The New Credibility Gap

by , July 20, 2004

The infinite chutzpah of the War Party is exemplified by its taking out after Joe Wilson for having … a credibility problem. Look who’s talking! These are the same people who stovepiped lies cooked up by a bunch of Iraqi exiles and passed it off as “intelligence”: nuclear “centrifuges” that didn’t exist, links to Al Qaeda that were utterly fictitious, a fleet of “drones” supposedly capable of bombing American cities that might just as well have been paper airplanes. It would be funny if we weren’t talking about a decision to go to war. The much-cited (and little-read) Senate report supposedly exonerates the administration by sidestepping the issue of the Niger uranium forgeries: according to the revisionist view, the administration had other sources for their contention that Saddam was trying to procure uranium to make nukes. But as Joshua Marshall points out here, here, here, and especially here, these “other reports,” as it turns out, were all based on the forgeries, or summaries of them. As Marshall concludes:

“France, Italy and the United States each had reports about the alleged Iraq-Niger sales. And each stemmed from the same source – the forged documents, the origins of which the SSCI chose not to investigate.”

The U.S. government may not be much good at procuring accurate intelligence, but one thing they are experts at is blowing smoke.

And who really cares if Joe Wilson’s wife did or did not recommend him for the job of going to Niger and investigating the claims about Saddam’s uranium procurement activities? They deny it, while the neocons gleefully pronounce Wilson’s credibility is history – and undercut their own assertions of Wilson’s anti-Bush “partisan bias” by claiming that his report somehow validated suspicions of Iraq’s nuclear ambitions. We are told – with a straight face – that “analysts” were “alarmed” and not reassured by Wilson’s report: they weren’t convinced by his assessment that there was nothing to these stories.

Keep in mind that these are the same “analysts” who received every bit of disinformation from Iranian agent Ahmed Chalabi as holy writ, who set up their own “shop” that cherry-picked raw intelligence and molded it to suit their preconceived purposes, who literally invented a narrative that Saddam, and not Osama Bin Laden, was the evil mastermind behind the 9/11 terrorist attacks. And now these people and their amen corner in the media are telling us that Wilson has forfeited his credibility!

During the Vietnam war era, the phrase “credibility gap” was popular shorthand for the distance between the War Party’s proclamations of impending victory and the reality of a futile, impossible war. Today that same gap is opening up between the Bush administration’s mindlessly optimistic effusions and the rising reality of the Iraqi resistance: it is so wide that the Bushies are in danger of falling into it.

In any case, the White House response to all this, reports the New York Times, has been strangely “muted.” They aren’t crowing, according to insiders, because:

“The internal finger-pointing over who was to blame for the inclusion of the allegation in the speech left so much bad feeling, especially among the White House, the CIA and the State Department, that there was little appetite for reopening the subject.”

“Bad feelings” is one way to describe the emotional reaction of a high administration official facing a federal indictment – although, depending on the severity of the charges, that may be a considerable understatement. The ultimate comeback to the Mark Steyns and Jonah Goldbergs of this world isn’t anything I or Marshall can come up with: it’s the indictments that Patrick J. “Bulldog” Fitzgerald and his fellow prosecutors will write up and put before a judge.

The get-Wilson gang outed Valerie Plame, a CIA agent who happens to be Wilson’s wife, in their rush to discredit him at all costs – and they can smear their accusers, howl that they are being railroaded by anti-Semites, and do everything they can think of to wriggle their way out of it, to no avail. Because the time is coming when they are going to have to pay for their crimes, bigtime.

Those infamous “16 words” just won’t go away for the simple reason that they epitomized the campaign of deception that preceded the war. Bush’s announcement that Iraq made an active effort to procure weapons-grade uranium from “an African country” was derived from documents that turned out to be crude forgeries. Less than five minutes of Googling would have been enough to disprove their veracity, and yet – somehow – this “intelligence” made its way into the White House and into the text of the President’s speech.

Who forged these documents – and, more interesting, from a legal and political point of view, how did they go unvetted until months after the President’s 2003 State of the Union speech was delivered?

