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The Great Spark Hunt
October 10, 2003
By Raul Groom

"We feel like the peasants with torches and pitchforks. The robber barons aren't going to be allowed to get away with this." - Larry Johnson, former CIA analyst, referring to the Plame leak

It was a big week for beasts rising up to devour their masters. Seigfried and Roy's tiger finally got fed up and took a swing at the silly magicians who've been parading him around in a demeaning outfit for years, sending one of them to the hospital with serious injuries. Gray Davis, poster-child for New Democrat milquetoast inoffensiveness, went gurgling out of the Governor's mansion in California on a wave of dissatisfaction so colossal that it swept into office a ridiculous babbling man-mountain who quite clearly has absolutely no idea about much of anything at all.

Another guy with no idea is George W. Bush, who summed his presidency up with uncharacteristic eloquence yesterday, observing astutely, "I don't have any idea." It was a moment of rare candor for the president, coming no doubt after a period of deep self-reflection, and we all should applaud him for finally having the courage to face reality.

Unfortunately for Dubya, he's apparently also about to have to face a bunch of peasants with torches and pitchforks. Larry Johnson, along with several unnamed CIA sources, took to the pages of the Washington Post recently to declare open war on the Bush administration. In reality, Johnson's semi-metaphorical vow to make the robber barons pay greatly understates the real-life danger to Bush and his cronies it is most certainly not a horde of aching, soot-faced steel workers or blind, arthritic shirtwaist seamstresses at the door, but an international network of highly trained thugs and fiendish criminal masterminds with access to unlimited amounts of money, weapons, and freshly dug holes. Even a bulb as dim as Boy George who grew up in a CIA household, after all - should have known what he was getting into when he let his people start a war with the Frankenstein's monster that Harry Truman cobbled together in 1947 out of the scraps of the postwar U.S. intelligence community.

I have recommended Cockburn and St. Clair's excellent WhiteOut before, but again I feel it necessary to urge anyone who wants to understand the sheer magnitude of the heap of shit about to be dumped on the White House to pick up this book and start reading it immediately. For those who are too lazy to read the book, let me sum it up this way the CIA, though technically under the jurisdiction of the executive branch, operates primarily from a large pool of cash that it generates on its own, independent of government funding. Thus the President has essentially no control over the agency, except that which he is able to exert by proxy through the CIA Director, whom he appoints. To put it gently, George Tenet will likely not be remembered as one of the most influential directors in the agency's history, and was in any case appointed by Bush archenemy William Jefferson Clinton. Making matters worse, so much worse, is the fact that the administration tried unsuccessfully to throw Tenet to the wolves several weeks back. What they have now is a weak CIA Director with no incentive to be loyal to the administration heading up an uncontrollable intelligence agency that's fed up and out for blood. Oops.

And so, as the mass of the nation remains focused on the California recall, the CIA is slowly gathering kindling, building a fire, and waiting for a spark. In addition to Richard Leiby and Dana Priest's excellent piece profiling Valerie Wilson (Plame's housewife alter-ego), in which Larry Johnson sounded the trumpet of all-out war on the White House, the Post also printed an article the other day by Dana Milbank in which an unnamed source inside the administration tried out a defense about as opaque and impregnable as the average Carnival costume. Since McClellan and the rest of the Bush press team can't deny the leak happened, the idea now is to piggy-back onto Robert Novak's lame assertion that the word "operative" which implied (correctly) that Valerie Plame was a covert agent was used without knowledge of its (true) connotation, and that Novak and the person who leaked Plame's identity thought (incorrectly) she was only a stateside analyst, and only accidentally published the (correct) information that she was an operative.

So the White House's version of the story, to recap, is that someone went to the trouble to discover that Valerie Wilson was a CIA employee, but made no effort to find out what she did for the agency, and, while assuming that she was an analyst, which she wasn't, accidentally leaked that she was a covert agent, which she was. Mmm hmm.

Whether or not the general population thinks the story is a snooze, every conservative publication in the country is now assuring us with an air of gin-soaked desperation that the general population thinks the story is a snooze. But the men and women at the CIA, many of whose lives (and all of whose jobs) depend on the type of cover that was compromised by the leak, seem to think it's a pretty big deal. And while I doubt that the spooks are calling in any wetwork just yet, the United States Central Intelligence Agency has access to something that threatens the Bush dynasty far more than guns or assassins after all, the Bushies have plenty of that stuff too.

The problem for Bush and his clan is a ring of keys in a special drawer at Langley that can be broken out whenever the agency needs to put the screws in someone. The keys don't open a special torture chamber or weapons cache the keys open closets. As I am writing this, a tallish man with a buzz cut his name is Steve, but his friends call him Stevo is opening that drawer and selecting a few keys off of that key ring. What closets these keys might open is a mystery, but one thing is for certain. What has kept the Bush family on top for this long is their ability to lock skeletons in closets and keep the closets locked forever. Until recently, this ability was rooted in no small part in the family's excellent relationship with the CIA, a relationship that is now only a distant, sordid memory. Soon, and very soon, some of those closets are going to come springing open.

