation of her husband for the Niger mission, providing documentary evidence of Wilson’s misstatement.

The acknowledgment of his wife’s influence might have been embarrassing to Wilson for a couple of reasons. First, it would paint Wilson as a has-been diplomat reduced to using his wife’s influence to obtain assignments. Second, it made the release of his wife’s CIA association seem like a sinister plot to punish Wilson and his wife, rather than as just a whistle-blower at the CIA reporting on nepotism. It is much easier to play the role of an undeterred martyr valiantly standing up for the truth than a down-on-his-luck diplomat trying to relive past glories.

It could be the case that Wilson believed his wife had nothing to do with his CIA assignment. His wife might have hid her efforts on his behalf as an act of spousal tenderness. It is not clear now what Wilson would have us believe. Would Wilson rather be thought of as a person who deliberately misled the country in pursuit of a political agenda or an unknowing beneficiary of his wife’s charity and attempts to preserve her husband’s self-image?

Perhaps the most interesting thing to note is how quickly the Left and Democrats were to embrace Wilson when Wilson was charging duplicity on the part of the Bush Administration. Will they now be quick to distance themselves? Will Kerry dismiss Wilson as an adviser? The major media outlets were also quick to provide a forum for Wilson’s charges. How much attention will be now devoted to the definitive Wilson debunking? The media can always revert to old saw about what is news. If a dog bites a man, that is not news because that happens all the time. However, if a man bites a dog, that is news. If another charge against Bush is debunked that is not news, because that happens all the time.

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