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William Rivers Pitt: Lucky Libby

Lucky Libby

By William Rivers Pitt
t r u t h o u t | Columnist

Thursday 08 March 2007

I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby has been convicted by a federal jury of two counts of perjury, one count of making false statements and one count of obstruction of justice. He faces, due to federal sentencing guidelines, a term of between one and one-half and three years in prison.

There will be an appeal, of course, and the potential for a presidential pardon - recall the slew of convicted Iran-Contra characters pardoned by Bush Sr. way back when - remains ever-present, leaving open the possibility that Libby will serve no time at all. Even so, this conviction "culminated the seven-week trial of the highest-ranking White House official to be indicted on criminal charges in modern times," according to the Washington Post.

Mr. Libby is a damned lucky man.

The acts he was convicted of - perjury, false statements and obstruction - were crimes in themselves, to be sure, but were crimes committed to cover up, obscure and bury the truly serious crimes that got this ball rolling in the first place. In short, he was convicted for the cover-up of the actual crimes.

In a nation that prides itself on living by the rule of law, Mr. Libby should have been tried for treason. Whether he could have been convicted of this is an open question, one dependent upon the veracity of witnesses and the availability of evidence. But "treason" is the operative word, and the lies he has been convicted of telling were told in the first place to avoid that potent charge.

Mr. Libby - along with Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Doug Feith, Stephen Hadley, Condi Rice and a slew of others - was an instrumental member of the cadre that sold the American people an outrageous raft of lies regarding the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

Mr. Libby - acting on behalf of Dick Cheney - went down to CIA headquarters at the behest of his boss to lean on intelligence analysts in order to pry "forward-leaning intelligence" out of them regarding Iraq.

Mr. Libby - again on behalf of Dick Cheney - was central to the exposure of deep-cover CIA agent Valerie Plame. This exposure was undertaken to silence Ambassador Joseph Wilson, whose public statements regarding the fraudulent "uranium from Niger" administration claims threatened to undermine the whole latticework of lies that buttressed the administration's push for an invasion of Iraq.

Valerie Plame was a NOC (non-official cover) agent whose job was to track any person, nation or group that would give weapons of mass destruction to terrorists. The vital intelligence network she built to do this important job is now destroyed, and we are less safe for it.

The firm Plame worked out of as part of her cover - Brewster Jennings & Associates - is likewise destroyed now, which means any other deep-cover agents working from there have also had their clandestine status threatened and their intelligence networks disrupted, and we are less safe for that, as well.

The lies promulgated by Mr. Libby led directly to the deaths of 3,185 American soldiers and the wounding of between 47,000 and 53,000 more soldiers. This amounts to between a third and a fourth of the entire active combat force of the United States military.

The lies promulgated by Mr. Libby led directly to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians, the maiming of thousands more, and the creation of a sectarian civil war in that nation whose effects will be generational in impact.

Any federal conviction for lying and obstruction is nothing to sneeze at, but what we have here is the process story instead of the real deal. The actual crimes committed by Libby and his fellow administration members are broad, deep and fundamentally damaging to this nation, and the truth of these true crimes was not even scratched by this verdict.

Mr. Libby's lies helped get a lot of people killed, helped undermine our ability to defend ourselves against the spread of weapons of mass destruction, and helped midwife a war that cuts us all to the quick with every passing day. If that isn't treason, then treason simply does not exist as an actionable criminal act.

And he may not ever wind up doing any time at all. That is the living definition of "lucky." Anyone who thinks true justice prevailed with these convictions needs to take a deep knee-bend and reconsider the facts. Mr. Libby has been convicted for the smallest crimes he committed, while his fellow conspirators walk today in broad daylight, free as birds.


William Rivers Pitt is a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of two books: War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know and The Greatest Sedition Is Silence. His newest book, House of Ill Repute: Reflections on War, Lies, and America's Ravaged Reputation, will be available this winter from PoliPointPress.

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