In a political landscape that had until recently
seemed unremittingly bleak, in which a small and all-powerful group of politicians
could rule at will with no regard for either the truth or the nation's best
interests, prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's five-count
indictment of top Cheney aid I. Lewis Libby fell like a sledgehammer on
a once-unbreakable edifice dedicated to overweening arrogance and the acquisition
of power at all costs.
As the Seattle
Times said of Fitzgerald, "his five-count indictment Friday of
Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff proves the system is working."
And about time. In July 2004, commenting on her own stymied attempts to bring
the truth to light, former FBI translator Sibel
Edmonds decried "a broken system, a system abused and corrupted by
the current executive, a system badly in need of repair."
Through his tenacity and single-minded determination to get to the bottom of
the Plame leak and forged-documents affair, Patrick Fitzgerald seems to be doing
the necessary repairs. We can only hope that the judge set for the next stage
of the trial – Reggie
Walton, the same judge who dismissed Sibel Edmonds' case on the grounds
of allegedly protecting "certain diplomatic relations for national security"
– doesn't reprise
his performance there. Ms. Edmonds lamented that Walton obstructed her petition
by "sitting on this case with no activity for almost two years."
The judge is a
double-Bush appointee; he served as associate director of the Office of
National Drug Control Policy in the President's
Executive Office and senior White House adviser for crime under Bush 41,
while he was appointed by 43 as a D.C. district judge in 2001. While Walton's
track record shows that he "has no qualms ruling against government
agencies," what will be his answer if the government resurrects the "state
secrets" smokescreen used so effectively to silence Edmonds?
If they do, it's not likely that "Bulldog" Fitzgerald will have much
patience for hindrances. While Judge Walton heeded the express wishes of the
Bush administration and then-Attorney General Ashcroft, obstructing any progress
in Sibel Edmonds' case for two years, Fitzgerald has now spent the same amount
of time in tirelessly getting closer and closer to the heart of the conspiracy
us into war with Iraq. At bottom, both the
Edmonds case and the Fitzgerald investigation, not to mention the
AIPAC affair, are all interrelated; yanking the string on any one of them
will unravel the same old ball of yarn.
We can thus note a common theme when it comes to the administration's love
of secrecy and damage control: obstructionism. Whatever it takes to keep them
in power, the war party is ready to do it, whether it be smearing critics like
Joe Wilson or silencing them and blocking investigations, as with Ms. Edmonds.
Now the Libby legal team is betting that they can claim the fog of war (preparations)
reduced all of the conversations over Valerie Plame between officials and journalists
to mere gossip, conjecture, and whispered hearsay.
But that's just not the case, as
Fitzgerald repeatedly told us. Which is why this
uneasy N.Y. Post editorial urging Fitzgerald to close his investigation
sounds so utterly pathetic; in facetiously saying that "you'd think that
[two years] is long enough to get the job done," and "it's not at
all clear why Libby would lie in the first place," the article disingenuously
tries to hide what is obvious now to everyone: that the war party's foot soldiers
have deliberately dragged things out to obstruct justice, because there
is something quite significant that needs to be obstructed. Yet from the halfhearted
tone of the piece, it's clear that even these ardent supporters of the war party
know the jig is up.
Nevertheless, Fitzgerald's championing of the system over politics might lead
to some profound letdowns. Should he keep all charges and disclosures within
a narrow mandate, Libby's trial (should it even be held) may fizzle out, leaving
millions of Americans disappointed and in the dark about the Machiavellian
machinations of their leaders. Not only might we never know who was responsible
for the anti-Wilson attack, or why (though it's
pretty clear to everyone already), we may also never get the satisfaction
of watching (as
Joe Wilson put it) Karl Rove get frog-marched out of the White House in
After all, as
Fitzgerald conceded, "I know that people want to know whatever it is
that we know, and they're probably sitting at home with TVs thinking, 'I want
to jump through the TV, grab him by his collar and tell him to tell us everything
they've figured out over the last two years.' … We just can't do that … not
because we enjoy holding back information from you. That's the law."
The next stage of the game will thus be both as exasperating as it is crucial.
It will decide the ultimate fate of the Bush administration. It is possible
that Fitzgerald will let the White House walk, should he determine that his
mandate doesn't allow him to go further.
But even in this worst-case scenario, the considerable media interest in the
story will vex an administration that understands time in terms of 24-hour spin
cycles. Bush reportedly gave his aides a pep talk after the Libby indictment,
them to "get back on offense," but it is hard to imagine he will
ever regain the momentum or respect he once enjoyed.
Yet what if the special prosecutor sets his sights not only on presidential
Rove, but decides to go all
the way to the top? As the
San Francisco Chronicle reminds us, "The indictment states that
Libby first heard from Cheney that Wilson's wife worked at the CIA. It is hard
to imagine that Cheney was unaware that his closest deputy was informing reporters
around town about Plame's CIA connections." Indeed, could anyone really
believe that Libby, Rove, and all other high-ranking government assistants do
anything without explicit instructions from above?
Whether or not this will happen, we'll have to wait and see. For now, we already
have an idea of the evasion tactics the war party will use. Libby's lawyer plans
to fall back on the good old "I
don't remember" ruse. And Russ
Baker recently outlined some of the propaganda tactics to be employed against
Fitzgerald. However, like Ms. Edmonds, he is morally unassailable: nonpartisan,
incorruptible, and interested only
in the truth. (Note that the former is the son
of an Irish immigrant, while the latter is a naturalized citizen from Turkey.
Apparently the call to uphold the Constitution resonates more strongly with
newer generations of Americans than it does with old
blue-bloods like the Bushes). The impossibility of smearing these two has
been very frustrating for the war party.
If the Libby trial does go ahead, threatening to expose awkward and sensitive
administration secrets, what could Bush and Cheney do to reduce the pressure?
There's always the option of launching
a new war against Syria and Iran on the basis of phony evidence. And hey,
could we really put it past them? After all, these are the
very people who delight in creating their own reality for the rest of us
to follow, and who are perfectly willing
to concoct elaborate fictions in order to expedite the needless deaths of
thousands, as in the war on Iraq.
In reiterating the same tired rhetoric about terrorism, the president said,
"The United States makes no distinction between those who commit acts of
terror and those who support and harbor them, because they are equally guilty
We can only hope that when all's said and done, this statement can be fleshed
out in a different way: "The grand jury makes no distinction between those
who commit acts of leaking and those who support and harbor them, because they
are equally guilty of treason."