The ridiculous end to the scandal that distracted Washington.
By Christopher Hitchens
Posted Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2006, at 1:02 PM ET
I had a feeling that I might slightly regret the title ("Case Closed") of my July 25 column on the Niger uranium story. I have now presented thousands of words of evidence and argument to the effect that, yes, the Saddam Hussein regime did send an important Iraqi nuclear diplomat to Niger in early 1999. And I have not so far received any rebuttal from any source on this crucial point of contention. But there was always another layer to the Joseph Wilson fantasy. Easy enough as it was to prove that he had completely missed the West African evidence that was staring him in the face, there remained the charge that his nonreport on a real threat had led to a government-sponsored vendetta against him and his wife, Valerie Plame.
In his July 12 column in the Washington Post, Robert Novak had already partly exposed this paranoid myth by stating plainly that nobody had leaked anything, or outed anyone, to him. On the contrary, it was he who approached sources within the administration and the CIA and not the other way around. But now we have the final word on who did disclose the name and occupation of Valerie Plame, and it turns out to be someone whose opposition to the Bush policy in Iraq has—like Robert Novak's—long been a byword in Washington. It is particularly satisfying that this admission comes from two of the journalists—Michael Isikoff and David Corn—who did the most to get the story wrong in the first place and the most to keep it going long beyond the span of its natural life.
As most of us have long suspected, the man who told Novak about Valerie Plame was Richard Armitage, Colin Powell's deputy at the State Department and, with his boss, an assiduous underminer of the president's war policy. (His and Powell's—and George Tenet's—fingerprints are all over Bob Woodward's "insider" accounts of post-9/11 policy planning, which helps clear up another nonmystery: Woodward's revelation several months ago that he had known all along about the Wilson-Plame connection and considered it to be no big deal.) The Isikoff-Corn book, which is amusingly titled Hubris, solves this impossible problem of its authors' original "theory" by restating it in a passive voice:
The disclosures about Armitage, gleaned from interviews with colleagues,
friends and lawyers directly involved in the case, underscore one of the ironies
of the Plame investigation: that the initial leak, seized on by administration
critics as evidence of how far the White House was willing to go to smear an
opponent, came from a man who had no apparent intention of harming anyone.