Thursday, July 14, 2005

FOX NEWS HOST John Gibson has done the right-wing lunatic fringe proud by opining that Karl Rove should be "given a medal" for exposing Valerie Plame's C.I.A. identity. Here is some of what Gibson said, as transcribed by Crooked Timber's Ted Barlow:

I say give Karl Rove a medal, even if Bush has to fire him. Why? Because Valerie Plame should have been outed by somebody, and nobody else had the cajones to do it. I’m glad Rove did, if he did do it, which he still says he didn’t.[1] Why should she have been outed? Well, despite her husband’s repeated denials, even in the face of a pile of evidence, and conclusions of a joint investigation of Congress, it appears that all evidence points to Joe Wilson’s wife, the spy Valerie Plame, as the one who recommended him to the job of going to Niger to discover Saddam was trying to buy nuke bomb material.

Why is this important? Because Wilson was opposed to the war in Iraq, opposed to Bush policy, and pointedly and loudly said so. Consequently, there was some interest in how he got chosen for the sensitive job, which people at the time might have thought would be a fulcrum point in the decision about the war. You wouldn’t send a peacenik to see if we should go to war, if we need to go to war, now would you? That’s exactly what happened. ...

Gibson then goes on to repeat the canard that Wilson was chosen to go to Niger by ["we're not going to say the name, but she's Wilson's wife, and she is a C.I.A. operative"].

Ted Barlow replies, very aptly:

  1. Gibson is accusing Plame of using her position to give her husband a position he was unqualified for. Even if that were true, how does it justify Karl Rove, or anyone, outing Plame as a C.I.A. agent? And even if Plame herself were fair game, how does Gibson justify the harm that outing her has done to all the people Plame has ever worked with undercover, who have nothing to do with Joseph Wilson? There's a good chance some of those people have been KILLED. And all of them are in extreme danger now. How does Gibson justify that?
  2. Gibson accuses Plame of trying to "influence national policy" by sending Wilson to Niger when she "knew" that he opposed George W. Bush's policies with regard to Iraq. Barlow retorts, C.I.A. analysts and agents are supposed to influence national policy: that is their job! "Why do we have a CIA if it isn’t to inform and influence policy?"

And in point of fact, Joseph Wilson was eminently qualified to be the one sent to Niger to evaluate the validity of the claim that Iraq had sought yellowcake from that country for the purpose of making nuclear weapons.

Joseph Wilson was a former ambassador with a wealth of experience and contacts in the region. He had been a State Department officer in Niger in the mid-1970s. He was ambassador to Gabon in the early 1990s. And in 1997 and 1998, he was the senior director for Africa at the National Security Council and in that capacity spent a lot of time dealing with the Niger government. Wilson was also the last acting US ambassador in Iraq before the Gulf War, a military action he supported.

Furthermore, Valerie Plame's professional competency to decide who to send is beyond question (by rational people); and saying she based that decision on nepotism and on political bias shows a contemptible disrespect for someone who put her life at risk every day to serve her country. Barlow quotes Larry Johnson, another C.I.A. operative who knows Plame very well.

Valerie Plame was a classmate of mine from the day she started with the CIA. I entered on duty at the CIA in September 1985. All of my classmates were undercover--in other words, we told our family and friends that we were working for other overt U.S. Government agencies. We had official cover. That means we had a black passport--i.e., a diplomatic passport. If we were caught overseas engaged in espionage activity the black passport was a get out of jail free card.

A few of my classmates, and Valerie was one of these, became a non-official cover officer. That meant she agreed to operate overseas without the protection of a diplomatic passport. If caught in that status she would have been executed.

What's the biggest risk Gibson ever took? Taking a vacation without bringing his hair gel?

Although it isn’t useful at the moment, it would behoove a stain like Gibson to talk about her with a little goddamn respect. “Little wifey,” indeed.

Kevin Drum argues that it's not even accurate to call Joseph Wilson a "peacenik" who opposed Bush's war policies. Rerunning a post he originally wrote on October 5, 2003, Kevin points out that, although Wilson opposes the Iraq war now, he did not necessarily oppose it at the time he made the Niger trip.

... he was basically a Bush Sr. foreign policy realist. He thought military intervention was a bad idea, but he was just beginning to be concerned about it in early 2002 and didn't say anything publicly until mid-year. He was not an opponent of the president at the time the CIA sent him to Niger.

In fact, as late as December 2002, he said about President Bush, "I think that the president is probably still keeping his options open. He has certainly made it apparent over the past several months that he doesn't mind tacking as necessary, he doesn't get so locked into a position that he's unable to move out of it." Those are hardly the words of a diehard critic.

Finally, when he did start getting more worried about our Iraq policy, what did he say about it? It turns out that, just as you'd expect from someone who spent time in Iraq, he was pretty realistic about Saddam Hussein and advocated something he called "muscular disarmament." [...]

There's a larger point here, though. Let's take another look at this sentence from Gibson's rant about Wilson's antiwar sympathies:

You wouldn’t send a peacenik to see if we should go to war, if we need to go to war, now would you?

Very revealing construction, don't you think? Seems to me Gibson is assuming the need for war before the justification for war had even been made. His words imply what the Downing Street minutes revealed: that the decision to go to war was made first, and the "facts" that would justify that decision only put together later, after the policy itself had already been fixed.

So perhaps Gibson is expressing his wish that a strong supporter of Pres. Bush's decision to invade Iraq would have been chosen to evaluate the Niger intelligence -- someone who would have confirmed that said intelligence was legitimate and accurate whether it was or not. Someone who was already on board and could be trusted to rubberstamp the policy.

I think we can all agree that Joseph Wilson was and is not that man.

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