Sunday, July 10, 2005

Frank Rich: Iraq machinations worse than Watergate

[added 7/10/05:] Frank Rich's scathing Op-Ed column in today's Times, We're Not in Watergate Anymore, maintaining that John Dean was right, the illegitimate war in Iraq is "Worse than Watergate," and unpacking the strange story of how fellow Times reporter Judith Miller wound up in prison. In order to understand what happened, one needs to remember Joseph Wilson's July 6, 2003 Op-Ed piece in the Times, where he recounted his 2002 CIA-sponsored mission to Niger that convinced him reports of yellow cake uranium purchases by Iraq were bogus. "[S]ome of the intelligence related to Iraq's nuclear weapons program," Wilson wrote, "was twisted to exaggerate the Iraqi threat." This threw the spotlight on Bush's January 2003 State of the Union address, in which he claimed: "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa," since the Administration had mendaciously ignored Wilson's findings. It took five weeks for the administration to issue a retraction, but then the invasion of Iraq would begin just a few days later. Five months later, and the week after Wilson's Op-Ed piece was published, George Tennet wanly conceded that "these 16 words should never have been included in the text written for the president." According to Rich, Wilson's public assertions provoked the Administration's to take revenge by divulging the covert CIA operations of Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, and insinuating that his Niger mission was done on partisan and nepotistic grounds. The betrayal of Plame's covert identity reminds rich of what Nixon hacks tried to do when they broke into the office of Daniel Ellgerg's psychiatrist, hoping to find something with which to smear the man who had revealed the Pentagon Papers (and therefore the true facts about the Vietnam War) to the public. Rich cites the Washington Post story, that "two otop White House officials" contacted 6 or more reporters, not just Robert Novak, in order to "destroy" Wilson and his wife. I'm a bit confused on this point, but it seems the connection here with Judith Miller's imprisonment is that she was working on the same story, and was protecting sources that specialy prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerals was demanding that she reveal.

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