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The Curious Case of the Lost Lemurs
July 2, 2003
By Weldon Berger

"Do you guys really have lemurs at home?"

The father of a little girl whom my just-turned-seven-year-old daughter has befriended at our neighborhood park approached me with that question a few days ago when I arrived to fetch my kid, who had managed to convince this guy - all on her own, with no CIA or credulous media outlets to back her up - that she had adopted two of Zaboomafoo's unemployed siblings and kept them in her bedroom in our Honolulu condo.

"I wasn't sure at first," he said, "but she seemed to know so much about them ..." The incident went a long way toward clarifying for me why so many people were sucked in by the administration's repeated misrepresentations regarding the threats posed by Iraq's nuclear weapons and al Qaeda connections.

They didn't exist, but the administration seemed to know so much about them.

Where the analogy falters is that the guy believed me when I told him we didn't have any lemurs. His head didn't begin spinning about, Linda Blair-like, in an effort to avoid hearing or seeing anything that might interfere with his existing understanding of the lemur situation.

He didn't point out that the Honolulu Zoo, just a few short blocks from the park, had lemurs, very active lemurs who might easily have leapt the moat into my daughter's arms to be smuggled out beneath her trench coat.

He didn't suggest that perhaps there in fact are lemurs in my daughter's bedroom but I just haven't found them yet.

Tthose are the sorts of gymnastics, though, in the face of evidence that is about to become indisputable, that Bush partisans engage in with regard to the suggestion that the administration made claims about Iraq that it knew in at least one case to be untrue and in others, to be wildly exaggerated.

When an as-yet-unnamed former U.S. ambassador - my guess is it'll turn out to be Joseph C. Wilson, IV - traveled to Niger in March of 2002 to investigate claims that Iraq was attempting to purchase up to 500 tons of uranium from the African country, he did so on behalf of the CIA, which acted at the request of Dick Cheney.

When President Bush referred in his 2003 State of the Union address to intelligence indicating that Iraq had attempted to acquire large quantities of uranium from an African country, he was referring to the Iraq-Niger connection that had been discredited nine months earlier as a result of the investigation undertaken by the CIA at the request of the vice president.

When Condoleeza Rice said recently that "maybe someone knew down in the bowels of the agency - but no one in our circles knew that there were doubts and suspicions that this might be a forgery," "it" was the Niger-Iraq connection that the investigation undertaken by the CIA at the request of the vice president's office had discredited early last year, and "our circles" were the intelligence mavens in the White House, the National Security Council and the vice president's office.

It's possible, I suppose, that the administration is telling the truth, and that they're not dishonest but only hopelessly incompetent.

That would go a long way toward explaining why there was no plan in place to secure the nuclear materials we knew existed: the tons of uranium and radioactive isotopes under IAEA seal at Tuwaitha, the former nuclear research facility near Baghdad.

It could explain why the scientist who recently turned over pieces of a uranium enrichment centrifuge that had lain buried in his garden for twelve years had to resort to hanging around the Palestine Hotel and begging journalists to put him in touch with former UN weapons inspector David Albright because he couldn't get any U.S. military officials to pay attention to him.

And it could explain why the military kicked in the man's door and arrested him several days after he turned over the gear and its accompanying documents to the military. (He was released a short time later with an apology.)

The evidence, though, strongly suggests that the administration is hopelessly incompetent and dishonest.

And that's why, until some clever soul invents an unbreakable rhetorical neck brace, we're screwed. Half the public is so engrossed in practicing the mechanics of cranial rotation that the obvious is invisible.

The press is either similarly involved or too polite to mention the obvious.

Congress - including, sadly, much of the loyal opposition - has its collective head buried so far up its collective nether region that it hasn't even gotten to the Exorcist portion of the program yet.

We're about to be subjected to a $300 million advertising blitz aimed at persuading voters that learning to spin their heads around like tops is not only normal, but the only patriotic thing to do.

We're lucky, though, in one sense: imagine what the administration could do were they as persuasive as a seven-year-old.

Weldon Berger is a freelance writer lving in Hawaii, which as far from Washington, D.C., as it is possible to get while still remaining in the U.S. He can be reached by email at:

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