Adam Ash

Your daily entertainment scout. Whatever is happening out there, you'll find the best writing about it in here.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Libby lied, people died - etc.

1. Libby lied, troops died
The Scooter Libby verdict is inextricably linked to Iraq: his lies were an attempt to cover up the disingenuous case for war.
By Sidney Blumenthal / Guardian

The conviction of I Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, on criminal charges of obstruction of justice and perjury brings only a partial conclusion to the sordid political tragedy that is the Bush presidency. Yet the judgment on this matter goes to the heart of the administration. The means and the ends of Bush's White House have received a verdict from the bar of justice.

Foreign policy was and is the principal way of consolidating unchecked executive power. In the run-up to the Iraq war, professional standards, even within the military and intelligence agencies, were subordinated to political goals. Only information that fit the preconceived case was permitted. Those who advanced facts or raised skeptical questions about sketchy information were seen as deliberate enemies causing damage from within. From the beginning, the White House indulged in unrestrained attacks on such professionals. Revealing the facts, especially about the politically-driven method of skewing policy, was treated as a crime against the state.

For questioning the undermanned battle plan for the invasion of Iraq, Army Chief of Staff Eric Shinseki was publicly humiliated by neoconservative Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz and then cashiered. For disclosing negligence on terrorism before the Setempber 11 attacks, counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke was accused by then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice of acting purely out of motives of personal greed to promote his recently published memoir. For exposing the absence of rational policymaking in economics as well as foreign policy, Secretary of the Treasury Paul O'Neill was threatened with an investigation for allegedly abusing classified material. Once he was intimidated into silence, the probe was dropped.

In the aftermath of former ambassador Joseph Wilson's revelation that the most explosive reason given for war against Iraq - that Saddam Hussein was seeking yellowcake uranium in Niger to fuel nuclear weapons - had no apparent basis in fact, the Bush White House revved into high gear against the critic. Wilson, however, was even more dangerous than the others because he was a witness to the false rationale for the war.

As Libby's defense counsel insisted, Scooter was merely one of many in the White House assailing Wilson's integrity. Others, including Bush's political strategist Karl Rove, were involved. To a degree, the smear campaign was for a time successful, fueled by the Republican-controlled Senate Intelligence Committee and elements of the Washington press corps. But the trial exhibits - documents entered by the special prosecutor - knocked down every single one of their falsehoods.

Libby's defenders argued that there was no underlying crime. He was not charged with revealing the identity of Valerie Plame, Wilson's wife, as a covert CIA agent, which was a charge raised by the White House gang in an effort to prove she sent Wilson on his Niger mission - another of the lies spread about him.

But Libby committed his crimes to cover-up the role of his boss and to protect his own position in the attack on Wilson. At base, then, the reasons for war were the scandal.

Libby was no mere factotum. He was a central member of the neoconservative cast of characters, who began as a protégé of Wolfowitz and was elevated to the role of Cheney's indispensable man.

Libby's conviction not only indelibly stains neoconservatism. It is a damning condemnation of the Bush White House belief that the ends justify the means and its aggrandizement of absolute power. Ultimately, this is a verdict that can never be erased from the history of the Bush presidency.

Comment No. 462377

Thanks. It is relieving to see that hard recognition of the authentic malevolence of the present US government is finally reaching the US mainstream. But it still feels as though the lessons are sinking in too slowly. These are rational actors, high level thugs, smart folks. They have hooked America into a 'long war', and scout for new ones ceaselessly. They create their own enemies, which allows them further to ride high on ear.

They have profound and determinative ties with the arms, oil and 'reconstruction' industries. They have engineered a massive redistribution of US money from the needy to the wealthy (the most recent budget will benefit the Wal-Mart family alone to the tune of $32 billion dollars over ten years; Medicaid is slashed by $28 billion for the same period.)

They have distracted the liberal bleeding hearts, the paltry NGO remains of the fierce watchdogs of the late 60s, with egregious civil rights crimes, torture, disappearance, secret detention, lost habeas corpus -- moves that serve to distract law-obsessed activists from the big picture of outright theft.

Americans should stop talking about 'incompetence'; the Bush administration looks very rationale, very competent at achieving its goals. Americans might stop treating 'oil in Iraq' as a conspiracy theory when, in fact, deep down, we all know it is the point. They need to start asking what has happened to their cherished democracy that the main reaction against the last six years of explicit plunder is a bunch of angry op-eds.

From outside, it is soul-destroying to watch the mealy-mouthed political response and the frankly tame and sated general public, who have apparently forgotten how to protest and reclaim their own wealth, country and ideals. The rest of us are all watching in shock and, yes, awe, as America's outgoing century has been reduced to this disgusting display of mendacity of the strong and bewilderment of the rest. They have been divided and conquered.

