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Having read that people began lining up in front of bookstores before former President Bush’s memoir, Decision Points, was due to be released, I hurried off to purchase mine early on November 9, arriving about fifteen minutes after opening time. I have the distinction of being the first person to purchase Bush’s book in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
I have a special interest in understanding how the former president sees his decision to invade Iraq and his use of intelligence to justify the invasion. I have also been curious about what he might have to say about the betrayal of a CIA covert officer’s identity, my wife’s, by, among others, two senior members of his staff, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby and Karl Rove. I had seen his interview with NBC’s Matt Lauer in which he volunteered that Scooter Libby was a “loyal” American who had been somehow caught up in the Valerie Plame affair. I was thunderstruck by his description of a man convicted of four counts of lying to federal officials, perjury, and obstruction of justice, the chief of staff to the Vice President who knowingly offered up Valerie Plame’s name to a New York Times reporter, and who was so obsessed with destroying my reputation that he kept a three-ring binder on me and an annotated copy of my book. My expectations for truthful revelation in Bush’s book, after his comment, were naturally low. I have not been disappointed. In fact, Deception Points might have been a more appropriate title.
The former president deals with the Plame affair briskly, fairly early in the book, in the context of what he describes as the last and most “emotional personnel decision” of his presidency: what to do about Scooter Libby. He refers to the “agonizing decision” of whether to “let Scooter go to jail,” to pardon, or to commute his sentence. En route to the denouement of poor Bush’s “agonizing,” the reader is first subjected to a recitation of the right wing talking points designed to discredit us, including the debunked canard that “Wilson had been sent to Niger … on the recommendation of his wife.” What I didn’t find in the book is Bush’s explanation of the misuse of the intelligence in making the case for war with Iraq. Instead of dealing with the inconvenient facts Bush simply refers again to the bogus British intelligence on uranium yellowcake, ignoring that his CIA had warned him at least three times that our own intelligence services did not believe the claim. Secretary of State Colin Powell omitted the assertion in his UN speech, but Bush still hides behind that shredded fig leaf.
Bush calls the controversy that followed the publication in the New York Times of my op-ed “What I Didn’t Find in Africa” a “massive distraction.” But nowhere does he acknowledge that the “distraction” was self-invented. After all, there are really only two germane points:
1) Joe Wilson wrote an opinion piece which asked about the president’s statement in the State of the Union on efforts to procure uranium yellowcake, “Did the Bush administration manipulate intelligence about Saddam Hussein’s weapons programs to justify an invasion of Iraq?”
2) Within two days of the article’s publication the president’s spokesman told both the New York Times and the Washington Post that the statement should not have been in the State of the Union. Everything else surrounding this “massive distraction” was created by Bush and his minions: the leak of Valerie’s name and identity, the subsequent investigation, which, despite Bush’s entreaties to his staff that they cooperate with the special prosecutors took over two years, and of course the concerted disinformation and character assassination campaign waged against us by Bush’s minions. Bush cannot even bring himself to acknowledge that Valerie was what is now universally known: a covert CIA operations officer. Bush’s characterization is a pathetic euphemism: “Then it came out that Wilson’s wife’s position was classified.”
In the end, after resolving not to reward anyone who went outside the official channels, Bush bowed to Cheney’s insistence that a pardon be reviewed for Libby, and asked “two trusted lawyers” to review the case. Not even they could find justification to pardon. When Bush told Cheney of his decision not to pardon, Cheney responded: “I can’t believe you are going to leave a soldier on the battlefield.” The president was perplexed that perhaps his friendship with Cheney would not survive. A couple of paragraphs later, the reader is informed this concern was unwarranted — the agony and the ecstasy, one supposes.
The president appears in this book to live in Htrae, the Bizarro world of DC Comics where society is ruled by the code that “Us do opposite of all Earthly things! Us hate beauty! Us love ugliness! Is big crime to make anything perfect on Bizarro World!” To that might be added: Us hate truth.