FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

I Am a Curious Yellowcake

by DAVE LINDORFF

 

Now that Dick Armitage has admitted to being the initial source of right-wing columnist Robert Novak’s news story outing Valerie Plame as a covert CIA agent and wife of former ambassador Joseph Wilson, it’s important to remember what this story is really all about.

The mainstream media has focused on the scandal as a whodunit, all about White House leaks and journalists’ unidentified sources, but the real issue has largely been left unaddressed, namely: Why did the White House go to such lengths to try to attack and discredit Wilson, a career diplomat?

To answer that question we have to go back to 2002 and the march to war in Iraq, and to 2003, when the Bush administration was starting to take the heat for its evident failure to find any “weapons of mass destruction” in the defeated land of Iraq, and for the fiasco of the occupation, which was becoming obvious.

As I wrote in Barbara Olshansky’s and my book, The Case for Impeachment (St. Martin’s Press, May 2006):

“the Bush-Cheney administration, which had its sights set on Baghdad and `regime change’ from the day it took office, was by 2002 well on the way to invading Iraq, and was only looking for ways, to borrow from the Downing Street memo, to `fix the facts’ so as to win public support for war. The game plan was to make Saddam Hussein look scary to Americans, and what better way to scare people than to say that this bloody dictator was trying to get The Bomb?”

This propaganda goal was accomplished with the help of a crude forgery of documents which were presented as solid evidence of such an effort. The documents-supposedly signed letters of intent to ship 400 tons of uranium ore from Niger in Africa to Iraq, bearing the signature of Niger’s mining minister-had initially been provided to the White House by the sycophantic and obliging Italian Prime Minister, S. Berlusconi, and his chief of intelligence, Nicolo Pollari, back in October 2001. The documents were immediately spotted by the CIA and the State Department’s own intelligence office as forgeries-the minister whose signature appeared on the sale documents had been out of office for years by the time of the signing date.

This is where the plot thickens, though. A team of investigative reporters in Italy, working for the respected newspaper La Repubblica, learned that a group of people, allegedly including Michael Ledeen, Defense Department Undersecretary for Policy Douglas Feith, Defense Intelligence Agency Middle East analyst Larry Franklin, Pentagon Office of Special Plans member Harold Rhode and convicted bank swindler and Iraqi National Congress leader Ahmed Chalabi, met secretly in Rome. Also present, reportedly, were Pollari and the head of the Italian Department of Defense. The La Repubblica reporters, led by investigative reporter Carlo Bonini, claim that it was at this unusual meeting that a plan was developed to recycle the bogus and discredited Niger documents through British intelligence, so that they would come back to the White House as “new evidence” of Hussein’s nuclear ambitions.

Ledeen, who was deeply involved in similar scheming during the infamous Reagan-era Iran arms-for hostages stinger missile deal, which had been used to raise secret funds for the CIA-backed Contras who were invading Nicaragua, doesn’t deny that meeting, but has denied any involvement in the Niger scam. But the involvement of Feith (an architect of the whole Neocon scheme to invade Iraq and overthrow Hussein), of Franklin, who later pleaded guilty to passing classified information to the America Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), and especially of Rhode, who was working in OSP, the Pentagon office Cheney and Rumsfeld created specifically to gin up “evidence” to justify an Iraq invasion, makes this meeting suspicious in the extreme.

On its face, it would appear that this was the start of a so-called “black op,” designed to create false evidence for the purpose of deceiving the U.S. media, the Congress and the American public into believing that America was at risk of a nuclear attack from Iraq.

And it worked. In his January 29, 2003 State of the Union address, with war fever growing, Bush declared to the assembled members of Congress and a watching nation, “The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.”

This, to most Americans, was the clincher. Never mind that it takes years for a non-nuclear nation to go from buying uranium ore to producing a bomb. The president was saying that was Saddam’s evil plan. But the president, when he said that, was lying through his teeth, since the British government’s “evidence,” he knew, was the same set of forged documents that had been discredited two years earlier by his own intelligence people. The president knew it wasn’t new, and it wasn’t true.

This is where Wilson and Plame come in.

Back in 2002, with the White House continuing to promote the bogus Niger uranium purchase story, the CIA reportedly decided it needed to get better information. Plame, whose responsibility at the Agency was nuclear proliferation, apparently suggested to the CIA director of operations that her husband, who had served in Africa and had good relations with officials in Niger, including the minister of mines, be sent over there to investigate.

Wilson was dispatched, and returned reporting confidently that there was no uranium there to sell (it had all been sold to Japanese and European customers), and that any documents purporting such a sale “would not be authentic.”

Wilson’s report went the rounds in the CIA, and that might have been the end of it, but the White House, and especially Vice President Cheney and the Pentagon Office of Special Plans, had other ideas. Talk of Saddam’s uranium purchases and nuclear ambitions began cropping up in administration speeches in August, 2002, with both then National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and Bush himself referring darkly to a “mushroom cloud” threatening America, and ultimately with Bush’s reference to the forged documents in early 2003.