2. Trying Times for Wilsons, Too
There's More Legal Drama Ahead for the Controversial Couple
By David Montgomery/Washington Post

Joe Wilson was at the Bombay Club, two blocks from the White House, waiting to have lunch shortly after noon yesterday with a friend and former National Security Council staffer, when his BlackBerry rang. It was his wife. She skipped right over "Hello."

"Four out of five. Guilty," Valerie Plame Wilson said evenly.

"There you go," Wilson recalls responding, with the same understatement.

He did not, he says, let out a whoop and dash around the swank Indian restaurant exchanging high-fives. But the conviction of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby was a vicarious victory for the couple, the close of a chapter in their 3 1/2 -year struggle to hold government officials to account for what they say was a smear campaign against them and a coverup of bogus reasons for taking the nation to war.

And it was the beginning of a busy, blurry day for Joe Wilson, the former acting ambassador to Iraq, whose 2002 report debunking claims that Saddam Hussein sought nuclear materials from Niger started the whole drama.

"I don't take any satisfaction in other people's trials and tribulations," Wilson said. "I would hope that the administration would learn from this that the abuse of the public trust to engage in personal political vendettas is inappropriate."

And yet he was definitely in a good mood. As he told NBC during an afternoon round-robin marathon of interviews in the offices of his lawyers, "I think we will sleep better tonight, knowing the jury has done its job and knowing Mr. Libby is a convicted felon." And his wife? "She wept," Wilson said later.

That BlackBerry call cut short his lunch, and Wilson went home to change into a double-breasted gray suit, raspberry tie and black ankle-high boots. Then he reported to the spare office suite at the corner of 14th and I streets NW that is home to Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, the legal watchdog group handling the Wilsons' civil suit against Libby, Vice President Cheney, presidential aide Karl Rove and former deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage.

If this trial has provided evidence of just how expertly the administration could command the press's attention, it also has offered new media ops for this administration archnemesis.

First came the teleconference with print and radio reporters, then three offices in the suite were cleared for TV crews to set up. The space filled with filtered lights, cables snaking under doors, equipment dollies and a rotating cast from various networks.

Wilson drifted between the rooms, his suit coat open, holding a cup of water, giving an interview in one room while crews were setting up in the other two. There was a smile on his face. It was not a gloating smile, but it was a smile of great contentment.

As for who might play him and his wife in the Hollywood movie that's reportedly in the works, he said, "I only ask that Jack Black be cast in a role other than that of Joe Wilson."

With his affect of courtly cheer and his silver hair swept long in back, he looked every bit the cosmopolitan free spirit who at the height of the flap appeared in a Vanity Fair photo spread with his wife, all glammed up. But sitting down to answer the same questions again and again, now professorial in his spectacles and his prim white pocket square, he stuck to a solemn, almost melodramatically constitutional message.

"We really see this as a reaffirmation that this is a nation of laws," he said. "We live in a great democracy. That was demonstrated by this trial and the verdict, that no man is above the law.

"If you take the time to look at the testimony, it makes very clear the extent to which senior officials within this administration embarked on a disinformation campaign, the justification of which was to cover up the lies they said in the first place. And the methodology used was to engage in an unprecedented smear campaign, which would have succeeded had it not been illegal to divulge the name of a covert officer."

But Libby was convicted only of lying, and no one was convicted of that other stuff.

"Al Capone was convicted of tax evasion," came the practiced argument. "That doesn't mean he wasn't a racketeer."

The formerly classified woman, Valerie Plame Wilson, was nowhere to be seen. She was at their home in the Foxhall neighborhood, Wilson said, putting the finishing touches on her book and taking care of their 7-year-old twins. The family plans to move shortly to New Mexico.

Arguments on the Wilsons' civil suit are scheduled for May in U.S. District Court. The couple are seeking unspecified monetary damages from the four officials for violating their constitutional rights by allegedly retaliating against them. Wilson and Melanie Sloan, executive director of the legal group, said they want to hold officials accountable and use the discovery process to expose government actions in the run-up to war.

The couple, as Joe Wilson pointed out, "served our country for a combination of 45 years." He was acting ambassador to Iraq when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait; his lunch partner yesterday was the one who notified him of the invasion. Wilson was later named ambassador to two small African nations by George H.W. Bush, who had hailed his courage in sheltering and helping to free U.S. citizens in Baghdad before the Gulf War started. He also served as senior director for African affairs in the Clinton White House.

Hearing that President Bush had expressed sympathy for Libby, Wilson called on the president to "express his sorrow to my wife, whose career was destroyed."

He also said, "The president ought to live up to his word and fire Mr. Rove."

One part of Wilson's message evolved over the day, his attitude toward a possible presidential pardon for Libby. In the teleconference he said, "I'm a firm believer in the Constitution, which accords the president the power of pardon."

