The real villains

by Ted on July 25, 2005

When Christopher Hitchens added his voice to the supporters of the Bush Administration, he didn’t do it out of contempt for human intelligence in the battle against weapons of mass destruction. It wasn’t out of admiration for linguistic sophistry, and support of legal hairsplitting. Yet here he is, writing the defence of Karl Rove on just those principles (if that’s the right word).

Despite the rhetorical flourishes (comparing the attacks on Rove to the McCarthy hearings is particularly nauseating), his points are pretty boilerplate:

– Joseph Wilson is an awful man
– the unpaid trip to Niger was a glorious prize, obtained by the former Ambassador through sheer nepotism
– “you must knowingly wish to expose the cover of a CIA officer who you understand may be harmed as a result”, otherwise it’s all good, and
– the CIA deserves what it’s gotten for leaking against the Administration.

Here’s what I’d like to ask Hitchens or his admirers:

We know that Valerie Plame was in a position to recommend her husband for the Niger mission. But she didn’t actually have the authority to send him. That decision was made by her bosses. To the best of my knowledge, the identity of those bosses has never been publicly revealed. We know nothing about them. Did they vote for Bush? Are they Kerry contributors? “Peaceniks”? No one knows.

Rove’s defenders call this “Nadagate”- they think that Karl Rove did nothing wrong by leaking the identity of Valerie Plame. Some even think that he deserves a medal. If this is true, surely he owes it to the American people to reveal the names of her bosses. It’s true that these people could be covert, and exposing them could endanger and expose their contacts and colleagues. However, if Rove takes the precaution of not checking their covert status, he’s free and clear, legally and ethically.

Does anyone believe this?

P.S. Some really enjoyable Hitchens-bashing at Red State Son.

Another P.S.: This is awfully good, too.



rilkefan 07.25.05 at 2:30 pm

Couldn’t make it through that Hitchens article – I felt too embarrassed for him.


roger 07.25.05 at 2:55 pm

Yeats said it best:

“The statesman is an easy man,/
He tells his lies by rote;/
The journalist makes up his lies,/
And takes you by the throat.”

Lately, though, Hitch has lost his grip on anybody’s throat except the true believers. It is the politics of cognitive dissociation, with the motto: in the war against terrorism, we must destroy the prefrontal lobe. He’s done a pretty good job of self lobotomy, I’ll give him that. But I think the Bush crowd has gone too many times down the fantasy track. The reality principle is slowly, inexhorably exacting its revenge on D.C.’s belligeranti. Of course, it is exacting a much bloodier payment from American soldiers, Iraqi civilians, and all the victims of their spidery little minds. Absolutely disgusting people, but it is cool how they give the counter-recruitment and antiwar people all these rhetorical weapons. You merely have to quote them to discourage enlistment.

Anyway, as for Hitchens, becoming known for defending any convenient lie might actually bite into the only thing Hitchens cares about, his appearances on tv.


Nick 07.25.05 at 3:11 pm

My favorite part was when he proposed the “useful axiom” that forged documents provide evidence for what they say because, hey, who would bother to forge a document that said something false?


rilkefan 07.25.05 at 3:20 pm

Incidentally, the editorial “Related at Slate” roundup is expressed in extraordinary terms. Maybe Hitch wrote it himself.


robert the red 07.25.05 at 3:26 pm

But, didn’t you know that Michael Moore is fat? That’s a free pass for any one crime.


Henry 07.25.05 at 3:39 pm

bq. Yeats said it best:

Indeed. But the lad with “sound fly-fisher’s wrist”: is perhaps even more apropos.


roger 07.25.05 at 3:46 pm

Henry, damn, wish I had thought of that. Although the only thing I like about the zombie that has taken over Hitchens body is the drinking. It shows he still has a conscience, hence the need to drown it.


P ONeill 07.25.05 at 4:13 pm

Hitch used his NYT book review of the Deep Throat book to play the same games: that Rove was at worst defensively leaking against the 5th columnists in the CIA, and that Judith Miller is the only real victim in all this.


nick 07.25.05 at 6:55 pm

I wonder if Hitch will be diverting any of his fags-and-booze fund to help assuage the current famine in Niger? Nah, didn’t think so.


Steve 07.25.05 at 8:41 pm

Ode to Hitchens:

What do you do with a drunken sailor? What do you do with a drunken sailor? What do you do with a drunken sailor?

Give him a typewriter!


David Sucher 07.25.05 at 8:45 pm

This post raises the age-old question about whether one should call attention to stupidity — in this case, Hitchens’ — by paying attention to it.


