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Tuesday, October 25, 2005


eve of destruction

with tension mounting in washington as special prosecutor patrick fitzgerald prepares indictments in the valerie plame investigation for release this week, rats are fleeing the sinking ship. other commenters -- including matt welch at reason and justin raimondo at -- are covering the flow of events in what welch neatly analogizes to as the night of the long knives far better than i, so i'll just touch on some points of interest.

  • first, brent scowcroft's wizened realism comes crushing down on the bush administration's highest operators in the new yorker this week. when a man of scowcroft's intelligence and experience is sidelined even from formerly close associates because his answers aren't sufficiently optimistic and ideological, it's a clear confirmation that the white house has become almost entirely detached from reality.

  • second, lawrence wilkerson, former chief of staff to secretary of state colin powell, draws back the curtain to reveal in stark and frightening detail just how the madness of power has bankrupted and neutered the white house, creating something not far from a dictatorship at the head of american government. wilkerson's primary complaints may seem to some petty -- for much of them amount to the indignation of an ignored bureaucracy. but it is central to understand that this is at the deepest crux of what ails the bush administration. the institutional bureaucracy of the american government is not merely a functionless albatross; it is a suicide-prevention device. it is designed to save the people from perpetual revolutionists like rumsfeld and cheney, while saving them from themselves. one can argue about inertia and inefficiency and so forth -- many freemarket religionists will. but inertia and inefficiency are important and positive tools of open government -- the most active and efficient governments are totalitarian monstrosities. inertia forces consideration and discourse before shooting off into a war where the primary cassus bellum doesn't even exist.

    in wilkerson's words:

    IN PRESIDENT BUSH'S first term, some of the most important decisions about U.S. national security — including vital decisions about postwar Iraq — were made by a secretive, little-known cabal. It was made up of a very small group of people led by Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. ... I believe that the decisions of this cabal were sometimes made with the full and witting support of the president and sometimes with something less. ... Its insular and secret workings were efficient and swift — not unlike the decision-making one would associate more with a dictatorship than a democracy. This furtive process was camouflaged neatly by the dysfunction and inefficiency of the formal decision-making process, where decisions, if they were reached at all, had to wend their way through the bureaucracy, with its dissenters, obstructionists and "guardians of the turf."

    ... Why should we care that President Bush gave over much of the critical decision-making to his vice president and his secretary of Defense? ... Discounting the professional experience available within the federal bureaucracy — and ignoring entirely the inevitable but often frustrating dissent that often arises therein — makes for quick and painless decisions. But when government agencies are confronted with decisions in which they did not participate and with which they frequently disagree, their implementation of those decisions is fractured, uncoordinated and inefficient.
    it has to be seen that a state without a preserving institutional bureaucracy is exactly what men like rumsfeld and cheney work toward -- a dictatorial state, lightning quick, being unburdened by inefficiencies like law, discourse and fact-finding. this is why they chose to manufacture evidence to sell the war they ideologically desired, even needed, with no regard for any actual facts -- criminal oversights that will shortly result in indictments. its why they work so hard to undermine and destroy institution on every front.

  • also, it's becoming apparent that, even given the president's naked accomodation of his right-hand-man, karl rove will be indicted and perhaps sacrificed on the altar of the nation, along with vice president cheney's right-hand-man scooter libby and others. we may soon see if indictment is a sufficient political proxy for criminality.

  • and the newest, most shocking news -- the new york times this morning, citing lawyers working on the case, uncovers that libby has fingered (through his notes) vice president cheney as the man who told him of valerie plame's identity -- in contravention to his sworn testimony, as pointed out by steve clemons.

    Notes of the previously undisclosed conversation between Mr. Libby and Mr. Cheney on June 12, 2003, appear to differ from Mr. Libby's testimony to a federal grand jury that he initially learned about the C.I.A. officer, Valerie Wilson, from journalists, the lawyers said.

    The notes, taken by Mr. Libby during the conversation, for the first time place Mr. Cheney in the middle of an effort by the White House to learn about Ms. Wilson's husband, Joseph C. Wilson IV, who was questioning the administration's handling of intelligence about Iraq's nuclear program to justify the war.

    Lawyers involved in the case, who described the notes to The New York Times, said they showed that Mr. Cheney knew that Ms. Wilson worked at the C.I.A. more than a month before her identity was made public and her undercover status was disclosed in a syndicated column by Robert D. Novak on July 14, 2003.

