The Twilight of the Vulcans
Today their point man inside the White House, the protégé of Dick Cheney and the star pupil of Paul Wolfowitz, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, faces five charges and a possible 30 years in prison and has turned in his resignation. Many others, including Vice President Cheney, are spending many a sleepless night as they contemplate the doings which might be revealed and negotiated to avoid a prison sentence. “Nadagate", the scandal arising out of thin air, just like the “nothing” behind the Watergate break-in, Irangate and Sexgate. A meatball poisoned with the usual toxin: the arrogance of power.
The demise of the leader of the Vulcans began on Saturday 6 July 2003 with a 1,400-word article. When a copy of the New York Times landed on the desks of the White House that Saturday, the gates of prosecution hell, which had dispatched US politics into the nightmare of Watergate, Irangate and Monicagate, reopened to swallow up yet another administration into the abyss of its own arrogance and fear.
On the penultimate page of the most respected and vilified newspaper in America, the New York Times' Op-Ed page, an ambassador without embassy, a nobody on the stage of US power, Joseph C. Wilson wrote an article, What I Didn't Find in Africa that included this phrase: I have little choice but to conclude (following his mission to Niger) that some of the intelligence related to Iraq's nuclear weapons program was twisted to exaggerate the Iraqi threat.
For the audience of readers, it was a midsummer’s morning like any other. But for the White House and the protector of the Neocons, Dick Cheney and his right-hand man, Lewis Libby, known as “Scooter” (because as an infant he was a speed crawler), the news was a blared warning of the stripping away the invulnerabilty, the hubris and the prideful arrogance which had inspired and blinded them.
The occupation of Iraq to prevent the smoking gun from taking on the form of a mushroom cloud, as the President and his spokesman had insisted for months, was entering its fifth month and 204th US casualty, not to mention the legions of unknown Iraqi civilians, soldiers and guerrillas.
US media and public opinion were still psychologically embedded--wrapped up inside the cocoon of patriotism spun from the shock of 9-11—and only the first doubts on that terrifying imaginary arsenal began to ripple through the substantial consensus built up around Bush. But Cheney and his man Scooter, who is now facing 30 year for 5 charges of perjury and obstruction of justice, and the rest of the Vulcans understood what the rest of us merely suspected: that the entire dossier on Saddam was built out of exaggeration, stunts, conclusions and threats concocted, as Paul Wolfowitz divulged in an interview, for reasons of bureaucratic consensus—something to convince the objectors to the war such as Colin Powell in the Department of State and George Tenant (a Clinton holdover) at the CIA.
The answer of the war hawks was proportional to the terror which the ambassador’s revelations struck in their hearts—that in those words was the thread of truth which would unravel the entire fabric of lies and exaggerations. We now know, thanks to the capable and unsparing independent prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, that at the highest levels of government--inside the office of the Vice President--a preemptive strike was prepared for Wilson and above all, his wife, Valerie Plame, a CIA agent with No Official Cover carrying a delicate brief, who sent her husband to Niger to unmask the subterfuge behind the yellowcake story—the uranium sought by Saddam.
And here is the key to understanding the new “-gate”, the new imbroglio which is stinging the band of hawks with their hand on the tiller of America. The fact that the purchase of uranium never took place, that the Italian documents were shoddy forgeries and that Saddam Hussein never possessed nuclear weapons (although he desired them ardently) was admitted by the White House when mention of yellowcake was removed from the President’s State of the Union Address six months prior to Wilson’s revelations. Officials even admitted that the Sixteen Words pronounced by Bush citing intelligence received by the British should not have been found in the text of the speech.
Why, then, did Cheney, the Darth Vader of the war on Iraq, Libby, his right arm, and possibly others launch a campaign to destroy the ambassador and to take down his CIA agent wife, when their “revelations” were not particularly hostile? Because exactly like 30 years before--during the Nixon Administration--the moment had come for a final showdown between warring gangs and agencies in Washington.
In its half-hearted scoop, the New York Times reports that the Vulcans saw signs of possible open war with the CIA, opposed to the war and unwilling to furnish the “evidence” sought be Cheney and Wolfowitz to “sell” the invasion of Iraq. They perceived the threat of a mutiny of dissidents within the State Department and the Agency against the Pentagon and the White House and issued a Mafia warning, as we say in Italy--the kneecapping of a minor official, Plame, as a warning to others—but which the CIA has used to bring charges againt “persons unknown” responsible for the outing of their employee.
A gang war. According to the investigating arm of the US Judiciary, it was Cheney himself, the “enforcer” of this presidency and the bellwether of the Neocons who gave his man Libby the name and the position of the ambassador’s wife which were then passed to reporters “off the record.”
The inexorable law of US political scandals entered into force thanks to a tenacious judiciary which has so far succeeded in remaining independent from the current shift on duty in the White House. It isn’t what you did, but what you did to hide what you did that causes the “-gates” to open. And it confirms the existence of the most deadly weapon of self-destruction of all: a guilty conscience.
--Vittorio Zucconi, La Repubblica, Rome, 29 October 2005.