Sep 1 2006

The Party Line on Plame Wilson

The naming of Richard Armitage as the first Bush administration official to out covert CIA officer Valerie Plame Wilson was treated by the Washington Post editorial page (9/1/06) as proof that there was nothing to the controversy after all. Armitage, according to the Post, only “reluctantly” supported the invasion of Iraq and was “a political rival” of the officials accused by Plame Wilson’s wife, Joseph Wilson, of twisting intelligence about Iraq.

Citing a Post news story (8/29/06), the editorial claimed that Armitage told columnist Robert Novak about the leak “in an offhand manner, virtually as gossip.” Therefore, the Post concluded, the “sensational” charge is “untrue” that the Bush White House orchestrated the leak of Plame Wilson to ruin her career and thus punish Mr. Wilson in retaliation for Wilson’s criticism (New York Times, 7/6/03). “In fact,” concluded the Post, “the person most responsible for the end of Ms. Plame’s CIA career is Mr. Wilson.”

I imagine that in the Soviet era, you could read commentary like this in Pravda: “It was not the Party that sabotaged the reactionary’s career, comrades—the reactionary sabotaged his own career!”

For those looking for a less party-line understanding of Armitage’s role in Plamegate, it’s worth taking a look at former Time reporter John Dickerson’s account (Slate, 2/7/06) of being not-so-subtly pointed in Plame Wilson’s direction by “two senior administration officials” on a trip to Africa. Dickerson doesn’t quite name his sources, but he does helpfully point out that the two senior administration officials along on the trip were Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell.

Powell, of course, was Armitage’s boss (and also a “reluctant” advocate of war and a “political rival” of the true believers). If he was telling reporters to “go ask the CIA who sent Wilson” (the message Dickerson got from both “senior administration officials”), what are the chances that Armitage just happened to mention the answer to that question “in an offhand manner, virtually as gossip”? And that Armitage just happened to “gossip” the same name to Washington Post star reporter Bob Woodward (Newsweek, 11/28/05)? About the same odds that you would have gotten the straight dope on the latest Kremlin nonperson from Pravda.

P.S. You can hear Robert Parry’s brilliant dissection of the Armitage story on CounterSpin (, 9/15/06).