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Monday, January 05, 2004

Those Pesky Sixteen Words

The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa. George W. Bush, in his 2003 State of the Union Address.

Bush couldn't validate those 16 words he used in the State of the Union address about Iraq buying plutonium from Nigeria. Jim, below.

I didn't see a reference to Nigeria in the SOTU (I searched the text). There are other countries in Africa besides Nigeria. Did the British government identified those sixteen words as false? I missed it. The latest I saw was the following CNN excerpt:
At the time the speech was delivered, Tenet said the line was correct because British intelligence believed that it had evidence of such activity. But he said the CIA's investigation of those same allegations had led the agency to decide that the evidence was inconclusive.

"From what we know now, [CIA] officials in the end concurred that the text in the speech was factually correct -- i.e., that the British government report said that Iraq sought uranium from Africa," he said. "This should not have been the test for clearing a presidential address.

"This did not rise to the level of certainty which should be required for presidential speeches, and the CIA should have ensured that it was removed."

But the British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw defended his government's decision to include those claims in a dossier.

In a letter to Donald Anderson, chairman of the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee, Straw acknowledged that the CIA expressed reservations about the allegation.

"However, the U.S. comment was unsupported by explanation, and U.K. officials were confident that the dossier's statement was based on reliable intelligence which we had not shared with the U.S. (for good reasons, which I have given your committee in private session)," he wrote.
My understanding is therefore that the statement is "factually correct", through misleading according to our intelligence services, and the British still believe, based on their "dossier" that the statement is unambiguously correct.

But even if those 16 words are a lie, what's the crime? If everyone who told a lie was put in jail, I don't think there would be enough people left to take care of all of the lying prisoners. If every politician who told a lie was put in jail, there simply would be no government. Zero. Zilch. Nada. (Hmmm. Wait a minute. Maybe that would be a good idea!) If you tell an ugly woman that she's beautiful, you lied, but you didn't commit a crime (regarding the lie) even if she did sleep with you because of that statement.

Also, note that Congress had already authorized the use of force prior to the SOTU address, so Bush needed nothing further from Congress or the American people to prosecute the war against Iraq. Therefore, I think it's difficult to cast this particular lie (alleged) into some sort of fraud since nothing was, nor could have been, gained from it (relative to expending U.S. resource on prosecuting a war in Iraq).

So I certainly understand why many people call those 16 words a lie, but I'm having trouble making the leap from lie to crime to jail.

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