[UPDATE: Good news, Bad news - in a later edition of this story (which appears in my Dead Tree version), they move the news about the Niger-uranium link UP to the sixth paragraph. The Bad News is that they mis-state a conclusion of the US Senate Intelligence report. Gregory Djerejian goes after this version of their story.]
The NY Times splashes some ink on the newly released Butler report, but just grazes the question of greatest interest to their American readers - what about the President's State of the Union address, and the once-infamous "16 Words":
The British findings departed from the American report last week in several key areas. Firstly, Lord Butler said Britain had received information from "several different sources" to substantiate reports that Iraq sought to purchase uranium from Niger, an assertion dismissed by the Senate Intelligence Committee.
That is it. And placement? I am afraid to count; it is the fifth paragraph from the bottom, or, roughly, the thirtieth paragraph of the story.
Somehow the Times missed this tidbit from the Butler report:
499. We conclude that, on the basis of the intelligence assessments at the time, covering both Niger and the Democratic Republic of Congo, the statements on Iraqi attempts to buy uranium from Africa in the Government’s dossier, and by the Prime Minister in the House of Commons, were well-founded. By extension, we conclude also that the statement in President Bush’s State of the Union Address of 28 January 2003 that:
The British Government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought signiﬁcant quantities of uranium from Africa.
Do they seriously not find that to be newsworthy? They found space for this, around paragraph 22:
"We went to war under a false premise," said Alice Mahon, an anti-war Labor legislator. "We went to war on George Bush's timetable."
A year ago, on July 20, 2003, the Sunday NY Times ran a piece titled "How Powerful Can 16 Words Be?" by Christopher Marquis.
A few excerpts:
Mr. Bush portrayed the United States as under an imminent threat from Iraq. In 16 words, he passed along this chilling information: "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."
A nuclear Iraq? That carried so much freight with ordinary Americans. Concerns about biological or chemical weapons, the possibility of a Baghdad alliance with Al Qaeda — these worries paled when compared with the prospect that Iraq had reconstituted its nuclear program and might share weapons with terrorists.
...Today, those 16 words haunt the administration. They are the best-remembered flourish in a portrait of Iraq that today seems unrecognizable. They are a leading rationale for a war that has resulted in the death of 224 Americans. And they are either unsubstantiated or based on a lie.
Perhaps the Times can provide an anniversary piece - "How Invisible Can 16 Words Be?"
I have three words for their "16 Words" coverage - "Where is it?"
MORE: Additional glimpses of their coverage a year ago.
We are especialy intrigued by this editorial titled "The Vanishing Uranium".
And we note that today's story is datelined London, and is by Alan Cowell, who seems to be on the British beat. Still, how the editors left out a bit of news of topical interest in the US is a puzzle.
UPDATE: The WaPo buries it, and does not mention the 16 Words, but does say this:
But the report defended as "well founded" the dossier's claim that Iraq had sought to obtain enriched uranium from African countries. The CIA has questioned the claim, saying it was based on forged papers, but the Butler panel said there were other sources for the assertion.