The Reactionary Utopian
                     November 1, 2005

by Joe Sobran

     The involved plot of "Scooter" Libby, Dick Cheney, 
and Karl Rove is, as Huck Finn would say, too many for 
me. Libby has been indicted for lying about something or 
other, under oath, to a grand jury, which the special 
prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, assures us is a matter of 
national security and puts us all at risk. Libby and his 
lawyer say they are "confident" that he will be 
"exonerated," though he has already resigned as Cheney's 
man Friday. If convicted, Libby could face 30 years in 
prison and $1.25 million in fines -- a stiff price for 

     Rove may also be the unnamed "Official A" (as 
Fitzgerald calls him) who is still under investigation 
but hasn't been indicted, at least not yet. It all has to 
do with who illegally leaked the fact that Valerie Plame 
Wilson was an undercover CIA operative. The Cheney 
circle, including Libby, were upset with her husband, the 
former diplomat Joseph Wilson, for publicly disputing one 
of its chief pretexts for war with Iraq, that Saddam 
Hussein was trying to get materials for nuclear weapons 
from an African government, that of Niger.

     Such a high-level indictment is, of course, bad news 
for an administration whose war (not to mention its other 
initiatives) is going badly and whose rationales for war 
are now defended by few this side of Rush Limbaugh. Bush 
partisans contend that Libby did nothing seriously wrong, 
but that mere "policy differences" are being 
"criminalized" by all these frivolous indictments.

     You'd think, to hear these folks, that "policy 
differences" were innocent opinions, like the debate over 
Shakespeare's authorship, even if they are battles over 
life-and-death exercises of military force. Libby, even 
more than his boss Cheney, has been part of the 
neoconservative cabal that was hankering for war with 
Iraq long before George W. Bush was even a candidate for 
the presidency. It comes as no surprise that they should 
resort to underhanded tactics against anyone they regard 
as an enemy.

     Nevertheless, it's hard to see how Libby -- or 
Cheney, or Rove -- could have told any lie warranting an 
effective lifetime in prison. They have told really 
enormous lies to the public, but these aren't criminal; 
at least not technically. Anyway, the indictments aren't 
made for moral enormities, but for narrow violations of 
law. And Fitzgerald appears to be extremely scrupulous 
about that sort of thing. He avoids any suggestion of 
moral resonance or of his own views on "policy 

     What he has achieved, whether he meant to or not, is 
to strengthen the impression that the executive branch is 
being run by sneaky people. Bush himself reacted at once 
to Libby's indictment by praising Libby for having 
"sacrificed much" in his country's service, et cetera. 
Meanwhile, Bush said, "I got a job to do," echoing Bill 
Clinton's refrain, during the Lewinsky scandal, that he 
was determined to keep doing "the job the American people 
elected me to do." At moments of crisis, our leaders 
always hear the call of duty summoning them away from the 
distractions of the moment.

     Bush himself appears unlikely to be directly 
implicated in whatever his underlings were up to. The 
question is whether he was even aware of their mischief, 
or, to put it another way, whether they kept him informed 
of their furtive doings. Maybe not. It probably seemed to 
them, at the time, a matter of minor corner-cutting, 
without much consequence. If the boss wanted a war, well, 
so did they -- did they ever! -- and they were only too 
willing to see that he got one.

     A little infighting, with timely leaks to punish 
Mr. Wilson, would just be part of the operation. Who knew 
it might blow up in their faces? Did Richard Nixon's 
underlings see any great risk in a "third-rate burglary" 
of which the boss probably had no advance knowledge?

     But minor crimes don't always stay minor. Once Judge 
John Sirica started handing out tough sentences for that 
burglary, Nixon became guilty, so to speak, of being 
innocent of it. He was responsible for what his people 
did. When he realized that, he became more seriously 
guilty by trying to conceal it.

     That was Nixon's great mistake. I can't see Bush 
repeating it. But he may make the opposite mistake of 
trying to remain innocent. In his position, there is no 
such thing as innocence.


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