Witch hunts and hunters

Where do we find them? The men and women who are willing to stand up against a vengeful media, ready to launch the justice system against its political enemies? Because that is what we saw in Washington yesterday, with the stomach-churning guilty verdict against Lewis Libby ---  presented by a one-time writer for the Washington Post and Tim Russert neighbor who just happened to be the jury foreman. 

This site has covered the legal issues in detail, showing that the case against Libby is shabby indeed.  Mr. Lewis Libby, as far as we can know him, seems a good and decent man, a man of integrity and loyalty, a kind and upright man, in the words of our long tradition. If we can judge him by the company he keeps, the trust he has earned from the Cheney and Bush families is a good sign.  But nobody deserves the atrociously unjust verdict obtained by a prosecutor fishing for thought crimes, far removed from the original charges --- which we now know to be false, since Richard Armitage has publicly confessed to leaking Plame's name to the media. So this is a double and triple injustice, a frameup of a frameup of a frameup. 

The winners are a corrupt and self-serving CIA bureaucracy, a deeply mendacious media, and a tantrum-throwing Left. The losers are all of us who may have to face a politicized legal system at some point in our lives.

But it is Libby who must pay the price.

If Lewis Libby comes out looking like the Good Guy unjustly prosecuted, the list of malevolent and corrupt members of the DC establishment is very long indeed. Foremost is Richard Armitage, Colin Powell's right-hand man, who leaked Plame's CIA job to the media and then sat on his guilty knowledge for years, when a public admission could have cleared Lewis Libby.  Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald now looks like nothing more than a legal witch-hunter, easily manipulated by the Washington Post and the New York Times. Our corrupt media have tarnished their image even more than before, if that is possible. Today they look incompetent and wildly sloppy as well as prejudiced; a "high-tech lynch mob," as Justice Clarence Thomas called them when he was finally approved by the Senate after a similar sleaze-fest.

NBC's Tim Russert once looked like that rarity, an honest journalist; today he is morphing into Dan Rather. And the Justice Department and CIA now look like a backstabbing and above all dangerous ship of fools. Powell and Armitage will never again have jobs in a GOP administration, and if Senate Republicans have any memory at all, they will veto the Powell Gang for any future jobs at all. 

Harry S. Truman was right: If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog. But this deeply unjust verdict also weakens the presidency in a time of war --- who can be trusted when the CIA can mount a de facto coup against the president? When the Office of Special Prosecutor was phased out after the Clinton impeachment, the idea was to eliminate political witchhunts under color of law. But weakness (or betrayal) at the Justice Department allowed a new Special Witch Hunter to be created out of whole cloth.

The movie Witchfinder General harks back to the age of Oliver Cromwell in 17th century England, when official witch finders went from village to village, looking for women and men to accuse and eventually burn at the stake.

But the practice of witchhunting calls forth very basic human emotions: The need for scapegoats, the power of the mob, the corruption of justice. Those ingredients exist in every society at all times. Today in the United States the mainstream media play the frenzied mob; conservatives make the best witches --- see Clarence Thomas, Newt Gingrich, Oliver North --- and the US Department of Justice will bend to all the prevailing winds.

It's not a pretty sight.

James Lewis blogs at http://www.dangeroustimes.wordpress.com/