Dick at the Heart of Darkness
Wednesday 26 October 2005
After W. was elected, he sometimes gave visitors a tour of the love alcove off the Oval Office where Bill trysted with Monica - the notorious spot where his predecessor had dishonored the White House.
At least it was only a little pantry - and a little panting.
If W. wants to show people now where the White House has been dishonored in far more astounding and deadly ways, he'll have to haul them around every nook and cranny of his vice president's office, then go across the river for a walk of shame through the Rummy empire at the Pentagon.
The shocking thing about the trellis of revelations showing Dick Cheney, the self-styled Mr. Strong America, as the central figure in dark conspiracies to juice up a case for war and demonize those who tried to tell the public the truth is how un-shocking it all is.
It's exactly what we thought was going on, but we never thought we'd actually hear the lurid details: Cheney and Rummy, the two old compadres from the Nixon and Ford days, in a cabal running the country and the world into the ground, driven by their poisonous obsession with Iraq, while Junior is out of the loop, playing in the gym or on his mountain bike.
Mr. Cheney has been so well protected by his Praetorian guard all these years that it's been hard for the public to see his dastardly deeds and petty schemes. But now, because of Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation and candid talk from Brent Scowcroft and Lawrence Wilkerson, he's been flushed out as the heart of darkness: all sulfurous strands lead back to the man W. aptly nicknamed Vice.
According to a Times story yesterday, Scooter Libby first learned about Joseph Wilson's C.I.A. wife from his boss, Mr. Cheney, not from reporters, as he'd originally suggested. And Mr. Cheney learned it from George Tenet, according to Mr. Libby's notes.
The Bush hawks presented themselves as protectors and exporters of American values. But they were so feverish about projecting the alternate reality they had constructed to link Saddam and Al Qaeda - and fulfilling their idée fixe about invading Iraq - they perverted American values.
Whether or not it turns out to be illegal, outing a C.I.A. agent - undercover or not - simply to undermine her husband's story is Rove-ishly sleazy. This no-leak administration was perfectly willing to leak to hurt anyone who got in its way.
Vice also pressed for a loophole so the C.I.A. could do torture-light on prisoners in U.S. custody, but John McCain rebuffed His Tortureness. Senator McCain has sponsored a measure to bar the cruel treatment of prisoners because he knows that this is not who we are. (Remember the days when the only torture was listening to politicians reciting their best TV lines at dinner parties?)
Colonel Wilkerson, the former chief of staff for Colin Powell, broke the code and denounced Vice's vortex, calling his own involvement in Mr. Powell's U.N. speech, infected with bogus Cheney and Scooter malarkey, "the lowest point" in his life.
He followed that with a blast of blunt talk in a speech and an op-ed piece in The Los Angeles Times, saying that foreign policy had been hijacked by "a secretive, little-known cabal" that hated dissent. He said the cabal was headed by Mr. Cheney, "a vice president who speaks only to Rush Limbaugh and assembled military forces," and Donald Rumsfeld, "a secretary of defense presiding over the death by a thousand cuts of our overstretched armed forces."
"I believe that the decisions of this cabal were sometimes made with the full and witting support of the president and sometimes with something less," Colonel Wilkerson wrote. "More often than not, then-national security adviser Condoleezza Rice was simply steamrolled by this cabal."
Brent Scowcroft, Bush Senior's close friend, let out a shriek this week to Jeffrey Goldberg in The New Yorker, revealing his estrangement from W. and his old protégé Condi. He disdained Paul Wolfowitz as a naïve utopian and said he didn't "know" his old friend Dick Cheney anymore. Vice's alliance with the neocons, who were determined to finish in Iraq what Mr. Scowcroft and Poppy had declared finished, led him to lead the nation into a morass. Troop deaths are now around 2,000, a gruesome milestone.
"The reason I part with the neocons is that I don't think in any reasonable time frame the objective of democratizing the Middle East can be successful," Mr. Scowcroft said. "If you can do it, fine, but I don't think you can, and in the process of trying to do it you can make the Middle East a lot worse."
W. should take the Medal of Freedom away from Mr. Tenet and give medals to Colonel Wilkerson and Mr. Scowcroft.
Spotlight on Cheney in Intelligence Leak Row
Wednesday 26 October 2005
Notes show vice-president knew identity of CIA agent. Revelations contradict public comments.
Dick Cheney was thrust into the centre of the criminal investigation of an intelligence leak yesterday after details were reported of a White House meeting in which the vice-president discussed a CIA officer whose cover was blown a few weeks later.
The discussion two years ago between Mr. Cheney and his top aide, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, would not represent a crime in itself, as both men have top security clearance. But the new revelations leave Mr. Libby vulnerable to indictment for perjury or obstruction of justice. He is said to have testified to a grand jury that he heard about the CIA agent's identity from journalists.
It is not known what Mr. Cheney told a federal prosecutor investigating the leak, but if he failed to mention the reported meeting on June 12 2003, he could also be in danger of perjury or obstruction charges. The new report also conflicts with public remarks the vice-president made not long after the alleged White House meeting.
The 22-month investigation into the leak is expected to conclude this week, and if the prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, issues indictments, they could have a devastating impact on the already embattled Bush administration. Karl Rove, the president's closest political adviser and architect of his election victories, has testified four times about his role in the leak.
According to lawyers involved in the case quoted in the New York Times, details of the 2003 meeting emerged in the form of notes taken by Mr. Libby, the vice-president's chief of staff, and later handed over to the investigation.
The two men were discussing Joseph Wilson, a former US ambassador who had traveled to Niger the previous year to check intelligence reports that Iraq was trying to buy African uranium. The reports had been based on documents that turned out to be forged, and by early summer 2003 Mr. Wilson began anonymously telling journalists he had found no evidence to support claims made by the president about Iraq's nuclear program. In early July, Mr. Wilson went public with his allegations in a newspaper article, suggesting that the administration had twisted the intelligence over weapons of mass destruction (WMD).
Eight days later, on July 14 2003, a conservative columnist citing "two senior administration officials", reported that Mr. Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, was a CIA operative and claimed she had suggested he be sent to Niger.
Ms. Plame had been a covert agent and the deliberate disclosure of her identity was a crime. The investigation has been aimed at discovering which, if any, administration officials had told the press about her as part of a campaign to discredit Mr. Wilson's African mission.
The 2003 White House notes show that, weeks before Ms. Plame's cover was blown, Mr. Cheney knew who she was and that she had had something to do with the Niger trip. The notes suggest Mr. Cheney had got his information from the CIA director at the time, George Tenet.
However, three months later, after the Plame row broke out, the vice-president told a television interviewer: "I don't know Joe Wilson ... I have no idea who hired him."
Even if the administration escapes indictments this week, the Plame affair has severely damaged its credibility. The
White House repeatedly insisted that no senior officials had been involved in the leak. However, after it became clear Mr. Rove and Mr. Libby had had contacts with the press on the subject, the administration refused to discuss the case on the grounds that it was the subject of a legal inquiry.
Yesterday, the White House spokesman, Scott McClellan said only: "The vice-president is doing a great job as a member of this administration and the president appreciates all that he is doing."