From the discussion I
have seen and read about the indictment, however,
I think that it is absolutely paramount to make one
thing clear: this is not your average indictment for
What I mean by that is that the comparisons that
I have already started to see between Libby’s
indictment and the scandal surrounding the attempted
impeachment of President Clinton for perjury are absolutely
without merit. There is as little in common between
the two perjuries as there is between the approval
rates of the two presidents.
The perjury, for which Clinton was never prosecuted,
that led to the impeachment effort by congressional
Republicans, was that he famously told a grand jury
that he “did not have sexual relations with
that woman, Miss Lewinsky.” Clinton just as
famously had an explanation for why his phrasing was
not technically lying, but leaving out the legal parsing
that Clinton understandably engaged in, under the
everyday uses of those terms, let’s call a spade
a spade: he lied. Clinton had a sexual relationship
with Monica Lewinsky, and he performed some entertaining
verbal gymnastics to willfully obscure the truth.
But to understand why I and so many other Americans
still regard Kenneth Starr’s Ahab-like pursuit
of Clinton, even with the allegation of perjury at
the end of it, as a total waste of time and taxpayer
money, you have to look at why Starr had Clinton before
the jury. Starr’s stint as independent counsel,
without which he likely would be on Bush’s current
short list of Supreme Court nominees, started out
investigating some land deals in Arkansas that became
known as Whitewater. The investigations of the real
estate transactions, which lost the Clintons tens
of thousands of dollars, completely exonerated both
Bill and Hillary Clinton—neither was ever charged
or indicted for anything having to do with Whitewater.
But as that investigation ran out of steam without
any blood drawn from the Clintons to show for it,
Kenneth Starr broadened his inquiry into a fishing
expedition for anything that could embarrass the Clintons.
And he found it in Monica Lewinsky.
Does that make it perfectly acceptable, as a moral
truism, for Bill Clinton to cheat on his wife and
then attempt to hide it? Of course not. But when a
special prosecutor is appointed with my taxes to investigate
potential misdeeds around real estate in Arkansas
and doesn’t find any, it is not a legitimate
or appropriate use of governmental time and money
to then go trawling through the President’s
private life. In the grand scheme of things, I don’t
think Clinton’s infidelities with Monica Lewinsky
were relevant to his functioning as President or the
functioning of the White House or government as a
That is most emphatically not the case with Scooter
Libby. This case started with allegations that Iraq
was trying to buy yellowcake uranium, which could
be used to make nuclear weapons, from Niger. Ambassador
Joseph Wilson, who incidentally served as the acting
US ambassador to Iraq during the first Gulf War, was
sent to Niger by the CIA to investigate the claims.
It is hard to imagine a better person for the job:
in his twenty-year diplomatic career, he had served
in Niger while that country’s uranium business
developed, held various diplomatic positions in Africa
including Ambassador to Gabon, another African company
that produced uranium, and was senior director for
African Affairs in the 1990s at the National Security
Counsel with a portfolio that explicitly included
the production of uranium in Africa. His policy knowledge
as well as extant network of connections within Niger
allowed him to swiftly and convincingly ascertain
that the documents purporting to show Iraq’s
attempt to purchase uranium from Niger were forged,
and no such transactions had or would be taking place.
His report was corroborated by two other investigations,
by the then-Ambassador to Niger Barbro Owens-Kirkpatrick
and Marine Corps General Carleton Fulford.
These reports were ignored by the Bush White House,
as they did not help their inexorable march towards
attacking Iraq, and in his 2003 State of the Union
address, Bush trumpeted Saddam Hussein’s attempts
to buy yellowcake uranium from Niger as proof that
if the U.S. military did not attack Iraq and depose
Hussein, we would face the prospect of mushroom clouds
over American cities.
Six months later, after unsuccessful attempts to
determine why his conclusions had apparently been
ignored, Joseph Wilson wrote an opinion piece for
the New York Times entitled “What I Didn’t
Find in Africa.” A week later, Robert Novak
published a column in which he revealed the name of
Joseph Wilson’s wife, Valerie Plame, and the
fact that she worked as a covert CIA operative, thereby
putting her and everyone she worked with abroad in
Since then, particularly hard-headed conservatives
have attempted to justify the exposure of Plame as
trying to show that Wilson’s selection to go
to Niger was nepotism, and his conclusions therefore
suspect. This ignores the obvious fact of his qualifications
and that his conclusions were identical to two other
The real reason is more like what Karl Rove told
NBC’s Chris Matthews: “Wilson’s
wife is fair game.” The White House—specifically
Rove, Cheney, and Libby—knew that such an irreversible
strike at a dissenter would chill any future whistle-blowers.
In one leak, they destroyed Plame’s entire career.
If that is what happens to the families of people
who speak out against the White House—even such
highly-placed persons as ambassadors—what are
the chances that others will be willing to speak up
the way Wilson did in the future?
That’s why Libby’s perjury is so important.
The perjury that he is indicted for is the substance
of his offense. In order to prevent the White House
from marching like jack-booted thugs on the backs
of loyal Americans who try to tell the truth to the
public, the people responsible for such a despicable
vendetta have to be exposed and punished. Libby lied
to a grand jury, lied to the special prosecutor, and
lied in the direct attempt to keep the identity of
those thugs secret. As long as the people responsible
for Plame’s exposure walk the corridors of power
of the White House, potential truth-tellers know that
they will face immediate and harsh reprisals. This
is not about titillating sexual improprieties in the
Oval Office. This is about repression of the American
people the likes of which have not been seen before.
And it is about time that those cockroaches were exposed.
Visit Dara Purvis @ www.DaraPurvis.com.