To make some sense out of what was going on with Karl Rove back in 2003 we need to recall the climate of the time. Wolfowitz testified that the reasons within the administration for going to war with Iraq were the threat of WMD, support for terrorism, and the treatment of the Iraqi people. There was the most agreement on the WMD item. There was much more disagreement on the terrorism aspect. Many doubted the strength of Saddam’s terrorism threat. His connection to the enemy of the moment, bin Laden, was tenuous at best. And just to helping Iraqis didn’t seem like enough of a justification to risk the lives of American troops. Therefore the WMD threat was seen as the most essential piece of the plan to go to war.
There’s a little known aspect of British law that comes into play here. In the U.S. it is illegal for the government officials to lie to investigating authorities. But in the U.K. lying and evasion by government officials is not a criminal offense and happens routinely. In fact our intelligence community uses this little wrinkle to send out disinformation. You subcontract the desired lie to a compliant British official and it gets into play and no one is the wiser. This is something that needs to be remembered any time anyone publicly relies on statements made by British officials. They don’t have the same standard of veracity to which we are accustomed on this side of the pond.
When George Bush relied on British statements that they had intelligence about Iraq actively seeking uranium from Africa, there is no reason to believe that what the Brits were saying was, in fact, true. The administration knew that the African link was blown in the States but he could get mileage from the British claim.
But the last thing the war party needed was a credible witness going around telling everyone that the African link was completely bogus and based on poorly forged documents. They needed to make sure that the wheels didn’t fall off. Wilson had to be neutralized as much as possible and an example had to be made of him in case anyone else thought about getting righteous. Rove’s mission was to smear Wilson to the press and make him look like a low-level has-been hack. And what better way than to spin his trip to Niger at the behest of the CIA as a make-work job supplied by his CIA wife? It worked just long enough to get the congressional approval Bush needed to launch his war.
When the press puts these dots together it won’t be Rove doing the frog-march but Bush, Cheney, and Tony Blair. But it’s too late for the families who have lost loved ones in a war that has insufficient justification. If there were justice in this world there would be war crime proceedings against the leaders who got us into it.