Wednesday, November 16, 2005

The Real Plame Issue: Bush Killed Us

It was a pivotal moment: CNN reports on November 6th, 2005 that Senator Harry Reid's (D-NV) shut-down of the senate, after the indictment of Scooter Libby, may be a response to "activists" complaining that Democrats weren't "putting up enough of a fight," that they "lacked spine," and did not "stand up to Republicans." The real news is that such long-running disputes are spilling onto CNN. There's no telling where this kind of talk may lead.

However, there is no time for these activists (I count myself one) to break their arms patting themselves on the back for forcing some real opposition. We have seen Democratic offensives suddenly halt and wither before, then lapse into baffling, bumbling inarticulateness.

Reid's rarely-invoked rule forcing the senate into closed session, to demand answers on the use of intelligence before the Iraq War, was a shot across the bow, but no more. Judging by the amount of unused ammunition at the Democrats' feet, it doesn't look promising. Absent a widened attack, the Bushies' instinct is that this can be reduced to another tempest in a teapot. And if there is anything the Republicans possess in abundance over the Democrats, it is excellent political instincts.

Democratics have settled on the "falsified intelligence" angle as the way to attack the administration's misconduct in the Plame Affair. Sen. Reid said:

"The Libby indictment provides a window into what this is really all about, how this administration manufactured and manipulated intelligence in order to sell the war in Iraq and attempted to destroy those who dared to challenge its actions..."

With this strategy, it is not so much Valerie Plame's blown cover that matters as much as the light it sheds on the run-up to the Iraq war. The Bushies are confident that this line of attack will not cause their downfall.

As long as Bush sticks to his fallback position, that he didn't really know if Saddam had WMD, but he couldn't take any chances with "protecting the American people," he will ride this storm out, counting as always on ignorance, fear, and the general bloodthirstiness of Americans after 9/11. Bombing tens of thousands of civilians and losing over 2000 soldiers is no problem, as long as we're "fighting them there so we don't have to fight them here." Who cares how we got into it?

In a nutshell this is what the Rovian gut understands, and Karl Rove's gut is not often wrong. Bush can say, the stupid lib'rals forget we had just been attacked on 9/11, and that Saddam would've gotten his hands on a nuke sooner or later, even if, uh, he wasn't even close this time.

With the betrayal of Plame itself reduced to a brush-fire, the Republican instinct understands what the Democrats do not: Americans will tolerate being lied to if they believe it was for their own good. The "fight them there rather than here" is a powerful narcotic to fearful Americans. Although it's absurd (nothing says they can't come here after the live-fire training ground we have provided in Iraq,) its pedigree is long.

During Vietnam we were told we had to fight them in Southeast Asia or we would be fighting them "on the shores of San Diego." My own dear dad went to that war, and the only reason he went, he said, was so that we, his young sons, "wouldn't have to." The real evil of this draft-dodger administration is to harness the noblest impulses of the bravest and most idealistic, and to use them for their own foul ends.

The Democrats are throwing the fight by holding back on the most damning aspect of the Plame Affair: Plame was no politically-motivated analyst working for the "thems" in a politically-motivated CIA. She was a weapons of mass destruction specialist. For most of her career Plame was non-official cover (NOC) on uncoventional weapons. NOC means the government can deny your existence if you are caught. As CNN national security correspondent David Esnor explains, a non-official cover operates "without the protection of diplomatic recruit foreigners who [know] about murky international weapons deals involving weapons of mass destruction."

The intelligence networks Plame had built were an early warning system against weapons of mass destruction and other threats to our daily security. Most recently Plame worked in the CIA's Weapons Intelligence Non-Proliferation and Arms Control Center (WINIPAC.) When the administration blew her cover, it didn't betray her. It betrayed US, every man, woman, and child in America. Esnor says "the damage was most likely done" by "other nations tracking down...Valerie Plame Wilson's contacts and sources and shutting them down."

One intelligence officer after another has bravely stepped forward to put the lie to the "analyst" myth, risking career, reputation, and the well-known pathological wrath of the Bush administration. Ever the fast-friends good to have in a pinch, the Democrats apparently see and hear nothing.

One US official told Time magazine: "I'm beyond disgusted. I am especially angry about the bullshit explanations that she is not a covert agent. That is an official status, and there are lots of people in this building who are on that status. It's not up to the Republican Party to determine when that status will end for an agent." Time noted that foreign intelligence services were "known to have retraced her steps and contacts to discover more about how the CIA operates in their countries."

Another right-wing talking-point is that Plame's work could not have been secret if she reported to CIA headquarters and was married to a US ambassador. But, as one former CIA operative, Melissa Mahle, told Newsweek's Jonathan Alter, this reflects a total ignorance about the way the CIA works. And when an operative's cover is blown to other governments, Alter said "It isn't pretty." We already know the Pakistani Secret Service is riddled with Al Qaeda sympathizers, one of the reasons we haven't found bin Laden. Now they know Plame's secrets too. There may be many a slit throat in obscure Third World back alleys thanks to the loose lips of the Bush administration.

The list of former intelligence officers claiming serious damage to the national security is long and growing longer: Michael Scheuer, Larry Johnson, Jim Marcinkowski, David McMichael, Colonel Patrick Lang, Mel Goodman. Testimony from many of these intelligence officials was taken at the Dorgan (D-ND) Committee Hearings last July. Col. Patrick Lang, former director of the Defense Dept. Human Intelligence Service, went on the record saying that as a result of the Plame betrayal:

"the very kinds of people you need to get into the heart of this galaxy of jihadi groups and people like this will make a judgment that they are not going to trust you in this way. And once that happens, then the possibility of penetrating these groups, the possibility of knowing that they're going to carry 10-pound bags of explosive in the subway stations, will go right down the drain."

The Downing Street Memo showed once and for all that the White House was determined to "fix" intelligence to justify the Iraq invasion, no matter what the real intelligence said. The yawn with which this was greeted by the American public should tell the Democrats something. Americans don't care if they were lied into war. But they MIGHT care if it is now easier for "them" to get "here." What is amazing is that Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald has already given the Democrats more ammunition than they would need to impeach ten presidents. He made the connection between Plame and "national security" no fewer than nine times in his initial press conference, including such statements as:

-"The fact that she was a CIA officer was not well- known, for her protection or for the benefit of all us. It's important that a CIA officer's identity be protected, that it be protected not just for the officer, but for the nation's security."

-"given that national security was at stake, it was especially important that we find out accurate facts."

-"This is a very serious matter and compromising national security information is a very serious matter."

The bottom line is that George Bush and his people, by their reflexive habit of smearing all who disagree, have placed us in grave danger. In the New Warfare, one snitch giving the number of a single cargo container is worth a division of soldiers floundering around in countries they do not understand. Playing with the truth to entice a nation into war will not spark the popular outrage required to eject this administration, nor does it rise to the level of treason. But punching a hole in the intelligence shield painstakingly built to protect us, and to help gauge the intentions of our enemies, will, and does. If the Democrats do not do their duty, the wrath of the people may be aimed at them as well as at Bush, after the next attack.

robert borosage
derrick jackson
charlie savage
barry crimmins
paul hackett
editors of The Nation


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Plame killed us. The Bush speech before the war around WMD was an intentional leak from CIA(Plame) to get rid of covert mandatory WMD University schooling in WMD for which the operations officers blamed Rice. We're already going to war so why not sell off the covert WMD policy and set up Rice and Bush? That is all the war really is to CIA.

Coast to Coast had a Kennedy conspiratorialist on the radio. Its top secret, but CIA is thinking of pulling one on Bush, too. Someone leaked their evil world domination plans..................

10:13 AM  

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