For the first time the White House has admitted that President Bush may have misled Congress and the nation that Saddam Hussein was attempting to buy uranium from the African country of Niger. Bush announced the link on Jan. 28 at the State of the Union by saying “the British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.”
Others in the administration cited this claim repeatedly to highlight the threat Iraq poised in the weeks and months leading to the U.S. invasion.
But questions of the intelligence emerged as reports indicated the CIA knew before the State of the Union that there was no link between Iraq and Niger.
On Sunday the Times ran an article by former ambassador Joseph Wilson who last year went to Niger in a CIA-funded trip. He concluded that no such transaction of uranium was ever made. But Wilson’s findings were apparently ignored by the White House.
As late as yesterday, the White House was defending the President’s statements. Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said in the afternoon “We see nothing that would dissuade us from the president’s broader statement.” But last night the White House issued a statement reversing Fleischer’s statement.
Meanwhile across the Atlantic, a parliamentary committee has issued an investigative report questioning the intelligence British Prime Minister Tony Blair used to lead his country to war.
Blair, the report notes, claimed Britain had other evidence that proved Iraq was trying to buy uranium. But no such evidence has ever been made public.
The Palestinian group Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility today for a bombing in central Israel that killed a 65-year-old Israeli woman. This comes despite a one-week-old cease-fire pledge. The group threatened more violence if Israel does not release more Palestinian prisoners.
The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the independent commission created to investigate the Sept. 11 attacks is facing major hurdles from the White House and may not be able complete its investigation by its deadline of next May.
Access to White House documents and federal personnel to interview has been limited. The commission has only received a small portion of the documents it requested. And interviews only began last week, seven months after the committee was formed.
And members of the commission were only allowed access to a major 900-page Congressional inquiry two months ago.
Commissioner Max Cleland, a former Democratic senator from Georgia, says of the White House: “It’s obvious that they’re sifting the information to the 9/11 commission now. We’re way, way late here. The picture is not encouraging.”
Three U.S. soldiers were wounded in two explosions today in Central Iraq. Meanwhile for the second time in less than a week U.S. troops came under a mortar attack north of Baghdad shortly before midnight.
A U.S. military team of 32 arrived in Liberia today in a move that could lead to a deployment of U.S. troops to restore order in the West African nation.
This news from Nigeria: The police have been accused of shooting dead at least 10 demonstrators in Lagos following days of strikes and protests. This comes just days before the US president’s visit. The strike was called off today after a deal was reached over fuel prices.
Time Magazine is reporting that the U.S. troops looted and vandalized the Baghdad airport after the Iraqi capital fell in April.
The troops stole duty-free items, shot up the airport, trashed five Boeing airplanes to such a degree that they may never fly again. Time went on to report that terminal windows were smashed and almost every door in the airport was broken. Grafitti in English covered the walls. The total cost of the destruction could top $100 million.
One senior Pentagon official told Time: “There was no chance this was done by Iraqis.”
Another military official said “Soldiers do this stuff all the time, everywhere. It’s warfare.”
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