Agam's Gecko
Wednesday, September 06, 2006

o. More than three years after Joe Wilson outed himself in the New York Times as the "former ambassador" then being quoted anonymously by D.C. pundits and columnists in a media-driven war against the Bush-Cheney-Rove cabal, it all comes down to this. Nothing. All the innuendo, the whispering campaigns trumpeted in the establishment newspapers, the endless speculation in the fringes about imminent "frog-marches" from the White House and secret "sealed indictments" to be handed down any minute now ... have amounted to nothing more than a great farce.

Oh wait, it did amount to more than farce. It was also a concerted attempt to dishonestly depose an administration during wartime, and later, to affect an election to the favour of Mr. Wilson's friends.

For the better part of three years we've been told that the "outing" of Wilson's wife, a deskbound CIA analyst / top secret international spy named Valerie Plame, was tantamount to treason. It just had to be a dirty trick so devious that even Nixon would have been jealous, which would eventually prove that Cheney, Rove and even Bush himself were not more than dirty traitors with a vendetta against poor Joseph C. Wilson IV, who after all had simply spoken truth to power.

Except that he didn't. Wilson's status as a serial liar far too deeply in love with himself has been known for a long time already. And now that the "original leak" has been identified -- and was identified to the FBI before special prosecutor Fitzgerald even started his job -- as Colin Powell's right hand man Richard Armitage, well ... it's time for the Emily Litella gambit. "Oh. That's very different. Never mind."

Right from the very beginning, when Wilson was proclaiming he'd "debunked" the 16 words in the State of the Union address, which President Bush spoke almost 44 months ago, it was known that he'd done no such thing. Wilson's oral report to CIA upon his return actually bolstered the contention that Saddam was looking to acquire uranium in Africa, a position still supported to this day by available intel from several other western countries, and confirmed by a US Senate investigation as well as a British judicial inquiry. The 16 words were as true 44 months ago as they remain today.

Chris Hitchens was doing some important factual reporting on this story during its lifetime, and I had meant to write about his findings back in July when he published Case Closed. Well, better late than never. In that piece he lays out the evidence that Saddam's "nuclear envoy" had indeed been shopping for yellowcake in Niger. There was an awful lot that Mr. Wilson failed to notice during his tea-drinking adventures in Africa.

Read that first, before diving into Hitchens' latest on Plamegate's ridiculous conclusion. There was no conspiracy against Joe Wilson, but there certainly was one against the Bush administration, fueled by infighting between those within the various departments who were with him, and those who were against him. Wilson declared his jihad against Bush even before he put his name on that NYT op-ed, and I expect the connections between him, certain ex-officials like Ray McGovern and Larry Johnson of "Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity," and others still inside the government responsible for all the leaks of terrorist surveillance programs, will eventually come to light.

And Armitage? For all this time, the daily media innuendo circus proceeded apace while Armitage knew he was the one who originally spilled the Plame identity. Powell knew it, prosecutor Fitzgerald knew it (and Armitage him to keep mum about it), and they all kept quiet while others twisted in the conspiracy-minded public circus.

Some people owe some other people some genuine apologies, but I haven't heard any. Even the Washington Post, now scurrying to get off the train, and other proggy pundits and opinion makers who now distance themselves from the Plame-Wilsons, can't seem to manage a bit of introspection -- let alone a little old "sorry about that, chief."

I'm going to really enjoy watching this fiasco continue to play out, and I won't even say "I told you so."

Tom Maguire has been just fantasic on this story for its entire run, and I've learned an amazing amount from reading related articles on JustOneMinute over the past couple of years -- especially due to his dedicated commenters who cooperatively researched every aspect of the story, and whose discussions helped make the massive quantity of little details become a lot more orderly, and at least half-way possible to keep straight. They are, in the Plame-ology field at least, a real example of "distributed intelligence" in which the whole is much greater than the sum of its parts. Army of Davids, even. Wai to Tom and his Minutemen and women, you guys are amazing (and Tom was the first one I know of who proposed Armitage as the probable "first leaker" quite a while back). Take a trip over there and you'll see what I mean. His second latest post (at this writing) has 247 comments (on David Corn's Hubris, heh).

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