[Marxism] Dana Milbank

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Nov 18 14:03:27 MST 2005


>What was their Wilson smear?

I imagine it is a reference to this:

The Washington Post
October 25, 2005 Tuesday

HEADLINE: Husband Is Conspicuous in Leak Case;
Wilson's Credibility Debated as Charges In Probe Considered

BYLINE: Dana Milbank and Walter Pincus, Washington Post Staff Writers

To his backers, Joseph C. Wilson IV is a brave whistle-blower wronged by 
the Bush administration. To his critics, he is a partisan who spouts 
unreliable information.

But nobody disputes this: Possessed of a flamboyant style and a love for 
the camera lens, Wilson helped propel the unmasking of his wife's identity 
as a CIA operative into a sprawling, two-year legal probe that climaxes 
this week with the possible indictment of key White House officials. He 
also turned an arcane matter involving the Intelligence Identities 
Protection Act into a proxy fight over the administration's credibility and 
its case for war in Iraq.

Also beyond dispute is the fact that the little-known diplomat took maximum 
advantage of his 15 minutes of fame. Wilson has been a fixture on the 
network and cable news circuit for two years -- from "Meet the Press" to 
"Imus in the Morning" to "The Daily Show." He traveled west and lunched 
with the likes of Norman Lear and Warren Beatty.

He published a book, "The Politics of Truth: Inside the Lies that Led to 
War and Betrayed My Wife's CIA Identity." He persuaded his wife, Valerie 
Plame, to appear with him in a January 2004 Vanity Fair photo spread, in 
which the two appeared in his Jaguar convertible.

Now, amid speculation that prosecutors could bring charges against White 
House officials this week, Republicans preparing a defense of the 
administration are reviving the debate about Wilson's credibility and 
integrity.

Wilson's central assertion -- disputing President Bush's 2003 State of the 
Union claim that Iraq was seeking nuclear material in Niger -- has been 
validated by postwar weapons inspections. And his charge that the 
administration exaggerated the threat posed by Iraq has proved potent.

At the same time, Wilson's publicity efforts -- and his work for Sen. John 
F. Kerry's presidential campaign -- have complicated his efforts to portray 
himself as a whistle-blower and a husband angry about the treatment of his 
wife. The Vanity Fair photos, in particular, hurt Plame's reputation inside 
the CIA; both Wilson and Plame have said they now regret doing the photo shoot.

Wilson's critics in the administration said his 2002 trip to Niger for the 
CIA to probe reports that Iraq was trying to buy uranium there was a 
boondoggle arranged by his wife to help his consulting business.

The Wall Street Journal's conservative editorial page, defending the 
administration, wrote yesterday that, "Mr. Wilson became an antiwar 
celebrity who joined the Kerry for president campaign." Discussing his trip 
to Niger, the Journal judged: "Mr. Wilson's original claims about what he 
found on a CIA trip to Africa, what he told the CIA about it, and even why 
he was sent on the mission have since been discredited."

Wilson's defenders say he is a truth-teller who has been unfairly attacked. 
"[T]he White House responded to Ambassador Wilson in the worst possible 
way," said Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) said at a Democratic gathering 
in July. "They did not present substantive evidence to justify the uranium 
claim. . . . Instead, it appears that the president's advisers launched a 
smear campaign, and Ambassador Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame Wilson, became 
collateral damage."

Before the Niger episode, Wilson was best known as the chargé d'affaires in 
Baghdad, a diplomat commended by George H.W. Bush for protecting and 
securing the release of American "human shields" at the time of the Persian 
Gulf War. He was not known as a partisan figure -- he donated money to both 
Al Gore and George W. Bush in 1999 -- and says he was neither antiwar nor 
anti-Bush when he went to Niger in late February 2002.

But that changed when he went public with his criticism of the Niger affair 
in mid-2003. In August, he said at a forum that he would like to see Karl 
Rove "frog-marched out of the White House in handcuffs." In the fall, he 
endorsed Democrat Kerry. He had given money to Sen. Hillary Rodham 
Clinton's (D-N.Y.) political action committee in 2002 and gave to Kerry's 
presidential campaign in 2003.

Later, Wilson became prominent in the antiwar movement. In June 2005, he 
participated in a mock congressional hearing held by Democrats criticizing 
the war in Iraq. "We are having this discussion today because we failed to 
have it three years ago when we went to war," he said at the time. The next 
month, he joined Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) at a news conference on 
the two-year anniversary of the unmasking of Plame.

Wilson has also armed his critics by misstating some aspects of the Niger 
affair. For example, Wilson told The Washington Post anonymously in June 
2003 that he had concluded that the intelligence about the Niger uranium 
was based on forged documents because "the dates were wrong and the names 
were wrong." The Senate intelligence committee, which examined pre-Iraq war 
intelligence, reported that Wilson "had never seen the CIA reports and had 
no knowledge of what names and dates were in the reports." Wilson had to 
admit he had misspoken.

That inaccuracy was not central to Wilson's claims about Niger, but his 
critics have used it to cast doubt on his veracity about more important 
questions, such as whether his wife recommended him for the 2002 trip, as 
administration officials charged in the conversations with reporters that 
special counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald is now probing. Wilson has maintained 
that Plame was merely "a conduit," telling CNN last year that "her 
supervisors asked her to contact me."

But the Senate committee found that "interviews and documents provided to 
the committee indicate that his wife . . . suggested his name for the 
trip." The committee also noted a memorandum from Plame saying Wilson "has 
good relations" with Niger officials who "could possibly shed light on this 
sort of activity." In addition, notes on a State Department document 
surmised that Plame "had the idea to dispatch him" to Niger.

The CIA has always said, however, that Plame's superiors chose Wilson for 
the Niger trip and she only relayed their decision.

Wilson also mistakenly assumed that his report would get more widespread 
notice in the administration than it apparently did. He wrote that he 
believed "a specific answer from the agency to the office of the vice 
president" had probably taken place, perhaps orally.

But this apparently never occurred. Former CIA director George J. Tenet has 
said that "we did not brief it to the president, vice president or other 
senior administration officials." Instead his report, without identifying 
Wilson as the source, was sent in a routine intelligence paper that had 
wide circulation in the White House and the rest of the intelligence 
community but had little impact because it supported other, earlier 
refutations of the Niger intelligence.

Wilson also had charged that his report on Niger clearly debunked the claim 
about Iraqi uranium purchases. He told NBC in 2004: "This government knew 
that there was nothing to these allegations." But the Senate committee said 
his findings were ambiguous. Tenet said Wilson's report "did not resolve" 
the matter.

On another item of dispute -- whether Vice President Cheney's office 
inspired the Wilson trip to Niger -- Wilson had said the CIA told him he 
was being sent to Niger so they could "provide a response to the vice 
president's office," which wanted more information on the report that Iraq 
was seeking uranium there. Tenet said the CIA's counterproliferation 
experts sent Wilson "on their own initiative."

Wilson said in a recent interview: "I never said the vice president sent me 
or ordered me sent."

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