Rove-Plame Scandal Leads To Deeper White
July 19, 2005
By Bernard Weiner, The
At long last, Plamegate - the scandal surrounding the naming of
covert CIA operative Valerie Plame Wilson by two "senior administration
officials" - has exploded out of the D.C. beltway to become a major
national news story.
It would appear that this scandal goes way beyond Karl Rove and
who said what to whom when about Ms. Plame. It certainly is true,
though, that turning over that slimy Rove-Plame rock was the way
into the larger issues upon which Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald
and his grand jury apparently are focusing.
(Ain't it almost always so in Washington? The cover-up is always
a greater problem for the perpetrators than the original crime,
for inevitably even seamier scandals are unearthed one by one; see
the Pentagon Papers, Watergate, Iran-Contra, et al. The moral lesson
- admit your mistake early, bear the immediate hit, and move on
unencumbered - rarely seems to "take" among politicians, of whatever
What's being covered up in the Plame/Rove case seems to revolve
around the Bush Administration's orchestrated propaganda campaign
to justify its invasion of Iraq. Valerie Plame and her husband Ambassador
Joseph Wilson - who wrote the op-ed in the New York Times
that got this whole thing going - are just the tips of some very
large icebergs, and one of those icebergs has a name: the White
House Iraq Group (WHIG), which we'll examine below.
THE EIGHT BLACKED-OUT PAGES
One of the ruling judges on the case of the two reporters who
refused to divulge their Plame-outing source was about to go easy
on them when he read Fitzgerald's new information - eight pages
of which were redacted from the public - and said that the national-security
seriousness of what he read changed his mind. The court then
ordered Time's Matthew Cooper and the New York Times'
Judith Miller to testify or else; Cooper finally did, and Miller
is in jail for contempt of court.
We don't know what is in those eight blacked-out pages - and,
if they really do involve national-security matters, we may never
be permitted to know precisely. But apparently they provide the
locus around which Fitzgerald is building a case that could result
in indictments at least for perjury for a number of Administration
officials and perhaps journalists as well.
(Another judge said that the prosecutor's classified filing -
those missing eight pages - "decides the case." In other words,
to quote Lawrence O'Donnell: "All the judges who have seen the prosecutors
secret evidence firmly believe he is pursuing a very serious crime,
and they have done everything they can to help him get an indictment.")
Further, depending on what Bush and Cheney knew and when they
knew it - and what they did or covered-up in the possible light
of such knowledge - there may be plenty of ammunition for those
calling for impeachment hearings. Note that Bush hired
a private attorney last summer for this CIA leak case.
And the two journalists in question, Cooper and Miller, have their
own attorneys. It's defense-attorney heaven in the nation's capital
PERSONAL REASONS MILLER NOT TESTIFYING?
Why Judith Miller is not testifying apparently goes to the heart
of Fitzgerald's case. There are reasonable grounds for wondering
whether Miller might have been aiding, inadvertently or consciously,
Rove and the rest of the WHIG to help move the country toward war
with Iraq. For example, she may have been told by Administration
officials about Plame and her CIA job, and helped spread that word
to other journalists, who then contacted Rove and Lewis "Scooter"
Libby, Cheney's chief of staff, whom Cooper has now named as a second
leaker of Plame's identity.
The New York Times already has apologized for running several
of Miller's pre-Iraq War stories that were based on faulty weapons-of-mass-destruction
intelligence; much of that concocted intel was provided by Ahmed
Chalabi, the sleazy Iraqi exile leader who hitched his wagon to
the Pentagon neo-cons to get his forces back into Iraq in the wake
of a U.S. invasion. Those Miller stories helped provide the imprimatur
of New York Times prestige that other media outlets then
picked up on, helping create a nationwide zeitgeist of imminent
threat from Iraq.
Indeed, Dick Cheney squared the circle by using Miller's stories
as "evidence" that even the hallowed New York Times had determined
that Iraq had, or soon would have, nuclear weapons of mass destruction.
"The day The Times story ran," wrote
Amy and David Goodman in their invaluable book The Exception
to the Rulers..., Cheney "made the rounds on the Sunday talk
shows to advance the administration's bogus claims. On NBC's Meet
the Press, Cheney declared that Iraq had purchased aluminum tubes
to make enriched uranium. It didn't matter that the IAEA refuted
the charge both before and after it was made. But Cheney didn't
want viewers just to take his word for it. 'There's a story in The
New York Times this morning,' he said smugly. 'And I want to attribute
The Times.' This was the classic disinformation two-step: the White
House leaks a lie to The Times, the newspaper publishes it as a
startling expose, and then the White House conveniently masquerades
behind the credibility of The Times."
