Uranium from Africa


Bush on due process

“In our system, each individual is presumed innocent and entitled to due process and a fair trial”, said President Bush on 28 October 2005, after his vice-President’s Chief of Staff, Lewis Libby, was indicted and resigned.


Good news then for the detainees in Guantanamo and all those other US detention centres around the world?  Clearly, he will now have to withdraw, and apologise for, his remark on 17 July 2003 about the detainees in Guantanamo, as he stood with Blair at his side at the White House.


Then, asked by Adam Boulton of Sky News if he had “concerns” that the detainees were “not getting justice”, he replied:


“No, the only thing I know for certain is that these are bad people …”


Uranium from Africa

The chain of events that led to Libby’s indictment began with the following remarks by President Bush in his State of the Union message on 28 January 2003:


“The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.”


It is widely believed that these words were a gross exaggeration of the intelligence available to the CIA (a) because documentation about uranium from Niger was found to be forged by the IAEA shortly after Bush uttered these words, and (b) because former US Ambassador, Joseph Wilson, revealed in an article in the New York Times on 6 July 2003 (see, for example, the Common Dreams website here) that he was sent to Niger by the CIA in February 2002 to investigate claims that Iraq had recently acquired uranium from Niger, and had reported back that it hadn’t.


(Wilson’s article in the New York Times was supposed to have so annoyed the White House – because it was said to prove that the White House had exaggerated intelligence to make the case for invading Iraqthat , in order to discredit him, the White House told the press that his wife, Valerie Plame, had chosen him to go to Niger.  This meant that the fact that she worked for the CIA was put into the public domain – potentially a criminal offence, which was why a special prosecutor was appointed, leading to Libby’s indictment.)


But were Bush’s words a gross exaggeration of the available intelligence?  Not according to the Butler report, which discusses the intelligence about “uranium from Africa” in paragraphs 490-503, and concluded in paragraph 499 that:


“… on the basis of the intelligence assessments at the time, covering both Niger and the Democratic Republic of Congo, the statements on Iraqi attempts to buy uranium from Africa in the Government’s dossier, and by the Prime Minister in the House of Commons, were well-founded. By extension, we conclude also that the statement in President Bush’s State of the Union Address of 28 January 2003 [see above] was well-founded.”


But what about the forged documents?  According to the Butler report, these were acquired by MI6 from a journalistic source in early 2003 and didn’t form part of the intelligence on which Blair’s and Bush’s words were based.


But what about Joseph Wilson’s findings?  Well, he reported that Iraq had not acquired uranium from Niger, whereas Bush and Blair had only ever said that Iraq had sought uranium from Africa.


What was the truth of the matter?  According to the CIA’s Iraq Survey Group (ISG) report published in October 2004:


“So far, ISG has found only one offer of uranium to Baghdad since 1991—an approach Iraq appears to have turned down.” (Volume 2, page 11)


The approach was from a Ugandan businessman to sell uranium, reportedly from the Congo.  The ISG goes on:


“The Iraqi Embassy in Nairobi—in reporting this matter back to Baghdad on 20 May 2001—indicated it told the Ugandan that Iraq does not deal with these materials, explained the circumstances of sanctions, and said that Baghdad was not concerned about these matters right now.”


Bush on completing the mission

On 25 October 2005, President Bush addressed the Joint Armed Forces Officers’ Wives’ Luncheon, and tried once again to justify the continued expenditure of American blood and treasure in Iraq, saying:


“… the best way to honor the sacrifice of our fallen troops is to complete the mission …”


Doesn’t he remember that the mission was completed on 1 May 2003, when he stood on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln under a banner which said “MISSION ACCOMPLISHED” and announced to thunderous applause:


“Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed. And now our coalition is engaged in securing and reconstructing that country.”


82% of Iraqis opposed to occupation

The Sunday Telegraph carried a story on 23 October 2005, entitled Secret MoD poll: Iraqis support attacks on British troops.  It contained the results of an opinion poll in Iraq, carried out by an Iraqi university research team who, for security reasons, was not told the data it compiled would be used by the occupation forces.


The survey suggests that:



As for the state of Iraq’s infrastructure, 71% of those polled said they rarely get safe clean water, 47% say they never have enough electricity and 70% say their sewerage system rarely works.


Understandably, Defence Minister, Lord Drayton, refused to answer questions about the poll in the House of Lords on 26 October 2005 (see here).


Foreign interference in Iraq

Who said:


“There is no justification for Iran or any other country interfering in Iraq.”


Answer: Prime Minister Blair, at a press conference in Downing Street with President Talibani on 6 October 2005 (see here).  It’s difficult to think of a comment to make about that.


It reminded me of another remark in similar vein:


“I think all foreigners should stop interfering in the internal affairs of Iraq.”


The author of this gem was Paul Wolfowitz, then US Deputy Defense Secretary, in Baghdad on 21 July 2003 (quoted in the New York Times the next day).


However, it is bettered by the following:


“I cannot myself think of a state of affairs in the world today where violence would be justified as a means of bringing about change.”


This is from a serving Cabinet minister, who supported the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq – Home Secretary, Charles Clarke.  He was giving evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee on 11 October 2005 (see here) on the draft Terrorism Bill.


The Chairman of the Committee, John Denham, who resigned from the Government over the invasion of Iraq, pointed to the fact that “two years ago this country invaded Iraq in order to promote political change” and suggested that “that was presumably the war to end all wars” – since advocating political violence to change a government is now going to be an offence under the Terrorism Act.



David Morrison

Labour & Trade Union Review


31 October 2005