UPDATE: Even the Washington Post complains about the lies and distortions in the movie. Given the Post’s history, that is severe criticism of the movie’s writers.
The Hollywood left has now released their version of the Valerie Plame affair. It is a movie called “Fair Game” and it perpetuates the myth that Vice-President Cheney’s chief of staff Scooter Libby told columnist Robert Novak that Joseph Wilson’s wife was a CIA agent. In fact, Novak got his information, and so testified before a grand jury, from Richard Armitage, a State Department assistant secretary and no ally of Bush and the White House. Armitage, typically, does not appear in the movie. This article in World Affairs Journal reviews the movie and provides a succinct account of the story.
Joe Wilson had gone to Niger in 2002 at the request of the CIA after Cheney had asked the agency about reports that Iraq bought yellowcake from Niger. According to a declassified CIA memo, Wilson found that Iraq had sent a commercial delegation to Niger to expand trade and that the only Niger export Iraq would care about was yellowcake. So there was an attempt, but it proved fruitless. In his 2003 State of Union address, Bush said the British had reported an effort by Iraq to buy “significant quantities of uranium” in Africa. In his July 6, 2003, Times op-ed, Wilson suggested that that statement was evidence the administration was manipulating intelligence to push the war. But Bush said only that the British reported that Iraq “sought” to purchase yellowcake, which was precisely what Wilson had found and reported, according to the CIA. Still, the op-ed caused a furor, and the White House quickly backed off the statements about Iraqi efforts.
My opinion is that the Bush White House made a catastrophic error in not defending the “sixteen words” in the State of the Union address. They were later shown to be correct as he did not assert that Saddam obtained the yellowcake but did make an unsuccessful attempt. The failure to defend those words began the myth that “Bush lied us into war.” It was a disastrous mistake.
Valerie Plame says in her memoir that she read the report that the CIA wrote immediately after debriefing Wilson on his trip and also read his column before it was published. She added that she thought the column was accurate. She said the report was only a few pages long. No one, let alone a professional intelligence officer, could have missed the part about Iraq trying to buy yellowcake. She had to know the column was wrong, but evidently said nothing. So she was anything but an innocent bystander as her husband created a political firestorm.
The book “Shaddow Warriors” makes the assertion that Wilson and Plame were actually working for French intelligence. France, of course, opposed the Iraq invasion and France, under Jacques Chirac, was deeply invested in Iraq and in the “oil for food” scam that corrupted the UN and a number of other organizations that helped Saddam evade the sanctions.
The other interesting story in the article concerns Libby’s attempt to obtain a pardon from Bush before he left office. It is to Bush’s discredit that he did not pardon Libby.
Even at the end of the long ordeal, poor memory — and irony — continued to played a role. Libby called White House counsel Fred Fielding as the clock was winding down on Bush’s term to ask if he could meet with the president to make his case for a pardon. Fielding mentioned he had received a call from a senator who had defended Libby. That surprised Libby, who knew the senator but had not considered him an ardent supporter. And Libby suggested it might have been another senator who Libby knew had spoken to Fielding.
Libby, who answered questions for this article, asked Fielding three times if he was sure it was the senator Fielding mentioned, and Fielding insisted that it was. But a little later, Fielding realized that he had made a mistake and that the senator Libby had mentioned was the one who had called. “Fred,” Libby said wryly, “you could be indicted.” The incident evidently didn’t convince Fielding that Libby may have made a similar memory error. Fielding didn’t return calls seeking comment.
Shame on Bush and Fielding for refusing to help an innocent man who had been wronged. The evidence against Libby was weak and the prosecutor knew throughout the entire process that Armitage had been the source for Novak.