2011/10/30

Fair Game

Finally got to see the DVD of Fair Game, the story of the Bush Administration's rush to war against Iraq in late 2002, early 2003. Very good and no, it doesn't leave the slightest doubt that Bush's people knew full well that in the two cases the film looks at, the aluminum tubes (centrifuges or missile launch tubes?) and whether of not Niger sold raw uranium to Iraq, that the Bush Administration very consciously, deliberately and with malice aforethought, lied to get Americans enthusiastic about going to war with Iraq.
I had never before heard the exact reasons the CIA gave for not believing that the aluminum cylinders were for missile launch tubes as opposed to being nuclear fuel enrichment centrifuges, but in the film, the agents laughingly answer a Bush Administration official that the tubes that Iraq possessed were three to four times thicker and twice as long as centrifuges would have been. Makes sense, as centrifuges wouldn't need to be very thick, but a launch tube would need to be able to withstand a rocket going off inside it.
I could tell when Joe's article came out in late 2003 that there were lots of problems with the idea that Iraq got uranium from Niger (Joe Wilson pronounced it Ni-zheer, precisely to distinguish it from Nigeria). There are no railroads in that part of the world and the film specifies that it would have taken 50 heavy trucks to have carried a sufficient quantity of raw yellowcake uranium to have made a few bombs. I looked at a map and saw that it was 400 miles from the Southeastern tip of Niger to the nearest ports in Benin or Nigeria. The author Tony Hillerman wrote about people living in isolated areas such as one finds in Niger and Northern Benin and Nigeria. Hillerman wrote about two Apache detectives who lived in the American West. When vehicles in those isolated areas move, they get noticed and commented on. People in the Hillerman novels get asked if they've seen, say, a blue car going West. They usually remember just such a car and approximately when it passed. Even if Niger could have gotten all 50 trucks the 400 miles in one day (That of course, presumes really well-maintained roads), it would still take quite a while to get all the yellowcake offloaded from the trucks and loaded onto a ship. There's simply no way that even the most minimal due diligence wouldn't uncover all kinds of testimony and other evidence about such a large shipment. Even if satellites didn't pick up such a large movement for that region, spies in the ports would definitely have gotten lots of pictures of the loading. Obviously, the ship would have been carefully tracked and intercepted long before it got to Iraq.
I was surprised to hear that Valerie Plame Wilson (Played by Naomi Watts) didn't tell her husband (Played by Sean Penn) that she had informed her supervisors in the CIA that Joe had previous experience being a General Services Officer in the late 1970s to Niger. And no, I never believed for a single moment that she "sent" him to there. Her explanation that she merely suggested that "Oh, if we need someone to go to Niger, my husband has relevant experience being in that area." Joe didn't work for the CIA, he went voluntarily and Valerie wouldn't have had the authority to send him anywhere as she simply didn't play any such role in the CIA.
What was always the most ludicrous charge thrown against the Wilsons was that Valerie had sent Joe on a "junket." When I served in the Navy (1991-2001), I spent two years in the Mediterranean (1996-1998) onboard the USS LaSalle (AGF-3), the command ship for the Sixth Fleet. I certainly got to the big party/tourist ports, Venice, Italy; Cannes, France; Mallorca, Spain, etc. But I also got to some not-so-wealthy, not-so-touristy places, Constanta, Romania;  Tunis, Tunisia and Poti, Georgia, among others. Now, if I were told by a US government official "Mr. Gardner, your country would appreciate it if you were to go to [one of these places to do whatever]", I'd salute, say "Aye-aye," get over there and make the best of it. But would I go to any of these places as though they were tourist destinations? Uh, hardly. There's a scene in the film where Joe turns on a tap and, instead of getting water, gets some sort of thick, black liquid. Clearly, Niger was not any sort of touristy kind of place that wealthy Americans or Europeans were visiting for the fun of it. So I never found it the slightest bit believable that Joe Wilson had set out to Niger for any reason other than what he said he was there to do, to see whether Niger had sent uranium to Iraq.
And yes, I agree with the films conclusion, that it's right for citizens to stand up when things are wrong and to publicly say so.I greatly appreciate both of the Wilsons for having done so.

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