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Sixteen Words You Can't Take Back, or Maybe You Can, But You Shouldn't

hitchens.bmpI love Chris Hitchens. He's snide and snotty as all get out. He openly derides and mocks others when he appears on TV shows. And he's British, which makes it easier for him to get away with such behavior. He's also the only guy in the world still defending Bush's notorious Sixteen Words, and he makes a pretty compelling case.


Our new pseudo-conservative friends could learn a thing or two from Hitch on how to make your case for the Iraq war. In this article on Slate, Hitchens focuses on the Niger Yellow Cake fiasco (the dreaded 16 Words in the State of the Union address from a few years back) and actually has me thinking he might be on to something. This, after Bush has acknowledged the reference was wrong and George Tenet has apologized for it ever getting past him!

But Old Hitch keeps at it, and tell me this wouldn't make you think again.

"In February 1999, Zahawie left his Vatican office for a few days and paid an official visit to Niger, a country known for absolutely nothing except its vast deposits of uranium ore. It was from Niger that Iraq had originally acquired uranium in 1981...In order to take the Joseph Wilson view of this Baathist ambassadorial initiative, you have to be able to believe that Saddam Hussein's long-term main man on nuclear issues was in Niger to talk about something other than the obvious."

Now, that much has been verified, according to Hitchens. Saddam's man DID make that visit. Hitchens asks if it wouldn't in fact be irresponsible to not assume he was there for nefarious reasons? I can't argue that.

Instead, he says, the "waters have been muddied" by the appearance of an obviously forged document. It is this document that led many in the intelligence world (and Joseph Wilson) to dismiss the whole idea as a phony. But Hitchens argues that to dismiss the whole story because one element is false is to fall prey to disinformation.

"There seem to be only three possibilities here. Either a) American intelligence concocted the note; b) someone in Italy did so in the hope of gain; or c) it was the product of disinformation, intended to protect Niger and discredit any attention paid to the actual, real-time Zahawie visit."

He notes a story in the London Sunday Times that states a NATO investigation fingering two employees of the Niger embassy as having sold a genuine document related to the trip and then added another, forged document to pad their payoff. The result being "that a phony paper alleging a deal was used to shoot down a genuine document suggesting a connection."

His obvious personal distaste for Wilson aside, it's a fascinating read and anyone who has seen Hitch on TV knows he's got balls as big as boulders. Here's proof he's also got the brains to back 'em up.


Hitchens not only always has something worthwhile to say, his tremendous gift as a writer makes it always worthwhile to read. Unlike the pat hack-isms of the Ann Coulters of the world, you can feel the visceral sting of Hitchens's barbs.

Right or wrong, what I love about the guy is that he's never anybody's fool. He's not in anybody's camp, and his views are usually hard-won. He does not seek to be in any "amen" corner and readily accepts confrontation, always as a gentleman.

When friends are surprised I have a more "charitable" view of Bush's foreign policy than most, I'll point them to Hitch's articles--not to try to change their minds, but to understand that there is a rationale beyond "blood for oil."

Exactly, I don't often agree with his stance on the war but I am always--always--impressed with his rationale and ability to communicate it. He's definitely one of my favorite voices on all things political. He always has an interesting take on things.

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