July 13, 2003
Opinions You Should Have Responsible For White House Misstatements

Sincerely Regret Misleading Our Great Leader

While CIA Director George Tenet has bravely stepped forward to protect us, the staff at Opinions You Should Have must finally reveal that we encouraged the President to tell the American people that Saddam Hussein had sought to purchase uranium from Africa.

We regret our misguided judgment. Our enthuiasm for the word "yellowcake" completely blinded us to the wrongfulness of making a false statement to the American people.

Our excitement and delight at discovering that there was such a thing as "yellowcake" uranium was so great that we decided to ignore the fact that the Niger documents we were examining were forged. It is with great sadness that we admit we were too busy saying "yellowcake uranium -- that is too cool" to properly advise the President of the blatant inaccuracy of his statement in the State of the Union address.

We also are greatly saddened by our decision to preface the false statement with "the British government has learned" in order to shield the President from any blame for its untruthfulness. We were wrong.

While we appreciate Mr. Tenet's fine, friendly and courageous act, we are happy to clear him from any wrongdoing. We are greatly sorry that our judgment was flawed, although we must remind the public that our error has introduced the phrase "yellowcake uranium" into the public lexicon, a fact for which we must all be grateful.

Moreover, while the purchase of our new H2 Hummer stretch limo with full wet bar, hot tub, and plasma screen television coincides with the release of this statement, the British government has learned that it is entirely untrue that the staff of Opinions You Should Have received a large monetary benefit, among other things, in exchange for our story here today.


The sentence Mr. Tenet took the blame for is

The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.
The crucial paragraph from the 2003 State of the Union address is
The International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed in the 1990s that Saddam Hussein had an advanced nuclear weapons development program, had a design for a nuclear weapon and was working on five different methods of enriching uranium for a bomb. The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa. Our intelligence sources tell us that he has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes suitable for nuclear weapons production. Saddam Hussein has not credibly explained these activities. He clearly has much to hide.
George W. Bush clearly has much to hide.

The International Atomic Energy Agency and, reportedly, the CIA thoroughly discounted the idea that the aluminum tubes were purchased for, or could be used for, uranium refinement. (Links here, here, and here, to start. The Washington Post noted (in that last link, there) that:

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the U.N.-chartered nuclear watchdog, reported in a Jan. 8 preliminary assessment that the tubes were "not directly suitable" for uranium enrichment but were "consistent" with making ordinary artillery rockets -- a finding that meshed with Iraq's official explanation for the tubes.
So even the statement regarding the aluminum tubes -- forget the Niger claim -- was demonstrably false. The conclusion set forth by Bush in his State of the Union speech was, at the very least, so unsettled that it was reckless and irresponsible to set it forth as fact in the Address. (And that is a kind reading of the situation -- for certainly, once the IAEA has come out with a preliminary assessment indicating that what you want to say is probably false -- it would be lying to state the contrary unless new evidence controverted the IAEA's conclusion.)

The Washington Post story -- reporting the unreliability of repeated White House claims concerning use of the aluminum tubes to develop nuclear fuel -- is dated January 24, four days before the State of the Union address where the false claim was again advanced.

UPDATE: The Washington Post seems to have actually caught on, unlike the rest of the media, to this. The story here

Posted by Tom Burka at 8:35 AM in News