The truthfulness of one claim in George W. Bush’s State of the Union address has become the focus of growing media scrutiny. Bush claimed that “the British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.” That assertion was similar to claims made previously by administration officials, including Secretary of State Colin Powell, that Iraq had sought to import yellowcake uranium from Niger, a strong indication that Saddam Hussein’s regime was reconstituting its nuclear weapons program. This claim, however, has been proven completely false. The attention media are paying to this single assertion should be part of a larger journalistic inquiry into other misstatements and exaggerations that have been made by the Bush administration about Iraq.

In reality, the Niger tale was based off faulty Italian intelligence. The Italians passed on their intelligence to the British and we received it from the British. The claim was proven faulty fairly easily by journalist Seymour Hersh of The New Yorker and others. Moreover, the administration’s own investigation proved that the claim was completely bogus. In fact, as one State Department official put it, “This wasn’t highly contested. There weren’t strong advocates on the other side. It was done, shot down.” But more disconcerting is the fact that the administration was willing to rely on British and Italian intelligence rather than its own investigations. Since when does the United States use British intelligence as a justification to go to war? Isn’t that what we have the CIA and FBI for?

It is true that the uranium claim was not the only justification for the war. It did, however, add to a sense of urgency that simply should not have existed. In its haste to prove an imminent threat to the United States from Saddam Hussein, this administration seems to have overlooked the right pieces of evidence while emphasizing the wrong ones. The administration’s claim that Iraq was developing nuclear weapons rested on more than just the uranium claim. President Bush also claimed in the State of the Union that Iraq was seeking to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes to use in processing uranium. But a report in the Washington Post months before Bush’s address noted that leading scientists and former weapons inspectors seriously questioned the administration’s explanation – pointing out that the tubes, which would be difficult to use for uranium production, were more plausibly intended for artillery rockets. On Sept. 19 the Washington Post also noted charges that the “Bush administration is trying to quiet dissent among its own analysts over how to interpret the evidence.” Commendably, some reporters, like NBC’s Andrea Mitchell, have questioned the aluminum tubes claim in recent reporting about Bush’s State of the Union address.

And still, this administration continues to mislead the public. President Bush presented the discovery of two trailers in Iraq as proof that Iraq possessed banned weapons: “We found the weapons of mass destruction. We found biological laboratories,” he told Polish TV. “They’re illegal. They’re against the United Nations resolutions, and we’ve so far discovered two. And we’ll find more weapons as time goes on. But for those who say we haven’t found the banned manufacturing devices or banned weapons, they’re wrong, we found them.” But serious questions had been raised within the administration about whether these trailers had anything to do with biological weapons – doubts that soon emerged in a New York Times article. No solid evidence has been put forward confirming that the trailers were designed for anything other than the production of hydrogen for artillery balloons, as captured Iraqis had said. All we have is the administration’s word, which, at this moment, isn’t very reassuring.

The State of the Union speech is the most important speech that the president gives every year. It’s supposed to tell us where the country is headed, tell us how things are going and where they will be going. And in this important speech, it becomes all the more necessary to make sure that what you are saying is true. When it comes out that the administration overlooked certain facts, it makes one wonder if that was the only time they did so. Indeed, the whole question over the “Uraniumgate” issue is not whether or not President Bush was right or wrong, but whether or not he misled the public. It is becoming increasingly clear that he did so, using specific pieces of evidence while discarding others completely. If you are still unsure about this, ask yourself one question: where are the weapons of mass destruction? The administration is offering no new information, which leads to several explanations: they are still well hidden, they did not exist or the nature of the war in Iraq led the Ba’ath party to transfer its weapons to a third party, perhaps al Qaeda or Syria. The truth is, we can guess all we want, but we cannot know what the pre-war truth about weapons of mass destruction was. The problem is that with deceptions like the uranium and aluminum claims, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to accept the administration’s explanations for happenings in Iraq.

Chirag Dedania is a sophomore in the School of Foreign Service and a member of the board of the Georgetown College Democrats.

Have a reaction to this article? Write a letter to the editor.

Comments are closed.