Unlike some others, I am not eagerly hoping for indictments to come out against those involved in the Valerie Plame leak.
First, I believe in the principle of presumed innocence until proven guilty. It is unfair to a person to assume that he has done something wrong -- and wait for him to prove his innocence.
As a matter of fact, this policy of "anybody I do not like is presumed guilty until proven innocent" is what got us into this mess -- the larger mess of the Iraq war -- to start with. Saddam Hussein was presumed guilty (of hiding prohibited weapons of mass destruction and supporting terrorism) until proven innocent. He was unable to prove innocence. Therefore, based on the assumption of guilt, we launched an ill-planned war that has cost us hundreds of millions of dollars and, as of yesterday, the lives of 2,000 soldiers.
I do not know why, but nobody seems to want to talk about the wounded. In addition to these 2,000 fatalities, 15,220 soldiers have been injured. These are people (some of them) missing limbs and organs, suffering burns and other forms of painful disfigurement. We add to this the cost of families torn apart -- fathers and mothers who are not able to be a part of their children’s lives, opportunities foregone because somebody who has a business plan cannot execute that plan from half way around the world.
And these are just the American costs – as if they were the only costs that mattered.
Federal dollars spent and soldiers' lives lost make up only a small fraction of the cost of this war, which in turned can be blamed on the policy that too many people have adopted of assuming guilt and demanding that innocence be proved.
Second, I consider the Valerie Plame affair to be like an individual who robs a bank and intentionally tries to run over the wife of a witness who tried to interfere with the robbery ultimately being charged with running a red light.
Deceit Into War
The worst crime in this case (at least in the moral sense), was an intentional campaign to lead the country into a war that Americans by deceit if necessary. The White House Iraq Group's mission was to 'market' a war -- to get people to buy a war with Iraq regardless of the merits of the product that this group was selling. They did so with outlandish claims about what would happen to us if we did not buy this product and with false and misleading statements about what it would cost.
We have good reason to suspect (and, given the nature of this suspicion, good reason to investigate whether or not it is fact) that people in the Bush Administration wanted an excuse to attack Iraq well before Bush won the election. Shortly after 9-11, these administration officials started thinking, "This can be our excuse to attack Iraq, if only we could find evidence linking them." They looked for this evidence, but they could not find any.
Then they said, "We still have a reason to attack Iraq if we can claim that they are working on weapons of mass destruction that they might give to terrorists in the future." They looked for evidence of this, and found none. Except, they found a few photographs and pieces of conversation where they said, "We could interpret this as chemical weapons trucks, and we could interpret that communication as an attempt to negotiate with terrorists." They twisted and distorted events so that they could claim these events as "evidence" that justified our attack.
They deceived us into war. The obligation to presume innocent until proven guilty does not preclude the right to investigate where there is reason to suspect guilt.
At the same time, I expect many critics of the Administration to be guilty of the same wrong. They are going to look at the "evidence" surrounding this case for signs of wrong-doing, and they are going to be more than happy to twist whatever they see into evidence of guilt. They will convince themselves that no other interpretation is possible other than the interpretation that gives them the desired results. All the while, they will be exhibiting the same moral failings that, on a larger level, brought us into war.
Ad Hominem as Administration Policy
The next crime (in the moral sense) was the White House tactic of launching personal attacks against its critics. We have a White House administration that cannot stand to discuss the issues on their merits -- perhaps because their issues have no merits. So, instead of discussing the issues on their merits, it waits for somebody to question those merits, then sets out to destroy the critic's reputation. Then, the team goes into operation to dig up anything they can find on the critic and get it into the press (mostly through its surrogate propaganda arm that consists in part, of Fox News and Robert Novak).
In all of this, President Bush himself is responsible for the moral character of his administration. If his chief political aids and advisors are involved in a campaign of "personal attack above substance" where misdirection and diversion was the order of the day.
Disclosing a CIA Operative
In the midst of robbing the bank by marketing a war with Iraq grounded on lies and misleading statements, and intentionally seeking to run over the life of Joe Wilson who protested these actions, it happened to run a red light in disclosing the name of a CIA operative.
I am not trivializing the crime of revealing the name of a CIA operative. Doing so put this country at risk. There are people out there in the world that have information that is vital to this nation's national security. People who might have given us information -- where the weight of arguments for and against were nearly balanced, now have reason to fear what would happen if they trust us.
If Joe Foreigner is talking to Jane CIA Operative (and everybody knows it), if anybody finds out that Jane is a CIA Operative they are going to start to wonder what Joe Foreigner might have told her. Joe Foreigner now has to worry about the possibility of Jane's name being leaked by White House Administration itself the moment they see a hint of political advantage to be gained. So, Joe Foreigner tells himself that he best keep his mouth shut.
What would have happened of Joe Wilson's wife had not been a CIA Operative? Would we have ended up in a situation where the White House administration lied and deceived us into war, defended its policies with ad hominem attacks on its critics rather than discussing the issues on their merits, and gotten away with it?
We would have been much better off as a nation -- we would have proved ourselves a much better and more meritorious society -- if Valerie Plume had not been a CIA agent and the White House Administration was nonetheless shown that we will not tolerate being deceived into war or administrations that attack critics in the place of discussing issues on their merits.
The deceit into war itself is a moral crime that warrants an investigation.
The tendency to attack critics rather than discuss issues on their merits should itself generate a moral outrage reflecting large jumps in disapproval ratings that teach politicians that we, as a country, will not tolerate this type of behavior on the part of our leaders.
Now, I fear that the Valerie Plame affair will hide these other possible wrongs, and the crimes of deceit into war and personal attack over substance will not get the press or the social condemnation they deserve.
Rewarding deceit into war and personal attack over substance with success will do nothing but to nourish and grow these tendencies into our culture. We cannot criticize deceit into war in others if we do not condemn it when we find it at home.
We still have the option of making sure that people are made aware of the two crimes that precipitated this investigation. We still have the opportunity to remind people that the Valerie Plame affair was possibly the result of a group of people who were living and breathing a culture of immorality -- embracing deceit into war and personal attack over substantive debate -- long before they slipped and leaked the name of a CIA operative.