Friday 12 November 2010

Movie Review: Fair Game

A good film, a real story. This isn't your Hollywood blockbuster with whiz bang special effects; no, this is a slice of real life with real people and a real story. While a dramatic interpretation of the events surrounding the Valerie Plame affair, it shines a spotlight once again on the most nefarious of machinations about which we the general public have remained in the dark.

The Story
Joseph C. Wilson, the husband of Valerie Plame was a career diplomat in the U.S. Foreign Service from 1976 to 1998 when he retired after what seems to be exemplary service. During this time he had extensive experience in Africa and Iraq. Wikipedia tells of an important moment in his career:

From 1988 to 1991, he was the Deputy Chief of Mission (to US Ambassador to Iraq April Glaspie) at the US Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq. In the wake of Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait, he became the last American diplomat to meet with Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, telling him in very clear terms to leave Kuwait (Wilson, The Politics of Truth 107–27). When Hussein sent a note to Wilson (along with other embassy heads in Baghdad) threatening to execute anyone sheltering foreigners in Iraq, Wilson publicly repudiated the dictator by appearing at a press conference wearing a homemade noose around his neck and declaring, "If the choice is to allow American citizens to be taken hostage or to be executed, I will bring my own f**king rope." Despite Hussein's threats, Wilson sheltered more than 100 Americans at the embassy and successfully evacuated several thousand people (Americans and other nationals) from Iraq. For his actions, he was called "a true American hero" by President George H. W. Bush.

In February 2002, Wilson was conscripted by the CIA to investigate reports of Iraq trying to buy uranium in Niger. He personally went to Niger and reported that there was no evidence any of these reports were true.

In the State of the Union address of January 2003 as a run up to the war, President Bush said, "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."

The Iraq War started on March 20, 2003.

On July 6, 2003, the New York Times published an article by Wilson in which he claimed the government had misrepresented intelligence in order to justify the invasion.

The Washington Post published an article on July 14, 2003 in which a reporter, Robert Novak in talking about Wilson specifically says that his wife Valerie Plame is a CIA operative. Where did he get such secret information? Apparently disclosing such information is a crime.

At the end of September, 2003, an investigation was started that in the end, charged no one specifically for the crime of disclosing Ms. Plame as an agent however one Scooter Libby did end up charged with obstruction of justice and perjury. He was given a two and a half year sentence and a $250,000 fine.

In reading over the entire Wikipedia article about the Plame Affair, the primary source for Novak the reporter of the Plame information was Richard Armitage, the Deputy Secretary of State. Armitage has said that no convert operative's name has ever appeared in a memo. The memo he read about the Niger issue about which he spoke to Novak contained Plame's name spelled out and based on that, Armitage assumed Plame was some administrative assistant and not a covert operative. Question: Armitage is permitted to discuss CIA memos with reporters? He was never charged with anything.

As for the rest, Karl Rove, Cheney and gawd knows who else, everybody walked away scot-free.

Sixteen Words
When George Bush gave his State of the Union address in January 2003, he said, "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa." This sentence is now known as "Sixteen Words". What has come out of this incident with the subsequent investigations by media sources is the following.

The British had in fact made the accusation of Saddam seeking to buy uranium from Nigeria. The CIA had in fact categorically stated that they doubted the veracity of the claim and gave plausible reasons for this judgement. The White House argued that including the words in the president's speech was technically the truth because the British had actually said this. According to the Washington Post, no evidence of a nuclear program was ever found in Iraq. The Post also reported that "Dozens of interviews with current and former intelligence officials and policymakers in the United States, Britain, France and Italy show that the Bush administration disregarded key information available at the time showing that the Iraq-Niger claim was highly questionable."

The Bush government lied. They falsified information to justify going to war. One can only conclude that the Bush administration had decided what to do then backed up to try and piece together a logical set of reasons which would explain and validate their decision. It's a stunning story. Normally one would associate such malfeasance with North Korea or Iran or even Iraq under Saddam Hussein, the so called Axis of Evil. But we're talking about the United States for gawd's sake, the last superpower, the bastion of democracy, the fighter for liberty.

The Outing
The disclosure of Plame is unconscionable. With her name known everywhere, people who she was in contact all would all come under scrutiny and possibly be put in danger. The movie explains how she was set to arrange for the escape of people from Iraq after the war started but being outed, she was removed from active duty and as a consequence, those people did not escape and some of them ended up being killed. All this because of politics.

The Movie
Fascinating. As one who followed this affair in the newspapers and on television, it is more than the telling of a story, it is a review of what many have questioned in agonizing detail, not just about the war in Iraq but about the entire Bush presidency.

Sean Penn delivers a short speech as Joseph Wilson toward the end of the film where he warns that just a few should not have the power in the country. He then tells this story:

As Benjamin Franklin was leaving the building where, after four months of hard work, the Constitution had been completed and signed, a lady asked him what kind of government did the convention create. A very old, very tired, and very wise Benjamin Franklin replied; "A Republic, ma'am if you can keep it."

Telling words in the Bush era.

It just is
In my blog about George W. Bush's memoir, Decisions Points, I discuss the idea of how something can be so huge, there is no longer a question of it being right or wrong, it just is. An article in Reuters of November 9, 2010 pegs the current cost of the Iraq war at nearly 5,800 soldiers killed, close to 40,000 wounded and over $1 trillion. An article in The Washington Post dated March 9, 2008 puts an estimate for the final tally of the Iraq war at 3 trillion dollars. That's trillion.

The war in Iraq... well, actually the entire Bush era is so huge, there is no longer a question of it being right or wrong; it just is... well, was. The rest of us merely have to contend with the fallout, but blame? There is no blame per se, only analysis and the rest of us trying to figure out what to do now.

With the release of Bush's memoir, we are all have the opportunity to hear George's side of the story. We have the opportunity to assess the 8 year reign of Bush. The good? The bad? The ugly? I'm certain that any assessment of this presidency will be fair game.


Rotten Tomatoes: Fair Game: 80%

Wikipedia: Fair Game (2010 film)

Wikipedia: Plame Affair

Wikipedia: Fair Game: My Life as a Spy, My Betrayal by the White House,_My_Betrayal_by_the_White_House

Wikipedia: Valerie Plame

Wikipedia: Niger uranium forgeries

The Washington Post: How Bogus Letter Became a Case for War
Intelligence Failures Surrounded Inquiry on Iraq-Niger Uranium Claim
By Peter Eisner, Washington Post Staff Writer, Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Statement by George J. Tenet, Director of Central Intelligence - July 11, 2003

George Bush's Deception Points by Joseph C. Wilson - Nov 9/2010


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