From Jim Gilliam's blog archives
Details on Joseph Wilson's trip to Niger
September 16, 2003 8:12 AM
There seems to be some confusion surrounding Joseph Wilson's trip to Niger. I've talked to him in detail about the trip, so hopefully this will clear things up. Here's how he explained it.
Wilson never saw the documents before the trip. It was only in the last few months that Andrea Mitchell showed them to him. His goal was to understand the process and determine whether such a sale could have occurred.
The Niger uranium business is a consortium with several international partners - France, Germany, Spain, Japan and Niger. France is the operating partner, and is the only member that handles the uranium itself. The uranium is produced at a loss - the mine is maintained to 1) supply a steady, secure supply to the consortium members and 2) provide development assistance to Niger.
It's impossible for Wilson to go to Niger without causing a bit of a ruckus. Everyone there knows him, and his arrival was widely known. This was not a clandestine operation, and he made sure the CIA knew this when they asked him to investigate the documents.
He met with Barbro Owens-Kirkpatrick, another diplomat in the region, who was surprised to find out what Wilson was investigating, because she had already determined it was bogus (Carlton Fulford also came to the same conclusion). Nevertheless he met with the appropriate government officials to determine what the process would be for a sale of uranium between two sovereign countries.
Such a sale would require a cabinet level meeting and a minimum of three signatures: the Minister of Mines, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and the Prime Minister. He also investigated a couple other minor leads related to possible meetings between Iraqi officials and the Niger government and quickly determined there was even less there.
The first flight back was 8 days after he arrived, and he had a business trip the following day. He met with a CIA report officer and gave him a full debriefing with the understanding that the report officer would file a written report in "CIA-speak" about his trip. Wilson deliberately avoided writing a report in Niger because he didn't want it to inadvertently fall into the wrong hands. His concern about the sensitivity of this information extended to his note taking, which was indecipherable to anyone but himself.
He reported back that unless the documents had those three signatures, it was a fake, and if the CIA wanted to pursue this any further they would have to contact the French uranium company and look at their production and transport records to determine if there was a spike in activity at the mine. He didn't think this was necessary, since there "was just nothing to this story."
Details on Joseph Wilson's trip to Niger
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Read the 8 comments.
"Such a sale would require a cabinet level meeting and a minimum of three signatures: the Minister of Mines, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and the Prime Minister. He also investigated a couple other minor leads related to possible meetings between Iraqi officials and the Niger government and quickly determined there was even less there".
I have never seen anything that said that Iraq was successful in its "attempt" to purchase nuclear material. President Bush's 2003 State of the Union Address included the following line: "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."
So What Was Iraq attemptin to buy from Niger?
Terence Jeffrey's, Human Events, article notes that in 1999, according to the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency, an Iraqi named Wissam al Zawahie was sent on a "trade mission" to Niger. The article's main theme is that al Zawahie was one of the chief Iraqi advocates for the development of nuclear weapons by that country. Jeffrey also recounts that he tried to get more information on Zawahie's contacts with Niger from the U.N., which interviewed him in Baghdad, but the U.N. refused to disclose any information that had not already been made public.
One of the unanswered questions posed to the U.N. was: What did Zahawie say Iraq hoped to import from Niger? Niger is one of the world's poorest countries; what, exactly, might it have to sell that Iraq would want to buy? Bearing in mind, of course, that there is no question that Iraq bought large quantities of uranium from Niger in the 1980's.
Here is what the World Bank tells us: In 1991, Niger's exports totaled a minuscule $270 million, of which $199 million was uranium. By 2000, exports had crept up to $283 million, of which $90 million was uranium--the decline largely the result of falling prices. Other than uranium, the only exports substantial enough to merit mention by the World Bank were livestock products, at $49 million.
I have read the stories that Zahawie was there to invite the then president of Niger to Iraq for a state visit. I am sure Zahawie spent a lot of time looking for heads of state to come visit Iraq, not exactly the nation of destination for dirt poor nations looking for aid.
Tue Sep 16 2003 11:42 AM
Paul in OC:
Thanks for the in-depth explanation, Jim. Very interesting.
Ambassador Wilson's actions indicate a reliance on process and on the integrity of the government to correctly use the information he provided. Unfortunately, this administration will throw any rule or scruple out the window, if it advances their narrow agenda.
Tue Sep 16 2003 3:53 PM
Paul in OC:
Wilson was just on C-SPAN (early Thursday morning around 12:45 AM) as a contributing speaker for Winwithoutwar. He didn't seem to use any notes, which impressed the hell out of me, because his statement was long and relatively complex, and yet his presentation was organized, detailed, and worded very precisely.
