Malice in Wonderland


It would be so nice if something made sense for a change.”
Alice, “Alice in Wonderland,” Lewis Carroll, 1865

When I was a little muse, I had a beagle and I named him Scooter because his belly dragged along the ground when he was a puppy. If you’ve ever had a “best dog ever,” you know him. I probably don’t think about Scooter as much as I ought to–especially since he is a part of who I am.

So this week, when the name “Scooter” Libby was repeated ceaselessly, you could imagine what I was thinking.

You’ll have to, because my dog never once crossed my mind. My beloved beagle Scooter has about as much to do with White House toady Lewis “Scooter” Libby as Libby does with being a civil servant.

I’m glad he got convicted for lying to and obstructing a grand jury in the Valerie Plame CIA-outing case. But unfortunately that case has about as much to do with the nub of the problem as it does with my Scooter. And that is disturbing and infuriating.

Back up (all you need to know).

Before there was a liar named Scooter and a blonde named Val and Bush’s infamous 16 words, there were some very curious and clearly fraudulent documents. These comically-forged papers purported to expose yellowcake uranium dealings between the governments of Niger and Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. They were quickly and repeatedly debunked. By everybody, that is, but our good friends at the White House.

That is unfortunate because they are in charge of everything. And they used that power to bludgeon anyone and anything that tried to stop them from propagandizing the fake documents.

Let’s stop the story here because here is where the story is.

I promise, we’ll get to sexy spies and a guy named after my dog in a minute, I’ll even toss in a prosecutor I call “St. Patrick.” But first, we have a couple unanswered questions. And they are huge.

1. Just who was it that dreamed up the idea of faking documents that could be used to entice Bush into blowing hell out of Baghdad?

2. How is it that the White House was so impervious to the overwhelming evidence that the documents were forged?

This is not Roswell, New Mexico UFO silliness. Tens of thousands of people, including more than 3,100 U.S. troops, have died. The WMD myth is shattered and Bush’s mushroom cloud is all smoke and mirrors. And we’re so far off the path toward understanding why, my beagle Scooter couldn’t sniff us back.

Enter the celebrity victims.

The emergence of outed-CIA Agent Valerie Plame and her flamboyant husband Ambassador Joe Wilson has been a mixed blessing to solving this mystery. It was Joe’s blistering op-ed calling out Bush for pressing the Niger lie that breathed new life into the case. It was the White House’s sophomoric attempt to get back at him by revealing his wife’s identity that gave the case legs.

Tragically, those legs have taken the case of the Niger yellowcake into a third dimension having next to nothing to do with who faked the documents and why you couldn’t convince Dick Cheney with a two-by-four that they were fake.

Yes, special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald secured a guilty verdict against Libby, but that was for lying about a phone call with NBC’s Tim Russert, nothing remotely related to the forgeries. Do you seriously think that Scooter was the mastermind of this affair? Can you imagine him in a Nigerian teahouse scamming bad guys like Agent Plame might have done before the White House destroyed her career?

Despite the tawdry behavior of our President’s men, I must admit to rolling my eyes at the Wilsons for every time I’ve gnashed my teeth at the White House. The couple has embraced their celebrity with gusto and in the process provided the right with yet another diversion from the fundamental question.

I’m told that Ms. Plame-Wilson will testify before Congress later this month. Early scuttlebutt has it that the committee will explore how her unmasking has damaged the CIA work she was doing on Iran. While not a trifling matter, it has nothing to do with the hokum we were fed about Saddam’s yellowcake.

Yet another step away from whodunit, and another day whoever did it lives to conjure up more chaos. Alas, this would be a good time to take my best dog ever on a long, restorative walk.

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