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Sunday, October 30, 2005
Brooks: This Is All Libby's Fault

Thank God it wasn't cancer

"Senator Frank Lautenberg assented that Rove was guilty of treason. Howard Dean talked about a "huge cover-up." Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York said: "The C.I.A. leak issue is only the tip of the iceberg. This is looking increasingly like a White House conspiracy aimed at misleading our country into war.

"There is mounting evidence," Nadler continued, "that there may have been a well-orchestrated effort by the president, the vice president and other top White House officials to lie to Congress in order to get its support for the Iraq war."

One may wish it, but that doesn't make it so. We do know that the White House lied about who was involved in calling reporters. But as for traitorous behavior, huge cover-ups and well-orchestrated conspiracies - that's swamp gas.

As it turned out, Fitzgerald's careful and forceful presentation of the evidence was but a brief respite from the tide of hysterical accusations. Fitzgerald may have pointed out that this case is not about supporting or opposing the war; it's about possible perjury and obstruction of justice. But the Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid immediately ran out with some amorphous argument intended to show that this indictment indeed is all about the war. Ted Kennedy, likening Fitzgerald's findings to Watergate, insisted, "This is far more than an indictment of an individual," before casting his net far and wide. And Howard Dean, who doesn't fly off the handle but lives off it, grandly asserted that Fitzgerald's findings indicate that "a group of senior White House officials" ignored the rule of law.

The question is, why are these people so compulsively overheated? One of the president's top advisers is indicted on serious charges. Why are they incapable of leaving it at that? Why do they have to slather on wild, unsupported charges that do little more than make them look unhinged?"

Jesus, David, you're obtuse. Why can't we leave it at that? Why don't we start by doing the obvious: asking why Libby lied? It didn't happen in a vaccuum, you know. Working backwards, Libby was a conduit for the information that Valerie Plame was a CIA agent who got Joe Wilson sent to Africa. Why was that relevant? It wasn't, really, but the leak was designed to undercut Wilson's credibility. Why? Because he vehemently disputed the administration's claim that Saddam had the potential to get uranium from Niger as a part of a nuclear weapons program.

Why did that matter? Because Bush and Cheney were trying to convince the country that Saddam was a threat to us. Why were they doing that? Because they were trying to justify their proposed invasion of Iraq. All of this is beyond dispute. It happened. You were here the whole time, David. Libby didn't just decide on his own to out Plame for the hell of it.

If Saddam had had a dozen nuclear bombs made with uranium from Niger, what Libby did would still have been a crime. But here's the thing, David. There was no possible way he could have actually obtained the uranium, and it was obvious. The African uranium story was bullshit, and poorly-constructed bullshit at that. As soon as the documents behind the scenario saw the light of day, they were exposed as clumsy forgeries, yet the administration continued to push the story. Colin Powell lied to the UN, and Fearless Leader Bush lied to the nation in his State of the Union address. If they didn't know the uranium allegations were false, not to say impossible, plenty of other people in the administration did, not to mention the CIA.

It's possible the war would have happened even without the Iraqi nuclear weapons program flimflam, but as it actually happened, it was a crucial element of the administration's scenario. Wilson tore a hole in that scenario, and, according to the grand jury, Libby committed five felonies to undercut (and/or possibly punish) him.

Honestly, David, do you really believe Scooter did this all on his own initiative? Have you been paying attention? Invading Iraq was the main focus of the Bush administration for a long time. During Fitzgerald's investigation, it came out that Dick Cheney himself revealed Plame's status to Libby. Karl Rove helped spread the story to reporters. Whether or not these actions constituted criminal activity, they were indisputably part of a coordinated effort to discredit Joe Wilson and sell the Iraq war.

Naturally, then, you conclude that critics of the Bush administration have lost their grip on reality:

"The answer is found in an essay written about 40 years ago by Richard Hofstadter called "The Paranoid Style in American Politics." Hofstadter argues that sometimes people who are dispossessed, who feel their country has been taken away from them and their kind, develop an angry, suspicious and conspiratorial frame of mind. It is never enough to believe their opponents have committed honest mistakes or have legitimate purposes; they insist on believing in malicious conspiracies.

"The paranoid spokesman," Hofstadter writes, "sees the fate of conspiracy in apocalyptic terms - he traffics in the birth and death of whole worlds, whole political orders, whole systems of human values. He is always manning the barricades of civilization." Because his opponents are so evil, the conspiracy monger is never content with anything but their total destruction. Failure to achieve this unattainable goal "constantly heightens the paranoid's sense of frustration." Thus, "even partial success leaves him with the same feeling of powerlessness with which he began, and this in turn only strengthens his awareness of the vast and terrifying quality of the enemy he opposes."

So some Democrats were not content with Libby's indictment, but had to stretch, distort and exaggerate. The tragic thing is that at the exact moment when the Republican Party is staggering under the weight of its own mistakes, the Democratic Party's loudest voices are in the grip of passions that render them untrustworthy."

We're just making shit up because we feel disenfranchised? This isn't some air-filled conspiracy that hints at dire, ill-defined future events that may or may not come to pass. This is about a war that is actually happening now. Thousands of Americans have been killed or maimed. Tens of thousands of Iraqis have died, and their blood is on our hands. If Wilson's story had gone unchallenged, this unnecessary war might have been averted and those people would still be alive.

It looks an awful lot like the Bush Administration led the country to war on the basis of information that many of its staff knew to be false. The CIA leak case is only one piece of a much larger whole, but it may be the loose thread that leads to the exposure of the rest. It's deadly serious, David, and we're going to keep at it.