by Peter Freyne
Before going out to catch former CIA covert agent Valerie Plame Wilson's speech at the Sheraton Sunday afternoon, sponsored by Vermont Woman, I swung by author/musician Marc Estrin's place in Burlington's Old North End. Hadn't been by in a few months and I wanted to get the latest casualty count on the Bush-Cheney madness.
The number on the left, , is the latest U.S. death toll in Afghanistan. In the middle,  is the latest U.S. death toll in Iraq. And on the right, [1,085,967] is the latest estimate of civilian deaths in Iraq, according to a Johns Hopkins study.
So was Ex-Agent Valerie Wilson [right] talking to Vermont reporters in the hallway before her speech. She's on a national tour plugging her new book: Fair Game: My Life as a Spy, My Betrayal by the White House.
"My parents were Republicans," said Mrs. Wilson. "I was raised Republican when that meant strong national defense, a strong fiscal policy," she said, noting it's been changed so much "to the state it's in now, that it's now hard to recognize it."
Valerie's the career undercover agent at the Central Intelligence Agency outed by the White House in Robert Novak's column in 2003. V.P. Dick Cheney's Chief of Staff Scooter Libby got convicted for the leak, but then
received a presidential pardon* (see correction below) - no jail time.
Hey, he was just doing his job, right?
As Wilson told the admiring crowd of 800 in the Emerald Ballroom, had "senior administration officials been sitting across from a Russian journalist at a fancy restaurant in downtown Washington and given him my name, that would have been called 'treason.'
"Why is it called anything different when it's filtered through an American journalist?"
Good question, eh?
The former CIA agent told the gathering the American invasion of Iraq "was in many ways a response to an unproven academic theory put forward by the Neocons that democracy would blossom, that the invasion, conquest and occupation of Iraq would really just get democracy blooming throughout the region!"
During the Libby Trial, she noted, "What came out very clearly was the extent to which the media, the White House press corps - has a symbiotic relationship with this administration. That's nothing new, but the extent to which this administration has used intimidation tactics is unprecedented!"
Mrs. Wilson highlighted the "quite striking" fact regarding the "very little shoe leather that was expended by the media on the reasons for going to war." The Washington press corps, she said, was "spoon-fed everything by the administration."
Sad, but true.
"Now it's true - anything the President says is news, but it seems to me we were let down by the media because they didn't actively pursue the mid-level managers at the Pentagon, the State Department and elsewhere. They could have told them a little different story."
Nov. 3 post - This from Marc Estrin. I got it wrong on the "pardon."
I did want to correct one thing in your blog. Scooter Libby was not pardoned; his sentence was commuted. This was very savvy of the Bush lawyers. It leaves the case still open and "on appeal". Therefore Bush/Cheney/Rove can continue to argue that they cannot comment publicly because it's an ongoing investigation. Libby paid a small fine the very afternoon it was demanded -- if I recall, $250k -- but he had already raised $3+ million from Republican fatcats for the "Scooter Libby Defense Fund".
All in all, another good job done cheaply by the administration. Bread & Puppet made the same mistake for a "Pardon Me" circus act this summer, but no one would listen to me and accept the distinction. It was a funny act, though, with the puppeteers handing out pardons to the audience like pre-Luther indulgences, without charge.