July 10th, 2005

Frank Rich Is Angry—and Rightly So

Until Joe Wilson’s op-ed appeared on July 6, 2003, the White House had doggedly defended the president’s claim, in his 2003 State of the Union address, that Iraq “recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.” Not even the announcement, five weeks later, by the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency that this claim was based on fake documents prompted any retraction. Instead, only after Wilson went public did C.I.A. Director George Tenet, just days later, concede that the uranium reference “should never have been included in the text written for the president.”


The pettiness of this retribution [the leaking of the identity of Wilson’s wife] shows just how successfully Mr. Wilson hit the administration’s jugular: his revelation threatened the legitimacy of the war on which both the president’s reputation and reelection campaign had been staked. . . . That the Bush administration would risk breaking the law with an act as self-destructive to American interests as revealing a C.I.A. officer’s identity smacks of desperation.

Addendum (10/2/2005): The Post elaborates:

The campaign to discredit Wilson’s accusations came at a critical moment in the Bush presidency. It occurred a few months after the United States invaded Iraq and at a time when Bush, Cheney and the entire administration were under extraordinary pressure to back up their prewar allegations that Iraq had large stockpiles of chemical weapons and was working on a nuclear weapons program. The Niger claim was central to the White House’s rationale for war, and Wilson was on a one-man crusade to disprove it. Early on, his actions caught the eye of the vice president’s office, which was often the emotional and intellectual force pushing the United States to war based on fears of potential weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Cheney and Libby were intimately involved in building the case for the war, which included warnings that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was actively pursuing nuclear weapons.

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