‘A Conspiracy So Vast…’

by , November 19, 2005

In the wake of the Scooter Libby indictment, and the collapse of support for the war – even in the Republican congressional caucus – the bad guys are desperately trying to make a comeback, and what a pathetic sight it is.

First off, we have Scooter Libby’s lawyer now saying the revelation that Bob Woodward, the famous Washington Post reporter – and favored administration stenographer – was the first reporter to hear about Valerie Plame-Wilson’s CIA affiliation somehow exonerates his client:

“William Jeffress Jr., one of Libby’s lawyers, told the Post that Woodward’s testimony raises questions about his client’s indictment. ‘Will Mr. Fitzgerald now say he was wrong to say on TV that Scooter Libby was the first official to give this information to a reporter?’ Jeffress said.

“Added former Justice Department official Victoria Toensing of Fitzgerald: ‘He has been investigating a very simple factual scenario and he has missed this crucial fact. It makes you cry out for asking, Well what else did he not know, what else did he not do?'”

Jeffress is full of it: Fitzgerald said no such thing, on TV or off. What he did say was that Libby “was the first official known to have told a reporter when he talked to Judith Miller in June of 2003 about Valerie Wilson.” So Fitzgerald has nothing to apologize for – as if he, unlike Libby’s cheesy legal team, would ever get into a down-and-dirty media flame-war. Dream on, Jeffress…

Aside from that, however, the Woodward revelation in no way addresses the charges against the vice president’s chief of staff: if anything, they confirm the pattern of deception of which Libby’s lies were a part. For if we now have a “senior administration official” telling a journalist – Woodward – about Plame, then this merely validates Fitzgerald’s contention that the flow of information on Plame ran in a certain direction: from the inner sanctum inhabited by high government officials outward to the media. Fitzgerald’s case against Libby still stands – as does the special prosecutor’s most telling remark during his press conference, which today leaps out at us: “It’s not over.”

Indeed it isn’t…

Toensing, too, has it all wrong: Fitzgerald has not been investigating “a very simple factual scenario” – as the Woodward revelation makes all too plain. Although I’m tempted – for the sheer dramatic impact – to conjure “a conspiracy so vast,” I don’t want to jump too far ahead of Fitzgerald. At this point, however, I think events are confirming what John Dean had to say about the prospect of yet more indictments to come: he said he would be “shocked” if they failed to materialize. These latest developments seem to presage them.

Why, after all, did this mysterious “senior administration official” come forward and alert Fitzgerald to this earlier conversation? In all likelihood, Official X didn’t just come clean out of some notion of civic duty, but instead came under Fitz’s merciless scrutiny and was “turned” under the threat of doing time in a cell right next to Scooter’s.

Just as I predicted, this show trial is truly a show, with more plot twists than a beach-blanket page-turner, and a cast of characters worthy of a drama that includes elements of both a potboiler and a morality play: a hero whose virtue is visible enough to include him on the list of “Sexiest Men Alive,” and a villain who writes novels about bestiality and looks like the liar he apparently is.

We have a Greek chorus – the Scooter Libby Fan Club, otherwise known as the War Party, hailing the neocon equivalent of Mumia Abu Jamal. Free Scooter – And All Political Prisoners! Scooter has even established a defense fund, and I wonder if there’s any truth to the rumor that their first fundraiser will be a live benefit reading by Judy Miller and Bob Woodward of their forthcoming book: Journalism as Stenography: My Life as a Shill.

Speaking of shills, the really fun part of all this – aside from anticipating more indictments for Christmas – is the spectacle of the loudest, most obnoxious laptop bombardiers flailing about in defense of the war, just as the entire process by which the country was lied into Iraq is coming under intense public scrutiny. I get a particularly big kick out of Christopher Hitchens, perhaps the loudest and most obnoxious of them all, who is now reduced to slapping together screeds of rapidly shrinking length and credibility. Writing about current events must be, for him, a very painful procedure these days, and it shows.

