Column No. 83 By Steven Jonas, MD, MPH - November 3, 2005

As I finish the writing this column on Oct. 25, “the indictments” (if any) have yet to come down.  Rumors swirl, from “Fitzgerald is going only with perjury/conspiracy indictments” to “Fitzgerald is going to issue indictments on such matters are the forging of the Niger-Saddam/yellowcake documents” to “Fitzgerald will go after Cheney.”  At this time, I will believe that there are indictments when I see them.  Nevertheless, I am taking a week off from my series on the future of the Democratic Party.  I am offering instead a few thoughts about the events and the people who are involved in what may be anything from the greatest scandal and political earthquake in the history of our country to a relative tempest in a teapot that the Rove Spin/Smear Machine at the service of the Republican Religious Right will handle with ease.  If it turns out to be the latter, please do be prepared for the deluge of gloating that will pour from O’Rhannibaugh and the rest of the Privatized Ministry of Propaganda for more months than you want to think about.

First, in his absolutely brilliant column of October 23, 2005, in the New York Times (“Karl and Scooter’s Excellent Adventure”), Frank Rich laid out the time-line of the Georgite plot-for-war.  At the outset and then at the end of the column, he asks the question “why?”  The poignant cartoon that accompanied the column asked the same question.  Mr. Rich hazards a few guesses, as have many other commentators.  However, there is an authoritative answer.  It was provided by one of the principal war-plotters before the Selection of George W. Bush.  Just listen to what Richard Perle had to say on the subject, in his chapter “Iraq: Saddam Unbound” that was published in Present Dangers (Encounter Books, 2000) from the Project for the New American Century, edited by Robert Kagan and William Kristol, (original date, June, 1997).  (The other authors in the book, from Wolfowitz and Elliott Abrams on up [or down, depending upon your point of view] form a neocon all-star team.)

“Saddam Hussein threatens American interests in the [Persian] Gulf to a degree that cannot be over come by diplomatic accommodation. . . .  [A]n Iraq without Saddam would best serve our interests. . . . If the next administration is to protect America’s interests in the Gulf . . . it must formulate a comprehensive political and military strategy for bringing down Saddam . . .  Accordingly, the United States should move to recognize a provisional government of Iraq based on the principles and leaders of the [Ahmad Chalabi’s] Iraq National Congress. . . .”

This is why Bush was totally focused on removing Saddam from Day I of his Presidency, as both Richard Clarke and Paul O’Neill, who both experienced that focus up close and personal, have both told us.  It was all about those “American interests in the Gulf.”  Just wonder what black viscous substance might be at the center of those “interests.”

As for Perle himself, not much to be seen these days, Maureen Dowd did refer to him in her demolition column on Judith Miller that appeared in the Times one day before Mr. Rich’s (“Woman of Mass Destruction”).  Dowd wrote: “Judy's stories about W.M.D. fit too perfectly with the White House's case for war. She was close to Ahmad Chalabi, the con man who was conning the neocons to knock out Saddam so he could get his hands on Iraq . . .”  I wrote to a friend: “to be totally accurate, one might speculate that that sentence should have read: ‘She was close to Ahmad Chalabi, the con man who was feeding back to the neocons the stories that Richard Perle had instructed Chalabi to tell back to Perle himself and his fellow neocons, to knock out Saddam so they could get their hands on Iraq . . .’ ” and, one might add, large supplies of that black, viscous substance.

As for Miller, even before the at-first-within-the-Times and then most-public (viz. Dowd’s column) contretemps over how she conducted herself as a Times reporter, when she went to jail for 85 days, supposedly over a freedom of the press issue, I was wondering what the real matter was.  Libby had given her permission to reveal his name as a source for the Valerie Plame identity leak a year before.  And she was protecting him as source of that information?  Didn’t make sense.  What did make sense to me, given the prominent role that Miller played as a Times reporter in the run-up to the War, and the role she tried to play afterwards in showing that there were WMD in Iraq when indeed there were none, was this: my speculation that Miller herself was an integral part of a criminal conspiracy to get the country into a war based on lies.