    Mr. Libby's notes indicate that Mr. Cheney had gotten his information about Ms. Wilson from George J. Tenet, the director of central intelligence, in response to questions from the vice president about Mr. Wilson. But they contain no suggestion that either Mr. Cheney or Mr. Libby knew at the time of Ms. Wilson's undercover status or that her identity was classified. Disclosing a covert agent's identity can be a crime, but only if the person who discloses it knows the agent's undercover status.

    It would not be illegal for either Mr. Cheney or Mr. Libby, both of whom are presumably cleared to know the government's deepest secrets, to discuss a C.I.A. officer or her link to a critic of the administration. But any effort by Mr. Libby to steer investigators away from his conversation with Mr. Cheney could be considered by Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the special counsel in the case, to be an illegal effort to impede the inquiry.
    while this may not spell indictment for cheney -- whose office has been the criminal driving force behind both the iraq-wmd fraud and the aipac espionage scandal -- it certainly puts the highest circle of the white house on notice. one can only hope that fitzgerald can assemble evidence enough to indict cheney, who has shown himself to be an utterly amoral and lawless tyrant, incapable of even respecting the law he has ostensibly sworn to defend.


    First of all, this means that Vice President Cheney has known all along that he was Scooter Libby's source -- and whether Libby had license from him or not to try and slaughter the reputation of Joe Wilson -- CHENEY KNEW.

    The entire charade of President Bush stating that he wanted to get to the bottom of who leaked Plame's name -- and who was involved -- is no longer believable at any level. Cheney would not have failed to disclose this to Bush, and Bush played along as if none of his staff were involved. They confessed nothing -- accepted no responsibilty -- until forced by Fitzgerald.
    what does that imply about the depth of the knowledge and involvement of the vice president -- to say nothing of the president himself -- in criminal activities sprouting from the office of the vice president?

  • finally -- and most speculatively -- raimondo and kos may have speculatively assembled a credible final cause for why plame was outed -- not solely revenge for husband joe wilson's public attacks on the credibility of the white house regarding the niger-yellowcake document forgery in the runup to the invasion of iraq, but the possible work of plame's own wmd team at cia -- which could have been on the brink of revealing that cheney operative michael ledeen was the forger of the yellowcake documents -- which was subsequently the conclusion of the italian state investigation. raimondo:

    Remember, the forgeries were exposed in early March 2003. The New York Times published Wilson's now famous "What I Didn't Find in Africa" op-ed on July 6, 2003 – and we now know that Scooter and the gang were homing in on Wilson even before his piece appeared. We also know that Ms. Plame wasn't the only deep-cover CIA agent outed by Scooter and the Cheney-ites: she worked through a CIA front company, Brewster Jennings & Associates, engaged in anti-proliferation work, whose activities were aborted by Plame's exposure. In one fell swoop, an entire group of undercover CIA experts on nuclear weapons proliferation was neutralized.

    The CIA, after all, hadn't even gotten their hands on a copy of the forgeries until February 2003 – a year after the administration began citing them as "proof" of Saddam's nuclear ambitions. It would have been well within the purview of Brewster Jennings & Associates to trace the origins of the Niger uranium documents back to the forgers: surely they weren't sitting on their hands in the months before columnist Robert Novak printed Plame's name and sparked a furor.

    Everyone assumes Libby and his co-conspirators were really after Wilson, but this now seems unwarranted, especially in light of Fitzgerald's reported focus on the Niger uranium forgeries. If this question of the forgeries is now within Fitzgerald's purview, it opens up the possibility that the conspirators really were after Plame on her own account. If Plame and her associates were hot on the trail of whoever forged the Niger uranium documents, by neutralizing Brewster Jennings & Associates the Libby cabal closed one possible route to uncovering their schemes – and opened up another one.
    if this is fitzgerald's finding -- and, to be clear, this is speculation -- it would provide a much more pragmatic and believable motive for the actions of cheney and his neoconservative minions like libby than simple revenge.
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    ...and these are the people who were to bring honor and dignity back to the White House.

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    Great stuff here...great job mak.

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    "something not far from a dictatorship"

    Um, yeah, except that they were elected. Small difference.

    Scowcroft's comments have already been annihilated as the anti-democratic autocrat-coddling nonsense they are by half a dozen neocon intellectuals.

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