Sunday, November 18, 2007

No Bond Girl

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

What’s the definition of a conservative? Answer; a liberal who’s been mugged.

So what’s a conservative who’s been mugged look like? Joseph C. Wilson IV.

Wilson was a career diplomat who rose to the level of ambassador. He was chargé d'affaires, second in command at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq up until it was closed in 1990, just prior to the Gulf War. He was the last American official to meet with Saddam Hussein

Wilson was a presidential appointee of George Herbert Walker Bush. He served as a dual ambassador to the two countries: Gabon along with São Tomé and Príncipe. When you go to your globe, you will find Gabon on the western edge of the African continent at the equator while São Tomé and Príncipe are an island nation, west of Gabon in the Atlantic Ocean’s Gulf of Guinea. It’s not the Court of St. James, but an Ambassadorship all the same.

In 1997, Wilson was appointed Special Assistant to President Bill Clinton and was Senior Director for African Affairs at the National Security Council before he retired in 1998.

The current Bush administration set out to make a case against Saddam Hussein in its run up to the Iraq war. As part of their justifications against Hussein, efforts were undertaken to prove Iraq’s intentions to obtain nuclear weapons.

Remember, Iraq had an almost completed French-built nuclear reactor at Osirak that was destroyed by the Israeli air force June 7, 1981. Hussein clearly had nuclear ambitions.

The Central Intelligence Agency, knowing Wilson’s knowledge of African uranium production capacity, sent him to Niger in Feb. 2002, to learn if Hussein was trying to purchase yellowcake uranium in Africa. He had a serious doubt that the Iraqi’s were acquiring uranium from Niger.

"The British Government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa," President Bush said in his State of the Union address January 28, 2003.

Those 16 words got Wilson thinking, did he miss something? Had one of the other uranium producing African countries been approached? So he wrote a 1,500-word Op/Ed piece, "What I Didn't Find in Africa," for the New York Times that was published July 6, 2003.

Wilson is a big boy and he probably would not have been surprised if some political heat came his way for clarifying what he knew about African uranium.

The heat Wilson got from his government wasn’t that of a blast furnace, but the intensity of the Sun’s surface.

Many consider the mugging he received, cowardly, immoral, criminal, and even treasonous.

This is Valerie Plame. Until July 14, 2003, she was an undercover CIA operative.

On that day, the world learned that she was a spy for the United States.

How could such a thing happen? Did an enemy of the U.S. capture her? Had she revealed secrets under torture in some far off land’s dungeon? Did a double agent she had worked expose her?

No, she had been working at headquarters in Langley, Va. on counter proliferation issues. She had done clandestine field operations in the past and was still active, though she was in the country at the time.

“Wilson never worked for the CIA, but his wife, Valerie Plame, is an agency operative on weapons of mass destruction,” syndicated columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times Robert Novak wrote in his July 14, 2003, column, "Mission to Niger."

“Two senior administration officials told me that Wilson's wife suggested sending him to Niger to investigate the Italian report,” Novak wrote. “The CIA says its counterproliferation officials selected Wilson and asked his wife to contact him.”

In that moment, Plame’s chosen career was over. People with whom she had gained trust and who had given her information overseas were instantly endangered. Ongoing espionage efforts were compromised.

Joe Wilson told his wife, “the son’s of bitches did it,” according to Plame’s recounting of her husband throwing the morning newspaper on her bed that day.

The son’s of bitches he was referring to were members of the Bush administration as they began a retaliation effort that would include calling him a traitor and attempting to dismiss Plame as nothing more than a secretary and a person incapable of doing any real spying.

Several years have passed and facts have emerged.

We now know the two senior administration officials who informed Novak of Plame’s status were, former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove. Rove was in charge of: the Office of Political Affairs, the Office of Public Liaison, and the White House Office of Strategic Initiatives. He also confirmed Armitage’s identification.

Armitage also gave the information to the Washington Post's writer Bob Woodward. Other journalists also obtained information about Plame including: The New York Times reporter Judith Miller, Time magazine's Matthew Cooper, and NBC's Tim Russert.

Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald headed what would be called the CIA leak investigation and it sought to identify who disclosed Plame’s identity. President George Bush said that the White House would cooperate and that if anyone in the administration was found to have violated the law, he wanted them to face the full force of legal ramifications.

Eventually, only Vice President Cheney's Chief of Staff I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby was indicted for obstruction of justice by making false statements to the Federal Bureau of Investigations and of perjury. Ultimately, Libby was convicted on four of five counts and sentenced to prison. Bush commuted the sentence.

Fitzgerald was confronted with a legal burden that he was unable to overcome. He had to prove that those who revealed Plame’s name had actually broken the strict reading of the federal statute. No doubt those who engaged in outing Plame meant to damage Wilson’s reputation for his questioning the “facts” used to convince the American people and congress to go to war against Iraq.

Rove, according to Newsweek, had said that Plame, as Wilson’s wife, was “Fair Game,” in the domestic political war.

“Fair Game: My Life as a Spy, My Betrayal by the White House,” (Simon & Schuster 2007, $26.00) was written under her full name, Valerie Plame Wilson.

