Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The Distraction of "Scooter" Libby

The trial of Scooter Libby has been an interesting spectacle, but I think that it, like Mr. Libby's actions, have been a distraction from the main issue.

President Bush claimed that he had reason to believe Iraq tried to aquire "significant quantities" of uranium from Africa. Keep that "significant quantities" piece in mind; it's the bit the Bushies really, really want you to forget.

Joseph Wilson knew that it was nearly impossible to believe such a thing. After all, Bush was contemplating military action against Iraq. He had to be on top of the latest and greatest of US intel. I mean, can you imagine the President *not* being aware of the intel, before sending the most powerful military force ever against a nation? Can you imagine anyone being so irresponsible as to launch an attack that is sure to kill thousands of innocent people without checking the intel carefully?

And Joseph Wilson knew that Saddam had sent out agents who probably wanted to buy (or discuss buying) uranium, but he also knew that Niger had nothing to gain, and everything to lose from such a deal. He also knew that the accounting and control of the uranium in Niger was so tight that "significant quantities" couldn't be diverted.

It doesn't matter if the British government wasn't convinced; it didn't matter if the CIA thought Saddam Hussein was sending out agents to inquire about uranium. The fact of the matter is, Bush knew that it would take extraordinary measures to overcome the accounting and control of Niger's uranium, and knew there was no intel suggesting they'd been overcome. The UK might believe there was an attempt to divert "significant quantities" of uranium, but Bush knew better.

Bush knew that the UK's intelligence was unsupported. Bush knew that Saddam wasn't getting any uranium from Niger.

So Joseph Wilson went public. And the Bushies went on the attack, raising distractions, claiming he was a liar about this, a partisan attacker about that, and so on and so forth.

But the facts are simple:

1) Bush knew that the rumors of uranium sales were false
2) Joseph Wilson knew why Bush knew they were false (though Wilson bent over backwards to give President Bush and his administration the benefit of the doubt)
3) Even if Joseph Wilson had lied or overstated his case - and there's no evidence that he did - the first two facts remain.
4) Joseph Wilson was not attacked because his charges were wrong; he was attacked because his charges were right. The US intelligence community knew that there was no evidence of "significant quantities" of uranium diversion, or attempted diversion.

Now, I do have to admit that these facts rest on an assumption. They rest on the assumption that Bush takes his job seriously.

Bush is the Commander-in-Chief of the mightiest military force in history. To unleash that force without knowing the truth (as best as we know it) would be criminally negligent.

So I'm saying that Bush knew he was exaggerating the threat. I'm saying that Bush lied, and I don't want to hear any whining about "well, technically, because he said the British government..." because if you say something, and hope it will make people believe an untruth, you're a liar, end of discussion.

I think Bush knew that there was no uranium diversion; I think Bush knew that there was no attempted uranium diversion.

Because the alternative is to believe that Bush didn't care about the diversion, that he didn't care about the truth, that he was willing to invade Iraq even if talk about Iraq getting a nuke was complete fabrication.

People have spoken about the war in Iraq like it was some kind of political game, the Democrats versus the Republicans. It's not. Hundreds of thousands of people have died because of this war.

If President Bush didn't lie, then Bush started this war without concern for the truth, without caring about the facts. He was willing to see thousands of people die (I don't think anyone expected the deaths to pile up as high as they have, but "thousands" was guaranteed) and didn't care about their lives enough to find out the truth.

If he lied, he was doing something unspeakably evil, but I find it easier to deal with "evil" than with the kind of flagrant irrepsonsibility that lets a man ignore the harm he is causing on such a massive scale.

So that's where we stand. Either he knew, and lied, and Libby (and Rove, and others) tried to cover for his lies, lies that helped lead to the deaths of thousands of people...

...or he didn't care, and Libby (and Rove, and others) tried to cover up for criminal irresponsibility that caused the deaths of thousands of people.

Everything else is a distraction. And while I'm glad that some measure of justice has been done, that Libby, who lied to cover up his smear campaign, will probably end up in jail, it's not enough.

President Bush lied to the American people, to scare them enough to let him start a war, a war that has been disastrous for us, and for the Iraqi people. It's long past time that he was held responsible for this.

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