Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Joe Wilson Interview

To this date, there is hardly anyone in the Bush Administration who has been held accountable for the deliberate distortion of the evidence in the case that was made for war in Iraq. Even to this day, Cheney says he would do nothing different, that he would still have done exactly what he did. Incompetent and stubborn ideologues in high office lead only to failure and more failure and it is astonishing how little the mainstream media has held these people to account.

BuzzFlash has an interview with Joe Wilson (posted on Working for Change) on some of the more recent developments:
BuzzFlash: From a technical standpoint, there’s confusion in the press, as there often is. Is he still continuing an investigation with a second grand jury?

Joseph Wilson: I have no idea where it stands. Mr. Fitzgerald only talks to me when he has questions to ask of me. He doesn’t share with me the yields of the investigation.

I will say this about the apparent confusion in the press: Where they’ve asked the question, they might well get an answer. The fact that they don’t ask indicates that they’re not terribly interested. If the press will continue to serve as apologists for an administration that has done this, then they are either willfully ignorant or complicit in this campaign to destroy the national security of the country, and to use political and official positions to seek personal revenge on people who they deem to be critics.

BuzzFlash: I know you can’t disclose details, but in terms of the public record, what is the basis of the civil suit that you and your wife have filed? And what distinguishes your civil suit from a federal suit?

Joseph Wilson: First of all, the prosecutor in a criminal case is not obligated to file a report or do anything else, other than to charge those people whom he has determined were indictable for crimes. The standard and the burden of proof in a criminal indictment is different from a civil suit. There are also other civil remedies for some of the things that were done to Valerie and to myself -- the violation of our so-called privacy and other things that are articulated in our civil case. We’re pursuing this not because we see any certain financial award at the end of the rainbow, but rather because we feel very strongly that those officials who did use their positions of public trust in order to exact a personal revenge should be held accountable. We believe very strongly that in the public square, as a democracy -- a great democracy like the United States -- people should not be permitted to subvert debate by attacking the character of people they deem to be critics.

So it’s a question of accountability and it’s a question really of finding out everything that went on, using the rules of a civil suit. You’re gathering evidence and taking depositions, holding government officials to account for their actions.

(snip)

BuzzFlash: David Corn has written in Hubris and in his blog at The Nation, that your wife, Valerie Plame, oversaw the CIA special operational desk that was set up before the invasion of Iraq to in part confirm whether or not there were WMDs there. And it has been said in the press for some time that your wife was a specialist in tracking the illicit sales, transfer, and existence of weapons of mass destruction. Can you discuss that at all?

Joseph Wilson: I’ve read accounts of the Hubris book, and it has been reported by the press that she was with the CIA proliferation division. I don’t think that she would question that reporting. With respect to a specific job responsibility, I really don’t have any comment.

BuzzFlash: Okay, let’s make this hypothetical. Let's say a person is working for the CIA and they have a specialty in weapons of mass destruction. And you have an administration that’s based its "war on terrorism" and the invasion of another country on the issue of whether or not they had weapons of mass destruction. Again, this is BuzzFlash’s speculation -- are there possibly larger reasons that they would want to expose a person who had a special knowledge of that issue of weapons of mass destruction? By doing that, would the administration neutralize that person’s ability and historical knowledge, and put them in peril? From our perspective, that would seem to be a treasonous act. To take someone out of the picture who has a professional knowledge of weapons of mass destruction and their illicit trafficking, and particularly in Iraq -- from our perspective, it’s hard to find a more treasonous act.

Joseph Wilson: Until I saw these excerpts from Hubris recently, I was of the view that their intention was to go after me, and she just happened to be one of the things that they used in order to do so. But having taken a look at the press quotes, although I haven’t read the whole book yet, having given some more thought to it, and having read some of the things that people like yourselves [at BuzzFlash] have written, I think it’s reasonable to ask the question of whether or not this was, in fact, an opportunity for the administration to launch this war against the CIA which ultimately turned into their blaming the CIA for everything -- for the decisions that they themselves had made.