On Sunday Nov. 11, she was at Bookworks, 4022 Rio Grande Blvd. N.W. Albuquerque, to speak about her book, answer some questions and sign copies.

So what’s wrong with this picture?

In the early part of President John F. Kennedy’s administration; he was asked by a reporter, during a press conference, why he had observed the lights on in the family quarters very late at night? Was he reading briefing books? The answer supposedly was that he was reading the Ian Fleming series of James Bond novels. As a result Fleming’s books became best sellers. Hollywood, or more precisely Pinewood Studios in London, has produced 21 movies based on the Fleming books. Several Bond films and even television versions have been produced.

One aspect of the Bond phenomenon was the Bond Girl. Beautiful, usually foreign; she was eye candy for the male moviegoers, as much as Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig were for the female audience.

Such females were shallow sex objects that fell for Bond. If the women were spies, they did not betray their own country, but joined Bond in taking on a third party criminal element who posed a threat to countries on both sides of the iron curtain. These spies also would fall for Bond. Bond girls were everything that Plame isn’t; except for the beauty part.

This isn’t Hollywood. However, there are a number of things that Hollywood does in its presentation of a story that are also at work and replicated in the Wilson/Plame story.

My Take

This is a war of ideology. In an attempt to disclose my bias; I side with the Wilsons. At the same time, I find what happened at the book signing fraught with contradictions, disconnects, misdirection and a level of propaganda and spin.

There is an axiom in filmmaking that, “it doesn’t have to be, it only has to look like it does.” Moviemakers ask their audiences to suspend their disbelief, to disregard that they know the actors are acting, to know that stunts don’t or can’t actually defy the laws of gravity, that the human body will not withstand the level of violence doled out during staged fights.

So I pick the events apart.

BookWorks is a relatively small independent bookstore in the North Valley at Dietz Farm close to the Village of Los Ranchos de Albuquerque. They pride themselves on being one of only two remaining independent bookstore in town. They have a fair number of book signings that they hold in their cramped spaces. It’s a good thing that the fire marshal is apparently not much of a reader because he would have a fit over the number of people that crowd into the store to listen to some authors. The Plame crowd would have been hosed down with the big nozzle. The place was jam-packed.

At some events, I am able to photograph and understand what is being said at a level where I can accurately report. At others, I know that doing both will be more difficult. This was one of those events. I was going to rely on using my tape recorder. In discussions with the store’s owner, Nancy Rutland, about covering this event, she checked with Plame about allowing audio recording. Rutland reported that Plame did not want her comments recorded; photographs were fine. So, I turned off and pocketed my recorder. KOB TV taped portions of the comments.

Ambassador Wilson introduced his wife and children, Trevor Rolph and Samantha Finnell Diana, who were born in January 2000. He said that, in part, the reason for taking on the Bush administration over exposing Plames’ clandestine job, was to raise his young family knowing how to stand for what is right in the world. Wilson also has an adult set of twins from a previous marriage.

As a career diplomat, words and their careful usage would be Ambassador Wilson’s chief tools. He demonstrated that he knows all the words using them liberally stringing together a blue streak, in front of his children, that could even make a sailor blush.

Plame said that the CIA won’t allow her to talk about her pre-2003 employment with the agency, though there is documentation in the public record of her 20-year career.

In an interview with KOAT TV at the end of the event, Plame said she and her husband chose Santa Fe as the place to move to when they left Washington, D.C. She had been on assignment to Los Alamos National Labs and, though she hadn’t had time to explore the area, was fascinated by New Mexico. She did not reveal any dates. She also made it clear that she had a long career and is playing the agencies game. There is no doubt that she will do nothing that might be used as an excuse to say that she revealed some classified information, however slight that possibility might be.

During the question period, she was asked about threats. Though she did not want to talk about them, she did want to mention a particular incident, where she was one of several people that had been threatened. The others were all higher-ranking members of the intelligence community or the administration. She had asked for round-the–clock protection for her family, which was denied, while the others were already receiving protection due to their status.

The inequity clearly perturbed her. She had earlier pointed out and confirmed one of her former CIA school classmate’s statements, that she had been the top shot with the communist built AK-47 assault rifle. There is no doubt about that; Plame is fully capable of protecting herself and her family. However, it would have been nice if she had been afforded the same level of consideration, which those who seem to now despise her, had received. I am sure she has slept with one eye open for years and will continue to do so for at least several more.

Plame, in writing her book, used a unique technique; that of redacting portions of her manuscript that the CIA would not approve.

At the end of her remarks, Plame doted on her children. As I got my copy signed, I took a picture of her with her children. Rutledge physically attacked me from my blindside, moving me back several feet. She was saying I could not be so close or include the children in my picture. I looked at Plame; she was aghast and her jaw had dropped.

It is my belief that the storeowner took it upon herself, after listening to the stories of credible threats, to go into a surrogate “Mother Bear” protective mode on behalf of Plame.

The Wilsons felt comfortable enough to bring their children to the event. Trevor was given the honor of wearing the wireless microphone and took center stage to perform the sound check.

What’s wrong with this picture is that I’m not going to show you my picture of the children’s faces; I am going show you what KOB TV did show moments later.

It seems that censorship doesn’t just come from the government, but from bookstore owners, when it suits them. Now there is something really wrong with that picture!

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