Judith Miller: Hearsted on
Her Own Petard

When William Randolph Hearst – the newspaper publisher who put the yellow in “yellow journalism” – sent the artist Frederick Remington to Cuba in the 1890s to illustrate articles on an alleged revolt against Spanish rule, Remington and his fellow journalists ran up against a slight problem: “There is no war,” Remington wrote to his boss. “Request to be recalled.” Hearst cabled in reply: “Please remain. You furnish the pictures, I’ll furnish the war.”

Hearst’s journalistic fulminations were the spark that set off the Spanish-American war and the conquest of Cuba and Puerto Rico, and they fed a spate of war hysteria that set off a convulsion of imperialism that didn’t end until until America found itself bogged down in fighting a guerrilla insurgency in the Philippines that exhausted the moral and military limits of the nation and bade us step back from the abyss of Empire. If history repeats itself, the first time as tragedy and the second as farce, then this Hearstian pattern can be fairly detected in the journalistic career of Judith Miller.

If any one source of government-generated disinformation could be pointed to as vitally important in the campaign to lie us into war with Iraq, then surely Miller – the New York Times reporter whose articles did so much to inflate the claims of Iraqi “weapons of mass destruction” – deserves some sort of award. Thanks to her tireless efforts, there was hardly a tall tale told by Ahmed “Hero in Error” Chalabi’s U.S.-government-funded “intelligence-gathering” operation that did not make it into the New York Times, often on the front page. From the aluminum tubes that had nothing to do with nukes or other “weapons of mass destruction,” to the secret biolabs in the basements of Saddam’s palaces, to the string of nuke factories allegedly working overtime from one end of Iraq to the other, it all turned out to be a tissue of lies.

When the U.S. finally went into Iraq, and the search for those mythical WMD began, General Judy was in the forefront of the posse, personally accompanying the military team sent to conduct search operations – virtually “hijacking” the mission, according to one officer on the scene – and even wearing a military uniform. Her imperious manner while in Iraq with META (the Mobile Exploitation Team Alpha) aroused considerable resentment, particularly on account of her brazen attempts to intimidate military personnel by threatening to go to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld or his deputy Douglas Feith if things did not go her way. And there is evidence that her relationship with the Pentagon was not all bluff and bluster. As reported in Editor & Publisher,

“Miller had helped negotiate her own embedding agreement with the Pentagon – an agreement so sensitive that, according to one Times editor, Rumsfeld himself signed off on it.”

Miller’s role as the War Party’s media megaphone in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq became so glaringly obvious that her editors felt obliged to publish a lengthy albeit disingenuous mea culpa. In return for the extraordinary access afforded to her, and the deference shown to her by military authorities, it is now clear that Miller performed certain duties on behalf of the War Party, aside from publicizing their case for invading Iraq. That is why she is sitting in a jail cell today.

Just prior to the publication of Robert Novak’s column on the Niger uranium fiasco that outed Valerie Plame as a CIA agent, Miller had a conversation with a high government official whose identity, according to the appellate court opinion [.pdf file] issued in this case, is known to the prosecution. The Washington Post is reporting that the “source” she is protecting by going to jail is none other than I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, and the man at the center of the neoconservative seat of power in Washington.

The only question now is whether Scooter told Miller, or – more likely, in my opinion – Miller told Scooter that Plame was a covert agent. Miller could easily have learned this in the course of her research into the subject of WMD.

In an effort to get Miller to talk, U.S. Attorney Patrick J. “Bulldog” Fitzgerald is threatening to slap her with contempt of court charges, which could lengthen her four-month stay in the county jail considerably. Is she a martyr to the First Amendment, or part of a vicious cabal that is frantically trying to cover up crimes?

How the former could be true, when the information Miller is accused of passing did not form the basis of a published story, indicates the degree of confusion reigning on this score, particularly among the Bush-bashers who are so eager to attribute all the evil in the world to the regime they invariably refer to it as “BushCo.” What these Democratic partisans don’t seem to understand is that Bulldog Fitzgerald is their friend. Yes, he’s a Republican appointee, yet he’s never shown the slightest bit of partisanship. He did, after all, indict a Republican governor of malfeasance while in office – and, what’s more, he’s hot on the trail of the lying bastards who tricked the American public into invading and conquering Iraq, a crime in and of itself. What more do these people want?

