By Crispin Sartwell
Karl Rove, it turns out, was the Plamethrower. He lobbed CIA operative
Valerie Plame to the press, revealing to reporters that she was a CIA
operative. Thus, apparently, the administration took revenge on Plame's husband
Joseph Wilson for revealing that one part of the justification for war rested
on badly cooked intelligence.
Rove's action was petty; it was vicious; but it is not clear that it was
criminal. And the repercussions for Plame herself, though serious, were not
Thus many pro-administration commentators have dismissed the scandal as
a conflagration in a teapot and accused special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald
of abusing his authority.
Plamethrower may well amount to almost nothing in the long run. It may
be that Judith Miller - the New York Times reporter jailed for refusing to name
her sources - will be freed, no indictments will be handed down, and the whole
thing will gutter and go out.
the other hand, the scandal is potentially fatal to the administration.
Zogby poll indicates that about 40% of Americans think that President Bush
should be impeached if he intentionally misled the American people about Iraq's
weapons programs in order to manipulate us into invading Iraq.
That number might seem high, but it's difficult to imagine anyone
looking you straight in the eye and denying that lying us into a war is an
impeachable offense. It would be difficult to imagine a more serious abuse of
unlikely that actual lies will be demonstrable in this case. If there was ever
a memo that said "make some stuff up," it ceased to exist a long time
ago. But the scent of dung is everywhere. Colin Powell is angry about the
quality of the "information" he gave to the UN, though he would have
done well to examine it more critically at the time. The Downing Street memo
indicates that intelligence was being created and arranged to justify the
antecedent decision to invade.
might not be the crime but the cover-up that proves fatal.
whole course of Fitzgerald's investigation suggests that there were multiple
sources of the Plame leak. Otherwise, his continued pursuit of Miller appears
gratuitous, since Rove has already been identified.
turn suggests that anyone who was in possession of information damaging to the
administration's flimsy case for war - anyone who was in a position to
elucidate the various uses of aluminum tubes or to discredit the various
fictional connections the administration was drawing between Saddam and al
Qaeda - was subject to intimidation and reprisal.
it is a little hard to see what good it did anyone to take revenge on Wilson;
after all, Wilson had already published his results in the New York Times; the
administration's best bet and indeed their modus operandi, would have been
squishy semi-denial followed by silence.
Rove's own story appears to be that Wilson was not sent by the White House but
by Plame to check the Niger uranium story. The idea that a CIA operative is
sending a former ambassador to Africa to check claims made by the president in
the State oif the Union address seems bizarre. But if true it would indicate
that Plame herself was very much a subversive presence within the intelligence
it was as much Plame's desire to prevent the administration from using the CIA
to confirm claims that were by all accounts based on "crudely forged
documents" as Wilson's publication of the results that won her Rove's
way, the only rational purpose for throwing Valerie Plame to the wolves was to
show others the sort of price one might pay if one started checking stories or
speaking up about the results.
And so the Plamethrower case should immediately lead everyone - starting
with Fitzgerald - to ask: who had information damaging to the administration
and was blackmailed into witholding it? And who was impressed by Rove's
demonstration of the price you pay?
There is, putting it mildly, no reason to believe that no one else had
information pertinent to Iraq's weapons programs and involvement with terrorism
that contradicted the administration's justifications for invasion. And there is no reason to believe that
anyone who had such information would be treated more gently than Plame and
even one more such case arises, this administration should collapse like a
house of cards.
Blackmailing and punishing critics and dissidents would demonstrate a
broad totalitarian streak in this administration and would probably constitute
a series of crimes.
But most importantly, it would leave no one in any doubt that the
original pretexts for war were fabrications, because there is no other reason
for repressing the information.
Plamethrower could - I emphasize could -
mutate from technicality to one of the great scandals in the history of the