Keep Investigating, Fitz
Robert Dreyfuss is the author of Devil's Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam (Henry Holt/Metropolitan Books, 2005). Dreyfuss is a freelance writer based in Alexandria, Va., who specializes in politics and national security issues. He is a contributing editor at The Nation, a contributing writer at Mother Jones, a senior correspondent for The American Prospect, and a frequent contributor to Rolling Stone.
Back in the 20th century, when born-again prosecutor Ken Starr was industriously probing into every nook and cranny of the Clinton administration, it was a very, very big deal to the Republicans that President Clinton committed perjury in his testimony about—well, you know what it was about. Now, of course, we are about to be treated to a chorus of Republicans saying that it really isn’t a big deal at all that Karl Rove, the Scooter and who-knows-who-else in the Bush administration might have lied under oath about the outing of Valerie Wilson.
The irony of that aside, there is an important lesson here. Starr, one recalls, was originally given what seemed to be a very limited mandate to investigate an obscure real estate deal in Arkansas that took place many years before. But Starr, spreading tentacles everywhere, eventually dug into every manner of (unrelated) non-scandal he could find: Travelgate, Filegate, Vince Foster-gate, etc. Eventually, Linda Tripp trundled into his office to tell on Monica. At that point, Starr could have said: “Umm, no. That has nothing to do with Whitewater. Go tell someone else.” But he didn’t. Denying the affair with Monica as the cock crowed thrice, Clinton was nabbed, impeached by the House and his presidency was ruined.
What’s the relevance of this history lesson for 2005? The intrepid Mr. Fitzgerald, who apparently has discovered high crimes (or at least low crimes) in the White House in the Wilson affair, can nail Rove and Scooter, it seems, if he chooses to.
But like Starr, Fitzgerald can choose much more. He can choose to investigate the entire spider’s web of scandals that all overlap in what we ought to start calling Iraqgate.
He can investigate not only the outing of Wilson, but its root cause: the mythmaking about Iraq’s nonexistent nuclear program. And he doesn’t have to stop with the Niger uranium angle, a thread much easier to follow now that La Repubblica has uncorked a lot on the Italian end of that one. He can also investigate the parallel myths of the aluminum tubes, looking at who in the administration’s Office of Special Plans, the Iraqi National Congress, the American Enterprise Institute (see: Michael Ledeen) and other neocon-sponsored entities might have forged documents, passed on false reports and spread alarming bits of nonsense—intentionally—that helped Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld and Condi Rice issue exaggerated warnings to Americans about Iraqi mushroom clouds.
He can investigate the creation of the Counterterrorism Evaluation Group, the forerunner of the Office of Special Plans, and its first two staffers, David Wurmser and Mike Maloof. They, both friends of Richard Perle’s, spun tall tales that helped Bush, Cheney and the propaganda-minded White House Iraq Group link Saddam Hussein (falsely) to Al Qaeda.
He can investigate the burgeoning Larry Franklin scandal involving the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). In fact, how can he investigate Rove, Libby and Co. without overlapping their nefarious activities with the Office of Special Plans and the trips to Italy and other places in Western Europe by Ledeen and the OSP’s Franklin and Harold Rhode? The Ledeen who apparently turns up in the Niger hoax is the selfsame Ledeen who bundled Franklin and Rhode off to Europe to meet the lying Manucher Ghorbanifar. It sure looks like the same scandal to me.
He can investigate Mr. Bad Penny himself, Ahmed Chalabi and his ties to the neocon doomsayers. What was Chalabi’s role (while on the U.S. payroll, through the Pentagon-funded INC) in providing fake intelligence so readily gobbled up by Judy Miller, George "Slam-Dunk" Tenet and the OSP? What is Chalabi’s relationship to the evildoers in Iran, to whom he reportedly blabbed out top-secret U.S. information in 2004? Who in the Pentagon decided, without telling the CIA or the State Department, to fly Chalabi’s own private militia into southern Iraq while the invasion was still pushing its way north to Baghdad? And what sort of business relationships does Chalabi have with the neocons?
He can investigate the creation of the OSP itself, starting with Douglas Feith, Bill Luti and Abram Shulsky, its titular director. Were crimes committed when Pentagon insiders, outside consultants, and assorted other hangers-on created an entire, parallel intelligence-evaluation group whose mission was to cherry-pick intelligence out of the system and funnel it up to senior U.S. officials through talking points that were based on lies? Surely Fitzgerald can drag those guys before a grand jury and see what they will say about their work—including, of course, efforts to intimidate or discredit people who disagreed with their now provably false conclusions.
He can investigate the rest of Cheney’s machine inside the government—from people like John Hannah and John Bolton to the ever-sly Jennifer Millerwise, who was Cheney’s spokesman in 2003 and who has now slipped over to the CIA to serve as no-commenter-in-chief at that demoralized, Porter Goss-led agency.
Of course, it’s possible that Fitzgerald will issue his indictments, halt any future inquiries and content himself with prosecuting Rove or Libby or a few others ensnared in the Wilson affair. Let’s hope not. At the very least, a special prosecutor snooping around the White House for the next three years will give White House counsel Harriet Miers something to do, now that she won’t have to bother with learning all that constitutional law she’d need on the Supreme Court.