Blixa 07.25.05 at 11:45 pm

Personally, yes I’d like to learn whoever was truly responsible for sending Wilson to Niger to “investigate” (I use the term near-infinitely loosely) the uranium thing. Exposing and shaming (ideally firing) said person could be only salutary, because whoever authorized this idiocy is incompetent at best. Ideally, and in times past (as recently as the ’80s perhaps), that wouldn’t be up to Rove at all, because this sort of thing – you know, exposing government incompetence and silly CIA shenanigans? – might have actually attracted the interest of, well, the press. Due to laziness or some other reason (golly, wonder why), the press is currently not interested in such things. On the contrary they are willing and eager to just lap up at face-value the patently absurd notion that sending Ambadassor Joe Wilson to Niger to talk to bureaucrats (to Not Find stuff in Africa, essentially) made any amount of sense, or indeed even remotely resembled what one might expect a vigorous, competent intelligence investigation to actually consist of.

I can’t imagine why some office-bound higher-up in a position to be Plame’s Boss and to Sign Off On Idiotic Phony Investigations For Plame’s Hubby would, simultaneously, be “covert”. (Do we even know that Plame herself was “covert”?) I suppose it’s possible, in which case I guess I’m out of luck, as it would be against the law for Rove or anyone else to grant me my wish. Sigh.

To address the actual hypothetical, I cannot envision in the first place how Rove could get himself into a position to learn who the Plame’s Boss is in our saga without simultaneously learning that the Plame’s Boss in question is covert (if he/she is). But it might be possible, in which case, from my understanding of the law making it illegal to expose covert CIA employees (an action that much of the left seems to have suddenly, recently decided they dislike – “keep all CIA officers/assets secret!”, now cries the left surreally), he’d be off the hook. Realistically I think this would have to ultimately involve someone else doing the actual Exposing (learning the name & covert nature of Plame’s Boss from Classified docs, and passing that info on..) and Rove simply hearing only the name (not the covertness) on the grapevine. So Rove’d be in the clear and the O.E. (Original Exposer) could take the heat. Blame it on a shoddily-written law, I suppose. Course, my reading could easily be wrong, IANAL.

Would I be mad just on an “ethical” level if Rove were to then say “I heard Plame’s Boss is named…”? No (see above; the person ought to be not only exposed but fired). At worst you could change “mad” to “bored” and be in the ballpark. This silliness is enough to make me miss the good ol’ days when the left hated the CIA (or anyway, didn’t pretend to love CIA), because at least that made some sense….


Ben Alpers 07.26.05 at 1:25 am

er, blixa….

The administration insisted that Saddam was purchasing yellowcake uranium from Niger, and that this was part of a massive WMD program that constituted a grave danger to the U.S.

In fact, Saddam was doing no such thing (and there was no such WMD program…or even — can we say now? — WMD program related activities).

Despite your prolix derision of Joe Wilson’s investigation, on the facts, Wilson proved to be absolutely right, the Bush administration dead wrong.

It’s really pretty simple. And all your handwringing about the left and the CIA, Joe Wilson’s qualifications, the inability of the press to behave as you’d want them to without Turdblossom’s assistance, and so forth is quite beside the point.


nick 07.26.05 at 4:24 am

Blixa appears to have downloaded the latest ‘Bizarro World’ upgrade of Trollbot 0.8-beta, in which the CIA was conspiring against Emperor George, and may have even helped bundle those tonnes of WMDs off to Syria; Joe Wilson was a Kerry campaign advisor in February 2002 who was desperate to get away from his ‘little wifey’ on an expenses-paid trip to sunny Niger, top destination of the rich and famous; and Valerie Wilson was both one level up from the office janitor and one level down from George Tenet.

It still needs some of the bugs ironing out, I see.


Blixa 07.26.05 at 7:36 am


The administration insisted that Saddam was purchasing yellowcake uranium from Niger

Heh. When did they “insist” that he “was purchasing” anything? Try again.


in which the CIA was conspiring against Emperor George

Didn’t say that. Just said incompetent. (And I’m only talking about one particular group BTW – the group responsible for sending Wilson – not “the CIA” en masse.) The Wilson trip was not the way one would actually investigate a potential contraband transaction one was tasked with investigating. Anyone who thinks it is, is incompetent on the face of it, at best.

p.s. I’m unclear on your definition of “troll”. Seems to more or less coincide with “disagrees with me”.


perianwyr 07.26.05 at 4:23 pm


I came across some site that asked you to name your favorite word, but I like a lot of words and haven’t got a lot of time, so I couldn’t rattle that one off. But now that you’ve reminded me- what a sexy word. I love it so.


Eli Rabett 07.26.05 at 9:37 pm

Increasingly it appears that there was major damage from the revelations. Remember, it was not only Plame’s cover that was blown but also the company she worked for and all the associated spooks. Is any one trying to track back and see who disappeared at about the time of the leaks?


engels 07.27.05 at 9:14 am

Yeats said it best

Or as Oscar Wilde said:

We are all in the gutter, but Christopher Hitchens… Jesus Christ, Christopher Hitchens…

I refrain from stating the obvious about the evident soundess of Hitch’s wrist…

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