Wilson grew frustrated with the lies and deceit, and ultimately went public in 2003 with what he knew, first in May to Congress and then on July 6 in an opinion article in the New York Times.

Having a lowly former ambassador undermine a statement by the president might anger a White House, but the attack that ensued, which appears to have been orchestrated by the White House and the Vice President, was so virulent, involving the criminal outing of Plame and the jeopardizing of all her contacts and her critical work on nuclear proliferation, including in countries like Iran, that clearly more was involved than just administration pique.

The real concern, I suspect, was the possible discovery of who was behind the document forgeries, and of a black-op scheme to recycle them through British intelligence.

It appears that the investigation into the Plame outing scandal, which is being conducted by Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald, has been successfully obstructed by the White House, and, unless Fitzgerald has some surprise in store, will be limited to the prosecution of Cheney aide I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby on a charge of perjury and obstruction.

We cannot expect Fitzgerald to get to the bottom of this scandal, which goes to the heart of a criminal war that has killed 2600, Americans and 100,000-plus Iraqis. Nor, sadly, does it seem we can count on the mainstream media, which continues to treat the story as being all about leaks and Valerie Plame.

Only an impeachment hearing can do the job. At such a hearing, the House Judiciary Committee would not face the same hurdles regarding whom it would call to testify, what questions it could ask, and what documents it could demand to see as does a prosecutor operating under the rules of a federal court.

DAVE LINDORFF is the author of Killing Time: an Investigation into the Death Row Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. His new book of CounterPunch columns titled “This Can’t be Happening!” is published by Common Courage Press. Lindorff’s new book is “The Case for Impeachment“,
co-authored by Barbara Olshansky.

He can be reached at: dlindorff@yahoo.com

 

 

 

Dave Lindorff is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective, and is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
July 22, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Good as Goldman: Hillary and Wall Street
Joseph E. Lowndes
From Silent Majority to White-Hot Rage: Observations from Cleveland
Paul Street
Political Correctness: Handle with Care
Conn Hallinan
The Big Boom: Nukes And NATO
Ron Jacobs
Exacerbate the Split in the Ruling Class
Richard Moser
Actions Express Priorities: 40 Years of Failed Lesser Evil Voting
Eric Draitser
Hillary and Tim Kaine: a Match Made on Wall Street
Jill Stein
After US Airstrikes Kill 73 in Syria, It’s Time to End Military Assaults that Breed Terrorism
Jack Rasmus
Trump, Trade and Working Class Discontent
John Feffer
Could a Military Coup Happen Here?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Late Night, Wine-Soaked Thoughts on Trump’s Jeremiad
Andrew Levine
Vice Presidents: What Are They Good For?
Michael Lukas
Law, Order, and the Disciplining of Black Bodies at the Republican National Convention
Margaret Kimberley
Gavin Long’s Last Words
Mark Weisbrot
Confidence and the Degradation of Brazil
Brian Cloughley
Boris Johnson: Britain’s Lying Buffoon
Lawrence Reichard
A Global Crossroad
Kevin Schwartz
Beyond 28 Pages: Saudi Arabia and the West
Charles Pierson
The Courage of Kalyn Chapman James
Michael Brenner
Terrorism Redux
Bruce Lerro
Being Inconvenienced While Minding My Own Business: Liberals and the Social Contract Theory of Violence
Mark Dunbar
The Politics of Jeremy Corbyn
David Swanson
Top 10 Reasons Why It’s Just Fine for U.S. to Blow Up Children
Binoy Kampmark
Laura Ingraham and Trumpism
Uri Avnery
The Great Rift
Nicholas Buccola
What’s the Matter with What Ted Said?
Aidan O'Brien
Thank Allah for Western Democracy, Despondency and Defeat
Joseph Natoli
The Politics of Crazy and Stupid
Sher Ali Khan
Empirocracy
Nauman Sadiq
A House Divided: Turkey’s Failed Coup Plot
Franklin Lamb
A Roadmap for Lebanon to Grant Civil Rights for Palestinian Refugees in Lebanon
Colin Todhunter
Power and the Bomb: Conducting International Relations with the Threat of Mass Murder
Michael Barker
UK Labour’s Rightwing Select Corporate Lobbyist to Oppose Jeremy Corbyn
Graham Peebles
Brexit, Trump and Lots of Anger
Anhvinh Doanvo
Civilian Deaths, Iraq, Syria, ISIS and Drones
Christopher Brauchli
Kansas and the Phantom Voters
Peter Lee
Gavin Long’s Manifesto and the Politics of “Terrorism”
Missy Comley Beattie
An Alarmingly Ignorant Fuck
Robert Koehler
Volatile America
Adam Vogal
Why Black Lives Matter To Me
Raouf Halaby
It Is Not Plagiarism, Y’all
Rivera Sun
Nonviolent History: South Africa’s Port Elizabeth Boycott
Rev. Jeff Hood
Deliver Us From Babel
Frances Madeson
Juvenile Life Without Parole, Captured in ‘Natural Life’
Charles R. Larson
Review: Han Kang’s “The Vegetarian”
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail