October 27, 2005
"Oh what a tangled
web we weave,
When first we practice to deceive!"
conspiracy that bubbles around Judith Miller protecting
a source -- whose name she couldn't remember -- and Robert Novak
using his column to out undercover CIA operative Valerie Plame
should soon evaporate. The next step should lead Special Prosecutor
Fitzgerald to the heart of the matter: a much more pernicious
conspiracy designed to mislead the United States into war with
Iraq. The crime to name a covert CIA official pales in comparison
with conspiring to lead the nation to war under false pretenses.
Novak served as White House
mastermind Karl Rove's press poodle. He punished former Ambassador
Joseph Wilson by revealing his wife's name and ending her career
on Juuly 14, 2003, eight days after Plame's husband revealed
in a NY Times op-ed (July 6, 2003) the fraudulence of
Bush Administration claims that Iraq had tried to purchase African
uranium for its nuclear weapons program.
Instead of following the logic
of Wilson's story, that the White House had conspired to lead
the country into an unjust war, the media focused on the leak
of a CIA' official's name. Reporters should have seen the Wilson
story as one piece of a larger puzzle. They should have read
Wilson's Times op ed and other stories as an opening to look
for who had motive to forge a document and plant it, so that
the media would get properly "spun" and accept this
forged paper as proof of Saddam's perfidy.
Now, it begins to emerge that
the White House undertook a major effort to mislead and manipulate
the media and U.S. public opinion in general in order to get
support for an unjust war.
In February 2002, the CIA had
dispatched Wilson to investigate the claim based on this document
that Iraq intended to buy nuclear material. When he returned
from Niger, he reported that the evidence lacked credibility,
but both Bush and Cheney refused to acknowledge his refutation.
So he went public in the NY Times.
The unraveling of the Valerie
Plame affair is but a step toward exposing this truly epic scam.
Beyond compromising the identity of a CIA officer, the Bush administration
had carried out what former intelligence official Larry Johnson
called "a classic 'covert action' program against the citizens
of the United States."
Part of this involved planting stories to "shape public
opinion." Apparently, one member of the Coalition of the
Willing, Italy under the right wing Berlusconi, agreed to fabricate
reports dated in 2001 and 2002 that Iraq had reached an agreement
with Niger to buy 500 tons of yellowcake uranium. When news of
these reports supposedly reached Cheney's office, the Vice President
requested that the Agency check the story. Thus, the CIA dispatched
Wilson to verify the report in Africa.
The fabricator apparently did
not expect Wilson to blow the whistle on them and report that
the evidence on Saddam's nuclear program lacked credibility.
. Nor did they conceive that a loyal public servant such as Wilson
with a wife in the Agency would go public.
By mid 2002, the Bush campaign
to invade Iraq was in full gear. Indeed, memos between Bush and
Blair validated what Lt. Col. Karen Kwiatkowski witnessed in
the Office of Special Planning. Make up the facts and then report
them as "intelligence."
"If one is seeking the
answers to why peculiar bits of 'intelligence' found sanctity
in a presidential speech, or why the post-Saddam occupation has
been distinguished by confusion and false steps, one need look
no further than the process inside the Office of the Secretary
of Defense," wrote Kwiatkowski after she retired from the
OSP position. July 31, 2003 by the Ohio Beacon Journal
She meant that top Rumsfeld
aide, Douglas Feith, deliberately altered the methods of intelligence
communication that the Pentagon routinely sent to State and CIA.
Indeed, Kwiatkowski wrote that she "witnessed several cases
of staff officers being told not to contact their counterparts
at State or the NSC because that particular decision would be
processed through a different channel." Like a virulent
virus, the Cheney gang took over the OSP in what State Department
Chief of Staff Lawrence Wilkerson called "a cabal between
the vice-president of the United States, Richard Cheney, and
the secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld, on critical issues
that made decisions that the bureaucracy did not know were being
made" (MSNBC Oct 20, 2005).
Wilkerson charged them with
"undermining democracy" (NY Times Oct 19) when
they decided to make a case for war against Iraq, they had to
invent stories. One of the scariest scenarios that Bush and Cheney
presented to the public involved Saddam's nuclear threat. Apparently,
one of Rumsefeld's aides persuaded his Italian intelligence cohorts
to make up documents suggesting that Iraq was trying to buy weapons
grade uranium form Niger.
Despite Wilson's report to
the contrary and the doubt raised by veteran intelligence professionals,
Cheney reiterated the Niger-Iraq connection accusation. On March
24, 2002, he appeared three times on TV shows and repeated that
he knew Iraq was actively pursuing nuclear-weapons production.
Cheney had made nukes the center of his anti-Saddam argument.
His staff apparently overruled State and CIA officials and insisted
that the nuclear accusation remain in Bush's January 2003 State
of the Union speech ş the now tarnished 16 words.
Subsequently, Bush pointed the finger of blame at the CIA for
giving him poor intelligence, but his own "cabal" had
manufactured the very evidence that Bush later blamed for misleading
The outing of Plame appears as part of what Larry Johnson called
a larger "pattern of manipulation and deceit." Judy
Miller emerged as another key actor in the scenario designed
to hype the war and fool the people.
On July 8, two days after Wilson
revealed the hype over Iraq's nuclear weapons, Miller had a hush
hush meeting with a top Cheney aide The still-classified National
Intelligence Estimate, Libby told her, 'had firmly concluded
that Iraq was seeking nuclear weapons.' According to a Newsweek
web exclusive, Oct 19 2005 (Isikoff and Hosenbell), Libby leaked
to Miller an NIE report that stated that Iraq planned to by uranium
for a nuclear bomb.
"My notes show that Mr.
Libby consistently steered our conversation back to the administration's
nuclear claims," Miller wrote (NY Times October 16,
2005) "His main theme echoed that of other senior officials:
that contrary to Mr. Wilson's criticism, the administration had
had ample reason to be concerned about Iraq's nuclear capabilities
based on the regime's history of weapons development, its use
of unconventional weapons and fresh intelligence reports."
The intelligence veterans remained
skeptical. How could Saddam possibly reconstruct such an effort
in the midst of sanctions and bombing and after seven years (1991-98)
in which the UN Weapons Inspection team had destroyed almost
all of his capacity? Indeed, counterevidence seriously outweighed
the report and Cheney's repeated claims.
Thanks to the prolonged investigation
over the Plame case, some members of the media and the rest of
the public have regained their bearings. Some reporters might
even recall that right after Novak published Plame's name, Bush
promised publicly that he would fire any staff involved.
In July, he weakened that threat
to: "If someone committed a crime they will no longer work
in my administration."
In fact, Bush may have privately
reprimanded Karl Rove. But as the prosecutor kept bringing back
Rove and Libby to the Grand Jury, rumors began to circulate that
Cheney might resign because witnesses would implicate him in
the leak scandal and that Bush himself might get tainted because
he participated in conversations related to the Plame outing.
Ironically, the conspirators lost control of one small piece
of the plot to take the nation to war: the leaking of a name
to punish a truth-teller and intimidate other potential whistle
Bush continues to act as if
none of this concerns him and the justice of his war effort.
The next time he says we're going to "stay the course"
in Iraq, the Democrats should respond by claiming that Bush wants
to stay the course of total failure and pay for it with the lives
and maimed bodies of young men and women.
As adversity rains on the Republicans,
their audacity gradually transforms itself into defensiveness
and silence. Frustratingly, the Democrats cannot seem to avail
themselves of Bush's deep problems and declining popularity.
He fell well below 40% in late October.
The Democrats need to agree
on a declaration calling the Iraq war wrong. They seem unable
to say that Bush misled them into voting for the war and, most
importantly, that the nation should immediately withdraw its
Saul Landau is a fellow of the Institute for Policy