Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Nutty Nut Nut

Christopher Hitchens calls the Intelligence Identities Protection Act a nutty little law. Ted Barlow calls Hitchens' piece a nutty little argument and asks
What kind of a man responds to the exposure of a CIA agent by attacking the law that makes it illegal to expose CIA agents?
Well, Reason's own Jesse Walker for one. The difference between Hitch's nutty argument and Jesse's level-headed one? Jesse's piece is actually and entirely about why the law is unnecessary---as he put it, it's "a solution in search of a problem." Hitchens does make some salient points, e.g. the law was pushed by certain folks (er, G.H.W. Bush) who saw the CIA as an adjunct of their own anti-democratic interests, and that civil liberties-minded people should be wary of laws that make it difficult to expose the terrible things that the CIA has been known to do. But a substantial portion of Hitchens' piece stinks of score-settling over the Iraq-WMD issue, such as:
This government [Niger], according to unrefuted intelligence-gathering from British and other European intelligence agencies, is covertly discussing sanctions-breaking sales of its uranium to a number of outlaw regimes, including that of Saddam Hussein.
The CIA in general is institutionally committed against the policy of regime change in Iraq.
To which Ted Barlow points out, the Iraq Survey Group
has not found evidence to show that Iraq sought uranium from abroad after 1991 or renewed indigenous production of such material—activities that we believe would have constituted an Iraqi effort to reconstitute a nuclear weapons program.
What's more, Hitchens really seems to be committed to defending Karl Rove qua Karl Rove, and there is no way he's in a position to make a statement like this:
And it appears that [Rove] did [observe the law], in that he did not, and did not intend to, expose Valerie Plame in any way.
Hitchens does not, and cannot adduce any evidence to support that claim, whereas the evidence to support the contrary position is becoming overwhelming. Surely, Hitchens doesn't mean to peddle the line that Karl Rove, in full control of his mental faculties, could tell reporters that Joseph Wilson's wife was a CIA agent without ever intending to expose Valerie Plame. As if "Plame" and "Wilson's wife" referred to different people. What crazy counterpart theory does Hitchens subscribe to? As Jesse Walker put it, "Rove's apologists have been reduced to splitting semantic hairs to deny he violated the law," and it's really heartbreaking (for me anyway) to see Hitchens among them.

A BIT MORE: Back in the heady days after 9/11 ["day everything the changed that"--Put those words in the correct order--ed.], and even during the Kosovo conflict, I remember enjoying reading Hitchens on the imperviousness of the left's Vietnam-molded worldview to new data and new phenomena. Historiography does seem to repeat itself first as farce and then as farce, which must be the reason that Hitchens continues to insist that Iraq did have a nuclear weapons program worth fighting a war over. Ted Barlow excerpted a chunk of criticism from a Slate reader, which pretty much hits the nail on the head:
(Hitchens wrote) Could it be that there is an element of politicization in all this? That there is more to Mr. Wilson’s perfunctory “no problem” report from Niger than first appears? I would describe this as a fit, if not indeed urgent, subject for public debate.
Indeed, Hitch! It’s about time someone looked into the scandal of a government agent who gets sent into Niger to find evidence of an Iraqi nuclear weapons program. . .and claims he didn’t find any?! And why? Just because an Iraqi nuclear weapons program didn’t exist? Didn’t he get the memo?


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