It's hard to come by a
good outline of the real story, but this one will do:
In his op-ed on July 6th, 2003, Wilson gave a straightforward account of who he is and why he went on this fact-finding trip to Niger.
He says, "I was informed by officials at the Central Intelligence Agency that Vice President Dick Cheney's office had questions
about a particular intelligence report." He does not say that Cheney had sent him personally on the mission. He reports that
he found no evidence that Saddam had tried to buy uranium from Niger.
He says that he assumes from working in the
government for many years that his report had been forwarded through channels. When he heard the president use the claim about
African uranium in the SOTU [the State of the Union Address], he became alarmed and asked the State department about it. He
accepted that the president might have been talking about a different African country than Niger until he later learned that
Niger was specifically mentioned quite recently in official documents. He concludes at this time, based upon the fact that
he had personally been involved in debunking this claim, that the administration had been "fixing" intelligence.
administration was now for the first time explicitly and openly being accused of knowingly using false information to sell
the war. And since Wilson had specifically named the vice president as having been the one to request additional information
that led to his trip, the White House was involved at a very high level. The administration claims that this was not true,
that in spite of a series of mishaps, there was no concerted or conscious effort to mislead the country about the intelligence.
And whatever mistakes were made were the result of shoddy intelligence work, not the "fixing" or "sexing up" of the evidence.
When the Niger episode became public, they decided that it was time for George Tenet to admit that he had screwed this particular
case up and they arranged for him to make a public statement to that effect.
The White House response to Wilson's
piece is that Cheney never asked for the information in the first place. And they said they had no idea about Wilson's evidence
because his trip was a low level nepotistic boondoggle arranged by his wife, a CIA "employee." Karl Rove and others spoke
to several reporters to that effect (They now claim, since Matthew Cooper's e-mail was leaked that it was only in order to
"warn them off" taking Wilson seriously.) Robert Novak - an extremely unlikely columnist for the white house to feel they
had to warn off Wilson - was the first to put this into print on July 13th.
When it came out, exposing Valerie Plame as an undercover operative, Wilson believed that it was an
act of retaliation and a signal to anyone else who might be thinking of coming forward. Novak was quoted shortly after the
column ran saying: "I didn't dig it out, it was given to me. They thought it was significant, they gave me the name and I
used it." (He has since said that he used the term "operative" inappropriately, although he has used that word very precisely
throughout his career to mean "undercover.") In the days after the column appeared there were reports that the administration
was actively pushing the column, claiming that Wilson's wife was "fair game."
The conclusion of Wilson's
piece that started this whole thing:
I was convinced before
the war that the threat of weapons of mass destruction in the hands of Saddam Hussein required a vigorous and sustained international
response to disarm him. Iraq possessed and had used chemical weapons; it had an active biological weapons program and quite
possibly a nuclear research program - all of which were in violation of United Nations resolutions. Having encountered Mr.
Hussein and his thugs in the run-up to the Persian Gulf War of 1991, I was only too aware of the dangers he posed.
were these dangers the same ones the administration told us about? We have to find out. America's foreign policy depends on
the sanctity of its information. For this reason, questioning the selective use of intelligence to justify the war in Iraq
is neither idle sniping nor "revisionist history," as Mr. Bush has suggested. The act of war is the last option of a democracy,
taken when there is a grave threat to our national security. More than 200 American soldiers have lost their lives in Iraq
already. We have a duty to ensure that their sacrifice came for the right reasons.
Joe Wilson's op-ed of July 6, 2003
2.) Bob Novak's column of July 13, 2003
Motive? See Howard Fineman from 2003 - the leak was really an attempt to smear Wilson and his wife as being part of a "pro-Saddam" CIA cabal.
I am told by what I regard
as a very reliable source inside the White House that aides there did, in fact, try to peddle the identity of Joe Wilson's
wife to several reporters. But the motive wasn't revenge or intimidation so much as a desire to explain why, in their view,
Wilson wasn't a neutral investigator, but, a member of the CIA's leave-Saddam-in-place team.
It was paranoia about those
Here's one view of that, as seen by Digby over at Hullabaloo -
Since they never adjust
to changing circumstances or admit any new evidence that doesn't fit their preconceived notions, this was still the framework
they were working from when bin Laden came on the scene. It's why the neocon nutcase Laurie Mylroie was able to convince people
in the highest reaches of the Republican intelligentsia that Saddam had something to do with bin Laden, even though there
was never a scintilla of evidence to back it up. They simply could not, and cannot to this day, come to grips with the fact
that their view of how terrorism works - through "rogue states" and totalitarian sponsorship - is simply wrong.
Clare Sterling's book came out CIA director William Casey was said to have told his people, "read Claire Sterling's book and
forget this mush. I paid $13.95 for this and it told me more than you bastards who I pay $50,000 a year." Wolfowitz and Feith
are said to have told their staff in the Pentagon to read Laurie Mylroie's book about Saddam and al Qaeda. Richard Clarke,
in "Against All Enemies" quotes Wolfowitz as saying: "You give Bin Laden too much credit. He could not do all these things
like the 1993 attack on New York, not without a state sponsor. Just because FBI and CIA have failed to find the linkages does
not mean they don't exist."
This, then, is simply how they think. It's as Rob Cordry says, "the facts are biased."
(That's the state of mind that led neocon Judith Miller to make her bizarre incomprehensible comment "I was proved fucking
right!") They truly believe that even though they have been completely wrong about everything for the past thirty years that
it just can't be so.
And no matter what, in their minds the CIA is always trying to screw them.
