WPost Revives Its Plame-gate Smear

Exclusive: The Washington Post not only swallowed George W. Bush’s lies about Iraq’s WMD but the neocon newspaper spat on Americans who dared challenge those lies, especially ex-U.S. Ambassador Joseph Wilson and his CIA wife, Valerie Plame. A top Post editor has now revived that abuse, notes Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

Sometimes it seems that the humane thing to do with the Washington Post would be to counsel it on the advantages of corporate euthanasia. Then, with its faded glories of Watergate clutched to its chest, it could disappear from its embarrassing present in which the newspaper is disgracing whatever good it did in the past.

Yes, I know you could argue that even its Watergate fame was way overrated, that the newspaper missed the most important aspect of the scandal – how it originated with President Richard Nixon’s frantic search for a missing file that documented his sabotage of the 1968 Vietnam peace talks, what President Lyndon Johnson privately had termed Nixon’s “treason.”

Former U.S. Ambassador Joseph Wilson.

The Post’s misguided focus on the Watergate cover-up, rather than on the far more grievous underlying crime of extending the Vietnam War for four years, led to one of Official Washington’s silliest sayings: “the cover-up is worse than the crime.” [For details on the origins of Watergate, see Robert Parry’s America’s Stolen Narrative.]

But at least with Watergate, the Post’s editors along with reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein could be credited with keeping the pressure on so Nixon would face some accountability, a humiliating resignation. In effect, the Post helped nail this treacherous war criminal even if it was a bit like jailing Al Capone for tax evasion.

That, however, was then, not now. Over the past few decades, the Washington Post seems to have gotten nearly every big story wrong, most tragically the invasion of Iraq which the Post promoted on its editorial pages and failed to question in its news pages. Then, even as George W. Bush’s phony WMD case was collapsing, the Post turned its guns on former U.S. Ambassador Joseph Wilson for having the courage to explode one of Bush’s central lies.

Rather than show any journalistic integrity regarding its own massive failure to question the WMD case for war, the Post published a Robert Novak column that exposed Wilson’s wife, Valerie Plame, as an undercover CIA officer, thus destroying her career. But even that wasn’t enough. The Post’s editorial board spent the next several years repeating every ugly Republican talking point aimed at tearing down Wilson.

The key takeaway from the so-called Plame-gate Affair should have been that Wilson was correct in his description of his efforts in 2002, that he – along with other U.S. representatives – investigated and debunked one of Vice President Dick Cheney’s suspicions about Iraq trying to buy yellowcake uranium from Niger.

Yet, despite the U.S. intelligence community’s consensus that the Niger suspicions were false, President Bush shoehorned the allegation into his 2003 State of the Union speech as the so-called “sixteen words”: “The British Government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.”

Speaking Truth to Power

After Bush’s speech, Wilson revealed, accurately, that the U.S. government knew those suspicions to be false. Wilson was also right when he complained that his truth-telling prompted a counterattack by the Bush administration to discredit him, which included leaking to the press the fact that his wife was a covert CIA officer involved with proliferation issues  (and whose office dispatched Wilson on the mission to Niger).

So, here was a public servant who had undertaken a difficult assignment to Niger and who tried to warn the U.S. government away from some bad information. Then, when President Bush tried to deceive the American people anyway, Wilson had the courage and integrity to get the real information to the public.

You might have thought that the Washington Post would want to defend such a person. Instead, the Post went to extraordinary lengths to disparage Wilson while Bush was still in office and has continued that ugly campaign literally to this day. In an op-ed column on Monday, the Post’s deputy editorial-page editor Jackson Diehl reprised the smears against Wilson in the context of discussing the Benghazi case.

With sarcasm dripping from his words, Diehl wrote: “Remember the scandal of ‘the 16 words’? If you do, you’ve probably been inside the Beltway too long, literally or figuratively. If not, the quick version is this: A former ambassador named Joseph C. Wilson IV charged in 2003 that President George W. Bush had included in his State of the Union address a (16-word) allegation about Iraq that his top aides knew to be false — that Saddam Hussein had sought to purchase uranium from Niger.

“Wilson then amped up the ensuing partisan uproar by claiming there had been a White House conspiracy to punish him by deliberately blowing the cover of his CIA wife. Most of what Wilson said was later proved to be grossly exaggerated, or simply false. But that didn’t stop Democrats and partisan media from devoting years to conspiracy-spinning and attempts to pin political and criminal responsibility on Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney or Karl Rove. Blustered Wilson: ‘It’s of keen interest to me to see whether or not we can get Karl Rove frog-marched out of the White House in handcuffs.’”

To buttress this renewed assault on Wilson, Diehl linked – in the Post’s online edition – to one of the quibbling editorials that he and his colleagues had published to disparage Wilson years ago. So, Wilson, a private citizen who was doing his civic duty both for the government and as a whistleblower for the public, was torn down and humiliated by the Washington Post for speaking truth to power.

Accountability at the Post?

But what, you might ask, happened to the Post editorialists who got snookered by Bush’s false WMD claims and helped bamboozle the nation into a disastrous and illegal war? Well, the answer is nothing.

Fred Hiatt and Jackson Diehl remain on the Post’s masthead as editorial-page editor and deputy editor, respectively, just as they did when they were flogging the Iraq War. They and other key news executives at the Washington Post faced no accountability for getting fooled about WMD and serving as propagandists for an aggressive war.

As disgraceful as that may seem to people who actually care about journalism, the Post’s malfeasance has been compounded by the fact that no one at the newspaper apparently sees anything wrong with continuing the Hiatt-Diehl obsession to destroy Joseph Wilson, whose family has already suffered enough for his attempt to set the factual record straight.

