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The Plame Affair


[C]rucial issues are not being discussed, and are not even thinkable. But there’s nothing new about that. I’m constantly shocked to hear, even from critics, about the bravery of the media in exposing the crimes of Vietnam, or Watergate, or other grand moments of the press — which on even superficial analysis turn out to be mostly subordination to power, as in these cases. On Iraq, almost all mainstream coverage scarcely rises to the level of the home team press about a football game: how’s our side doing? If I had the resources, I’d really like to do a comparison of the Russian press during the Afghan invasion, and plenty of other examples, and see if there is much difference, apart from change of names.

On the Plame affair, there is one important issue that is scarcely being addressed. The leaks about Plame are plausibly understood to be a reaction to Wilson’s public exposure of the deceit about Niger. One anticipated consequence of the leak was that it would strike another blow at the intelligence-gathering capacity of the CIA; the Bushites have already demoralized the agency, and many of its top investigators are apparently leaving in disgust, particularly in the Middle East section. There were bitter reactions from CIA agents in the field about how exposing Plame undermines their capacity to gain intelligence; what informant is going to trust them? Putting aside our own attitude towards the executive branch and what it does with the CIA as its instrument, it’s of interest to observe what leaking the name tells us about the mentality of the radical reactionary nationalists of the Bush administration. From their point of view, punishing minor disobedience is more important than preserving the capabilities of the CIA. That reveals a deeply fascist streak, or perhaps more accurately, a Mafia-style mentality. This is one of only many examples.

About the “opposition,” [the Democrats] it’s instructive to see their inability to register any political gains from the implosion of the Republican right. Whatever gains they’ve made are traceable to disgust with the Bush crowd, not support for the opposition. An authentic opposition party would have made significant gains.

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