So the political
environment in which Valeria Plame was outed was virtually hallucinogenic. There may have really been some part of certain
members of the Bush administration's dysfunctional lizard brains that really thought in July of 2003 that the CIA had been
trying to set them up and used Joe Wilson to do it.
But it's not July of 2003 now, is it? It's two years later and
we know for a fact that the analysts, including Wilson, who said the Niger deal was bullshit were right and we know that the
analysts who doubted the evidence about Saddam's WMD were right too.
Not that this will stop the Team B neocons from
insisting that "they were proved fucking right." They really are delusional and they always have been.
however, is a lot of things, but delusional isn't one of them. He just put out the hit on Plame and Wilson to shut down the
questions Wilson was raising. He was taking care of business. But others in the administration may have made a good case,
at least in their own beautiful minds, that they were the victims. God knows these people love to be victims.
know if you saw Wilson on the Today show, but I thought he acquitted himself very well - mainly because he kept on the topic of the larger Iraq lies. I really think
this is a key to making people understand this story.
There is a confluence of events right now with the bad news
on the ground in Iraq, the Downing Street memos, the London bombings and Rovegate flaring up that are beginning to filter
into the body politic. A new conventional wisdom is being written. I think that people are putting these things together -
which is why you are seeing the precipitous dip in the president's approval ratings. It's not that people know, or even want
to know, the details. Only junkies like me (and you) get this into it. But the ground has shifted and people are understanding
that something went terribly wrong.
The president's right hand man exposing a covert CIA agent for political purposes
perfectly symbolizes the entire fetid mess.
Pretty good, but as noted
elsewhere, the idea now is that Rove is the hero for exposing Wilson's anti-war bias (See From the Other Side: Different Perspectives on Karl Rove, Harry Potter and Tom Cruise).
Mike O'Hare, who teaches public management at UCLA out here, is confused by saying exposing this undercover agent, working on stopping the spread of WMD, is thus okay –
How might this be OK?
Well, sometimes it's OK to do a bad thing to accomplish much better things. In this case, the better thing was to
suppress a truth that might have interfered with a war against the wrong party, that hasn't come out as predicted by anyone
who advocated it, that's ruined our military capacity to deal with anything else that might come up (like North Korean or
Iranian nukes), that so far shows little sign of having helped the Iraqis, who are still dying at our and each others' hands
by the thousands, and that put our fiscal national security in the hands of Asian creditors.
It does seem to have
helped W with some psychological issues related to his dad.
I give up. I guess the utilitarian justification is sort
of a bad joke.
Sometimes a bad thing has trivial consequences, like running a red light and not hitting anyone.
Plame's assets were already dead, or maybe not very nice people anyway, or their secret police are of the redemptive/rehabilitative,
rather than the thumbscrew, type (Putin's liberal democrats, Mr. Rove?) or Plame had already discovered all the WMD's in the
world so she had nothing more useful to do in that line of work. It's true that no one has shown us a single hard fact that
Plame would have turned up but now can't. Perhaps we have to believe this one, but why have Rove's defenders completely missed
this line of argument?
The best I can do here is to see the Republican defense of Rove as part of a larger pattern
redefining "good performance" in government and management to comprise "anything not (provably) criminal." The idea that just
doing a lousy job is not grounds for dismissal, or even criticism, is quite novel and almost certainly a bad one, but there
seems to be a lot of it around (though the sheriff down in Fulton County isn't buying). [See this.] If you can't indict, pin a medal? (That makes sense of Tenet's Medal of Freedom.) Bizarre, but maybe we'll like it when
we get used to it.
What remains puzzling to me is that the boss is so paralyzed regarding his numbers 2, 3,...n that
he needs Patrick Fitzgerald to find out if any of them did something. I've had many bosses, all of whom had no trouble asking
me, "Hey, O'Hare, did you talk to Smith about this? What did you tell him?"
It must be some high-level phone thing:
sometimes I've arranged to be away from my phone or busy when the boss called, and I guess when you're Karl Rove defending
freedom and the American Way, that can happen for two years.
But Rove was right in the room yesterday, on TV, not
busy with anything, when Bush was saying he just didn't know what to say until Fitzgerald told him. That would have been a
great time to turn around and ask Rove.
It's too deep for me. All I can say is that I'm glad we have distinguished
and highly trained patriotic grownups handling these things for us.
Of course, "anything not
(provably) criminal" is the problem here. Rove may have committed a crime.
he deliberately exposed an undercover agent, for whatever reason, he's dead meat. If he did so inadvertently, he's a dangerous
fool. That he was messing around with such information may possibly expose him to charges of violating the espionage act (argued
Oh crap. But Digby argues after looking at the two source documents
Rove was defending someone else: "... it's so absurd that they tried to make these questions about Joe Wilson's wife so central
to the story. The story is about Dick Cheney. And they knew it. If he hadn't defaulted to his patented South Carolina smear
tactics, Karl would be in a much safer place today."
He was the man who really pushed for this war in all the agencies.
How this will all come out? Rove in trouble? Cheney in trouble? Did John Bolton set this all up?
(Quite possible - see this.) Was Jeff Gannon, the gay male escort (ah, those full-frontal nude photos on
the web) that the White House planted as a fake news reporter, involved? (Quite possible - see this.)
Events swirl on.
What of Bob Novak - still a big star on CNN and the subject of no investigations at all?
"The artist, like the God of the creation, remains within or behind or beyond or above his handiwork, invisible, refined
out of existence, indifferent, paring his fingernails." - James Joyce (1882-1941), "A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man,"
Chapter 5 (1916).