It also speaks volumes about the disappearing journalistic standards of the Washington Post that the newspaper would allow its deputy editorial-page editor to lead off a column by making fun of anyone who bothers to remember the circumstances behind the terrible Iraq War. Diehl may find it uproarious for some people to remember the fraud of Bush’s 16 words, but it is far more laughable – in a very dark way – that Diehl is still employed in a position of responsibility inside a news organization.

At this stage, however, the pattern of journalistic misconduct at the Washington Post has been so consistent for so long that the blame cannot be placed at the feet of a few editors. The entire newspaper is a disgrace to the principles of American journalism. [For more details on this topic, see Consortiumnews.com’s “Why WPost’s Hiatt Should Be Fired.”]

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his new book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).

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15 comments on “WPost Revives Its Plame-gate Smear

  1. leslie griffith on said:

    The Washington Post is Pravda on the Potomac.

    Always has been–which makes one wonder about Watergate and Bob Woodward.

    As for Joe Wilson he is a true American hero.

  2. warren leming on said:

    The Post has long been a State Dept. — White House hand out. But for the Nixon scandal- they have invariably backed imperialist adventure, covert ops, the iraq disaster, and even attempts at post Nam white wash.

  3. William Boardman on said:

    Diehl also fails the basic conflict-of-interest test —
    since he conceals his own interest in defending
    an untenable position that had been his own.

    But the high comedy of his piece is that he feels
    free to traduce Wilson/Plame and defend Cheney/Rove
    without even mentioning the convict Scooter Libby.

  4. Steve Davies on said:

    Thank you for writing this. I was afraid the Diehl column would go unremarked upon.

    It is indeed remarkable to me that the Post’s reporting on the Wilson/Plame affair as well as the editorials and op-eds (including David Broder’s defense of Karl Rove), all followed the same tortured story line: Wilson was a pompous, hyperbolic dandy (yet the Administration eventually admitted it had been wrong to include the 16 words in the SOTU); Plame was responsible for sending him to Niger (untrue; she suggested his name in an email), and the lack of an indictment for Rove amounted to exoneration of him (In fact, I believe four or five different Bush Administration officials told journalists about Valerie Plame’s identity, not just Armitage, Rove and Libby).

    Another false claim that has been made repeatedly is that Valerie Plame was a desk jockey. Completely untrue. She was an undercover agent.

    An entire book, Hubris, by David Corn and Michael Isikoff, detailed all this, but the Post seems not to care.

  5. Marlene Michelson on said:

    Have the Wilsons sued the Post or the government?

  6. Lou Desser on said:

    It is very sad to see the depths to which the WP has sunk. I moved to DC in the ’60′s, and immediately fell in love with the WP. It did a wonderful job with its wonderful reporters and writers. It seemed as though it contained a major expose about once per week.

    The WP’s denigration of the Plames is despicable, and I will never forgive the paper for its treatment of the wonderful couple.

  7. gregorylkruse on said:

    Though I know it is a mostly thankless job, no one else I know of has enough street cred to do the job of eviscerating the Washington Post. I would like to live to see the day when the name of our national airport is changed back to “Washington” and the name of that so-called newspaper is changed to The Ronald Reagan Post.

  8. charles sereno on said:

    An Eichmann, a Rios Montt… a Diehl? No! he’s just playing around with words. Can be dangerous though, like matches.

    • exomike on said:

      “An Eichmann, a Rios Montt… a Diehl? No! he’s just playing around with words. Can be dangerous though, like matches.”

      Yes, A Deihl!

      Julius Streicher (12 February 1885 – 16 October 1946) was a prominent Nazi prior to World War II. He was the founder and publisher of Der Stürmer newspaper, which became a central element of the Nazi propaganda machine. His publishing firm also released three anti-Semitic books for children, including the 1938 Der Giftpilz (“The Toadstool” or “The Poison-Mushroom”), one of the most widespread pieces of propaganda, which purported to warn about insidious dangers Jews posed by using the metaphor of an attractive yet deadly mushroom. After the war, he was convicted of crimes against humanity and executed.
      CREDIT WIKI

  9. Gerald Perdue on said:

    “After Bush’s speech, Wilson revealed, accurately, that the U.S. government knew those suspicions to be false.” Unfortunately Ambassador Wilson didn’t reveal this truth publically until July 6, 2003 ( July 6 New York Times article entitled “What I Didn’t Find in Africa”). This was well after the March 19, 2003 invasion of Iraq. It wasn’t exactly a timely revelation. He is no hero in my mind.

  10. Frank Newman on said:

    Two different search groups would spend almost a billion dollars looking for WMD after the fighting was over. Most, if not all, had been destroyed at the end of the first Gulf War. One of the very small stories that did pop up was that Hussein did have yellow cake that was stored at an Army depot. The looters had dumped it all on the ground and stolen the steel storage barrels. It was all scraped up and shipped to Canada to be processed for nuclear power plant fuel.

  11. Luis Wainstein on said:

    There is a comment about the first Gulf War, this is incorrect as the first Gulf War was started by Saddam Hussein when he sent 1500 tanks and his entire air force to wipe out Iran, after 8 years of war both recognized 1 million casualties. This should be included with our comments about Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam,etc. I have not seen a single comment from our progressive liberals about the good things that Assad is doing for his country. They used to make the same comments about Saddam Hussein.

    • Skeptic on said:

      Yes; and this war was aided, abetted, encouraged and facilitated by the USA.

  12. Luis Wainstein on said:

    70000 killed by Assad in Syria, Bashir was declared a criminal by the International Criminal Court as responsible for genocide in Darfur and at the present moment thousands are being bombed in the Nuba Mountains in South Sudan by Bashir planes. Are these massacres facilitated by the USA? These are the conflicts that are persistently ignored by our progressive liberals, social justice advocates and peace lovers.

    Luis Wainstein