Posted on April 23, 2018
Label Libby Innocent
Pardon is just, but does Trump know why?
President Trump was right to pardon Scooter Libby, the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney. Somebody ought to explain to him why.
Legend has it that Libby blew the cover of CIA agent Valerie Plame, in retaliation for a report filed by her husband, Ambassador Joe Wilson, which proved that President Bush had lied in his State of the Union address about Saddam Hussein seeking material to produce nuclear weapons. None of this is true.
Libby’s conviction was for lying to prosecutors, in a case for which no underlying crime was found. President Bush commuted his sentence so that he wouldn’t have to serve time in jail. Trump has now issued a full pardon, in recognition that an injustice had been done. To understand why it had been done, however, he would have to confront his own misbegotten opinions about the Iraq War, which he has given no indication of doing.
In his 2003 SOTU, Bush said, “The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa,” which is unassailably true, given Great Britain’s verification. The media nevertheless characterized it as a lie, and Ambassador Wilson decided to help them. Wilson returned from a so-called fact-finding mission in Niger, claiming to refute Bush’s assertion because he’d found no evidence of Saddam’s having purchased uranium from Niger. That’s hardly the same thing as having sought uranium in Africa, but why be a stickler for accuracy, if you don’t expect to be questioned anyway?
Wilson claimed he had been sent on his mission by the vice president, but he reported neither to Cheney nor to anyone in the administration, but instead went to the New York Times, which published his piece under the headline, “What I Didn’t Find in Africa.” It was while explaining that Cheney had not sent Wilson to Niger that Libby suggested Wilson’s wife, CIA analyst Plame, as one who might have originated the mission instead. In doing so, he did not blow Plame’s cover, because her identity had already been revealed by Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, who himself was not prosecuted.
Perhaps that’s because Plame had never been under what is called “deep cover” anyway. By her own account, she had divulged her identity to her future husband Wilson on their fourth date. By the time she was outed, she was no longer in the field, but was instead an analyst working at CIA headquarters in Langley, hardly cloak-and-dagger stuff. Contrary to the idea that naming her served to punish her husband, all it accomplished was to turn the two of them into the most celebrated left-wing martyrs since Sacco and Vanzetti.
Libby’s great offense was that he said he’d first heard Plame’s name from NBC’s Tim Russert, and Russert denied this. Needless to say, Libby could not be given the benefit of the doubt that he’d simply misremembered this unimportant detail. Wilson, however, has gone unpunished, and not even seriously questioned, about the total fraud that was his mission to Niger.
Wilson’s report was supposed to have illustrated that Saddam Hussein had given up his nuclear ambitions, and therefore that Bush’s claim to the contrary was a lie meant to justify the war. Developments in Iraq, however, have vindicated Bush, and shown Wilson to be a scoundrel. Immediately after the invasion, our military secured 550 tons of yellowcake uranium that Saddam already had in his possession. A collection of Saddam’s secret recordings was later recovered, including one of a 2000 meeting between the dictator and two of his scientists, in which they discussed a new method of uranium enrichment. So, Saddam had the material, and the stated intention to weaponize it. Whether or not Wilson found any evidence that he’d purchased additional uranium from Niger is rather beside the point.
All Libby did was blow the whistle on Wilson, who had lied by attributing his mission to Libby’s boss. It is this for which he was railroaded by special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, who is now known to have misled the key witness in the case.
The question is, does Trump believe, as one biased juror told CNN, that Libby was a “fall guy” who took the rap for some unspecified crime of Bush and Cheney’s? Or has he come to realize that this episode was part of an effort to undermine a righteous war effort by a bunch of unelected renegades within the executive branch – the very sort of deep-state swamp monsters he has sworn to defeat?
The Shinbone: The Frontier of the Free Press