America, Wrong or Nothing
Vol: 49 Issue: 31 Monday, October 31, 2005
There is nothing quite so astonishing — or quite so disgusting, as the glee with which so many of my correspondents are greeting the news of the indictment of Scooter Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice.
That is not to say that perjury is to be ignored or that Scooter Libby, if guilty, shouldn’t face the same legal jeopardy as any other American.
Even if it was a set up, which it clearly was. Without rehashing it all again, the central issue began with the question:
“Why send such a rabidly anti-administration partisan as Joe Wilson to investigate the Niger/Yellowcake claim?” Wilson claimed in a New York Times column that he had been sent to Niger at the behest of VP Dick Cheney.
In that same column, he trashed Cheney, the administration, and the accumulated US evidence that mandated the removal of Saddam Hussein.
It is therefore not particularly surprising that reporters would want to know why in the world Cheney sent a guy like Joe Wilson to gather evidence helpful to the administration. It is also not surprising that Cheney, since he hadn’t sent Wilson, would deny having dispatched him.
And it is illuminative to learn that Wilson wasn’t sent by Cheney, but rather, was dispatched by the CIA, with whom the administration has been involved in a turf war ever since the CIA was called on the carpet for pre-September 11 failures.
The problem is, the CIA doesn’t like to get caught playing in domestic politics. So when it was revealed that Wilson’s visit was arranged by the CIA without administration approval, it was time for damage control.
So, instead of it being a case of the CIA conducting espionage against the administration, it was soon turned into a case of an administration ‘outing’ a covert CIA employee.
It doesn’t evidently make any difference that Valerie Plame didn’t fit the profile of a ‘covert’ agent under the terms of the statute. The statute defines a covert agent as one who served in a covert status outside the United States within the previous five years.
Plame was a CIA official, not a field agent. And both Plame and Wilson denied Plame’s involvement until after a memo surfaced during the 9/11 Commission investigation establishing the link.
Even more revealing, especially since it is being concealed as carefully as possible, is the fact that the 9/11 Commission caught Wilson in so many lies during his testimony that the Commission officially discounted his testimony as unreliable.
None of that is relevant, particularly to those Americans who hate the administration so much that, if in the course of destroying the administration, it causes America years and years of long term damage, it qualifies as acceptable collateral damage.
So, we find the CIA involving itself in domestic politics, in violation of federal law — and common sense, since the CIA is ostensibly an agent of the United States government, rather than political operatives seeking the destruction of political rivals.
We have both Joe Wilson and Valerie Plame lying about Plame’s involvement in undermining America’s war effort, under oath, to the federal commission set up to investigate September 11. This might also be a good time to throw in former Clinton National Security Advisor Sandy Berger’s theft of 9/11-related documents from the National Archives.
Berger’s sentence amounted to a slap on the wrist. Valerie Plame still has her government job. Joe Wilson’s lies before the 9/11 Commission investigating the intelligence lapses that led to the worst terror attack in US history are largely forgotten.
His reputation is rehabilitated and the only lies history will remember about the whole affair was that Scooter Libby lied about who told him Plame worked for the CIA.
And there are idiots like the correspondent who wrote me this morning demanding that I ‘eat crow’ because, after all, Scooter Libby was indicted. (For the record, the phrase, ‘a prosecutor could indict a ham sandwich’ exists because an indictment means that a grand jury hears only evidence that supports the prosecutor’s case).
But this isn’t a defense of Scooter Libby. If he lied, he lied, and he should pay the penalty due the crime, even if Bill Clinton didn’t have to. What the case exposes (again) is the irrational, white-hot hatred of the administration shared by so many Americans.
I say irrational, because, after five years of constant scrutiny by a press corps and opposition desperate to find anything negative about the administration, this was the best they could do.
An indictment against an official for lying about a crime that was never committed.
And, to those Americans dedicated to the destruction of the administration, finding out that there are crooked officials in the government is a victory for their side, rather than a black eye on all of America. It isn’t a case of America, right or wrong, but rather a case of America, wrong or nothing.
It is difficult to imagine how America can ever hope to defeat its enemies abroad when the most vicious attacks come from within its own ranks. Try, for a second, to imagine a similar situation anywhere else in the world, and you see just how crazy this looks from the outside.
We have American officials seeking the political destruction of other American officials, while America’s enemies conduct a pool to see which of their adversaries will fall on his own sword next.
No wonder al-Qaeda believes it is winning. It just might be.