Pseudononymous blogger Philippe de Croy states as fact his opinion that President Bush's credibility is particularly poor in the wake of revelations that Saddam Hussein probably did not buy "yellowcake" uranium from Africa. Even the New York Times doesn't assume outright that the President's reference to African uranium was wrong (much less a lie).

"There is other reporting to suggest that Iraq tried to obtain uranium from Africa," the statement said. "However, the information is not detailed or specific enough for us to be certain that attempts were in fact made."

In other words, said one senior official, "we couldn't prove it, and it might in fact be wrong."

Separately tonight, The Washington Post quoted an unidentifed senior administration official as declaring that "knowing all that we know now, the reference to Iraq's attempt to acquire uranium from Africa should not have been included in the State of the Union speech." Some administration officials have expressed similar sentiments in interviews in the past two weeks.

So, it looks like the President and the CIA might have been mistaken. It's understandable that President Bush wanted to play this angle up during this State of the Union address, and I haven't read any evidence to suggest that he knowingly lied about it. The situation doesn't sound particularly nefarious to me. Even still, let's say take the worst case: he die lie. Where does that leave us?

Well, it wouldn't have been an unimportant, inconsequential lie about something as minor as oral sex, and so I could understand the American people questioning the purpose behind it. That's not the issue Philippe pursues, however.

Internationally, though, this will not wash. I am sure some countries will continue to provide us with ample respect and cooperation in any case because they regard it as so strongly in their interest to do so. But at the margin the cost in credibility will have to be high. I should think that most countries -- their people and their leaders -- will look back at the war on Iraq and remember the incredulous indignation we heaped upon those who would not go along with us. Then they will look at what came out afterwards and conclude that we are clowns or worse. They will not focus on what we claimed that was true. They will focus on what we claimed that was false. This is natural.

Let me put it this way: Imagine events occurring over the next five years that would make international respect and cooperation urgently valuable to us. It isn’t particularly difficult, is it? Now given the state of the record on Iraq, is George Bush the man you would want to send forward in those circumstances to make promises and representations abroad?

I don't think Philippe understands that all the cooperation we receive and should expect to receive from foreign countries is based on intersecting interests. The betrayal of France and Germany over the past six months proves this point powerfully; they had every reason to respect our past friendship and cooperate with us out of loyalty, but because their own national interests did not align with ours they chose to stand in opposition.

On the flip side, Britain and Australia were staunch allies in every sense of the word. However, they didn't line up shoulder to shoulder with America because they owed us favors or because they respected President Bush's integrity, they fought by our side because their interests line up with ours. And because our interests are aligned -- and have been for quite a while -- there is a sense of brotherhood between our three nations.

Loyalty and friendship are built on common goals. Philippe and others who believe like him think that once we have loyalty and friendship, the goals will become aligned, but that's putting the cart before the horse.



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