July 19, 2005

Christopher Hitchens on the Rove "Scandal"

Christopher Hitchens has another good column at slate.com on the Rove non-scandal:

Thus, and to begin with, Joseph Wilson comes before us as a man whose word is effectively worthless. What do you do, if you work for the Bush administration, when a man of such quality is being lionized by an anti-war press? Well, you can fold your tent and let them print the legend. Or you can say that the word of a mediocre political malcontent who is at a loose end, and who is picking up side work from a wife who works at the anti-regime-change CIA, may not be as "objective" as it looks. I dare say that more than one supporter of regime change took this option. I would certainly have done so as a reporter if I had known. OK, then, how do the opponents of regime change in Iraq make my last sentence into a statement of criminal intent and national-security endangerment? By citing the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982. This law, which is one of the most repressive and absurd pieces of legislation on our statute book, was a panicky attempt by the right to silence whistle-blowers at the CIA. In a rough effort to make it congruent with freedom of information and the First Amendment (after all, the United States managed to get through the Second World War and most of the Cold War without such a law), it sets a fairly high bar. You must knowingly wish to expose the cover of a CIA officer who you understand may be harmed as a result. It seems quite clear that nobody has broken even that arbitrary element of this silly law.... But the coverage of this non-storm in an un-teacup has gone far beyond the fantasy of a Rovean hidden hand. Supposedly responsible journalists are now writing as if there was never any problem with Saddam's attempt to acquire yellowcake (or his regime's now-proven concealment of a nuclear centrifuge, or his regime's now-proven attempt to buy long-range missiles off the shelf from North Korea as late as March 2003). In the same way, the carefully phrased yet indistinct statement of the 9/11 Commission that Saddam had no proven "operational" relationship with al-Qaida has mutated lazily into the belief that there were no contacts or exchanges at all, which the commission by no means asserts and which in any case by no means possesses the merit of being true. The CIA got everything wrong before 9/11, and thereafter. It was conditioned by its own culture to see no evil. It regularly leaked—see any of Bob Woodward's narratives—against the administration. Now it, and its partisans and publicity-famished husband-and-wife teams, want to imprison or depose people who leak back at it. No, thanks. Many journalists are rightly appalled at Time magazine's collusion with a prosecutor who has proved no crime and identified no victim. Far worse is the willingness of the New York Times to accept the demented premise of a prosecutor who has put one of its own writers behind bars.

Read it all. Hitchens goes into more detail on the credibility (or, should I say, the lack thereof) of Joe Wilson as well.
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