Lying about the attacked, dumping the indicted

Lying about the Attacked, Dumping the Indicted



Here is graf 5 of Joseph Wilson’s “What I Didn’t Find in Africa,” published July 6, 2003:


“In February 2002, I was informed by officials at the Central Intelligence Agency that Vice President Dick Cheney’s office had questions about a particular intelligence report. While I never saw the report, I was told that it referred to a memorandum of agreement that documented the sale of uranium yellowcake – a form of lightly processed ore – by Niger to Iraq in the late 1990’s. The agency officials asked if I would travel to Niger to check out the story so they could provide a response to the vice president’s office.”


Last Sunday, October 30, PNAC signatory and commentator Charles Krauthammer said on Inside Washington that Wilson had claimed that Dick Cheney sent him to Africa: “The person who lied here was Wilson.” On Face the Nation with Bob Schieffer the next half-hour, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) also suggested that Wilson claimed to be sent on his Niger trip by Cheney.


Thus was launched one of two main arguments from the pro-war faction, regarding the indictment of Irve Lewis Libby, Jr., chief of staff to Vice President Cheney: Dick Cheney, minding his own vice presidential business, heard that someone named Joe Wilson whom he had never met was going around saying that Cheney had sent him to Africa. Thus Cheney, asking as anyone would Who is this guy and Why is he saying things about me, made inquiries about Wilson – and found that actually the spectacular boondoggle of a Niger junket had been arranged by Wilson’s wife. The vice president’s office then got in touch with major media outlets to set the record straight. Discussing this nepotism with reporters, they revealed that Wilson’s wife was in the CIA. Presumably they couldn’t let it be supposed that she was in, for example, the Near East division of the State Department, working with Elizabeth Cheney.


The other main argument was rolled out by Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas), also last Sunday: the indictment is limited to “a single individual” and thus indicates no conspiracy and no crime. William Safire on Meet the Press with Tim Russert went farther, saying that the prosecutor “found” that the “law was not broken”: “This is a cover-up of a non-crime.” (N.b.: Bradblog points out that Rush Limbaugh went farther yet, claiming that the prosecutor said there had been no crime.)


As a citizen, I hope that these arguments get what they deserve, and it will be mildly interesting to see whether anyone maintains them on this week’s talk shows.


As a human being, I think Mr. Libby’s friends and relatives are on firmer ground arguing that he was basically overwhelmed.


Take the key month of January, 2002. In the press, front-page stories around the nation featured the spectacular collapse of Enron with its links to the White House and to Cheney’s office, including numerous mentions of Libby individually. Articles with titles like “Some Bush officials sold Enron stock before bankruptcy” and “Some Bush officials got out in time” pointed out accurately that the law forcing Rove and Libby to sell their Enron stock also saved them from losing everything they had put into it.


With the Enron flap ongoing, Osama bin Laden seemed to have eluded the December attacks on Tora Bora, Afghanistan. Enron and bin Laden eased up only when displaced by Iraq. In these weeks the yellowcake item was being floated around the administration, and Newsweek reported on January 20 that the administration had reached “general consensus” for “regime change.”


Along with sitting in on Iraq strategy, Libby spent part of January going over drafts of the State of the Union speech (January 29) with its “Axis of Evil,” according to Bob Woodward’s Plan of Attack. Libby wanted to include North Korea and Syria rather than singling out Iraq. As high officials haggled over which nations to Axis-ize, meanwhile, on January 23, Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl vanished from Pakistan, which had not made the cut.


Along with everything else, Mr. Libby’s father, Irve Lewis Libby, Sr., a retired businessman in a condo in Boca Raton, Florida, died on January 20.


That someone involved in some of the highest-level, sensitive strategy discussions for invading Iraq should be working as a Bush speech writer may be a historical oddity. But that too much landed on his plate was historically inevitable. As Woodward’s book pointed out, Libby’s “three formal titles” – chief of staff to Cheney; national security adviser to Cheney; and an assistant to Bush – comprised “a trifecta of positions probably never before held by a single person.”


Next up: the young George W. Bush and Laura Welch in Houston, or, how the religious right has been fooled.

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