Friday, July 06, 2007

Joseph Wilson on the Bush Administration: "Corrupt from Top to Bottom"

Hey, baby, I just got back from town
where the bribes are paid.
Honey, they turned my offer down,
said the deal’s already made.
So now I must stand and watch
as it all comes down,
and the buzzards and the hawks,
and the judges and the mob
circle around.

“The Big Ones Get Away”
Buffy Sainte-Marie
(from the 1992 album, Coincidence and Likely Stories)

George W. Bush’s recent commutation of the thirty-month jail sentence of Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff Lewis “Scooter” Libby, is, for me, just one more indication that both the U.S. political system and the unfettered capitalistic system that supports and sustains it, are irredeemably corrupt.

Libby was found guilty of perjury, obstruction of justice and making false statements in the investigation into who blew the cover of CIA agent Valerie Plame. Convicted in March, Libby is the highest-ranking White House official ordered to prison since the Iran-Contra scandal. Bush’s decision to commute Libby’s thirty-month prison term came just five hours after a federal appeals panel ruled that Libby could not put off serving his sentence while he appealed his conviction.

As I’m sure most of you know, this whole story dates back four years ago and centers around the invasion of Iraq. In July 2003, veteran diplomat Joseph Wilson published an op-ed in the New York Times refuting President Bush’s claim that Iraq had sought uranium from Africa.

Wilson (pictured above) had been sent by the CIA to Niger to investigate those claims and found them to be false. The article forced the Bush administration to admit that a key justification for the invasion was false. Within a few days of its publication, the White House leaked the name of Wilson’s wife, Valerie Plame, and her CIA identity.

Yesterday, Joseph Wilson spoke to Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez of Pacifica Radio’s Democracy Now! program. Following is Wilson’s response to President Bush’s commutation of Libby’s jail sentence.

Joseph Wilson: There is very little that [the Bush] administration does these days that surprises me. I believe that the President is corrupt to the core, and his administration is corrupt from top to bottom. I think, in doing this, he has actively subverted the rule of law and the system of justice in our country, which has undergirded our democracy for 231 years. It’s a disgrace. I believe that it casts a pall over him and his office and begs a question of what was the quid pro quo and whether or not he is now an active participant in an ongoing obstruction of justice in the cover up of the lies that they used to justify our invasion, conquest and occupation of Iraq in the first place.

Juan Gonzalez: And why do you say a quid pro quo? Your perspective on why you think the President is engaged, still, in a cover-up?

Joseph Wilson: Well, clearly, at the time of Mr. Libby’s conviction by a jury of his peers on four counts of lying, perjury and obstruction of justice, the special prosecutor in this case, representing the US government, said that Libby had blatantly and repeatedly lied, and as a consequence, sand had been thrown in the eyes of the umpire, by which he meant he was unable to get to the facts surrounding the underlying crime, the betrayal of the national security of our country. And Mr. Fitzgerald said that there remained a cloud over the Vice President and over his office.

Now, with his sentence commuted, Mr. Libby now no longer has any incentive whatsoever to begin to tell the truth to the special prosecutor, to wipe that sand from the umpire’s eyes, and to either lift that cloud over the Vice President or let it rain on him. So this is much more than just a commutation of Mr. Libby’s sentence. This is a cover-up of the Vice President's role in this matter and quite possibly the role of the President and/or some of his senior White House advisers.

Later in the interview, Gonzalez noted that this week marks four years since the publication of Wilson’s opinion piece that “started this enormous scandal.” He then asked Wilson to share his thoughts on why he wrote the op-ed in the first place, and on all that has transpired since its publication.

Joseph Wilson: The last clause of the First Amendment of the Constitution ensures the right of citizens to petition their government for the redress of a grievance. Citizens in this country do that every day at every level of governance. I happened to do it at the level of federal governance on an issue about which I had some particular knowledge. I did so only after I had spoken privately to House investigators, Senate investigators, the State Department and people close to the White House. I did it reluctantly, because my government refused to accept responsibilities for the lies that were in the President's State of the Union address in January of 2003.

Those lies included the famous, now infamous, sixteen words: “The British [government has] learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.” It was apparent to me that the administration was not going to accept responsibility, when in June then-National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice lied on Meet the Press with Tim Russert, when she said that perhaps somebody in the bowels of the agency knew something about this matter, but nobody in her circle.

I wrote the article to petition my government for the redress of a grievance. That grievance was that the US president should not lie to the Congress of the United States, to the American people, and to the world, and that they ought to accept responsibility for the misstatements of fact in the President’s State of the Union address.

The day after my article appeared, the White House acknowledged that the sixteen words should never have been in the State of the Union address, after which I was silent, after which I left the public stage because my job, I believed at that time, had been done.

The administration, regrettably for it and for this country, decided that it wasn’t well enough to accept responsibility for its actions. It rather needed to go on a character assassination campaign against the person who had the temerity to challenge them on their facts, and in so doing, they betrayed the national security of the country by compromising my wife’s identity as a covert CIA officer.

Democracy Now!’s interview concluded with Wilson being asked to give an “assessment of what [the war in Iraq] has meant to the United States, what damage it has done to our country, and whether now the public finally is beginning to grasp the enormous machinations that went on in the administration to launch this war.”

Joseph Wilson: Well, I think, first of all, it’s important to recognize this was not a war about national security. It was not a necessary war. It was not a preemptive war. It was not a preventive war. It was a war to validate an academic theory contained in a document called the Project for the New American Century. It was a war to do the bidding of a very small sect of foreign policy players within the Republican Party called the neoconservatives.

It has utterly failed to achieve any broader American national security goals, and, more to the point, I think it has weakened us strategically . . . [With regards to the] war on international terrorism, there are now millions more who hate us than hated us before the night of shock and awe and the subsequent invasion, conquest and occupation of Iraq, and of those millions, hundreds of thousands are now probably prepared to pick up arms and kill us – try to kill us.

To read Democracy Now! interview with Joseph Wilson in its entirety, click here.

Recommended Off-site Links:
Independence Day for Libby by Robert Scheer.
The High Cost of Libby’s Silence by Amy Goodman.
Smokescreen for the War Blown Away by Patrick Cockburn.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
A Reign of Ignorance and Fear in the U.S.
An Unholy Alliance in Iraq
Taking on Friedman
John le Carré’s Dark Suspicions
What the Republican Leadership and the Catholic Hierarchy Have in Common
Phyllis Bennis: A Voice of Reason
John Pilger on Resisting Empire

Image 1: Dick Cheney and Lewis “Scooter” Libby -
Image 2: Joseph Wilson -

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