Take, for example, his most recent effort, a Slate piece that tries to prove – well, it isn’t quite clear. He starts out by disdaining the idea that we were lied into war, and that his friend and political ally, Ahmed “Hero in Error” Chalabi, had anything to do with it. But by the second sentence he is already drifting away from the task he sets himself, and takes out after easier prey: a lone demonstrator outside Chalabi’s AEI talk claiming that Bush planned 9/11. Soft targets like this are a godsend, especially if you have a huge hangover and really don’t feel much like writing.

Hitchens then takes on Walter Pincus and Dana Milbank of the Washington Post, cherry-picking isolated quotes from their Nov. 12 piece – but linking to it: now that‘s a first! Hitchens actually links to something outside Slate, for once, and in doing so fatally undermines his argument: for by going to the Washington Post article he refers to, and actually reading it, we can see that Hitchens’ point is considerably blunted. He fails to cite the crucial point made by Pincus and Milbank, which is that the “official reports” cited by administration spokesman – Silberman-Robb, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence [.pdf], etc. – never delved into the manipulation of prewar intelligence:

“The only committee investigating the matter in Congress, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, has not yet done its inquiry into whether officials mischaracterized intelligence by omitting caveats and dissenting opinions. And Judge Laurence H. Silberman, chairman of Bush’s commission on weapons of mass destruction, said in releasing his report on March 31, 2005: ‘Our executive order did not direct us to deal with the use of intelligence by policymakers, and all of us were agreed that that was not part of our inquiry.'”

Shorn of its decorative curlicues and rhetorical bombast, Hitchens’ argument is reduced to the current neocon talking points: we all believed it, so it wasn’t a lie. To those of us in the reality-based community, however, this argument makes absolutely no sense, and that’s the problem with being an ideologue: an attempt to mold reality to fit ideological preconceptions is likely to baffle, rather than convince, the ordinary person. That’s why the majority of Americans now believe the Bushies lied us into war – and why, with the upcoming trial of Libby (and, possibly, his co-conspirators) making new headlines practically every day, that majority is likely to increase.

The War Party has got to find that demoralizing, and the effects are seen in Hitchens’ halfhearted efforts to buck up the faithful and hold high the banner. Halfway through his polemic, he remembers to defend Chalabi:

“It was, of course, the sinuous and dastardly forces of Ahmad Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress who persuaded the entire Senate to take leave of its senses in 1998. I know at least one of its two or three staffers, who actually admits to having engaged in the plan. By the same alchemy and hypnotism, the INC was able to manipulate the combined intelligence services of Britain, France, Germany, and Italy, as well as the CIA, the DIA, and the NSA, who between them employ perhaps 1.4 million people, and who in the American case dispose of an intelligence budget of $44 billion, with only a handful of Iraqi defectors and an operating budget of $320,000 per month. That’s what you have to believe.”

But if Chalabi is a “genius,” as Hitchens has alleged – so formidably brilliant that he single-handedly broke the Iranians’ internal code (before he told them the U.S. was reading their communications) – well, then, why not? Why couldn’t this MachiavelliEinstein hybrid fool the U.S. and its allies simply by focusing his enormous brain power on the problem?

Of course, he may have had a little help in this regard – perhaps from elements within the allied governments, but principally in Washington. After all, they called themselves the cabal.” All those little aspens, connected at the root, turning in the same direction – telling the same lies, covering up the same treason, and, hopefully, sharing an entire wing of the same prison in the end.

That‘s what I have to believe – that is, if I’m going to have faith that there’s any concept of justice left in this country. Yes, we are afflicted with creeps like Hitchens, Woodward, Miller, and all the rest of the grinning, leering, grimacing monkey-demon minions of this administration, called out by their masters to defend the castle of the Wicked Witch of the West as it comes under attack. These courtiers of the Imperial City can make a lot of noise, but their chatter dies down, you’ll notice, at the approach of a giant of Fitzgerald‘s stature and gravitas. They fear him, and rightly so: for he is the spirit of the old America, a country where everybody didn’t do it: where backstabbing, lying, and betrayal of the country’s secrets were crimes that got punished. Where the words “and justice for all” didn’t exempt high government officials and their “journalist” marionettes.

