Scooter Libby and the Sixteen Words
by Jerome Grossman
Irving Lewis Libby has been found guilty by a federal jury on four of five counts: guilty of obstruction of justice, of making false statements to the FBI, of committing perjury while under oath before a grand jury. The rule of law has been upheld. A high-level official, a person who was the top aide to the Vice President of the United States is not above the law. Irving was Cheney’s Cheney, the enforcer of Cheney’s will and policies, grim-faced distributor of the Vice President’s opinions driving the nation to a failed and mistaken war and the occupation of Iraq.
Irving’s alter ego is called Scooter, a nickname that cries out for intimacy and pleasantry, for easy smiles and gossip. Nobody named Scooter could possibly harm anyone. Scooter is receiving a tremendous wave of sympathy from those who condemn Irving: the jurors who convicted him, the media that reported the trial, and the partisans of the right and left.
The right minimizes the crimes, calls the accusations political even though they were undertaken by the Bush administration at every level. Support for Scooter seems to translate into support for the Iraq War. President Clinton was impeached for perjury: Martha Stewart and Alger Hiss went to jail for perjury; millions of citizens have been punished for lying under oath but Scooter is a victim who ought to be pardoned.
From the left, Scooter looks like an errand boy. The real criminals are the promoters of the Iraq War, those who lied and misrepresented the intelligence that persuaded the Congress and the American people to authorize the President.
The greater crime has been ignored: the fateful sixteen words spoken by President George W. Bush on January 28, 2003 in his State of the Union address that was crucial in the drive to war. “The British Government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.”
Those sixteen words were false. The CIA knew it, told the President, and had the words stricken from the President’s speech in Cincinnati the previous December. The International Atomic Energy Agency said the documents were not authentic, that the accusation was unfounded.
In the legal, political and emotional turmoil about Libby, these sixteen words are ignored. Yet they were the basis for the original investigation about uranium in Niger. That caught the Scooter. The conviction of Libby should remind us of the ultimate swindle – the sixteen words.
Did Cheney and Libby insert them? Will we ever know?