WHO GETS THE HOT POT?
What we are witnessing right now is a grand-scale game of political/legal
"hot potato." Nobody wants to be holding the various hot pots around
the Plame case when the grand jury finally settles on its various
indictments, which could come in the next several months.
Rove these days, through an anonymous source (probably his attorney),
is trying to deflect blame and attention to others, especially journalists,
by throwing out one bizarre scenario after another to escape legal
culpability. (Not surprisingly, even though Bush and Press Secretary
Scott McClellan say the Administration will refuse to comment because
there's an "official investigation" going on, Rove, through his
surrogate, feels free to continue his attempts to comment on and
shape the case.)
But, from what Fitzgerald has suggested, he and the grand jury
long ago determined who the leakers were. That's not what the issue
is about now. The investigation is all tied in with the national-security
matters talked about on those blacked-out eight pages.
And, a reasonable guess is that those pages deal in some fashion
with the actions - legal or illegal, overt or covert, actual or
covered-up - of the members of an inner council of Administration
heavies called the White House Iraq Group.
Just one example of the WHIG's function and influence: "The escalation
of nuclear rhetoric a year ago [in 2002], including the introduction
of the term 'mushroom cloud' into the debate, coincided with the
formation of ... WHIG, a task force assigned to 'educate the public'
about the threat from Hussein, as a participant put it." (This quote
comes from a groundbreaking
2003 article by investigative reporters Barton Gelman and Walter
Pincus of the Washington Post.)
EENY MEENIE HUNT FOR WAR JUSTIFICATION
How did we get to Cheney and Rice scaring the population with
talk of "mushroom clouds" and wild tales of Iraqi WMD that might
be made available to al-Qaida terrorists?
Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear. It was
2002. The Administration already had decided to bomb and invade
Iraq, but was having trouble figuring out how to catapult the propaganda
so as to fool Congress, the American people, and the international
community into giving them permission to do so.
It was not smooth sailing. Not only were the Democrats beating
up on Bush's plans for war, but prestigious conservative Republican
leaders, such as Gen. Brent Scowcroft, James Baker III, Dick Armey,
and Trent Lott also were warning against an invasion of Iraq. Something
had to be done.
The disinformation campaign was launched by the WHIG and others
inside and outside the White House. (We ordinary citizens learned
about Bush's obsession with attacking Iraq both from memoirs by
former Cabinet members, such as Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill,
and most recently verified by the Downing Street Memos leaked from
inside the Blair Cabinet.)
REASONS BEHIND THE INVASION
Bush & Co. realized they couldn't come right out and tell everyone
what their true motives were - to depose the Saddam Hussein regime
in order to control the world's second largest oil reserve, to set
up permanent military bases there, and to use the presence of those
bases and the "shock & awe" example of overthrowing a dictator as
a warning to other autocratic regimes in the Greater Middle East
to bow to U.S. wishes. Those wishes involved oil, Israel, nuclear
reactors, terrorism, and the like. So, a convenient reason - one
simple enough for the masses to comprehend - had to be found that
would justify war.
As the Downing Street Memos and other internal British and U.S.
documents make clear, it was well-known that Iraq by the mid-1990s
was a paper tiger: its economy, as a result of the embargo, was
in tatters; Saddam had control only of the central part of the country
(Britain and the U.S. controlled the skies over the so-called "no-fly"
zones in the south and the north); its standing army was easily
defeatable; and, most important, its major weapons systems and research
facilities had been effectively destroyed during the first Gulf
War or in the years immediately after. In short, there were no WMD
worth mentioning, even though the lying, exaggerating Iraqi exiles
kept insisting that the U.S. military would find huge stockpiles
of such when they got to Iraq.
But, as Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz later said,
the Administration settled on WMD ("for bureaucratic reasons"),
apparently realizing that it would be the most effective, frightening,
and thus acceptable justification. And so the WMD scare campaign
began, with nightmarish tales of biological and chemical agents
(which senators were told could be delivered by a drone Iraqi air
force over East Coast cities), huge missile armadas, and, most tellingly,
nuclear weapons. Of course, none of this was true.
