Ballot Box

Selective English

Other things the British government has learned.

Last fall, the British government published a white paper titled “Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction.” The report declared, “There is intelligence that Iraq has sought the supply of significant quantities of uranium from Africa.” In his State of the Union message in January, President Bush approvingly cited the report. “The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa,” said Bush.

This week, as the only published basis for that claim unraveled, Bush and his aides insisted that Britain knows something we don’t. On Thursday, standing beside British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Bush said of Britain, “Not only our intelligence, but the intelligence of this great country made a clear and compelling case that Saddam Hussein was a threat to security and peace.” On Fox News Sunday, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice explained, “The British themselves stand by that statement to this very day, saying that they had sources other than sources that have now been called into question to back up that claim. We have no reason not to believe them.” When asked whether she had checked out Britain’s sources, Rice demurred, “The British have reasons, because of the arrangements that they made, apparently, in receiving those sources, that they cannot share them with us. … We have every reason to believe that the British services are quite reliable.”

It’s settled, then. Bush has complete confidence in British white papers. In that case, here are a few other recent white papers he surely finds equally compelling:

1. “Our Energy Future—Creating a Low Carbon Economy” (February 2003): “Carbon dioxide emissions [are] the main contributor to global warming.”

2. “Eliminating World Poverty” (November 1997): “A wide range of interventions through development assistance programmes will often be needed. … These interventions include support for … health and family planning services. … At least 150 million couples worldwide are not able to access the contraceptives they want when they want them. When they are available, couples are often unaware how to use the contraceptives safely. The services for millions more are inadequate.”

3. “Smoking Kills” (November 1998): “Norway, Finland and Iceland all introduced advertising bans back in the 1970s which were followed by hefty reductions in smoking rates or tobacco consumption. … An end to tobacco advertising should be the cornerstone of any strategy, and be as broad as possible, including sponsorship and other forms of tobacco promotion. … Previous Governments have operated voluntary agreements with the tobacco industry on advertising. But there is little evidence that they have worked.”

4. “The Future of Higher Education” (January 2003): “The social class gap among those entering higher education is unacceptably wide [and] has widened. … This state of affairs cannot be tolerated in a civilised society.”

5. “The Decision To Go to War in Iraq, Vol. 1” (July 2003): “Ultimately, the continuing concerns about the WMD claims are unlikely to be dispelled unless more evidence of Iraq’s WMD programmes comes to light.”

If Bush echoes these declarations in future speeches, we’ll know he was sincere about trusting British white papers. If not, we’ll know he chose to believe one white paper but not others, for reasons he has yet to explain.