FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Scandal isn’t the Leak, But the Illegal War

by SAUL LANDAU

“Oh what a tangled web we weave,
When first we practice to deceive!”

–Walter Scott

The conspiracy that bubbles around Judith Miller protecting a source — whose name she couldn’t remember — and Robert Novak using his column to out undercover CIA operative Valerie Plame should soon evaporate. The next step should lead Special Prosecutor Fitzgerald to the heart of the matter: a much more pernicious conspiracy designed to mislead the United States into war with Iraq. The crime to name a covert CIA official pales in comparison with conspiring to lead the nation to war under false pretenses.

Novak served as White House mastermind Karl Rove’s press poodle. He punished former Ambassador Joseph Wilson by revealing his wife’s name and ending her career on Juuly 14, 2003, eight days after Plame’s husband revealed in a NY Times op-ed (July 6, 2003) the fraudulence of Bush Administration claims that Iraq had tried to purchase African uranium for its nuclear weapons program.

Instead of following the logic of Wilson’s story, that the White House had conspired to lead the country into an unjust war, the media focused on the leak of a CIA’ official’s name. Reporters should have seen the Wilson story as one piece of a larger puzzle. They should have read Wilson’s Times op ed and other stories as an opening to look for who had motive to forge a document and plant it, so that the media would get properly “spun” and accept this forged paper as proof of Saddam’s perfidy.

Now, it begins to emerge that the White House undertook a major effort to mislead and manipulate the media and U.S. public opinion in general in order to get support for an unjust war.

In February 2002, the CIA had dispatched Wilson to investigate the claim based on this document that Iraq intended to buy nuclear material. When he returned from Niger, he reported that the evidence lacked credibility, but both Bush and Cheney refused to acknowledge his refutation. So he went public in the NY Times.

The unraveling of the Valerie Plame affair is but a step toward exposing this truly epic scam. Beyond compromising the identity of a CIA officer, the Bush administration had carried out what former intelligence official Larry Johnson called “a classic ‘covert action’ program against the citizens of the United States.”

Part of this involved planting stories to “shape public opinion.” Apparently, one member of the Coalition of the Willing, Italy under the right wing Berlusconi, agreed to fabricate reports dated in 2001 and 2002 that Iraq had reached an agreement with Niger to buy 500 tons of yellowcake uranium. When news of these reports supposedly reached Cheney’s office, the Vice President requested that the Agency check the story. Thus, the CIA dispatched Wilson to verify the report in Africa.

The fabricator apparently did not expect Wilson to blow the whistle on them and report that the evidence on Saddam’s nuclear program lacked credibility. . Nor did they conceive that a loyal public servant such as Wilson with a wife in the Agency would go public.

By mid 2002, the Bush campaign to invade Iraq was in full gear. Indeed, memos between Bush and Blair validated what Lt. Col. Karen Kwiatkowski witnessed in the Office of Special Planning. Make up the facts and then report them as “intelligence.”

“If one is seeking the answers to why peculiar bits of ‘intelligence’ found sanctity in a presidential speech, or why the post-Saddam occupation has been distinguished by confusion and false steps, one need look no further than the process inside the Office of the Secretary of Defense,” wrote Kwiatkowski after she retired from the OSP position. July 31, 2003 by the Ohio Beacon Journal

She meant that top Rumsfeld aide, Douglas Feith, deliberately altered the methods of intelligence communication that the Pentagon routinely sent to State and CIA. Indeed, Kwiatkowski wrote that she “witnessed several cases of staff officers being told not to contact their counterparts at State or the NSC because that particular decision would be processed through a different channel.” Like a virulent virus, the Cheney gang took over the OSP in what State Department Chief of Staff Lawrence Wilkerson called “a cabal between the vice-president of the United States, Richard Cheney, and the secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld, on critical issues that made decisions that the bureaucracy did not know were being made” (MSNBC Oct 20, 2005).

Wilkerson charged them with “undermining democracy” (NY Times Oct 19) when they decided to make a case for war against Iraq, they had to invent stories. One of the scariest scenarios that Bush and Cheney presented to the public involved Saddam’s nuclear threat. Apparently, one of Rumsefeld’s aides persuaded his Italian intelligence cohorts to make up documents suggesting that Iraq was trying to buy weapons grade uranium form Niger.

Despite Wilson’s report to the contrary and the doubt raised by veteran intelligence professionals, Cheney reiterated the Niger-Iraq connection accusation. On March 24, 2002, he appeared three times on TV shows and repeated that he knew Iraq was actively pursuing nuclear-weapons production.

Cheney had made nukes the center of his anti-Saddam argument. His staff apparently overruled State and CIA officials and insisted that the nuclear accusation remain in Bush’s January 2003 State of the Union speech ­ the now tarnished 16 words.

Subsequently, Bush pointed the finger of blame at the CIA for giving him poor intelligence, but his own “cabal” had manufactured the very evidence that Bush later blamed for misleading him.

The outing of Plame appears as part of what Larry Johnson called a larger “pattern of manipulation and deceit.” Judy Miller emerged as another key actor in the scenario designed to hype the war and fool the people.

On July 8, two days after Wilson revealed the hype over Iraq’s nuclear weapons, Miller had a hush hush meeting with a top Cheney aide The still-classified National Intelligence Estimate, Libby told her, ‘had firmly concluded that Iraq was seeking nuclear weapons.’ According to a Newsweek web exclusive, Oct 19 2005 (Isikoff and Hosenbell), Libby leaked to Miller an NIE report that stated that Iraq planned to by uranium for a nuclear bomb.

