Why The Perjury?


Just because the Republican blogs are steadfastly ignoring this is a good reason to stay focused. Matt's question remains foremost in my mind:

If there really was no crime - then it seems we ought to get some kind of explanation from Libby as to why he lied.

Quite. Or from Libby's defenders. If you go back and read my archives on this, you'll find I was simply puzzled from the start. None of it made much sense to me back then. In retrospect, it makes much better sense today, after all we have found out about how this administration functions. My best guess is that the explanation for Libby's perjury is pretty obvious. For Libby and Cheney to take the risk of outing a CIA operative's cover (and even if there was some doubt about the law and her status, it was still a risk), they must have had a very pressing reason. It may be that they were just engaged in aggressive press manipulation to keep their own story out here. Let's give them the benefit of the doubt, shall we? But why so aggressive as to risk law-breaking? Why the risk for a careful lawyer like Libby? Why not just write another op-ed refuting the claims? I still have no explanation unless Libby had something major to hide and Cheney something major to fear.

Like the fact that he and Cheney knew the WMD evidence was weak, misled us, and then, busted more brutally than they ever expected, tried to cover their tracks. We can't know this yet for sure. But it surely remains the most plausible explanation for the entire affair.

It means of course that they knowingly exaggerated the causes for war. That's why this story still rankles, because it's the closest the outside world has really gotten to the real nexus of decision-making on Iraq that obviously took place in Cheney's circle. I can still just about believe that Bush thought the WMD case was sound. I can't believe, given all that we now know, that Cheney did. He's too smart. The data he read, we now know, was far more equivocal than the data the public was provided with. He's not new at this. He probably never wanted to make the WMD argument anyway, put it in to appease the UN crowd, and certainly wasn't going to query its validity. We may never know, of course, because Cheney will have destroyed the evidence, but if I had to guess, I'd say it's obvious Cheney knew all along that the WMD line was a cover, not a real threat, but realized by the summer of 2003 that any hint of this leaking (even from a two-bit blowhard like Wilson) needed swift and brutal rebuttal. They were embarrassed enough by the WMD bust, but if it was revealed that they had ignored all the caveats beforehand, it could get really dicey. One has to assume that Libby and Cheney are indistinguishable in their knowledge and involvement. Miller was also trying to cover her tracks that, in retrospect, had begun to look shady. Hence the weird Cheney-coordinated hit on Wilson and Plame. Hence Libby's clumsy perjury. Has Libby ever done something as clumsy in his entire life? Sometimes, even the smoothest cannot escape their own lies.

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That's not just worth 30 months in jail. It's worth impeachment. At this point, I think the weight of the evidence suggests they did all this. Maybe the deception crept in after the fact. But I know from the torture debate that they are all capable of bald-faced lies to hide embarrassment and advance their agenda. Why would they not have deliberately deceived us about WMDs before the war?

Well, it worked. I believed them. Many of you did as well. We trusted them. And they got away with it. The one man whose perjury did threaten to hold him, in some minor way, accountable has been reprieved by the man at the top of the decision-tree for war, and given every incentive not to get bitter and start talking. Is there a simpler explanation?

(Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty.)