If my speculation was correct, 85 days in the slammer made sense.  It wasn’t that she was protecting Libby on the Plame-identity leak matter.  She was waiting, and communicating with him (by back channels, not through her public attorney Floyd Abrams), rather, in an attempt to get their stories straight on a much larger matter (I speculated): how they all conspired to lie our nation into the Iraq War.  After all, it is possible that a Presidency is at stake here, along with the career of George W. Bush.  Speculation?  Absolutely.  Maybe by the time this column sees the light of print we will know more.

Speaking of bringing presidencies down, as a final subject let’s look at some of the differences and similarities between what started out as “Plamegate” and the Grand Gate that initiated the whole contemporary vocabulary for political scandal.  Watergate was indeed a “third-rate burglary,” as Nixon himself described it.  Like PlameGate it was plotted in the White House.  Like Plamegate, it was immoral, unethical, and illegal.  Like Watergate, in the grand scheme of things for their respective Presidencies’ political survival, if the deeds had not been done, both were entirely unnecessary.  Watergate was about trying to find out information about the Democratic Party that Nixon didn’t need for his re-election.  PlameGate was about taking revenge on someone who told the truth about the Georgite War. Yet if PlameGate hadn’t occurred, who would now be talking about Joseph Wilson and Valerie Plame-Wilson?  If in the end PlameGate brings down the current Presidency, the two events will be similar in that regard too.

Not every feature is similar, though.  The Watergate burglary itself hurt no-one.  The Valerie Plame outing has had and will continue to have, in and of itself, many negative consequences.  A life-long career in the service of US national security was ended.  Plame’s life as well as the lives of every person with whom she ever had contact in her undercover CIA role has been put at risk, for the rest of their lives.  A very important set of assets for the US in the fight against illegal/ criminal nuclear proliferation has been destroyed.  But the much larger plot, of which the Plame outing was a minor part, had much more serious consequences.  Comparing the war that in part engendered Watergate with the war-then-to-be that engendered PlameGate is instructive.

The infra-structure of Iraq has been virtually destroyed, as was the infrastructure of Vietnam.  The lives of many American service people were lost in both.  Many, many more civilians living in the country invaded by the US have been killed. The US has been immersed in a military quagmire halfway around the world.  The diplomatic disaster created for our country by the policy is even worse in the case of Iraq than it was in the case of Vietnam.  Watergate brought down a President.  PlameGate may just possibly do the same.

If the third-rate burglary had not occurred, Nixon likely would have finished his term in triumph, and then who knows what history would have looked like.  If Libby and Rove had just let Joe Wilson be and not gone after his wife in a case of school-yard revenge, the Iraq disaster would have been the same, to date least. But at this juncture, if indeed there are indictments, they could eventually bring down another Republican Presidency.  Nixon’s “gotta get some dirt” thing.  Rove and Libby’s (and Cheney’s?), “gotta extract revenge” thing.  Indeed, minor events, accidents of history if you will, that did, and could, lead to monumental events – just as have other accidents of history..

On the morning of June 18, 1815, one of the most famous generals in history woke up with diarrhea.  What happened later that day ended his career and would, six years later, lead to the end of his life.  Supposing Napoleon Bonaparte had not had tummy trouble that morning? Who knows what might have happened.  An accident of history.  On June 5, 1944, another one of history’s most famous generals left his assigned post, at which nothing much appeared to be happening, to be with his wife for her birthday.  If Erwin Rommel had been on the scene on Hitler’s Atlantic Wall on June 6, 1944, it might well have been the case that on that evening yet another of the most famous generals of history, Dwight D. Eisenhower, would have given the second of the two speeches that he had prepared in advance for delivery on that fateful day. Ike had prepared the ‘other one’ just in case, to announce the failure of the Normandy invasion under withering and totally well-organized German firepower, rather than its success.  An accident of history.

So we have a hissy fit leading to a revenge plot that to the plotters (maybe ignorant of the law concerning the revealing of the identities of CIA operatives and obviously unaware of the feelings of the father of the current titular President of the United States on that particular matter) seemed like an appropriate game to play.  An accident of history.  History, during the coming days, will now tell us what the consequences of this current “accident” might be.