I’ll tell you what I want: Miller is getting far less punishment than she deserves. If it were up to me, her jail term would be measured in years, not months. In addition, I would compel her to turn over the proceeds from her bestselling books and the rest of her assets to the families of those killed and injured in a war her propagandistic “reporting” did so much to bring about.

In dealing with gang activity, state and federal prosecutors do not bother with legal niceties: anyone who can be shown to have associated with gang leaders or members, even in the slightest way, is routinely rounded up in periodic sweeps in our inner cities, convicted of engaging in a “criminal conspiracy,” and jailed. In dealing with white-collar gangs such as the neocons, however, Fitzgerald is forced to attend to all sorts of legal niceties that aren’t usually bothered with solely because these people have much more political and social power than, say, the Mafia, or the Crips and the Bloods. If a newspaper reporter revealed the name of an FBI covert agent to a member of, say, the Colombia Mafia, endangering the agent and others, how many cries of “Save the First Amendment!” would we hear? I’ll bet not too many.

In going after Miller, Rove, Libby, and the rest of the gang that orchestrated this criminal war, “Bulldog” Fitzgerald is performing a public service without partisan favor and with only one objective: to get at the truth. And in getting at the truth about who “outed” Valerie Plame, he is engaged in exposing and uprooting an underground network of political operatives who have, until now, done their dirty work mainly in the dark. Fitzgerald’s investigation is shining the spotlight on the activities of a group within our government – at the very highest levels – who pursued the politics of fear to whip up war hysteria, the consequences of which Americans are very much beginning to regret.

A year ago almost to the day, I vented my indignation at the latest charges the neocons were hurling at former Ambassador Joe Wilson, whose op-ed piece in the New York Times sparked a smear campaign that continues to the present:

“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.”

Ms. Miller had a hand in much of the above: she wasn’t reporting on it so much as she was a participant, a key link in the network of liars, forgers, and character assassins who corrupted U.S. intelligence-gathering capabilities, misled the public, and betrayed the country while they broke the law. I say lock her up, and throw away the key.

Some of the ditzier liberals have been quite upset at this turn of events. Poor Judy is having to sleep on a mattress, they wail, under the same roof as a bunch of felons, murderers, drug-dealers, and whores! Oh, boo hoo hoo! They need to get over it. As the witty proprietor of the Norwegianity blog quipped: she’s been “Hearsted on her own petard.” And that’s a Good Thing.

For once, the neocons are on the defensive, facing far greater firepower than they’ve ever encountered. In Plame-gate, the War Party is facing its Waterloo. Let no one – not weepy liberals, bamboozled into believing that “reporter” Miller is a martyr to the First Amendment, or party-lining neocons, who whine that “policy differences” are being “criminalized” – deprive us of victory or any of its pleasures. These people belong in jail, and for far longer than any are likely to be sentenced. The sheer beauty of their impending trial – as a lesson in how the War Party works, how it lied and smeared and seized power in a ruthless bid to impose its agenda – makes up for any deficiency of justice in sentencing guidelines that privilege white-collar gangs over the ordinary non-ideological variety. This investigation means there is some justice in this world, if not in the next, and that is more than good enough for me.

As prosecutors discover the story of how and why Valerie Plame was outed, the names of several prominent neoconservatives are going to be listed in the grand jury’s indictments, and the activities of this very well-organized and ideologically coherent group will come under increasing public scrutiny. At which point, we at Antiwar.com would be well-entitled to exclaim “I told you so!” and would do so but for the indisputable bad taste of such a vulgar display. So we’ll just refer to that column of a year ago, with a minimum of comment:

“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 nonpartisan ‘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.”

To those now complaining he’s pulling too hard, the only proper answer is: “Harder! Harder!”

Author: Justin Raimondo

Justin Raimondo passed away on June 27, 2019. He was the co-founder and editorial director of Antiwar.com, and was a senior fellow at the Randolph Bourne Institute. He was a contributing editor at The American Conservative, and wrote a monthly column for Chronicles. He was the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement [Center for Libertarian Studies, 1993; Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2000], and An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard [Prometheus Books, 2000].