The Times also reports that Fitzgerald is coming down with the indictments – or not – “in a matter of weeks.” Of course, it could be that, after the Attorney General’s unusual recusal, Fitzgerald’s lengthy investigation involving thousands of documents and the interrogation of everyone who’s anyone in Washington’s neocon network, they won’t handcuff at least a few of the Usual Suspects and haul them off to the hoosegow. On the other hand, I very much doubt that Fitzgerald is going to come up with nothing. Where there’s smoke, and you know the rest. But we aren’t talking about a single fire.

Aside from the question of who outed Valerie Plame, a grand jury has also been investigating the separate (but related) matter of who forged the Niger uranium documents and how they were injected into the U.S. intelligence stream. And then there’s the separate (but also related) matter of Chalabi-gate: the revelation that the source of so much of the phony “evidence” of Iraqi WMD and links to Al Qaeda came from a man recently exposed as a tool of Tehran, his chief “intelligence” officer a paid agent of the Iranians, certainly allows us to see the rush to war in a new light.

The interconnecting threads of scandal that permeate the Washington milieu shouldn’t be too surprising. Washington, the Imperial Capital, is Neocon-occupied territory. You don’t have to be a “conspiracy theorist” to realize that, if you keep pulling on one thread, the whole garment will eventually come undone. I fully expect Fitzgerald to live up to his reputation as a non-partisan “bulldog” who goes where the evidence takes him, and isn’t averse to taking down his fellow Republicans in the process.

Let’s hope he pulls that thread hard.

NOTES IN THE MARGIN

It’s interesting what people take away from a given article or speech. I note the several news stories trumpeting Seymour Hersh’s recent speech before the American Civil Liberties Union. In a recent column, I focused on Hersh’s identification as the neocons as the central motivating force behind the Iraq war: no, it wasn’t oil, or Israel, or even the Military Industrial Complex that lured us into the Iraqi quagmire, according to Hersh, but “an idea they had” – “they” being the neoconservative network that has been campaigning for war in the Middle East for the past decade or so.

This was totally ignored in the press accounts cited above. What these news stories picked up on, however, was Hersh’s contention that videos in possession of the U.S. government depict American soldiers sodomizing Iraqi youngsters so as to extract information from their mothers. The videos come complete with soundtracks, and the screams of these teenage boys are reportedly bloodcurdling. I had seen reports of this previously, and I may even be a little jaded when it comes to atrocities – perpetrated, it seems, routinely – by our glorious government. I guess a certain numbness comes with this job, like carpal tunnel syndrome and fast-fading eyesight.

On a happier note: Run, do not walk, to your nearest newsstand and pick up the latest hot-off-the-presses issue of The American Conservative. Okay, yes, I have a piece in there: “The Imperial Personality” diagnoses the War Party in terms of political psychopathology. I just love ad hominem arguments: don’t you? They’re such fun, especially when true. But my article is hardly the only reason you should drop what you’re doing and rush out to get yourself the latest TAC: Thomas E. Woods, Jr., has a great piece on “The Progressive Peacenik Myth” that traces the historical roots of American interventionism back to their big government leftist roots.

There’s lots of other great stuff in this issue of TAC, but I have to admit skipping “Scofflaw Sexuality,” by Peter Wood – after skimming for my name – because I don’t need any more reasons to be against gay marriage apart from the looming prospect of gay divorce. If I’m going to break up with my boyfriend, I don’t want to have to pay a price higher than a few broken vases and a call to 911. As far as I’m concerned, if ever there was an argument for the existence of “homophobia,” then this is it: “gay marriage” is the revenge of the heterosexuals, who resent and hate us for our gay fun-filled lives and advanced powers of color-coordination. It’s a nefarious plot to make us all as boring and unbearable as Andrew Sullivan, and I, for one, will have none of it.

At any rate, there’s more good news: TAC now has a glossy cover, not to mention higher-grade paper throughout! No more of this Nation-like gray austerity – so inappropriate for a magazine associated with the famously elegant and tasteful Taki Theodoracopulos.

Read more by Justin Raimondo