If Deep Throat had ultimate justice (and perhaps some retribution) in mind
when he led the trail of Watergate to Nixon, the intent of Karl Rove, the
alleged Shallow Lips of Plamegate, lacks any such lofty value. Plamegate
refers to the growing scandal of a White House office likely betraying an
undercover CIA agent in order to get at a "political enemy."
The intent for Rove was to destroy the credibility of the agent's husband,
a career diplomat who correctly questioned a significant intelligence claim
- Saddam's alleged purchase of uranium from Niger - used to justify the
hyped-up war against Iraq. The senior U.S. diplomat was Joseph Wilson, who
had been assigned by the U.S. government to get the facts and whose
measured assessment contradicted the rush to judgment of a Bush government
already committed to a war of invasion and occupation. His wife's name,
Valerie Plame, was first revealed by acerbic pundit Robert Novak.
The nimble Rove, who has launched and sidestepped many a dirty deed in his
20-plus years of building the difficult credibility of his career
candidate, George W. Bush, seems a cornered man this time. Rubbish, once
delicious, now gathers around him as he is "outed" daily in the national
news for his role in the campaign to discredit Wilson.
It all stinks, but the worst of all is that it fits the overwhelming
pattern of the aggressive political culture of the ultra-conservative
movement. Most tellingly, it exposes the extent of willingness to suppress
objective intelligence while building a case for a war plan already in
motion. The public revelation of Plame's name (who was a loyal servant of
the country before Rove focused on her) is one of the worst political dirty
tricks in decades. Plamegate is about political retribution at its worst
and it deserves to be fully prosecuted as an example to the country that
this type of political behavior is not tolerable.
The Plamegate scandal now becomes an urgent political discussion. The case
features a main player in Rove, who most clearly exemplifies how far the
White House circle has been willing to go to suppress not only opponents
but also the actual intelligence as it formulated sensitive foreign policy.
Rove is the political "Rasputin" of Bush's inner circle - "the architect,"
Bush has nicknamed him. For others, Rove is "Bush's Brain," as a book and
documentary by that name argued. More exactly, Rove is the jugular man of
the G.W.B. juggernaut. He goes for the kill every time, at least in the
political arena. He plays rough and doesn't hesitate to besmirch his
opponents by creating media negativity with planted suggestions and lies.
He is masterful and brilliant, with a keen sense of timing and a ruthless
propensity to willingly muck up the nature of open discourse.
The apparently preferred methodology of putting ideology and political
motive ahead of objective intelligence assessment is increasingly suspect
to an American public growing weary of losing young lives and future
economic well-being to a war decided upon so arbitrarily.
Significant numbers of learned people - largely ignored by the mainstream
media - made it clear before it was launched that making war on Iraq ran
against the current of common sense facts on the ground. Major players -
including Bush the elder and his then-general, Colin Powell - had known
better in 1991 than to occupy Iraq with American armed forces. Adeptly, and
with statesmanlike acumen, they understood that Iraq's ethnic composition
and history would prove a most dangerous and self-defeating deployment of
American forces (not to mention the potential horrific toll and loss of
life inflicted upon the Iraqi people once their society was fractured).
Ignoring the advice of the elder generation of Republican leadership, the
administration moved directly to make war. Charged with messianic planning
by his top "thinkers," the makers of the war policy were adamant about
brushing aside any contradicting intelligence. Thus, President Bush was
convinced American "power and will" would be sufficient to permanently
formalize and democratize the monumental sandstorms of violence and
tentacled political quicksands of the controverted region.
On the political rumble level, Rove moved to destroy anyone with
information contradicting the prescribed route to war on Iraq. The wanton
miscalculation, at a time when strategic depth could have reaped huge
rewards for a more inclusive U.S. foreign policy, has been very costly,
both in lives and in treasure.
The Iraq quagmire is increasingly revealed as the result of decisions based
on ideological directive rather than the pragmatic assessment of likelihood
of success or failure. Tunnel vision is the hallmark of the ideologue.
Which points to the deepest consequence of the Rove debacle, featuring as
it does a prime example of the harsh, valueless approach now common to
political strategy and practice. One or another of the radical fringes of
U.S. politics was bound to break through and invade the core institutions
of the country. The right beat the left in that battle, and its
true-believer minions have infected the core of American political
institutions. Rove is a general to those happy-go-lucky political troops,
but the real troops are in Iraq, dying.
Only now, boots deep in mud and gore, is the American public waking up to
the long-term, seemingly never-ending, war policy it voted in and
apparently signed up for. The Rove spy-outing affair, Plamegate, is only
one symptom eliciting attention. Curing the disease will prove
substantially more difficult.