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Party of National Security No More

07.13.2005 09:55 | DISPATCHES

Although the White House won't talk about Karl Rove ("sanctity of the investigation" and all that) the rest of the Republican spin machine is in high gear, busily smearing Valerie Plame (career public servant) and Joseph Wilson (also a career public servant) as lying, far-left agitators. The n'est plus ultra of this line of thought is to be found, unsurprisingly, in the Wall Street Journal, where today's lead editorial actually argues that Karl Rove was a whistleblower, alerting the media to Joe Wilson's dangerous lies.

Let's get a few things straight:

1. What Joseph Wilson said was true: Iraq did not try to buy uranium from Niger, and the documents asserting that it did were indeed forged. A nice piece of evidence supporting this is the complete absence of WMD in Iraq.

2. Even if Joseph Wilson was lying, why involve his wife? Why not just argue, in public, on the merits of his assertions? How does the fact that his wife sent him on the trip--which she did not--have any bearing on the veracity of what he concluded?

3. The Republican talking points say Wilson lied about being asked to go to Niger by Dick Cheney. But Wilson never claimed Cheney sent him. In his original New York Times op-ed he wrote:

In February 2002, I was informed by officials at the Central Intelligence Agency that Vice President Dick Cheney's office had questions about a particular intelligence report. While I never saw the report, I was told that it referred to a memorandum of agreement that documented the sale of uranium yellowcake — a form of lightly processed ore — by Niger to Iraq in the late 1990's. The agency officials asked if I would travel to Niger to check out the story so they could provide a response to the vice president's office.

After consulting with the State Department's African Affairs Bureau (and through it with Barbro Owens-Kirkpatrick, the United States ambassador to Niger), I agreed to make the trip. The mission I undertook was discreet but by no means secret. While the C.I.A. paid my expenses (my time was offered pro bono), I made it abundantly clear to everyone I met that I was acting on behalf of the United States government

4. When Valerie Plame was outed as a CIA operative, not just her but the entire front operation where she worked was compromised. That's right--Plame was lost, and a whole unit of covert operatives working on WMD issues was derailed. And despite the smear by Representative Peter King that Plame was just some desk jockey, she was in fact an undercover operative who worked overseas without the protection of a diplomatic passport. See here.

5. The derailing of her operation was done, again, for purposes that were entirely partisan. They had nothing to do with the substance of Joe Wilson's claims.

6. It is is ridiculous to have to even say this, but there is no evidence that Joe Wilson is "far left." He donated money to George H.W. Bush's presidential campaign, and he earned the senior Bush's praise for having an angry face-to-face confrontation with Saddam Hussein before the first Gulf War. But even if he was some fire-breathing Marxist, WHY COULDN'T HE HAVE BEEN DEBATED ON THE SUBSTANCE OF HIS ALLEGATIONS? If what he was saying was so absurd, why the need for shady phone calls that pile on his wife?

The answer, of course, is that they couldn't debate him on the substance because in substance he was right and they were wrong. So what do we conclude? Regardless of whether Karl Rove committed a crime, he--the man who claimed over and again that liberals were "soft on terror"--compromised the identity of a covert CIA agent, and undermined an entire CIA operation, for partisan gain. For Rove it was politics before truth, and politics before national security. How is it that Republicans can still call themselves the party of national security and not be laughed out of the room?

If the Democrats are smart, in the midterm elections every Republican candidate will run with Karl Rove for a running mate. All should be asked: do you support compromising the operations of the CIA in order to protect the political interests of the White House?


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