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Bribing and Twisting Amerian Journalists

by BRIAN CLOUGHLEY

Scots steel tempered wi’ Irish fire,
Is the weapon that I desire.

-Hugh MacDiarmid

You cannot hope
to bribe or twist,
thank God!
the British journalist.

But, seeing what
the man will do
unbribed, there’s
no occasion to.

‘The Uncelestial City’, Humbert Wolfe, 1930

Apparently one can bribe and twist American journalists nowadays (I wouldn’t be too happy about certain European scribes, come to think of it), and the fact that the Bush administration has done so isn’t in the slightest surprising. After all, they’ve bought or twisted far more important people than the bunch of dismal media hacks – Williams, Ryan, Gannon/Guckert and Garcia–who have been rewarded for helping the Bush pursuit of freedom. That is, of course, the freedom to put the Bush point of view and no other. In general this point of view is put in a less than forthright manner (to be kind), and few can help in this more effectively than members of the roving media.

One particularly contemptible instance of odious conduct by Bush freedom hiders took place in July 2003 when two officials in his administration used a warped and twisted germ to reveal the name of a CIA deep cover operative, Valerie Plame. Robert Novak, the sleazy creep who shrilled her name around the world, should have known it is a felony under the Intelligence Identities Protection Act to disclose the name of a US agent. But even were he not aware of criminal intention (having arrived in Washington from Planet Zog the day he betrayed her), there is the small matter of morality. “Hey — there’s one of our spies who has contacts in horrible places round the world. I’ll reveal her name and she will never be able to serve America again and the sources she has had for years will be arrested, tortured and killed. This is a public service, folks!” One thinks of the Bible’s words in Matthew 16, Verse 7 : “What will ye give me, and I will deliver him unto you? And they covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver.”

You have to ask Cicero’s classic question “Cui bono?”–who benefited?–to begin to understand this squalid operation. It wasn’t the public who benefited. It wasn’t the CIA. It sure as hell wasn’t Valerie Plame or her husband. Then who did? The scum who devised this poisonous attack wanted a prize. They desired a tangible reward for deliberately breaking the law of the land by using a willing hack to spread their filth. But what can they have wanted in return? It couldn’t have been money, because Bushco has got scads of cash. There was something else. And that was vengeance. They had an overwhelming desire to inflict punishment. It was their intention, in good Christian Bush Washington, to take spiteful revenge, no matter the cost or consequences, on a man whose moral duty it was to confirm that Bush is a lying charlatan. And, contemptibly, they did it by striking at his wife.

Relentless and venomous vindictiveness is the hallmark, the leitmotif, the very life-breath of the diseased Bush administration.

And if you think that anyone in the administration will go to jail for endangering the life of a loyal public servant by giving her name to a piece of mobile excreta then you have another think coming. It won’t happen, although there is no possibility that the name could have been revealed except through a government official, and a highly-placed one at that. Nobody outside the CIA should have known – should ever know – the identity of one of its active or retired operatives. But the name of Valerie Plame was willfully betrayed by someone who had access to ultra-secret CIA information. (Beware, all those who serve the CIA. As St Matthew recorded : “Verily I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me”.)

If you think I am becoming a trifle hot under the collar about this, you are quite right. I know of two people who were for some time under deep cover, many years ago, and what sticks in my mind is the fact that they were dicing with death all day, every day, every minute, that they were playing their parts. One false step and a deep cover agent is dead. And not just by shooting. The agonizing torment inflicted on them by their captors would make the Abu Ghraib, Bagram and Guantánamo Bay torture sessions look like a warm-up on an exercise bike. The IRA terrorists, for example, had the delightful habit of skinning people alive from the neck up. Their demented shrieking usually stopped just below the eyeballs. The Soviets captured some African deep cover agents (probably employed by western intelligence services) and drove them stark raving crazy and sent at least one of them back home. (The person who told me this– not herself an agent– said, perhaps a trifle cynically, “and that is how Robert Mugabe got his start.”)

All the people in the chain of revealing Valerie Plame’s identity are guilty of complicity in wickedness. A hack was used by people in the Bush administration in a spasm of vicious malevolence to punish a person who embarrassed Bush by speaking the truth. Valerie Plame’s husband had showed the world that Bush was a lying oaf when in his 2003 State of the Union Address he gibbered about Iraq’s non-existent nuclear program. Nobody in the world can be forgiven for showing Bush to be the asinine prat that he is. Richard Nixon’s List of Enemies to be dealt with was evil, but it’s nothing compared to current White House vendettas against those who dare to rove out of line.

Before the story intended to destroy Plame and her husband was provided to Novak it was peddled round some honorable writers who refused to have anything to do with it. And the intriguing thing is that Novak then riposted : “The published report that somebody in the White House failed to plant this story with six reporters and finally found me as a willing pawn is simply untrue.” But how can Novak be so certain? Could Novak’s assertion that the story was “simply untrue” have come from the White House whose officials told him it wasn’t true, whereupon (having just arrived from Planet Zog), he at once believed them? Or – perish the thought – could Novak have been playing with words? Or perhaps he didn’t do that, although his use of the word ‘plant’ is illuminating. But it is undeniable that two reporters were indeed contacted and declined to support the tawdry conspiracy. Naturally, they are now being prosecuted.

No matter what Novak’s evasions might or might not have been, the most perturbing aspect of the scandal is that for over a year and a half there has been no action to find out the names of the fetid dregs who crawled out of their Washington gutter to tell Novak about Valerie Plame. Given normal powers of investigation, a team of detectives from any police force in the United States could have discovered who was responsible for the crime within a week of being tasked. But all that has happened is prosecution of two journalists who were involved peripherally in the affair. They didn’t break the law about revealing CIA names. They are not traitors to their country. But they were subpoenaed in the case and then refused to divulge the names of the people who told them about Valerie Plame. They were honorable enough to refuse to broadcast her name to the world at the bidding of the filth, but jibbed at revealing the names of the scum. Good thinking, Bush supporters : Don’t go for the traitors in the case ; put up a smokescreen and attack someone who didn’t do anything wrong. Then bribe and twist the hacks to smear and denigrate anyone likely to be critical of the Great Leader. Such is Bush freedom.

This criminal case is a simple one. It could have been cleared up in short order by professional investigators. By now, eighteen months after the crime was committed, Novak and those who told him the details about Valerie Plame should have been in the slammer for months. But nothing will happen to them. They are well-protected by Bush administration Omerta. Enjoy the figurative pieces of silver, fellas, but it’s difficult to understand how you can bear the burden of your conscience. As Saint Matthew recorded : “What is a man profited if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” You said it, Matt. But in spite of all the prayer meetings in the White House there has been no reduction in bribing and twisting in Christian Washington.

Brian Cloughley writes about foreign policy and military affairs. He lives in Voutenay sur Cure, France.

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