Yellowcake Goes to America

To continue the story of how an aging Italian spy called Rocco, for purposes all his own and not related to Dick Cheney’s need to find the goods on Saddam Hussein in order to justify a war on Iraq, concocted a phony “dossier,” also known as The Niger Papers (or Yellowcake as I like to call them), and peddled them around Europe….we come now to the part where the sham documents are delivered to the desk(s) of one or more officials of the Bush administration in Washington, D.C. in October 2001.
The Story, Part II: The Berlusconi-Bush Affair
The Players:
Nicolò Pollari, head of SISMI (Italian Intelligence agency)
Silvio Berlusconi, Prime Minister of the Republic of Italy, media magnate who owns the weekly, Panorama, (and most of Italy’s media industry) which was offered Rocco’s fake Niger dossier
Greg Thielmann, State Department Bureau of Intelligence and Research; assigned by Colin Powell to John Bolton at the Pentagon in 2001
Paul Wolfowitz, Deputy Secretary of Defense (until March 2005) and now President of the World Bank
Douglas Feith, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy (Bush appointee, July 2001 to August 2005)
George W. Bush, President of the United States of America (still)
It is October 2001, only a shudder past the events of September 11, and Nicolò Pollari, newly installed director of SISMI, Italy’s CIA-equivalent, is anxious to please his boss. Pollari’s boss, Silvio Berlusconi, wants to do something nice for his good friend President Bush. In fact, Berlusconi is hot to really impress Bush with something that only Italy can deliver–evidence that Iraq is buying large quanities of uranium oxide (yellowcake) from Niger.
Pollari packs his suitcase and travels with Berlusconi to Washington with the Yellowcake Papers in (metaphorical) hand. He meets with CIA officers but the welcome is less than he expected. In fact, the spooks in Washington are very skeptical of his “gift” of intelligence.
Following up on Pollari, the CIA checks in with the U.S. embassy in Niger and asks the French-run consortium in charge of the two uranium mines there whether yellowcake had been going to Iraq. The French contacts say no. There is no possibility yellowcake was being diverted from Niger to Iraq (see Russ Hoyle’s story below). As well, Greg Thielmann, Colin Powell’s State Department staffer at the Pentagon, who has seen the report from Pollari, thinks the Yellowcake Papers are “highly suspect.” He will later tell the Italian newspaper, La Repubblica, that the intelligence collected in Rome is inconsistent, that the uranium story is phony and that a bunch of things contained in the report are fabricated.
Skepticism from the State Department and the CIA notwithstanding, the Yellowcake Papers have now begun their life as deep cover propaganda for the now-we-know-it-was-inevitable War on Iraq. But how?
Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith is how, for one. At a Department of Defense (DoD) briefing on June 4, 2003, Douglas Feith (accompanied by William J. “Bill” Luti–who will have his stage entrance a bit later in this story) tells reporters that his “team” at DoD “…began its work October of 2001…”. This team was to review intelligence from the CIA and “help digest it” for Feith and “other policy makers, to help us develop Defense Department strategy for the war on terrorism.” What was the work that Feith’s team began in October of 2001? The “work” was the creation of the Office of Special Plans (OOSP), founded by Paul Wolfowitz, at the Pentagon.
If the CIA and Colin Powell’s State Department were looking a gift horse in the mouth, the Office of Special Plans and it’s cabal of two saw an opportunity to build a Trojan Horse–packed with yellowcake-to be delivered to the American people. It will be almost a year and a half before that horse is trotted out but within months Joseph Wilson will be sent to Niger to investigate the Yellowcake Papers for the CIA.
But the story of yellowcake coming to America is also a love story. In October 2001 the Bush-Berlusconi Affair blossoms. Here’s a snippet of love talk from their October 15, 2001 press conference together:
Bush: It’s my honor to welcome the leader of one of our nation’s best friends, the Prime Minister of a country that has had so much to do with our nation and its development. I’m also pleased to be able to give him a lunch — after all, I had one of the best lunches I’ve had since I’ve been the President because of the Prime Minister. …I’m pleased that we’re sharing intelligence. I’m pleased that the Prime Minister understands that al Qaeda has cells all around the world and he’s more than willing to work with us to disrupt those cells, to bring people to justice.
Berlusconi: Thank you, Mr. President, I am here, first of all, to express our great pain and sadness for the attack on September the 11th and to say to you if the same attack had been — had occurred on an Italian city we would have felt the same pain as you are.And also I’m here to express to you our desire to be as close as possible and to provide both moral and material support.
The Evidence:
Russ Hoyle on yellowcake (via the Joseph Wilson website)
Russ Hoyle’s book excerpt (pdf):
DoD briefing
More on OOSP
Seymour Hersh
[The New Yorker, October 21, 2003]
Next: Yellowcake Shake and Bake



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