Sunday, July 17, 2005

If It Helps Team Bush, It's Legal

Kevin Drum quotes the penultimate sentence in Howard Fineman's Newsweek article about Karl Rove:

It's unlikely that any White House officials considered that they were doing anything illegal in going after Joe Wilson. Indeed, the line between national security and politics had long since been all but erased by the Bush administration.

The highest values in the world of Karl Rove and George W. Bush are ideology and private relationships:

In the World According to Karl Rove, you take the offensive, and stay there. You create a narrative that glosses over complex, mitigating facts to divide the world into friends and enemies, light and darkness, good and bad, Bush versus Saddam. You are loyal to a fault to your friends, merciless to your enemies.

In this world of simple dualisms, the narrative can never be wrong, even if reality appears to contradict its message; and personal friendships always trump what may seem to outsiders to be public interest and national security. People like Dick Cheney and George W. Bush are central players in the narrative. That's why defending them from events that cast doubt on the veracity of the narrative is the highest priority; and certainly much more important than breaking away from the team because you think the narrative may be untrue or a danger to national security.

So, when Colin Powell was publicly critical of the "Iraq sought to buy yellowcake from Niger" story, after Joseph Wilson had said there was no truth to the story, he destroyed his opportunity to be one of those chosen to convey "the message," which was to "protect Cheney by explaining that he had had nothing to do with sending Wilson to Niger, and [by] dismiss[ing] the yellowcake issue."

Powell was ruled out. He wasn't a team player, as he had proved by his dismissive comments about the "sixteen words." Donald Rumsfeld was pressed into duty, as was Condi Rice, the ultimate good soldier.

This is it, in a nutshell. The narrative, and the messengers who have been selected to act it out, are the top priority. If the narrative requires a preemptive invasion, and the invasion cannot be done in accordance with international and domestic law, then it will be done illegally, but Rove and company will say it was legal. If the prewar justifications for invasion turn out to be lies, Rove and company will make up new justifications and brush aside concerns that the rules were changed in midstream. If the narrative of a smooth transition to a postwar Iraqi government is shattered by insurgency, rioting, looting, suicide bombing, and tens of thousands of Iraqis and Americans dead and injured, Rove and company will simply ignore the original criteria for success, and say that the insurgency, suicide bombings, and thousands of casualties are proof of success.

And if an undercover C.I.A. agent is outed to punish her husband for exposing the lies used to justify the invasion, Rove and company will simply say her name was not mentioned, no law was broken, no one was harmed, and national security was not affected.

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