Cheney and Rice and Bush and Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz, the whole
lot, spent months peddling their scare stories to the public and
to members of Congress, and even sent poor Secretary of State Colin
Powell to the United Nations Security Council with a sorry, embarrassing
hodge-podge of non-existent "evidence" - and, damn, it worked.
Thanks to those lies, and the stenography of the mainstream media
when it came to peddling them, both the Congress and the public
bought into Bushthink with regard to the war. That was especially
so when the campaign added the laughable suggestion that somehow
Saddam Hussein was tied to the 9/11 terror attacks on the U.S. (yet
another example of the Big Lie Technique used by Rove and his forces).
The war was on.
THE WHITE HOUSE IRAQ GROUP
But someone, or some entity, within the Administration had to
coordinate these concerted propaganda campaigns. That was the bailiwick
and job-assignment of the WHIG, the regular members of which were
Karl Rove, the president's senior political adviser; communications
strategists Karen Hughes, Mary Matalin and James R. Wilkinson; legislative
liaison Nicholas E. Calio; and policy advisers led by Rice and her
deputy, Stephen J. Hadley, along with Lewis Libby, Cheney's chief
They waited a month to launch their first public-relations bombardment.
Why September? Chief of Staff Andrew Card let slip the reason in
an interview with the New York Times: "From a marketing point
of view, you don't introduce new products in August," he said.
They soon determined that the public was most frightened of a
possible nuclear attack by al-Qaida, and so, the day after publication
of Card's marketing quote, the Bush Administration heavies began
dropping their Iraq-as-nuclear-menace grenades into the public airwaves.
They attempted to back up their claims by quoting from reports by
international nuclear energy agencies supposedly saying that Iraq
was about to become a nuclear power - but no such reports existed.
But the lack of believable evidence didn't stop them, and the
fright campaign continued. Some of that history may well have been
in Fitzgerald's classified showing before the court.
FITZGERALD MIGHT HAVE TO WATCH OUT
In sum, the White House Iraq Group was tasked to come up with
propaganda campaigns that would work on the Congress and American
people - no matter how great the fib; indeed, the bigger the lie,
the easier it seemed to be to sell it. And their mission included
coordinating those campaigns through the various stages, and denouncing
and destroying the reputations of those who dared to confront their
lies and deceptions.
The WHIG played the public like masters, thanks in no doubt to
their stooges and ideological supporters in the mainstream media,
who joined in the fool-the-public campaign in major, influential
ways. Those who chose not to play the deception game, such as Ambassador
Wilson, they decided, would be made to pay the price for their perfidy
- and the trash-Joe-Wilson campaign continues until this day.
To their chagrin, Wilson appears to be a man of great character
and courage, and refuses to back down. And why should he? He's been
speaking the truth about the Bush Administration's lack of evidence
of Iraqi WMD for more than two years, while the Administration's
lies have been exposed time and time again by official agencies
Again, it's not totally clear how far Special Counsel/U.S Attorney
Fitzgerald is willing to go to clear out this nest of Administration
vipers. He could choose to stick close to the Valerie Plame/Joe
Wilson case itself, or he could keep heading in the direction of
indicting a good many Administration officials - perhaps with Bush
and Cheney as unindicted co-conspirators - for their part in lying
about classified national-security matters to the Congress and American
people. And, if Judith Miller were to trade immunity for prosecution
and decide to testify about Rove/Libby/Cheney, anything could happen.
WOUNDED, CORNERED ANIMALS ARE DANGEROUS
If and when the above scenario would start to unfold, it's not
outside the realm of possibility that Rove would get desperate enough
to try to question the motives and character of the Special Counsel
himself, as BuzzFlash puts it, "to try to sink the investigation
through an ad hominem attack. This is Rove's pathological gutter
tactic. He doesn't know how NOT to use it when backed into a corner."
Or Rove/Bush conceivably could do a Nixon and order Attorney General
Alberto Gonzales to fire Fitzgerald.
Anything is possible as the Bush Administration paints itself
further into the scandal corner, and, desperate to avoid criminal
proceedings and/or impeachement, lashes out at its perceived enemies.
Stay tuned. The fun is just beginning.
Bernard Weiner, Ph.D., has taught government & international
relations at various universities, worked as a writer/editor for
the San Francisco Chronicle, and currently co-edits The
Crisis Papers. Send comments to [email protected].
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