The culture of corruption
It took a while, but he came along
Every society deals with corruption differently, but they all deal with it.
For the British, sexual scandals are the thing which that system cannot tolerate. For France, it's financial misdeeds.
In America, it's abuse of power.
Corruption is not something which happens overnight. It takes time, like water wearing on a rock. The Bush Administration of 2001 is not the Administration of 2005. This doesn't mean the seeds of corruption were not there, but they took time to develop.
What drove it?
Partly a need to dominate all their opponents, foreign and domestic. Partly the arrogance of power. But mostly, a president who wanted results and didn't want to hear bad news.
So his subordinates, at least the top-level ones, had a free hand. They could do what they wanted, as long as it worked.
Why would Rove and company smear a former ambassador? Because, even after two years, they had no conception that the gulf between Texas statehouse politics could come to harm them. The corrupt pundit class, frightened into compliance by the Beltway Sniper, who scared them a lot more than 9/11, was willing to go along.
Unlike New Yorkers, who retained their critical faculties, the Beltway sniper took terrorism and made it personal. They were more than willing to listen to Bush after seeing the effects of terror close up, daily. John Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo did more to push the Iraq war than anything Cheney or the OSP ever said or did. Washington, or at least the Beltway part, is a closed town. When crazy men with rifles were killing ordinary people, it became that much easier to believe Saddam was a threat, a real threat and a quick war could clear it up.
So how did we get to this precipice? Where rumors of resignation fill the air?
One thing, and it wasn't obvious to the DC crowd then or now.
Washington is not Texas.
What I mean by that is that if you chase off a commissioner or a former pol, there is no real punishment, a court case, maybe, but that's it. The pundits want to believe that this is all politics because it seems like the game they all play. Names are leaked, ideas floated.
The problem here is that Valerie Plame was the rarest of the rare, a non-official cover agent of the CIA. No one knows how many there are, but the guess is that they would not fill too many tables at a dinner. Training one is more expensive than training a fighter pilot or Delta Force trooper. Revealing her name to anyone without a security clearance was a crime. Even while employed at CIA headquarters, people had no idea she was a NOC. Apologists like Bob Somersby and Richard Cohen just don't get it. This was a crime and one with serious consequences.
No need to belabor the point, but I'll put it this way: one of Special Operation Command's mission is to pull agents from dangerous situations. Pulling a NOC is the most dangerous of all. No one knows how many missions had to be run to clean up the mess created by this bit of spitework.
But why would they do it, then cover it up. Surely they understood what had happened?
No, they didn't. They tried to write off Joe Wilson's anger as politics. It wasn't. His wife's career was ruined, her friends in various countries had their lives in danger. Their callousness may have killed people, all to show him up. Wilson, who had faced down Saddam as the last US diplomat in Iraq, was not someone who could be intimidated by Beltway bullies.
Here is why so many people wanted to miss this: the rot of corruption.
Once corruption enters the process, people assume everyone is corrupt. That everyone is as craven and venal as they are. That they work from the same motives. They never got that Wilson and his wife were real patriots, people who had risked their lives for the US and what it stood for. That they were deeply offended by this crap.
But because the fear-numbed pundit class bought into the Bush vision of the world, it was easy to see Wilson as one more man on the make.
Surely, Rove and Libby would understand what they did. So would Miller and Novak.
The righteous have no enemies but those they choose. Bush and his team thought the ends justified the means, even if they wrecked the CIA's single most important program. They never trusted or liked the logic-based CIA. They viewed it as a hinderance to their plans to make the US a dominant power. So anyone who got in their way had to be crushed. Wilson, Richard Clarke, Scott Ritter, Mohammad El-Baradi. They were enemies who needed to be crushed, just like the foriegn foes of our policies.
So it didn't matter to them who got hurt. They were going to liberate Iraq and remake the Middle East with Isreal secure once and for all. A Pax Americana. Well, as they said of the Romans, they offer peace and create a desert.
It didn't dawn until Judy Miller went to jail that not only wasn't Fitzgerald playing, but he's got a real case. The judges didn't like what he showed them and kept Miller in jail for three months. To the silence of most journalists and to the Times embarassment. Fitzgerald isn't a bully or a fool. But he's as serious as a SEAL team on an op. Now the Times is reporting that he's not going to issue a report. Which under the law means he's likely to issue indictments. He could close his case without issuing anything, but that is unlikely. Nor would it solve the White House's political problem as the Wilsons are likely to sue.
It is highly likely that Fitzgerald's case is solid, after all, he's going after the White House over national security. A flimsy case is suicide.
The Bushies don't think they're corrupt. Judy Miller doesn't think she's corrupt.
Pat Fitzgerald is more likely than not to end that delusion in a sea of criminal indictments reaching into the White House.
posted by Steve @ 2:57:00 AM