Their remains hallow our hills, if Lincoln was right in suggesting the war-dead bring honor to the earth. I have my doubts, for if this is true, then Iraq is growing more sacred by the day. Many more are being buried there than here.
They're all worth remembering when gauging the import of—let's call it Plamegate, in keeping with a two-year tradition of invoking Valerie Plame, a CIA employee exposed to the world by her own government. Other names could as easily be invoked. Joseph Wilson, Judith Miller, Matthew Cooper, Robert Novak, Scooter Libby, Karl Rove. The circle grows with each name thrown on the fire of controversy, threatening yet to spread to Dick Cheney and George W. Bush and embroil them in disgrace. No doubt many others are lying low, trembling, waiting for special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald to hand down indictments next week or next month, if ever.
But it's not the living you should remember most when mulling Plamegate, for the scandal is really about war and the reasons people have died and are dying in Iraq.
Not dignified deaths by and large. Rather, I can show you that some have been tortured to death, some beheaded, some made sick by depleted uranium, some starved or even strangled. Most have been shot or else blown up by bombs from airplanes and exploding cars. All sides have suffered, civilians most of all. Horrible things happen in war. That's why preventing war is honorable and why Jesus said, “Blessed be the peacemaker.”
Judith Miller and Scooter Libby and Dick Cheney did not try to prevent war. They beat the drums for war in Iraq, and they beat those drums loudly and often, until war became inevitable, even celebrated by many in a manipulated public. At bottom that's what Plamegate is about. It's about our leaders building a case for making war on Iraq. Try to remember:
* In 2002, as the Bush-Cheney team downplayed Osama bin Laden and began in earnest to market their war on Saddam, former ambassador Joseph Wilson made a trip to Niger on behalf of the CIA to investigate claims that Iraq had made significant headway in buying yellowcake uranium for use in nuclear weapons. Wilson reported back that such claims were almost certainly false but those claims made it into George W. Bush's 2003 State of the Union address along with other dubious claims about Iraq's military capabilities—some based on phony documents and false intelligence, as the administration has admitted.
* In July 2003, following the U.S.-led invasion, Wilson wrote an op-ed piece in the New York Times in which he took Bush to task for ignoring his findings.
* Eight days later, on July 14, 2003, a rambling column by conservative journalist Robert Novak revealed that Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, was a CIA operative and cited “two senior administrative officials” as sources for this information. It turns out the leak was almost certainly part of a coordinated campaign that targeted several reporters by at least two Bush officials—most likely Libby and Rove. The leak was intended either to punish Wilson or undermine his credibility for challenging Bush. In other words, Wilson's name was slimed, his wife's career damaged, and CIA agents and friendly foreigners possibly imperiled in a clumsy attempt to suppress the truth about Iraq's nuclear ambitions.
* For months, Rove, Bush and others steadfastly maintained Rove had nothing to do with outing Plame. If they gave sworn testimony to that effect, they could be guilty of perjury and obstructing justice.
* Judith Miller, a New York Times reporter especially friendly to Libby, wrote lots of articles bolstering Bush's war plans and later apologized for getting so much wrong—for instance in writing about those aluminum tubes in such a one-sided way. It's true that Miller never wrote stories outing Plame, and in reading Novak's rambling article, it's easy to see why. The article seems pointless and arguably treasonous.
Still, in my opinion, Miller was ethically complicit in war crimes. Not legally perhaps, but morally she has blood on her hands, as do many another journalist of any era who uncritically beats the drum for war. Miller was NOT protecting sources heroically blowing the whistle on government wrongdoing, as in the celebrated Deep Throat case. Quite the opposite. In protecting Libby and possibly his boss, Dick Cheney, she covered up acts of inside manipulators who betrayed our country, in my opinion. With lives in the balance she was obligated to tell us the story staring her in the face, of how power corrupts, and how the Bush-Cheney administration brought its fist down on two public servants.
And how tens of thousands of the living came to be numbered among the dead.