“My notes show that Mr. Libby consistently steered our conversation back to the administration’s nuclear claims,” Miller wrote (NY Times October 16, 2005) “His main theme echoed that of other senior officials: that contrary to Mr. Wilson’s criticism, the administration had had ample reason to be concerned about Iraq’s nuclear capabilities based on the regime’s history of weapons development, its use of unconventional weapons and fresh intelligence reports.”

The intelligence veterans remained skeptical. How could Saddam possibly reconstruct such an effort in the midst of sanctions and bombing and after seven years (1991-98) in which the UN Weapons Inspection team had destroyed almost all of his capacity? Indeed, counterevidence seriously outweighed the report and Cheney’s repeated claims.

Thanks to the prolonged investigation over the Plame case, some members of the media and the rest of the public have regained their bearings. Some reporters might even recall that right after Novak published Plame’s name, Bush promised publicly that he would fire any staff involved.

In July, he weakened that threat to: “If someone committed a crime they will no longer work in my administration.”

In fact, Bush may have privately reprimanded Karl Rove. But as the prosecutor kept bringing back Rove and Libby to the Grand Jury, rumors began to circulate that Cheney might resign because witnesses would implicate him in the leak scandal and that Bush himself might get tainted because he participated in conversations related to the Plame outing. Ironically, the conspirators lost control of one small piece of the plot to take the nation to war: the leaking of a name to punish a truth-teller and intimidate other potential whistle blowers.

Bush continues to act as if none of this concerns him and the justice of his war effort. The next time he says we’re going to “stay the course” in Iraq, the Democrats should respond by claiming that Bush wants to stay the course of total failure and pay for it with the lives and maimed bodies of young men and women.

As adversity rains on the Republicans, their audacity gradually transforms itself into defensiveness and silence. Frustratingly, the Democrats cannot seem to avail themselves of Bush’s deep problems and declining popularity. He fell well below 40% in late October.

The Democrats need to agree on a declaration calling the Iraq war wrong. They seem unable to say that Bush misled them into voting for the war and, most importantly, that the nation should immediately withdraw its armed forces.

SAUL LANDAU is a fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies.

 

 

 

SAUL LANDAU’s A BUSH AND BOTOX WORLD was published by CounterPunch / AK Press.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
January 20, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Charles R. Larson
Review: Robert Coover’s “Huck out West”
January 19, 2017
Melvin Goodman
America’s Russian Problem
Dave Lindorff
Right a Terrible Wrong: Why Obama Should Reverse Himself and Pardon Leonard Peltier
Laura Carlsen
Bringing Mexico to Its Knees Will Not “Make America Great Again”
John W. Whitehead
Nothing is Real: When Reality TV Programming Masquerades as Politics
Yoav Litvin
Time to Diss Obey: the Failure of Identity Politics and Protest
Mike Whitney
The Trump Speech That No One Heard 
Conn Hallinan
Is Europe Heading for a “Lexit”?
Stephen Cooper
Truth or Twitter? Why Donald Trump Is No John Steinbeck
Binoy Kampmark
Scoundrels of Patriotism: The Freeing of Chelsea Manning
Ramzy Baroud
The Balancing Act is Over: What Elor Azaria Taught Us about Israel
Josh Hoxie
Why Health Care Repeal is a Stealth Tax Break for Millionaires
Kim C. Domenico
It’s High Time for a Politics of Desire
Shamus Cooke
Inauguration Day and Beyond
Clark T. Scott
More and More Lousy
David Swanson
Samantha Power Can See Russia from Her Padded Cell
Kevin Carson
Right to Work and the Apartheid State
Malaika H. Kambon
Resisting the Lynching of Haitian Liberty!
January 18, 2017
Gary Leupp
The Extraordinary Array of Those Questioning Trump’s Legitimacy (and Their Various Reasons)
Charles Pierson
Drone Proliferation Ramps Up
Ajamu Baraka
Celebrating Dr. King with the Departure of Barack Obama
David Underhill
Trumpology With a Twist
Chris Floyd
Infinite Jest: Liberals Laughing All the Way to Hell
Stansfield Smith
Obama’s Hidden Role in Worsening Climate Change
Ron Leighton
Trump is Not Hitler: How the Misuse of History Distorts the Present as Well as the Past
Ralph Nader
An Open Letter to President-Elect Donald Trump
Binoy Kampmark
NATO and Obsolescence: Donald Trump and the History of an Alliance
Zarefah Baroud
‘The Power to Create a New World’: Trump and the Environmental Challenge Ahead
Julian Vigo
Obama Must Pardon the Black Panthers in Prison or in Exile
Alfredo Lopez
The Whattsapp Scandal
Clancy Sigal
Russian Hacking and the Smell Test
Terry Simons
The Truth About Ethics and Condoms
January 17, 2017
John Pilger
The Issue is Not Trump, It is Us
John K. White
Is Equality Overrated, Too?
Michael J. Sainato
The DNC Hands the Democratic Party Over to David Brock and Billionaire Donors
John Davis
Landscapes of Shame: America’s National Parks
Andrew Smolski
Third Coast Pillory: Politicians and Rhetorical Tricks
Chris Busby
The Scientific Hero of Chernobyl: Alexey V. Yablokov, the Man Who Dared to Speak the Truth
David Macaray
Four Reasons Trump Will Quit
Chet Richards
The Vicissitudes of the Rural South
Clancy Sigal
“You Don’t Care About Jobs”: Why the Democrats Lost
Robert Dodge
Martin Luther King and U.S. Politics: Time for a U.S. Truth and Reconciliation Commission
Jack Sadat Lee
I Dream of Justice for All the Animal Kingdom
James McEnteer
Mourning Again in America
January 16, 2017
Paul Street
How Pure is Your Hate?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail