Sunday, July 17, 2005

Karl Rove? Please. I couldn’t care less. This week finds me thousands of miles from the Beltway in what I believe the ABC World News Tonight map designates as the Rest Of The Planet, an obscure beat the media can’t seem to spare a correspondent for. But even if I was with the rest of the navel-gazers inside the Beltway, I wouldn’t be interested in who “leaked” the name of CIA employee Valerie Plame to the press.

As her weirdly self-obsessed husband Joseph C. Wilson IV conceded on CNN the other day, she wasn’t a “clandestine officer” and, indeed, hadn’t been one for six years. So one can only “leak” her name in the way one can “leak” the name of the check-out clerk at Home Depot or the busboy at Denny’s.

Back when Woodrow Wilson ran for president, he had a campaign song called “Wilson, That’s All.” If only. With Joe Wilson, it’s never all. He keeps coming back like a song.

But in the real world there’s only one scandal in this whole wretched business — that the CIA, as part of its institutional obstruction of the administration, set up a pathetic “fact-finding mission” that would be considered a joke by any serious intelligence agency and compounded it by sending, at the behest of his wife, a shrill politically motivated poseur who, for the sake of 15 minutes’ celebrity on the cable gabfest circuit, misled the nation about what he found.

This controversy began, you’ll recall, because Mr. Wilson objected to a line in President Bush’s State-of-the-Union address that British intelligence had discovered Iraq was trying to acquire “yellowcake” — i.e., weaponized uranium — from Africa. This made Mr. Bush, in Mr. Wilson’s incisive analysis, a “liar” and Vice President Dick Cheney a “lying sonofabitch.”

In fact, the only lying sonofabitch turned out to be Yellowcake Joe. Just about everybody on the face of the Earth except Mr. Wilson, the White House press corps and the crowd accepts that Saddam was indeed trying to acquire uranium from Africa. Don’t take my word, for it; it’s the conclusion of the Senate intelligence report, Lord Butler’s report in the United Kingdom, the British external intelligence agency MI6, French intelligence, other European services — and, come to that, the original CIA report based on Joe Wilson’s own briefing to them. Only Yellowcake Joe knows why he then wrote an article for the New York Times misrepresenting what senior figures from Daouda Mallam Wanke’s Niger regime told him.

As I wrote in this space a year ago, an ambassador, in Sir Henry Wootton’s famous dictum, is a good man sent abroad to lie for his country; this ambassador came home to lie to his.

What we have here is, in effect, the old stand-by plot of lame Hollywood conspiracy thrillers: rogue elements within the CIA trying to destabilize the elected government. If the left’s view of the world is now so insanely upside-down that’s the side they want to be on, good for them.

But “leaking” the name of Mr. Wilson’s wife and promoter within the CIA didn’t “endanger her life” or “compromise her mission.” Au contraire, exposing the nature of this fraudulent, compromised mission might conceivably prevent endangerment of the American people’s lives.

Here’s the thing: They’re still pulling body parts from London’s Tube tunnels. Too far away for you, no local angle? OK, how about this? Magdy el-Nashar. He’s a 33-year old Egyptian arrested Friday in Cairo, and thought to be what they call a “little emir” — i.e., the head honcho in the local terrorist cell, the one who fires up the suicide bombers. Until his timely and temporary disappearance, he was a biochemist studying at Leeds University and the London bombs were made in his apartment. Previously, he was studying at North Carolina State University.

So this time around he blew up London rather than Washington. Next time, who knows? Who cares? Here’s another fellow you don’t read much about in America: Kamel Bourgass. He had a plan to unleash ricin in London.

Fortunately, the cops got wind of that one and three months ago Bourgass was convicted and jailed. Just suppose, instead of the British police raiding Bourgass’ apartment but missing el-Nashar’s, it had been the other way round, and aerosolized ricin had been released in the Tube.

Kamel Bourgass and Magdy el-Nashar are real people, not phantoms conjured by those lyin’ sonsofbitches George Bush and Dick Cheney. And to those who say that’s why Iraq is a “distraction” from the war on terror, sorry, it doesn’t work like that. It’s not either/or; it’s a string of connections: unlimited Saudi money, Westernized Islamist fanatics, supportive terrorist states, proliferating nuclear technology. One day it all comes together and there goes the neighborhood.

Here’s another story you may have missed this week: “Iran will resume uranium enrichment if the European Union does not recognize its right to do so, two Iranian nuclear negotiators said in an interview published Tuesday.”

Got that? If you don’t let us go nuclear, we’ll go nuclear. Negotiate that, John Kerry. As with Bourgass and el-Nashar, Hossein Moussavian and Cyrus Nasseri are real Iranian negotiators, not deranged Bush and Cheney war fantasies.

The British suicide bombers and the Iranian nuke demands are genuine crises. The Valerie Plame game is a pseudo-crisis.

If you want to talk about Niger or CIA reform, fine. But, if you seriously think the only important aspect of a politically motivated narcissist kook’s drive-thru intelligence mission to a critical part of the world is the precise sequence of events by which some White House guy came to mention the kook’s wife to some reporter, then you’ve departed the real world and you’re frolicking on the wilder shores of Planet Zongo.

What’s this really about? It’s not difficult. A big chunk of American elites have decided there is no war; it’s all a racket got up by Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney. And, even if there is a war somewhere or other, but not where Mr. Bush says. Iraq is a “distraction” from Afghanistan. And, were there no Iraq, Afghanistan would be a distraction from Niger, and Niger is a distraction from Valerie Plame’s next Vanity Fair photo shoot.

The police found the suicide bomber’s head in the rubble of the London bus, and Iran is enriching uranium. The only distraction here is the pitiful parochialism of our political culture.

Mark Steyn is the senior contributing editor for Hollinger Inc. Publications, senior North American columnist for Britain’s Telegraph Group, North American editor for the Spectator, and a nationally syndicated columnist.

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