In a nation where more than two-thirds of us tenaciously or obliviously cling to the baseless notion that Iraq was directly involved in the Sept. 11 attacks, what does it matter if a reporter allegedly aided our nation’s administration in retaliating against a retired diplomat critical of Bush’s decision to go to war? Not a lot. And that should come as no surprise.
Invading Iraq was no big deal to most Americans. Even if you were against the war in principle, it had to be acknowledged that Saddam Hussein was himself a weapon of mass destruction, even without President Bush’s storied Nigerian uranium. Plus, Americans love showing off and kicking ass. We just hate paying the $87 billion price tag. Sure, our young men and women in the armed forces can risk their necks near Baghdad. Just don’t raise our taxes. That’s the attitude that passes for “personal sacrifice” in today’s America.
While unfortunate, columnist Robert Novak’s decision to oust Valerie Plame, wife of retired diplomat Joseph C. Wilson, as an “Agency operative” is a ruse for a larger, more important, question most of us won’t discuss. That topic is, of course, whether or not the United States’ invasion of Iraq was justified under the terms and conditions of a president who campaigned for it. The answer to that question has to be no. More than four months after “the end” of war, no great Iraqi threat has been unearthed. Whether or not the invasion will pay long-term dividends for the people of Iraq remains a work in progress.
The invasion of Iraq is itself proof enough that this is an administration fond of swift punishment where enemies are concerned. No one should be surprised that someone saw fit to punish one of the invasion’s best critics. Wilson told the CIA a long time ago that signs of Iraq having ever purchased Nigerian uranium were almost nonexistent. Do the more than two-thirds of Americans who still believe Saddam instigated the Sept. 11 attacks even care that someone inside the administration leaked the apparent fact that Wilson’s wife is a CIA operative?
As more than one columnist has already pointed out, the Intelligence Identities Protection Act making it illegal to divulge agent names doesn’t apply in any meaningful way to journalists. Perhaps it should. Let CIA Director George Tenet have his Justice Department investigation. Let the Democrats howl. We no longer have the special prosecutors that scoured the bottom of President Clinton’s affairs a la Kenneth Starr. Congress let the Independent Counsel law expire some four years ago. Unless something sexy comes of this soon—Where’s the intern? Is Wilson’s wife cute?—chances are good that even those of us who pay attention will lose interest. Even Bush is playing his usual, oh-so-eloquent self. “Leaks of classified information are bad things,” he’s said.
Columnist Richard Wolffe hinted at the real story on Newsweek’s web edition when he pointed to the original source of the entire Nigerian uranium story: the Iraqi National Congress headed by Ahmed Chalabi. This is the guy who currently leads that beleaguered country’s governing council. Might it be too late to consider another regime change?