Thursday, July 14, 2005


A Twofer From The Strib

Once again, The StarTribune shows why it is the Paper of the Reality-Based Community:

After the start of the war, Wilson wrote a lengthy op-ed piece for the New York Times laying out the facts of his trip and saying he had "little choice but to conclude that some of the intelligence related to Iraq's nuclear weapons program was twisted to exaggerate the Iraqi threat." Five days later, Rove told Time reporter Matt Cooper he should "not get too far out on Wilson." His trip to Niger, Rove said, wasn't approved by Cheney or CIA Director George Tenet. Cooper wrote to his boss, "It was, KR said, wilson's wife, who apparently works at the agency on wmd issues who authorized the trip." Three days later, columnist Robert Novak identified Plame as a CIA operative and said two "senior administration officials" told him Plame suggested sending her husband. About the same time, a confidential source also told a Washington Post reporter that the trip was a "boondoggle" arranged by Plame.
This is a classic Rove technique: undercut a critic by planting the notion that he was off to Africa on a lark arranged by his wife. Rove's history as a rough political player is well-documented. But this wasn't about a political campaign; this was about a serious question of national security and the justification for a difficult war. It also wasn't true. On July 22, Newsday reported that a "senior intelligence officer confirmed that Plame was a directorate of operations undercover officer who worked 'alongside' the operations officers who asked her husband to travel to Niger. But he said she did not recommend her husband to undertake the Niger assignment." This senior intelligence officer also told Newsday that it was incorrect to suggest " 'she was the one who was cooking this up.' " Besides, he said, " 'We paid his airfare. But to go to Niger is not exactly a benefit. Most people you'd have to pay big bucks to go there.' " The CIA always said Plame did not recommend her husband. It is instructive to remember that the investigation into who revealed Plame's identity was initiated by Tenet, not by administration critics. Remember also that Wilson was correct; ultimately the White House had to retract Bush's State of the Union statement on the Niger connection. In addition to discrediting critics of the Niger connection, the Bush administration, through the actions of John Bolton -- now nominee to be U.N. ambassador -- sought to intimidate intelligence analysts who objected to conclusions about Iraq's WMD, and to get a U.N. chemical weapons official fired so he wouldn't be able to send inspectors back to Iraq, where they might disprove more of the case for war.

In the scheme of things, whether Rove revealed Plame's identity, deliberately or not, matters less than actions by Rove, Bolton, Cheney and others to phony up a case for war that has gone badly, has cost thousands of lives plus hundreds of billions of dollars, and has, a majority of Americans now believe, left the United States less safe from terrorism rather than more. That's the indictment which should matter most.
The StarTribune followed up this uppercut to the jaw of BushCo with a stinging body blow directed at the soft paunch of the nation's press corps:
True, the administration's political opponents sprang to the attack to try to bring the president and his chief adviser low. But the fresh lust of the press corps struck me as just as significant. The transcript of the press briefing reveals a level of reporter vigor, skepticism and impatience that has been sorely absent for several years. A tough-minded, experienced and wise newspaper editor volunteered to me recently that most journalists in America have lost their guts. They are terrified, he said, of offending almost anyone, especially the White House and the Christian Right. They dread being called unpatriotic. I heard him out and then asked, "What about you?" I expected him to say that he was still a bulldog, holding the line, fighting the journalist's good fight. But no. He said, "I'm no different from the rest of them." That scares me. And it ought to scare you, no matter what your politics. Even though local news organizations across America continue to produce important stories in the public interest, America's national journalism has been failing the public when it comes to holding the administration accountable.
There you go.

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