Basically, he argued that Bush has failed the nation, failed the soldiers in Iraq, and even failed his own party (because this war is so contrary from Bush's original campaign platform).
They ignored the wider community, including the intelligence community, and made selective use of intelligence, in order to support policy decisions which had already taken, rather than using all available intelligence to help formulate the best policy.
We have taken a lot of our first responders, and sent them over to Iraq, where they are fighting a new central front in the war against terrorism, a front which we essentially created. Our actions have served to increase the pool of potential terrorists and sympathizers, because of the way that "Shock and Awe" was perceived by Islamic peoples.
The administration failed to learn the lessons of Bosnia, when it became very clear to the Clinton administratin that there was a direct [inverse] correlation between the number of soldiers on the ground and the number of casualties. The more soldiers you send, the fewer casualties you will incur. The light and fast attack force sent to Iraq was a poor military strategy, because although it enabled us to defeat Iraq quickly, it didn't give us sufficient resources to be able to hold the territory without incurring significant casualties.
We should have engaged in a robust and open debate before going to war, but even though that didn't happen, it doesn't preclude our having that debate today.
We all hope that the administration will be successful in the war on terrorism, because that is beyond partisan bickering.
9/11 definitely changed things in the U.S., but it didn't give the administration the justification to go to war against any nation, based solely on the premise that they might pose a threat to ourselves or the region at some point in the future. Looking back, this is essentialy the defense of the Bush administration for their Iraq policy.
This administration has turned its back on 60 years of collective security, and the only thing we've gotten in exchange is central command of the war on terror.
Richard Perle commented gleefully a couple of months ago that the war in Iraq represents the first step in eliminating the UN. So, it's ironic that Bush had to return to the UN and attempt to return to the multilateral system he had repudiated.
Lots more good stuff in Wilson's speech. I'm sure he's given considerable thought to this topic. It was nice to hear someone who had a thoroughly fleshed out argument for why the Iraq war and occupation was a mistake for the nation. I liked his analytical, as opposed to emotional, approach to the topic.
Thu Sep 25 2003 2:12 AM
Paul in OC:
My description of Wilson's speech is out of order, but the summary points are pretty accurate, I think.
Thu Sep 25 2003 2:17 AM
Paul in OC:
Rats. I forgot the most important part. Wilson called on Rumsfeld to resign.
Thu Sep 25 2003 12:12 PM
Paul in OC:
"The administration failed to learn the lessons of Bosnia, when it became very clear to the Clinton administratin that there was a direct [inverse] correlation between the number of soldiers on the ground and the number of casualties"
Tell me, who's adminstration cut the number of active duty army personnel in half? After 8 years of Herr Klinton cutting the defense budget and spending the money on "social programs" of questionable value ie "Midnight Basketball" the militery can no longer fight a major conflict, let alone two of this size as it could in 1992. The US is forced to make do with the remaining forces available to show the world it is indeed the only super power on earth, and not just a loud mouthed has been (look up France).
"We should have engaged in a robust and open debate before going to war, but even though that didn't happen, it doesn't preclude our having that debate today"
What the Hell did congress talk about when it voted to go to war? Bush can't even get a judcial appointment pushed through congress, why did all these "brilliant" politicians vote to use force without even "debating" the subject?
"This administration has turned its back on 60 years of collective security, and the only thing we've gotten in exchange is central command of the war on terror".
Would this be the same security that resulted in the attacks on Sept 11, 2001? To have learned nothing from such a catastrophic loss shows an extreme level of lunacy.
Thu Oct 2 2003 11:47 AM
The whole premise of Wilson's 'investigation' seems to be that three signatures weren't present on the 'required' documents. But documents aren't a first-hand indication of anything; rather, they are merely administrative/bureaucratic artifacts. Doesn't this completely discount the possibility that in a country like Niger - where the rule of law is rudimentary at best - that there are other ways to obtain quantities of uranium?
...and the statement that "France is the operating partner, and is the only member that handles the uranium itself" is certainly not a comforting thought, considering that Saddam's air force was equipped with French fighters and his nuclear power plants were built by the French...
Tue Dec 2 2003 6:00 AM
FOR THOSE THAT SEEM TO BELIEVE THE IRAQ WAR WAS BASED ON LIES AND SUBTERFUGE, THEY SHOULD READ TOMMY FRANKS BOOK "AN AMERICAN SOLDIER" HE STATES THAT SEVERAL MIDEAST LEADERS TOLD HIM BLUNTLY TO " BE CAREFUL, HE HAS WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION"
Sun Jul 17 2005 7:44 PM