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Shame of a nation

Illustration by Jennifer Kearney
By Matt Stone
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday, October 31, 2005
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Two thousand dead in Iraq. Two thousand. Eight hundred from a hurricane named Katrina. One former head of Federal Emergency Management Agency. One lightweight Supreme Court nominee. Tom DeLay. Social Security reform. The "ownership society." The Geneva Convention. The First Amendment. Changing the face of the world. "Mission Accomplished." Colin Powell. George Tenet. An assault weapons ban. Voter's rights. The budget surplus. Old ally Germany. Oldest ally France. America's global stature. Gone, gone - all gone.

Did I mention the 2,000 dead in Iraq? The two thousand. And still no Osama?

And now we are offered some kind of ersatz retribution. After 22 months, special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald has cast a revealing light on this administration and all its wrongs.

I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff - Cheney's "alter ego" in this administration - has been indicted, and resigned on Friday. Karl Rove, the brains behind President Bush's rise, has been implicated, his reputation soiled. Down, down, down have gone the poll numbers for a president now bankrupt with the left, the center and most of the right.

Quack and limp. Quack and limp.

In the 2003 State of the Union address, two months before recklessly invading Iraq, President Bush made the heady claim that Saddam Hussein had sought uranium "yellowcake" in Niger, which can be processed to make nuclear weapons. For this lie, George Tenet, the former CIA head, eventually took the hit for the administration, but only after former Ambassador Joseph Wilson had investigated the claim, published an op-ed piece in The New York Times, and smacked the president's tell-it-like-it-is reputation across the face.

Days later, conservative columnist Robert Novak tried to make Wilson smell of partisan hackery (we now know that it was Novak who was the guilty party on this count). Novak denounced Wilson's investigative trip to Niger by revealing that Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, was a covert agent for the CIA and had arranged her husband's trip.

Matt Stone

Revealing the identity of undercover agents is a federal offense. But Novak was playing by the rules. His source, however, was not. Who indeed would have known Plame's true profession? And who indeed would have passed that information on to Novak?

Enter Patrick Fitzgerald and his admirably nonpartisan investigation. All levels of the administration were interviewed including Bush, including Cheney. Grand jury testimony was given; Rove and Libby were implicated; Cheney began to smell fishy (as if he didn't before); a Times reporter was sent to jail for not revealing a source; Novak uttered a profanity and stormed off a live television appearance on CNN; the Democrats wanted blood; the Republicans wanted to change the subject.

The summer of 2005 was a dramatic one: Republicans jumping ship, an administration plugging holes, Democrats drooling at it all. The death of a Supreme Court chief justice offered the Bush team a welcome respite.

But only after Katrina, the indictment and resignation of House Majority Leader DeLay, and the improbable nomination of one Harriet Miers to the high bench did the full stench of corruption, lies, perjury, obstruction of justice, abuse of power, filth, filth, more filth, all filth ooze from the White House and pollute American politics once again. The tar runs thick in Washington.

And, on Friday, another barrel of $65 oil was poured on the flames: The grand jury indicted Libby for perjury, obstruction of justice and false statements, thereby requiring a public trial, public testimony from White House officials (Cheney included), and a ravenous press, repeatedly lied to by the administration, primed to smear the details across every front page in the country.

Up to $1.25 million in fines and 30 years in prison are at stake for Libby. But more importantly, the future of this presidency is at stake. Libby's trial may as well be the administration's trial.

The Bush administration on trial. That is what it has come to. The trial will aim to ascertain how far up the tar sticks. Novak's source is not yet known. Libby has been accused of cover-up work. That implies Libby was small-fry, doing the dirty work for someone higher, someone with more knowledge of Plame, someone who would feel threatened by an ambassador denouncing America's main reason for war. What Fitzgerald, the prosecutor, knows and has yet to announce is an open question.

In the meantime, 2,000 Americans are dead in Iraq - for a cause that perished in the tars of Washington.

Matt Stone is a junior majoring in international studies and economics. He can be reached at

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