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Bolton Goes To Niger

To be frank, what's objectionable about John Bolton is his general understanding of the international environment. He seems to think that the world is a zero-sum game where the goal is to maximize freedom of action, not a game in which freedom of action is valuable just insofar as it promotes the interests of the American people, and where restraint may allow us to reap the benefits of cooperation. Someone should assign him to read The Leviathan or Morals By Agreement. That said, the Niger/uranium business remains a great and fairly shocking scandal. Steve Clemons and Henry Waxman have it that Bolton was involved, and then involved in covering-up his involvement. One of the main things a UN Ambassador does is make public claims on behalf of the US government about our view of various situations. It's rather important that the person playing that role be credible and not, say, mixed up with a bunch of crudely forged documents and dubious pretexts for war-fighting.

March 14, 2005 | Permalink

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Tracked on Mar 15, 2005 7:38:43 AM

Comments

My impression is that Bush delights in making these outrageous appointments. The more inappropriate the man or woman is for the job, the better Bush likes the appointment. I have yet to see any sign that Bush wants to pick qualified people for any job. In fact the only qualification he seems interested in is whether or not his appointee will agree with the party line 100% of the time, and be willing to take the heat any time it is necessary to shield Bush.

Posted by: Vaughn Hopkins | Mar 14, 2005 11:14:04 PM

He seems to think that the world is a zero-sum game where the goal is to maximize freedom of action, not a game in which freedom of action is valuable just insofar as it promotes the interests of the American people, and where restraint may allow us to reap the benefits of cooperation.

And in that he is a fairly typical conservative of his era. He's just more open about it (or a dick about it), that's all.

PS. How do I put a quote in italics? Is there any other manipulation I can do with words here?

Help me, I am helpless!

But I don't want you to impose democracy on me! I am pretty nationalistic about it!

Posted by: Nick Kaufman | Mar 14, 2005 11:28:38 PM

I'm not sure he "delights" in making these appointments, rather it seems to me that he simply doesn't give a rat's ass what his critics think. Don't forget that there's a non-trivial constituency for UN-bashing out there and these guys love plugging in to that crap. And isn't this really Cheney's appointment? Now there's a man who could care less what the snotty-assed liberals think of him and his coterie. Another possible theory (though I may be suffering the effects of the liberal blog echo chamber) is that there really aren't that many new, qualified people that want to sign-up for service with Bush et al. Whatever the case, I applaud Clemons and the other organizers. I think the Dems can oppose Bolton on solid principle and have a legit chance of defeating the nomination. It sure will be fun to watch on C-SPAN.

Posted by: fnook | Mar 14, 2005 11:49:01 PM

U.N. Ambassador John Danforth wasn't a puppy sitting on the porch.

Record of Danforth's Statements
http://www.un.int/usa/press-jcd.htm

Granted, John wasn't there very long, but he had a lot of fire. There is one article floating around that offered some insights into his opinions of the UN.

Is Bolton the right replacement? Surprised me, but it's no accident that he was selected.

He's a pistol. I've read a number of his articles. One thing is obvious. You know where he stands. Whether he will follow directions from Rice is another matter. Or follow advice from Karen Hughes...

No one will walk on him at the UN, though.

Posted by: Movie Guy | Mar 15, 2005 1:29:23 AM

Are you sure you want to bring up the whole Niger thing again. Remember that Wilson eventually admitted that his research found that Iraq probably was seeking uranium from Niger. Seems like a lame attack but I'm a conservative so you probably don't want to take my advice.

Posted by: Sebastian Holsclaw | Mar 15, 2005 1:40:16 AM

"These 16 words should never have been included in the text written for the President." (Tenet)

"we've said this repeatedly -- that the information on yellow cake did, indeed, turn out to be incorrect." (Fleischer)

"knowing what we now know, that some of the Niger documents were apparently forged, we wouldn't have put this in the President's speech." (Rice)

Yeah, the Africa-Uranium reference was a clear winner.

P.S.: You sure you want to bring up that whole WMD thing again?

Posted by: novakant | Mar 15, 2005 5:56:07 AM

Sebastian Holsclaw:

Are you sure you want to bring up the whole Niger thing again. Remember that Wilson eventually admitted that his research found that Iraq probably was seeking uranium from Niger.

Sebastian, the bet(s) I offered you on this subject remain open. I don't think you seriously believe there's anything to the Niger claims, so I assume you're saying this here just as some kind of peculiar public pose. But if you do believe it, this is a perfect opportunity for you to take my money.

Posted by: Jonathan Schwarz | Mar 15, 2005 9:06:46 AM

Jonathan Schwarz, Mr. Wilson says that according to the former Prime Minister of Niger an important Iraqi official,Muhammed Saeed al-Sahaf (popularly known as ‘Baghdad Bob’), conducted a trade mission to Niger which was an attempt to gain access to uranium. When the former Prime Minister made clear that uranium was unavailable to Iraq, the trade mission was ended and no legitimate trade policy was implemented.

Barring a document stamped "Please don't let the US see this", this is exactly the type of evidence one would expect to find to bolster the claim that Saddam sought uranium from Africa.

Your proposed bet was on the terms of proving Saddam actually obtained nuclear material from Niger, a claim not in issue.

Any further questions or do you need to impugn my character in some other way than suggesting that my judgment is part of a 'pose'?

