- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 18, 2004

Well, the week went pretty much as I predicted seven days ago:

Bush lied. Not.

Blair lied. Not.

But it turns out Joe Wilson lied. People died. Of embarrassment mostly. At least I’m assuming that’s why the New York Times, MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, PBS drone Bill Moyers and all the other media bigwigs Joseph C. Wilson IV suckered have fallen silent on the subject of the white knight of integrity they’ve previously given hold-Page One treatment.

And what about John F. Kerry? Joe Wilson campaigned with Mr. Kerry in at least six states, and claims to have helped with the candidate’s speeches. He was said to be a senior foreign policy adviser to the senator. As of Friday, Mr. Wilson’s Web site, restorehonesty.com, was still wholly paid for by Mr. Kerry’s presidential campaign.

Heigh-ho. It would be nice to hear his media boosters howling en masse, “Say it ain’t so, Joe.” But Joe Wilson’s already slipping down the old media memory hole. He served his purpose — he damaged Mr. Bush, he tainted the liberation of Iraq — and yes, by the time you read this the Kerry campaign may well have pulled the plug on his Web site, and Salon magazine’s luxury cruise will probably have to find another headline speaker, and he won’t be doing Tim Russert’s “Meet the Press” again any time soon.

But what matters to the media and to Mr. Kerry is that Mr. Wilson helped the cause of (to quote his book title) “The Politics of Truth” and if it takes a serial liar to do that, so be it.

But before he gets lowered in his yellowcake overcoat into the Niger River, let’s pause to consider: What do Joe Wilson’s lies mean? And what does it say about the Democrats and the media that so many high-ranking figures took him at his word?

First, contrary to what he wrote in the New York Times, Saddam was trying to acquire uranium from Niger. In support of that proposition are a Senate report in Washington, Lord Butler’s report in London, MI6, French intelligence, other European agencies — and, as we now know, the CIA report, based on Mr. Wilson’s original briefing on it. Against that proposition is Mr. Wilson’s revised version for the Times.

This isn’t difficult. In 1999, a senior Iraqi “trade” delegation went to Niger. Uranium accounts for 75 percent of Niger’s exports. The rest is goats, cowpeas and onions. So who sends senior trade missions to Niger? Maybe Saddam dispatched his Ba’athist bigshots all the way to the dusty capital of Niamy because he had a sudden yen for goat and onion stew with a side order of black-eyed peas, and Maj. Daouda Mallam Wanke, then president, had offered him a great three-for-one deal.

But that’s not what Joe Wilson found. Maj. Wanke’s prime minister, among others, told Ambassador Wilson he believed Iraq wanted yellowcake. And Mr. Wilson told the CIA. And the CIA’s report agreed with the British and the Europeans that “Iraq was attempting to procure uranium from Africa.”

In his ludicrously vain memoir “The Politics of Truth,” Mr. Wilson plays up his knowledge of the country. He makes much of his intimacy with Maj. Wanke and gives himself the credit for ridding Niger of the Wanke regime. The question then is why a man who knew so much about what was going on chose deliberately to misrepresent it to all his media/Democrat buddies, not to mention the American people.

For a book called “The Politics of Truth,” it’s remarkably short of it. On Page 2, Mr. Wilson says of his trip to Niger: “I had found nothing to substantiate the rumors.” But he had.

That’s what lying is, by the way: intentional deceit, not unreliable intelligence. And I’m not usually the sort to bandy the liar-liar-pants-on-fire charge beloved by so many in our politics today, but I’ll make an exception in the case of Mr. Wilson, who has never been shy about the term.

He called Mr. Bush a “liar” and he called Vice President Dick Cheney a “lying sonofabitch” on stage at an Iowa Kerry rally.

Saddam wanted yellowcake for one reason — to strike at his neighbors in the region, and beyond that at Britain, America and his other enemies. In other words, he wanted the uranium in order to kill you.

The obvious explanation for Mr. Wilson’s deceit about what he found in Africa is his hatred of Bush outweighed everything else. Or as the novelist and Internet maestro Roger L Simon said: “He is a deeply evil human being willing to lie and obfuscate for temporary political gain about a homicidal dictator’s search for weapon’s grade uranium.” Technically, it’s weaponizable uranium, not “weapon’s grade.” But that’s the point. Mr. Simon isn’t the expert, and, as Mr. Wilson trumpets loudly and often, Mr. Wilson is. This isn’t a case of another Michael Moore, court buffoon to the Senate Democrats, or Whoopi Goldberg, has-been potty-mouth for John Kerry. They’re in showbiz; what do they know?

But Mr. Wilson does know; he went there, he talked to officials, and he lied about America’s national security in order to be the anti-Bush crowd’s Playmate of the Month. Either he’s profoundly wicked or he’s as deranged as that woman on the Paris Metro last week who falsely claimed to have been the victim of an anti-Semitic attack. The Paris crazy was unmasked in a few days, but the Niger crazy was lionized a full year.

Some of us are on record as dismissing Mr. Wilson in the first bloom of his unmerited celebrity. But John Kerry was taken in — to the point where he signed him up as an adviser and underwrote his Web site. What does that reveal about Mr. Nuance and his superb judgment?

Mr. Kerry claims to be able to rebuild America’s relationships with France, and to have excellent buddy-to-buddy relations with French political leaders. Yet anyone who has spent 10 minutes in Europe this last year knows virtually every government there believes Iraq was trying to get uranium from Africa. Is Mr. Kerry so uncurious about America’s national security he can’t pick up the phone to his Paris pals and get the scoop firsthand? For all his claims to be Monsieur Sophisticate, there’s something hicky and parochial in his embrace of an obvious nutcake for passing partisan advantage.

Any Democrats and media types who are in the early stages of yellowcake fever and can still think clearly enough not to want dirty nukes going off in Seattle or Houston — or even Vancouver or Rotterdam or Amman — need to consider seriously the wild ride Yellowcake Joe took them on.

An ambassador, in Sir Henry Wootton’s famous dictum, is a good man sent abroad to lie for his country. This one came home to lie to his. The Democrats and media helped him do it.

Mark Steyn is the senior contributing editor for Hollinger Inc. Publications, senior North American columnist for Britain’s Telegraph Group, North American editor for the Spectator, and a nationally syndicated columnist.

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