Sunday, December 04, 2005

Sometimes, the bloggers need their asses fact-checked

Oh, Glenn Reynods, why do you cast aspersions and make fun when the easily checkable facts that would demolish your snark are so easily at your disposal?

UPDATE: In a similar low-challenge vein, Rand Simberg notes dishonesty about the war at the Los Angeles Times. Easy, but as always, worthwhile.

Heh, indeed. To which I would argue: it's always easy to find dishonesty when your facts are wrong. So what is it that this Rand Simberg (who hilariously refers to the Los Angeles Times as "Al Jazeera West") discovers about the LA Times's alleged dishonesty? That there's a "Big Lie" about what Joe Wilson did or did not find in Africa:

In (where else?) Al Jazeera West:

The documents inspired intense U.S. interest in the buildup to the war — and they led the CIA to send a former ambassador to the African nation of Niger to investigate whether Iraq had sought the materials there. The ambassador, Joseph C. Wilson IV, found little evidence to support such a claim, and the documents were later deemed to have been forged.

Well, at least they're not still pretending that Cheney sent him. The only way that one can believe that he "found little evidence to support such a claim" is to listen to Joe Wilson's continuing lies about it, and ignore the results of the Senate investigation, which showed that in fact Wilson indeed discovered that Iraq had sought yellowcake from Niger. But then, these are LA Times reporters, to whom the default position is that the administration lies, and anyone who accuses them of lying must ipso facto be telling the truth. No further investigation necessary.

This meditation is so spectacuarly ill-informed that it's hard to fathom.

But now, with the wonder of the interweb, we can all learn what the Robb-Silberman report actually said about what Wilson found:

[The Nigerian Prime Minister] said, however, that in June 1999 he met with an Iraqi delegation to discuss "expanding commercial relations" between Niger and Iraq, which the Prime Minister interpreted as meaning the delegation wanted to discuss yellowcake sales. The Prime Minister let the matter drop, however, because of the United Nations sanctions on Iraq.

This is the only thing in the report, this thin reed, that I'm assuming this blogger utilized as a broadside against the LA Times. Did the Iraqi delegation seek uranium? Maybe. Likely. Are we sure of this? No. Pretty weak stuff. And so what did the LAT say about the matter of Iraq actively seeking uranium in Niger? That there was "little evidence to support such a claim." I'd say that's about right. So who's being dishonest now? The LAT or an unhinged blogger? And let's not leave aside the fact that Joe Wilson discovered what everyone else around him eventually determined: that the claims about Saddam making any kind of serious attempt to obtain uranium from Africa were a hilarious fraud.

Still not convinced? Read on:

The Iraq Survey Group also found no evidence that Iraq sought uranium from abroad after 1991. 113 With respect to the reports that Iraq sought uranium from Niger, ISG interviews with Ja'far Diya Ja'far, the head of Iraq's pre-1991 enrichment programs, indicated that Iraq had only two contacts with the Nigerien government after 1998--neither of which was related to uranium. 114 One such contact was a visit to Niger by the Iraqi Ambassador to the Vatican Wissam Zahawie, the purpose of which Ja'far said was to invite the Nigerien President to visit Iraq (a story told publicly by Zahawie). 115 The second contact was a visit to Iraq by a Nigerien minister to discuss Nigerien purchases of oil from Iraq--with no mention of "any kind of payment, quid pro quo, or offer to provide Iraq with uranium ore, other than cash in exchange for petroleum." 116 The use of the last method of payment is supported by a crude oil contract, dated June 26, 2001, recovered by the ISG. 117

The ISG found only one offer of uranium to Baghdad since 1991--an offer that Iraq appears to have turned down. 118 The ISG found a document in the headquarters of the Iraqi Intelligence Service that reveals that a Ugandan businessman had approached the Iraqi Embassy in Nairobi with an offer to sell uranium, reportedly from the Congo. The Iraqi Embassy in Nairobi, reporting back to Baghdad on the matter on May 20, 2001, indicated that the Embassy told the Ugandan that Iraq did not deal with "these materials" because of the sanctions.

So please people, before you start attacking a newspaper, get your facts straight. Otherwise, you look kind of stupid.

Permalink posted by Jonathan : 2:30 PM

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