Posted by: Sebastian Holsclaw | Mar 15, 2005 12:43:38 PM

I think it's like his appointments to EPA, Labor, etc. These are agencies and organizations they don't like, and don't want to server their intended purposes. Principled Republicans tried to undermine or disband them or get the US to pull out of them, and failed, because most reasonable people don't want that (and lots of people don't care enough to build support for the conservative objective.) Since they failed, unprincipled Republicans are appointed who will piss on their oath of office and work to undermine the organization from the inside. As long as honesty and integrity mean nothing to you, it must seem like a perfectly reasonable method.

Posted by: Redshift | Mar 15, 2005 12:44:24 PM

...which was an attempt to gain access to uranium...

Is this what you're talking about:

But Mr Wilson also stated in his account of the visit that Mohamed Sayeed al-Sahaf, Iraq's former information minister, was identified to him by a Niger official as having sought to discuss trade with Niger.

As Niger's other main export is goats, some intelligence officials have surmised uranium was what Mr Sahaf was referring to.

Posted by: abb1 | Mar 15, 2005 1:50:40 PM

Sebastian Holsclaw:

Your proposed bet was on the terms of proving Saddam actually obtained nuclear material from Niger, a claim not in issue.

Urm. This is incorrect—it was about whether Iraq had "sought uranium," not obtained it. Go back and check the emails we exchanged. Or if you can't find them, I'll send the relevant ones to you again.

I'm kind of weirded out that you remember this so differently.

Barring a document stamped "Please don't let the US see this", this is exactly the type of evidence one would expect to find to bolster the claim that Saddam sought uranium from Africa.

Again, I don't think you actually believe this, because it's so bizarre. After all, we have all of Iraq's former government in custody. All the relevant scientists have been interviewed. And the CIA's final report found nothing to this. If it had really happened, something would have turned up there. Moreover, Iraq had no nuclear program after 1991 and even if it had, is unlikely to have needed what Niger had.

To hold onto what Joseph Wilson said in the face of this strikes me as extremely peculiar. But if you genuinely think this, then my money's there for the taking.

Also, for anyone who's interested, below is what Wilson wrote in his book. You can decide for yourself whether it matches Sebastian's account.

Sebastian:

Remember that Wilson eventually admitted that his research found that Iraq probably was seeking uranium from Niger.

Wilson:

p.28

Before I left Niger, I provided a member of the American Embassy staff with an extensive briefing. In it, I described all that I had learned about the uranium operation. Additionally, I described a conversation with one of my sources. He had mentioned to me that on the margins of a ministerial meeting of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) in 1999, a Nigerian businessman had asked him to meet with an Iraqi official to discuss trade. My contact said that alarm bells had immediately gone off in his mind. Well aware of United Nations sanctions on Iraq, he met with the Iraqi only briefly and avoided any substantive issues. As he told me this, he hesitated and looked up to the sky as if plumbing the depths of his memory, then offered that perhaps the Iraqi might have wanted to talk about uranium. But since there had been no discussion of uranium—my contact was idly speculating when he mentioned it—there was no story. I spoke with this Nigerien friend again in January 2004, and he recollected our conversation in 2002. He told me that while he was watching coverage of press conferences in Baghdad prior to the second Gulf War, he recognized the Iraqi information minister, Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf, known to Americans as "Baghdad Bob," as the person whom he had met in Algiers. He had known the name of the Iraqi at the time he told me about the conversation in 2002, and so this had not been included in my report.

I also mentioned in my briefing that... I was satisfied personally that there was nothing to support allegations either that Iraq had tried to obtain or had succeeded in purchasing uranium from Niger...

[emphasis added]

Posted by: Jonathan Schwarz | Mar 15, 2005 1:59:31 PM

"But since there had been no discussion of uranium—my contact was idly speculating when he mentioned it—there was no story."

Idly speculating, or rationaly speculating?

Posted by: Sebastian Holsclaw | Mar 15, 2005 2:40:27 PM

Sebastian, I think it's time to get to grips with those cognitive dissonances, else you'll still be beating this dead horse on blogs in two years time.
First step: accept that the prez deliberately mislead you in order to drum up support for a war of choice.

Posted by: novakant | Mar 15, 2005 3:07:14 PM

Idly speculating, or rationaly speculating?

Sebastian, if you truly believe a neutral arbiter would accept your version of things, then let's make a bet. But short of that, I stand by my rational speculation that you don't really believe it.

Posted by: Jonathan Schwarz | Mar 15, 2005 3:08:17 PM

"Sebastian, if you truly believe a neutral arbiter would accept your version of things, then let's make a bet. But short of that, I stand by my rational speculation that you don't really believe it."

It is so odd that you can extrapolate from me, but you aren't capapble of doing so with Niger.

You apparently expect either a written communication which has been preserved, or some direct physical evidence of a contact. That doesn't make sense. If Iraq was attempting to get uranium from Niger Saddam would send a high official personally (which happened), to meet with another high level official (which happened), under some other pretext (the procurement of goats?), and to leave when it becomes clear that uranium isn't available (which is what happened).

Now, you might think it is logical to send Mohamed Sayeed al-Sahaf to Niger on a personal mission to get goats, but I don't--especially when he didn't bother to actually get goats, or anything else.

Posted by: Sebastian Holsclaw | Mar 15, 2005 4:11:34 PM

I repeat: if you truly believe a neutral arbiter would accept your version of things, then let's make a bet.

Posted by: Jonathan Schwarz | Mar 15, 2005 4:26:09 PM

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