In later interviews he said, "On reflection," Bush had a conflict of interest, and so "there's no place in a case like this for the use of a presidential pardon."

Last night he was scheduled for three more network appearances, with Keith Olbermann, Larry King and Anderson Cooper.

As the afternoon was winding down, a law-firm staffer said a radio producer had called seeking a morning interview. Not possible.

"I'm supposed to be doing something with Diane Rehm tomorrow," Wilson said.

But for now, he was going back home to take an aspirin.

The conviction of Scooter Libby was giving Joe Wilson a headache.

3. Libby Verdict Will Echo For 2008 Republicans – by Mike Allen and Jeanne Cummings/

Mary Matalin, a friend and former colleague of Lewis "Scooter" Libby, said she felt sick as she waited through 10 days of jury deliberations. And when he was declared guilty of four of five federal charges in the CIA leak case Tuesday, she had a one-word reaction: "Unspeakable."

Even an acquittal would have left deep scars on the George W. Bush presidency because of the immense publicity surrounding the case and its political fallout. But the guilty verdicts -- on one count of obstruction, two counts of perjury and one count of lying -- mean that the case remains an ugly and enduring part of the politics of President Bush's last two years in office.

Ever since President Gerald R. Ford pardoned former President Richard M. Nixon for Watergate crimes, executive branch grants of immunity have become hot political footballs in presidential campaigns. And Libby's conviction seems destined to continue the trend, even if Bush ultimately doesn't pardon him.

As soon as the verdict was announced, Democrats began demanding a commitment from Bush not to issue a pardon for Libby, who theoretically could face 30 years in prison, but is likely to get a lesser sentence. The White House won't give such a commitment, of course, and Bush has said he won't even talk about it.

Democrats, nonetheless, are trying to start a drumbeat about the question, with the aim of painting Republicans as tainted by cronyism and raising voters' doubts about the GOP's trustworthiness.

Libby's fall raises three key questions that could play a material role in who succeeds the 43rd president, and how history treats him:

1. Will Bush pardon Libby?

Catching coverage of the verdict on a television in a small dining room off the Oval Office with Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten and Counselor Dan Bartlett, Bush said that he respected the jury's verdict and that he was saddened for Libby and his family, according to aides.

Libby's lawyers plan to ask for a new trial. So, the president and his spokesmen plan to cite an ongoing legal investigation as they refuse to comment on the possibility of a pardon. But that won't stop reporters from asking.

2. Was Libby the tip of the iceberg?

Denis Collins, the only juror who spoke outside the federal courthouse near the Capitol, said Libby struck him as a "fall guy," and testimony suggested he saw himself as the scapegoat for Cheney or senior Bush adviser Karl Rove.

"There was a tremendous amount of sympathy for Mr. Libby on the jury," Collins said as he described the jury's methodical approach. "It was said a number of times: What are we doing with this guy here? Where's Rove? Where's -- you know, where are these other guys?"

The Democrats who control Congress now can use their subpoena power to try to find out.

3. Does this make Bush more radioactive for the Republicans seeking the presidential nomination?

Democrats are already working to ensure that the Libby case, which dates to a Robert Novak column in July 2003, naming Valerie Plame as a CIA operative, resounds through November 2008.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), looking ahead to congressional elections, said the Libby trial was "not solely about the acts of one individual," but produced evidence of "callous disregard" in handling sensitive national security information.

It's tough enough for the same party to win a third term in the White House, but almost impossible to do so if the nation has soured on the incumbent. While none of the top Republican contenders will face any direct fallout from the Libby guilty verdict, the decision is yet another blow against an already-wounded president and his Republican Party.

Combined with the devastating, and still unfolding, indictment about the treatment of wounded troops at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, the specter of the vice president's top aide facing a prison sentence will only worsen Bush's already historically low standing in the public opinion polls.

Aides to the leading Republican presidential contenders declined comment after the verdict was announced. But the Democratic hopefuls pounced. Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois said in a quick e-mailed statement that the conviction "underscores what happens when our foreign and national security policies are subverted by politics and ideology."

Former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina called the outcome "an important step in holding the administration accountable for its consistent misuse and manipulation of intelligence to further its ideological agenda." He then posed a question that is likely to bedevil the administration and the GOP for the foreseeable future.

"There are serious questions about whether the buck actually stopped with Scooter Libby," he said. "The American people deserve to know if Mr. Libby has been made a scapegoat in order to protect anyone else."


At 3/08/2007 8:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Come on...Wilson's Nigerian claims were dubunked by a Bipartisan Senate Panel. The White House had every right to debunk Wilson's op-ed falsehoods and expose his wife's obvious nepotism in assigning him on this trip.

This whole sordid affair is the fault of the CIA for providing faulty intellegence to the Executive AND Legislative Branches before the war, and the whole Plamegate affair is their attempt to wiggle out of any accountability.


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