Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Joe Wilson's war

Long time Bush administration critic and former Nixon White House counsel, John Dean, has been reviewing the impact of the Valerie Plame affair. Worth a read for anyone interested in US politics. For those not familiar with the case, Bush administration officials leaked CIA operative Plame's identity to the press in apparent retaliation for her husband Joseph Wilson's public criticism relating to claims that Sadam Hussain had been importing nuclear materials from Niger. The only person who was prosecuted and convicted over the affair - and that for lying and obstructing the special prosecutor's investigation - was Dick Cheney's former chief of staff Scooter Libby. President Bush subsequently commuted his jail sentence so he didn't have to spend any time in jail.

"Former ambassador Joseph Wilson and his wife, Valerie Plame Wilson, lost their lawsuit seeking to hold a number of defendants responsible for the personal damage they caused when they revealed her CIA covert status, but they won the battle to get to the truth. Joe Wilson has exposed much more than the bogus claim underlying the efforts to justify an invasion of Iraq. In the larger picture, the ruling dismissing their lawsuit is of little long-term historical significance, compared to the information the Wilsons have forced to the surface. It is only unfortunate that the Wilsons had to pay dearly in order to speak the truth.

Dismissal of the Wilsons' lawsuit, in fact, illuminates yet another oft-forgotten truth: Officials like Vice President Cheney, his former top aide Scooter Libby, White House political adviser Karl Rove, and former State Department official Richard Armitage can easily escape civil legal liability for even highly irresponsible conduct. U.S. District Court Judge John Bates's ruling reminds us that the federal judiciary today, under the dictates of a conservative Supreme Court majority, has a remarkable array of technical rules it can invoke to prevent anyone from holding high-level federal officials civilly responsible for irresponsible or illegal behavior."

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