Tuesday, March 06, 2007
The 'Plamegate affair' has not been reported on much across the ocean, and among the crimes of the Bush administration it would seem to be the least. Lewis Libby is found guilty of having sought to frustrate by various means an investigation into the leaking of the name of a classified CIA officer. Further, he sought to defend himself by lying to the court, and possibly with the implicit threat to release state secrets (something that his lawyer John D. Cline was notorious for during Iran-Contra) with the hope of forcing the state to back down on the trial. The CIA officer in question was Valerie Plame, wife of Joseph C. Wilson, a retired diplomat. He had been sent on a mission to investigate claims that Iraq had sought uranium from Niger. He turned up diddly-squat, and reported as much. Bush decided to cite the claim anyway, and yellow-cake-walked his way into Baghdad. Wilson thought that it was bad and wrong that a President of the United States should lie, and do so to terrorise the American people into accepting a war. There is no doubt that Bush had successfully done so: most Americans registered the success of the propaganda in polls, openly declaring the absurd beliefs that Saddam was a threat to the United States and was responsible for 9/11 (remember that before mid-2002 when the propaganda campaign kicked off, only 3% of Americans blamed Saddam for arranging the attack on the United States). And the 'yellow-cake' claims undoubtedly played their part. So, Wilson blew the whistle.
They couldn't have that, for although Ambassador Wilson was not well-known, he had given an insider's perspective to the New York Times, the so-called paper of fucking record (doesn't the phrase "paper of record" suggest the simultaneously haughty and cowering aspect of a court newsletter?) At the time, it was becoming clear that Iraq's nascent resistance movement would probably succeed in driving out the UN figleaf, and that support for the war that had been achieved by the propaganda was flagging. The possibility of being dragged down into urban combat with not only a lack of political will but positive discontent growing at home couldn't have looked very good. It was in that context that Wilson's op-eds were published. And it was in that context that the name of his wife and her occupation were leaked to the Opus Dei columnist Robert Novak and reported in a hit piece by him, with the suggestion that she had got him on the mission. The latter claim was amplified in subsequent reporting (so that people would understand that Wilson is a liar and a sneak and a baby who needs his wife to get him work, and therefore someone whom no one should take seriously). Novak, who is supposed to be seasoned journalist, simply told the entire story from the administration's point of view as was expected of him.
Actually, on this point, how the fuck can some of these people call themselves journalists? These people who not only lick the frigid fingers of the government, but are actually proud of their ability to get some smirking administration thug or crook on the phone. Judith Miller gets cosy with the government and the CIA's paid retinue of terrorists and putschists, regurgitates what they tell her, and still gets paid for that. Christopher Hitchens takes a trip to the Green Zone courtesy of the tax-payer, eats lunch with the military and never steps outside those 9-foot thick walls of concrete, comes back and says not only that the occupation is going wonderfully well, but he's rather annoyed that Fox News didn't tell him this. And he calls himself a fucking journalist? Worse, someone who aspires to turn journalism into literature. No: a lackey, a creep, a flunky, a whore, a sell-out and a groupie, all that, but not a journalist. And there are is a whole class of such people: on the one hand, the columnists, from the uber-rich Thomas Friedman to the inane Krauthammer, all puffed up, so confident that their deliberations are more than half-educated bar room bravado, forever outraged at how mean and unfair the world is to America's rulers; on the other hand, the less well-known but equally pernicious reporters whose docility, bovine readiness to tread and retread the same old lies, and willingness to assume the basic innocence of the United States government, is so handsomely rewarded.
Unsurprisingly, Wilson sees the revelations as a political reprisal for disloyalty. Several witnesses testifying in court said that Bush and Cheney were enraged by his relevations. Indeed, the problem of insubordination among CIA employees dissatisfied with having to mutilate intelligence findings to fit the White House's agenda was such that when Porter Goss replaced the fallen George Tenet as head of the CIA, he immediately reminded them that they worked for the executive of the United States government and that their role was to support the administration and its policies. Lewis Libby's role was presumably to take the information given to him by Vice President Dick Cheney and pass it on to many, many sympathetic sources. The effort to conceal information is certainly suggestive of an attempt to protect those who instructed him in the matter. Richard Armitage, a thick-skulled slab of a man, a gung-ho imperialist who blasted peasants to shreds in Vietnam, and a former State Department official, acknowledges leaking the name to Novack, but for some reason he doesn't seem to be facing any charges even though disclosing the name of a CIA agent is still illegal in Washington. You can get into trouble for it. On the face of it, it looks as if Libby alone has taken the fall for promulgating an administration attack on a critic and covering up for them.
All this tells you a lot about how things are done in Washington. The criminal enterprise that Wilson tried to expose is left well alone, while his wife made redundant, and he is repeatedly attacked and slandered by stampeding hordes of buffoons. Libby goes down because he was caught telling fibs to protect his masters, but no one cares who he was protecting or why, and no one will try to find out. The Iraq war will, on some estimates, cost between $1 trillion and $2 trillion by the time it's finished. It looks as if the imperial strategy is failing badly and is causing some alarm in segments of the American ruling class. However, no one in the current administration will suffer serious or permanent damage as things presently stand - the costs of empire are largely externalised to its victims - and quite a lot of people close to the administration have done rather well out of the venture. The Democrats are still largely convinced of the legitimacy of the effort, are determined to support it more intensely and may even try to take it further afield. They will appreciate this conviction because it hurts the Republicans, as it should. But they would no more seek further indictments or probe further into the issues than they would participate in a daisy-chain of arse-kicking, since one runs the risk of establishing troublesome precedents. So it's all coming down on Lewis Libby. According to Libby, he got the name 'Scooter' because his Daddy noticed how fast he could move across his little crib when he was a baby. He has a new crib to scoot around in for a few years.