I don’t know how to answer that, other than to say it’s probably worth people thinking about and considering. Certainly I’ve been considering it all the more so since, as I said earlier, I heard that somebody at the Justice Department was saying that this is treason.

The whole interview is worth reading though Joe Wilson is as careful as ever in the way he talks about things and that's the way it should be. But here's some things to think about.

First, why has the press been so incurious about Leakgate? When you think about it, there's a whole array of questions that never have been asked or followed up. Also, why have Republicans in Congress, as just one example, spent more time worrying about steroids in baseball than investigating the outing of a CIA operative and the damage done to our intelligence-gathering?

Second, one of the advantages of a civil suit is that we may finally get a 'picture' of what exactly happened. No doubt, the Wilsons' legal team will paint one picture but it will force the defense to provide its own picture of what happened and that picture can be challenged in court. One of the problems of the Fitzgerald investigation is that ultimately its legal obligations does not require a general report of what happened (though when the trial finally goes forward, we may get more of an explanation but it is likely that it will be restricted to the activities of Scooter Libby). Here's the link, by the way to the Joseph and Valerie Wilson Legal Support Trust.

Third, one of the things people in the media are overlooking is that apparently Cheney ordered an investigation into Joe Wilson weeks before any leaks to the press. We have a good idea of how Cheney operates and it's likely that whoever wrote the report on Joe Wilson was a partisan of the Cheney camp. The smear campaign was well under way long before Armitage allegedly spoke to Bob Novak.

Fourth, the report that Cheney ordered to be written about Joe Wilson seems to have circulated far more than seems appropriate within the Bush Administration. Cheney, Libby, Ari Fleischer, Armitage, Colin Powell and Karl Rove are at least some of those who reportedly either read the report or who were given details of the report. Libby and Rove clearly talked to reporters about the details of the report. Also, the details were circulating beyond the national security types and were accessible to the Bush Administration political types who have no business having access to such information, at least without a clear understanding of what their responsibilities were (i.e., don't talk about undercover CIA personnel to reporters).

Fifth, recent reports suggest that Valerie Plame was investigating Iraq WMDs and that her outing may have been payback for the resistance that the CIA was offering against the attempt by the White House to manipulate the intelligence. Given the mentality of the White House, I would guess these guys were smirking when they realized they could attack Joe Wilson while also attacking the CIA: two birds for the price of one. That would match what we know of their level of professionalism.

The issues here are huge. National security is one of the areas where the people of the United States allows the government to keep some things secret. But if secrecy is used as an excuse for political games, that breaks the trust with the American people. But if the American people cannot find out the truth when it is necessary, then our democracy is in trouble.

If a democracy is to continue to succeed, the people need ways to test the good judgment of the government. It is not enough to know that there have been a series of blunders or failures. We need to know why there have been a series of blunders or failures in order to correct the problem. The judgment of the Bush Administration has been profoundly flawed. For example, the use of torture has provided intelligence to the administration that turns out to be largely useless, so useless that millions were spent responding to fictitious claims.

Let me follow this up for a moment. Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld, in particular, fail to understand why their secret policy of torture is such a flawed source of information. Repressive governments who use torture get caught in a vicious cycle that perpetuate paranoia and fear. People are tortured and to get relief from their suffering they start telling their tormentors whatever they want to hear regardless of the truth, and innocent names are added to the lists of those who are enemies. As the list grows, new people are tortured and add more names of people who too will be tortured. A dictator who uses torture is forced to conclude that his enemies are everywhere. And to some extent, the dictator who uses torture is correct: he has created a lot more enemies than he had to begin with.

Through a variety of means, including torture, creating more enemies is exactly what the Bush Administration has done to Iraq and the broader Middle East. Policies that come out of secrecy are only one explanation for the many failures of the Bush Administration. In the end, despite its many public relations successes made possible by a Republican Congress and a compliant press, the many failures of the Bush inner circle ultimately come from a profoundly flawed vision of the world and a third-rate amateurish understanding of human nature.

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