The WikiLeaks de facto declassification of privileged material makes it case closed: Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction -- and intended to restart his program once the heat was off.
President George W. Bush, in the 2003 State of the Union address, uttered the infamous "16 words": "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."
Former Ambassador Joe Wilson sprang into action and, in an op-ed piece, in effect wrote, "No, the Cheney administration sent me to investigate the allegation -- and I found it without merit."
Put aside that Wilson's CIA-employed wife, not the evil Vice President Dick Cheney -- as Wilson implied -- sent him on the African errand. Put aside that the British still stand by the intelligence on which Bush made the claim. And put aside that the anti-Bush Washington Post, in an editorial, concluded that Wilson had lied about not finding evidence to support the Iraq-in-Africa-for-uranium claim, since he told the CIA the opposite when he reported back from Africa.
Bush claimed that Iraq sought uranium, specifically "yellowcake." What is yellowcake, and why would its presence or attempted acquisition corroborate the nearly unanimous assumption that Saddam possessed WMD?
The Associated Press called yellowcake "the seed material for higher-grade nuclear enrichment" and said that it "also can be enriched for use in reactors and, at higher levels, nuclear weapons using sophisticated equipment."
"Bush and Iraq: Follow the Yellow Cake Road" headlined a euphoric Time magazine July 2003 piece -- written when the Bush administration began backtracking from the Iraq-sought-uranium-from-Africa claim. Time said no yellowcake equals no WMD equals bogus basis for war.
The article led with this ripper: "Is a fib really a fib if the teller is unaware that he is uttering an untruth? That question appears to be the basis of the White House defense, having now admitted a falsehood in President Bush's claim, in his State of the Union address, that Iraq had tried to buy uranium in Africa."
Time hoisted (the now discredited) Joe Wilson on its shoulders as The Man Who Told the Truth to Power: "Just last weekend, the man sent by the CIA to check out the Niger story broke cover and revealed that he had thoroughly debunked the allegation many months before President Bush repeated it." Never mind that the bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee concluded that Wilson's report "lent more credibility to the original Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports on the uranium deal" sought by Iraq in Niger.
Bush, in building the case for war against Iraq, lied to the nation. He falsely claimed that Iraq was attempting to purchase yellowcake from Africa. Time magazine specifically referred to the yellowcake "lie" in accusing Bush of fabricating the case for war. Therefore, were Iraq to have had yellowcake -- an assertion called a "lie" -- it would have confirmed the presence of WMD, giving credence to Bush's declaration of Iraq as a "grave and gathering threat."
But ... there ... was ... yellowcake. This brings us back to WikiLeaks.
Wired magazine's contributing editor Noah Shachtman -- a nonresident fellow at the liberal Brookings Institution -- researched the 400,000 WikiLeaked documents released in October. Here's what he found: "By late 2003, even the Bush White House's staunchest defenders were starting to give up on the idea that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. But WikiLeaks' newly-released Iraq war documents reveal that for years afterward, U.S. troops continued to find chemical weapons labs, encounter insurgent specialists in toxins and uncover weapons of mass destruction (emphasis added). ... Chemical weapons, especially, did not vanish from the Iraqi battlefield. Remnants of Saddam's toxic arsenal, largely destroyed after the Gulf War, remained. Jihadists, insurgents and foreign (possibly Iranian) agitators turned to these stockpiles during the Iraq conflict -- and may have brewed up their own deadly agents."
In 2008, our military shipped out of Iraq -- on 37 flights in 3,500 barrels -- what even The Associated Press called "the last major remnant of Saddam Hussein's nuclear program": 550 metric tons of the supposedly nonexistent yellowcake. The New York Sun editorialized: "The uranium issue is not a trivial one, because Iraq, sitting on vast oil reserves, has no peaceful need for nuclear power. ... To leave this nuclear material sitting around the Middle East in the hands of Saddam ... would have been too big a risk."
Now the mainscream media no longer deem yellowcake -- the WMD Bush supposedly lied about -- a WMD. It was, well, old. It was degraded. It was not what we think of when we think of WMD. Really? Square that with what former Democratic National Chairman Howard Dean said in April 2004: "There were no weapons of mass destruction." MSNBC's Rachel Maddow goes even further, insisting, against the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, that "Saddam Hussein was not pursuing weapons of mass destruction"!
Bush, hammered by the insidious "Bush Lied, People Died" mantra, endured one of the most vicious smears against any president in history. He is owed an apology.
When Hollywood makes "The Vindication of George W. Bush," maybe Sean Penn can play the lead.