The problems with the Scooter saga run deep
During all the hoopla over I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby’s conviction last week, one thing in particular intrigued me – the Central Intelligence Agency’s lack of intelligent response to the news.Specifically, I was amused and somewhat saddened that the agency’s public pronouncements on the matter showed that the spooks either didn’t understand what was going on, or couldn’t address the real issue here. And that is that Libby was the tool of simple vengeance, and that the vengeful impulse that drove his actions came from our president, George W. Bush, his chief lieutenant, Vice President Dick Cheney, and a coterie of top aides.It was a CIA agent’s outing at the hands of the Bush administration that led to Libby’s conviction and is now threatening him with up to 25 years in prison for lying to federal investigators about the sordid mess. And it was the outing of that CIA operative that occupied the thoughts and words of the agency’s spokespeople.But they, and others, have persisted in focusing on the minutiae of the outing – the fact that CIA operative Valerie Plame, wife of diplomat Joseph Wilson, knew things that could endanger other operatives, not to mention clandestine operations, for example – instead of on the reasons her name was leaked to one of the administration’s pet columnists, Robert Novak.Maybe this is the only way the agency could respond, but we all know the underlying issues here.Wilson was sent abroad for the purpose of verifying the Bush administration’s claims that Saddam Hussein was trying to get his hands on the materials needed to build a nuclear bomb. When he couldn’t find the evidence the Bushies wanted, he came back and debunked their claims, and the Bushies were bound and determined to pay him back for that. Nothing more, nothing less, and to hell with such niceties as laws that prohibited the public identification of CIA agents.These simplistic schoolyard bully-style tactics are typical of the Bush administration, and symptomatic of a mindset that is unimaginably dangerous to the U.S. and the world. One published account of Libby’s thinking, on Slate.com, homed in on his intelligence and his drive, and on the belief that he is “a neocon’s neocon” who became “obsessed” with Wilson’s perceived betrayal of the Bush doctrine and with figuring out ways to make Wilson pay.So, what we have here is a failure to think clearly. Bush took us to war in Iraq based on lies and misinformation, that patter of deceit was openly challenged by a respected diplomat, and all these guys can think about is how to stab that diplomat in the back. Is this the crew we want at the table in sensitive negotiations with our allies, our enemies, or anyone else? I don’t think so.But, back to the Libby conviction.The buzz now is over the question of whether Bush will pardon Libby, an idea that is so divorced from any reality-based assessment of the situation that it would be laughable if it weren’t for the fact that it actually is possible.Time magazine, that bastion of establishmentarian journalism, seems to have argued in its online edition that Libby should be pardoned because he is a bit player in a sprawlingly huge drama of deceit, a fall guy who doesn’t deserve to go to jail. But if he is pardoned, that would mean no one is held responsible for what we all recognize was just one more strategic blunder by a pack of delusional but very powerful fools.Will we feel any better in a couple of years, when Bush and Cheney are enjoying their retirement from the White House, if poor Scooter is languishing in a prison cell, Time asks.Well, probably not. The plain truth is that everyone knows that Bush, Cheney and others are far more culpable than Scooter in this tangled knot of evil and slime. But it seems equally true that Patrick Fitzgerald, the prosecutor who indicted Libby but not Karl Rove or Cheney, is not going to go any further with the investigation. Which means the real bad guys get off scot-free.So, do we give the minnow a pass because we can’t quite manage to snare the sharks in these pestilent waters?Again, I don’t think so.But as I write this, the hubbub about a pardon for Libby has quieted down, which probably means it will rear its ugly head again fairly soon. Then we’ll see which way this foul wind will blow.
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