Attempt to silence is the ultimate crime

Sydney Morning Herald
October 31, 2005

The CIA leak scandal was nothing more than cheap payback for a critic, writes Joseph Wilson.

After the two-year smear campaign orchestrated by senior officials in the Bush White House against my wife, Valerie Plame, and I, it is tempting to feel vindicated by the indictment on Friday of the Vice-President's chief of staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby.

Between us, Valerie and I have served the United States for nearly 43 years. I was George Bush snr's acting ambassador to Iraq in the run-up to the first Gulf War, and I served as ambassador to two African nations for Bush snr and Bill Clinton. Valerie worked undercover for the CIA in several overseas assignments and in areas related to terrorism and weapons of mass destruction.

But on July 14, 2003, our lives were irrevocably changed. That was the day the columnist Robert Novak identified Valerie as an operative, divulging a secret that had been known only to me, her parents and her brother.

Valerie told me later that it was like being hit in the stomach. Twenty years of service had gone down the drain.

It was payback - cheap political payback by the Administration for an article I had written contradicting an assertion George Bush made in his 2003 State of the Union address. Payback not just to punish me, but to intimidate other critics as well.

Why did I write the article? Because I believe that citizens in a democracy are responsible for what government does and says in their name. I knew that the statement in Bush's speech - that Iraq had attempted to purchase significant quantities of uranium in Africa - was not true. I knew it was false from my own investigative trip to Africa (at the request of the CIA) and from two similar intelligence reports. And I knew that the White House knew it.

Going public was what was required to make them come clean. The day after I shared my conclusions in a New York Times opinion piece, the White House finally acknowledged that the now-infamous 16 words "did not rise to the level of inclusion in the State of the Union address".

That should have been the end. But instead, the President's men - allegedly including Libby and at least one other (known only as "Official A") - were determined to defame and discredit Valerie and me.

Valerie was an innocent in this whole affair. Although there were suggestions that she was behind the decision to send me to Niger, the CIA told Newsday just a week after the Novak article appeared that "she did not recommend her husband to undertake the Niger assignment". The CIA repeated the same statement to every reporter thereafter.

The grand jury has now concluded that at least one of the President's men committed crimes.

The attacks on Valerie and myself were upsetting, disruptive and vicious. They amounted to character assassination. Senior Administration officials used the power of the White House to make our lives hell for the past 27 months.

But more important, they did it as part of a clear effort to cover up the lies and disinformation used to justify the invasion of Iraq. That is the ultimate crime.

The war in Iraq has claimed more than 17,000 dead and wounded American soldiers and many times more Iraqi casualties and cost close to $US200billion ($267 billion). It has left our international reputation in tatters and our military broken. It has weakened the United States, increased hatred of us and made terrorist attacks against our interests more likely in the future.

It has been, as General William Odom suggested, the greatest strategic blunder in the history of our country.

We anticipate no mea culpa from the President for what his senior aides have done to us. But he owes the nation both an explanation and an apology.

Los Angeles Times

Joseph Wilson is the author of The Politics of Truth (Carroll & Graff, 2004). He was a diplomat for 23 years.


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