Friday, September 01, 2006
Nevertheless, it now appears that the person most responsible for the end of Ms. Plame's CIA career is Mr. Wilson. Mr. Wilson chose to go public with an explosive charge, claiming -- falsely, as it turned out -- that he had debunked reports of Iraqi uranium-shopping in Niger and that his report had circulated to senior administration officials. He ought to have expected that both those officials and journalists such as Mr. Novak would ask why a retired ambassador would have been sent on such a mission and that the answer would point to his wife. He diverted responsibility from himself and his false charges by claiming that President Bush's closest aides had engaged in an illegal conspiracy. It's unfortunate that so many people took him seriously.
The Washington Post passes along the received wisdom that Richard Armitage was not one of the "war hawks" that pushed for an American invasion of Iraq, and that this fact explains why PlameGate is not a "Gate" at all:
Mr. Armitage was one of the Bush administration officials who supported the invasion of Iraq only reluctantly. He was a political rival of the White House and Pentagon officials who championed the war and whom Mr. Wilson accused of twisting intelligence about Iraq and then plotting to destroy him.
Most popular accounts, including those of hard core conservatives, do in fact describe Armitage as more dove than hawk on the question of Iraq, probably because he is known to be such great friends with Colin Powell. I wonder, though, whether the antebellum Armitage was not much more hawkish than the version advertised today. The Post's own Thomas Ricks, author of the best-selling Fiasco, suggests that Armitage was thick as thieves with the "Pentagon officials who championed the war." From page 17:
In January 1998, the Project for the New American Century, an advocacy group for an interventionist Republican foreign policy, issued a letter [link] urging President Clinton to take "regime change" in Iraq seriously. Among the eighteen signers of the letter were Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld, Armitage, future UN ambassador John Bolton, and several others who would move back into government three years later. "The policy of 'containment' of Saddam Hussein has been steadily eroding over the past several months," they wrote. "Diplomacy is clearly failing... [and] removing Saddam Hussein and his regime from power ... needs to become the aim of American foreign policy." The alternative, they concluded, would be a "course of weakness and drift."
The letter made it quite clear that the United States should "necessary steps, including military steps, to protect our vital interests" in the Gulf. That doesn't sound too dovish to me.
Ricks also quoted, with apparent agreement, an unnamed senior general who lumped Armitage in with the war hawks (p. 52):
The effect of the NIE [National Intelligence Estimate] can't be underestimated, said one general who talked frequently to Rumsfeld during this time. During the summer of 2002, he said, both Bush and Rumsfeld had been on the fence. "Cheney, Wolfowitz, and Armitage were the hawks," he remembered. Each argued that "we had to get rid of this guy, that time isn't on our side, and that there will be no better time to get rid of him." On the other side of the argument were Colin Powell and some lesser figures in the administration. They "thought it was time to leverage the international community, especially since we'd scared the hell out of everybody." (bold emphasis added)
Now, I claim no actual knowledge of Richard Armitage or the no doubt subtle nuance in his ex ante advocacy for the Iraq war. I wonder, though, whether Armitage's reputation for "reluctance" is not to some degree a product of that other esteemed Washington Post reporter, Bob Woodward, who seems to be able to get Armitage to tell him all sorts of secret stuff. A bit of spit and polish on Richard Armitage's public image would not be too high a price to pay for that kind of access.
Somthing about the 3/5/2003 presentation at the UN that I always wondered:
The evidence was new and different. The pics of the mobile labs and the audio tapes, were not really obsessed over by the WH. I think Powell/Armitage were the recipients of foreign service intel, and they came to their conclusions, seperately, based on it. They were in the position of discussing it without sourcing. The CIA would eventually have to provide a reason/source for their conclusions, but the State never offerred up any other country as part of the info. (No doubt that Saudi intell was a major part of the presentation.)
Becuase of the seperation of CIA and State, it appearred as if they came to their conclusions seperately and independently.