Most of what is in the closets will come as no great surprise, since a great deal of the information is, if not well-known, at least available if one knows where to look. What will come as a surprise to many is how big the stories seem all of a sudden, now that the CIA has given its favorite reporters the go-ahead to start writing about the dark innuendo and damaging rumors that have been lurking in the shadows since George W. Bush declared his improbable and foolhardy intention to seek the office of President of the United States, despite an extremely checkered background.

For those of you reading this thinking that this means we will soon find out all there is to know about the bogus justification for the invasion of Iraq, or perhaps the administration's secret dealings with the Taliban in the run-up to the September 11th attacks, you can keep your shirt on. The CIA and its employees will be around bombing poor brown socialists for years after Cheney and all his leering greedhead friends have long since vanished from the White House, and the lifers are in no mood to stir up even more trouble than the "Bush Doctrine" if Dubya's nauseating, know-nothing overseas blundering can be called a Doctrine has already caused.

Fortunately for the torch-wielding peasants, the Bush family closets and George W.'s in particular are filled with myriad bags of bones whose exposure will do little or no damage to U.S. national security in the long run, but moderate amounts of damage to the political fortunes of the Bush family. Unfortunately, dear reader, there is nothing left, after almost a century of Bushes running the U.S. military-industrial complex, that will destroy la famiglia without also destroying the U.S. Department of Defense. In the 90 years since Samuel Bush first brought the U.S. military into the manufacturing age, the Bush family has become intertwined in almost every aspect of overseas and domestic defense operations, pocketing gobs of cash both legal and illegal while enjoying the status of one of the country's most favored and respected aristocracies. Indeed it is possible now to cite examples from random points in history of the Bushes conducting nefarious business right under the noses of every U.S. oversight agency in existence and coming out smelling like a rose every single time.

But not this time.

This will hurt the Bushes less, objectively, than you or I would be hurt if we were to get caught doing something really heinous like buying a bag of weed or hiring an illegal immigrant to watch our kids. No one who can claim descendency back through Samuel will actually go to jail, though some of the family Tom Hagans Karl Rove and Don Rumsfeld spring to mind are investing in a direct line to private counsel right about now. But it will cause the bluebloods more pain because it will be the first time they have felt the sting of real defeat. From this trap, finally, there is no escape. The last bridge has been burned. The wolverines are in the tunnel, and they just enjoyed the weasels as a delightful amuse bouche.

The last time the specter of a mark in the family's L column surfaced, it was all about Iranian guns and Contra crack, and Poppy looked so much like a man about to take a nose dive into a septic tank that he fooled one of the shrewdest political commentators in our nation's illustrious history, Hunter S. Thompson. The man with the heart of acid-soaked stone was moved to believe that, after 70 years of sucking the fear from the eyes of the world and tearing off children's heads in jungles while brain-dead hired actors posing as leaders gave stirring speeches about freedom and democracy, there was finally going to be some sanity in this goddamn slutbag world and a Bush was actually going to get his comeuppance.

It was an understandable, if grave, mistake. Today I repeat it with an open heart.

The Bush Administration is going down.

The reason it will be different this time is simple. The Bushes are an old money family that has fallen out of step with the new economy. The manufacturing complex that serves the U.S. military is still in the firm control of the Connecticut Cowboys and their loyal band of farmhands, but the new war model isn't about hardware, it's about communication. Communication is, uh, as they say in Texas, where uh, they are kind of from, um, well let me put it another way... communication is not a strong suit of any known Bush.

Through the entire cold war and the first 20 years or so of the U.S. War on Islam, the Bushes had a trump card. They had a company of master communicators at their beck and call, a company they liked to call the Agency. Only now, at the end, does the Bush clan get to find out the answer to the question they have always dreaded who is stronger, the family or the machine they built so painstakingly over so many generations? Of course, in history it has never been necessary to guess the eventual outcome of that contest - in the end, the machine always wins.

There is only one mercy I would hope the CIA affords the Bushes. Anyone under 30 should be granted amnesty by the rest of the universe. In other words, Noelle, Jenna and young Babs should be cut a break and let back into the human experiment. If you were inside a crumbling crime family you'd be drunk and on drugs all the time, too. Hell, we forgave Sofia Coppola for having a boring incestuous relationship with a deeply obnoxious and unfit Andy Garcia, and her family had already been crumbling for a generation.

The rest of them will be stomped on by the CIA, and tossed into the ocean like radioactive maggots. The pitchforks are ready. The torches are wet with gasoline. The bonfire is piled high with the flotsam and jetsam of 100 years of robber baron misrule.

The Great Spark Hunt is on.

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