The War Party would like nothing better than to forget that any of this is happening – the massive uncovering of a conspiracy to lie us into war, an unfolding story that makes daily headlines. What’s pathetic – and rather fun – to watch is their fruitless attempts to divert us away from this edifying spectacle, complete with the outright denial of the more deluded neocons, such as Hitchens. What do you mean, avers Hitchens, that we didn’t find those elusive “weapons of mass destruction” in Iraq? But “of course” we did, he says:

“Hans Blix, the see-no-evil expert who had managed to certify Iraq and North Korea as kosher in his time, has said in print that he fully expected a coalition intervention to uncover hidden weaponry. And this, of course, it actually has done. We did not know and could not know, until after the invasion, of Saddam’s plan to buy long-range missiles off the shelf from Pyongyang, or of the centrifuge components buried on the property of his chief scientist, Dr. Mahdi Obeidi.”

Mahdi Obeidi is an Iraqi nuclear scientist who once presided over Iraq’s gas centrifuge program for uranium enrichment. Detained by U.S. forces in 2003, he led American investigators to a rose garden in back of his house where they dug up “200 blueprints of gas centrifuge components, 180 documents describing their use, and samples of a few sensitive parts” – buried, in 1991, by order of Qusay Hussein. In spite of the best efforts to extract evidence from Obeidi to buttress the administration’s case for war, however, he told his interrogators that Saddam ditched his nuclear program in 1991, precisely as the Iraqis had claimed all along – and exactly what the most trenchant critics of the war, including Scott Ritter, insisted was the case. Furthermore, Obeidi also told investigators he would have known about any revival of the effort. He also disabused them of the notion that the July 2001 tube shipment intercepted by the CIA was in any way related to nuclear weapons. The gas centrifuge designed by Obeidi specified tubes with a 145 mm diameter; the intercepted tubes had a diameter of 81 mm.

Like Obeidi, Hitchens is reduced to conjuring the “latent” danger posed by Saddam. Yet the world is full of potential threats – and a foreign policy targeting them all would have to mean perpetual war. That would make few people, including within the administration, very happy, with the possible exception of Dick Cheney.

Poor Hitchens. The transition from Trotskyite to Cheneyite has really sped up a decline triggered, perhaps, by prodigious quantities of alcohol. He’s become like that lone protester outside the Chalabi talk carrying a sign saying Bush was behind the 9/11 terrorist attacks: the advocate of a crackpot theory that doesn’t even begin to withstand the most perfunctory critique. Worse, the “evidence” he cites proves the exact opposite of what he says it does. Now that is the mark of the truly deluded, of one who’s quaffed so much of the neocon Kool-Aid that he not only cannot any longer distinguish truth from fiction, but has stopped caring about the difference.

Hitchens reminds me of a friend of mine who fell into a life of drug addiction, and who, after a long absence from my life, turned up late one evening in a disreputable dive – I just happened to be passing through – and announced to me that he had found the secret of all knowledge. What, I asked, could that possibly be? “Speed,” he announced, with absolute certitude, and without the slightest indication that he was joking.

I felt sorry for him, but I don’t feel sorry for Hitchens. Here is someone who has managed to get by on the strength of an aptitude for sophistry and a British accent, and has been given a platform from which to harangue us on why a war of aggression is really an act of “liberation.” Here is a foreigner who is willing to fight to the last American in order to make the world safe for his beloved Kurds and to satisfy his ideological obsessions. He deserves the pathetic fate that’s befallen him.

Hitchens really hasn’t been the same since having his head handed to him by George Galloway, and there is a lesson in his public degeneration into a babbling idiot. What Harry Elmer Barnes called “court intellectuals” are always of the second- and third-rate sort.

The War Party is imploding, and not quietly, either. So, as I put it many months ago, when Fitzgerald was first appointed special prosecutor in the Plame case:

Get out the dip and chips, pull up a chair – and let the show trial begin!

 

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