July 07, 2008

Iraq's yellowcake

I've been the recipient of several e-mails (to me directly and via the Newsbusters tip line) noting that the dismantling of the last remaining remnants of Iraq's (Saddam Hussein's) nuclear program in essence proves that President Bush was correct all along. Depending on which source you look at, the answer is "yes and no."

For instance, the New York Sun writes the following:

The uranium issue is not a trivial one, because Iraq, sitting on vast oil reserves, has no peaceful need for nuclear power. Saddam Hussein had already invaded Kuwait, launched missiles into Israeli cities, and harbored a terrorist group, the PKK, hostile to America's NATO ally, Turkey. To leave this nuclear material sitting around the Middle East in the hands of Saddam and the same corrupt United Nations that failed to stop the genocide in Darfur and was guilty of the oil-for-food scandal would have been too big a risk.

The Sun does note that the yellowcake had been left over from over a decade before -- discovered by the UN after the first Gulf War -- and says that is why there "hasn't been much of a fuss" about it in the media.

The New York Times does less editorializing in its article as a whole, although it is quick to point out that the yellowcake in question is not the same that Pres. Bush noted in his 2003 State of the Union Address, and that that reference has been "discredited." While it is accurate that the yellowcake is not the same, Bush's reference is hardly "discredited."

Reuters, in its article, notes that

The Bush administration's claim that Saddam was developing nuclear weapons was a primary justification it gave for the invasion to topple his regime, but no evidence has been found that Saddam continued a nuclear weapons programme after 1991

but conveniently omits what the Times (and other) articles note about the deadly dangers of yellowcake if used in a terror weapon -- or just plain not being aware of it. Reuters merely says that yellowcake "causes pollution." The Times doesn't go into the terror aspect (surprise) but refers to the concern officials had when Iraqis looted some of the yellowcake barrels to use for water storage. This is because the yellowcake dust is mildly radioactive, so ingesting it -- either by via drinking or breathing -- is quite dangerous. And while numerous media note that yellowcake isn't ideal for a "dirty bomb" because its radioactivity is low, it could cause "widespread panic." Well gee, 'ya think? Check it:

Yellowcake is obtained by using various solutions to leach out uranium from raw ore and can have a corn meal-like color and consistency. It poses no severe risk if stored and sealed properly. But exposure carries well-documented health concerns associated with heavy metals such as damage to internal organs, experts say.

"The big problem comes with any inhalation of any of the yellowcake dust," said Doug Brugge, a professor of public health issues at the Tufts University School of Medicine.

So, a little "poof" in downtown Manhattan could indeed be ... quite worrisome.

In my opinion, this would seem to add to Pres. Bush's rationale for invading Iraq since 550 tons of yellowcake is far from something to sneeze at. (I, personally, still don't think the invasion was worth it, however.) But again, keep in mind it's not the yellowcake Bush referenced in 2003. Although numerous sources make a big deal out of this, Bush has already been vindicated for referring to it in his speech (see link above).

So, to reiterate: Was Bush correct all along? Yes and no.

Posted by Hube at July 7, 2008 09:26 AM | TrackBack

Comments  (We reserve the right to edit and/or delete any comments. If your comment is blocked or won't post, e-mail us and we'll post it for you.)

I noticed that "discredited" too. I wonder if the NYT will refer to Joseph Wilson from now on as "discredited."

Posted by: soccer dad at July 7, 2008 01:44 PM

Don't hold your breath, Soccer Dad. Unless there's yellowcake around. :)

Posted by: ShadowWing Tronix at July 7, 2008 05:53 PM

What good is yellowcake without a means of delivery?

Posted by: yale at July 26, 2008 04:36 PM