Not since Leni Riefenstahl folded up her director's chair has the world seen such a shameless bit of film propaganda as "Fair Game," the new Sean Penn movie that purports to tell how "[Valerie] Plame's status as a CIA agent was revealed by White House officials allegedly out to discredit her husband."
In the season of WikiLeaks, when 250,000 raw bits of intelligence are floating around the Internet, it is hard to remember why anyone thought that revealing the identity of a Langley desk jockey was newsworthy, let alone scandalous.
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Still, lest America forget, Hollywood has reheated the fiction the media created around Plame and husband Joseph Wilson and served it up as Technicolor fact. The fraud astonishes:
- No, Sean, the White House did not reveal Plame's name. That leak came, as everyone knows, from State Department second banana Richard Armitage, an outspoken foe of the White House.
- Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald knew this from the beginning of his investigation. So why portray Karl Rove and Scooter Libby as the film's villains when they were the innocent victims of an overzealous prosecutor and a cheerleading media?
- Wilson claimed that Cheney's office sent him to Niger in February 1992 to check out reports of yellowcake sales to Iraq. In fact, Plame did. In one of the film's few honest moments, the Wilson character frets because the Senate has called him out on this little discrepancy.
- In real life, the allegedly tight-lipped Plame first leaked her undercover status, according to Wilson, in the middle of a "heavy make-out" session on their third or fourth date. How many other Plame boy toys learned of her true identity?
- At the time of this revelation, Wilson was still married to his second wife. As you may know from experience, Sean, the CIA has never had a case officer as relentless as a good divorce lawyer.
- In real life, Wilson's trip to Niger did not prove to him the emptiness of Saddam's WMD boasts. When he first put his anti-war sentiments in writing eight months after his Niger trip – he worried that "Saddam will use every weapon in his arsenal to defend himself."
- By every weapon, of course, Wilson meant the soon-to-be mocked WMDs. "As the just-released CIA report suggests," Wilson continued, "when cornered, Saddam is very likely to fight dirty."
- Two weeks earlier, the CIA had published a National Intelligence Estimate titled "Iraq's Continuing Programs for Weapons of Mass Destruction." "Iraq [has been] vigorously trying to procure uranium ore and yellowcake," reads the report. Plame was a WMD specialist at the CIA.
- The Wilson character in the movie knows that Saddam had no WMDs even before the war. By contrast, the real Wilson shared his belief with a peace forum two months post-invasion that "we will find chemical and biological weapons, and we may well find something that indicates that Saddam's regime maintained an interest in nuclear weapons."
- At this same forum, Wilson argued that we went to war in Iraq "to provide the Israeli government with greater wherewithal to impose its terms and conditions on the Palestinian people." This soft-core anti-Semitism did not make the movie.
- When Wilson first met with the New York Times to advance his specious claims that Bush lied about WMD, he brought the still "undercover" Plame with him, despite the CIA prohibition against her meeting with the media without permission.
- In the history of cinema, Hollywood has never before shown a CIA case officer to be as competent, as consequential and as patriotic as the chatty make-out artist Plame.
- In one of the film's more insulting moments, an Iraqi scientist tells Plame pre-war that there are no nuclear weapons and, by implication, no WMDs. Knowing there were no WMDs, the movie's White House went to war anyhow. My audience gasped at the imagined evil.
- No, Sean, Plame was not involved in secreting nuclear scientists out of Iraq, and her blown cover did not result in their deaths. Please!
- In the film's funniest moment – I spontaneously guffawed – the Wilson character claims that he and his wife had no interest in publicity.
"If you leave out absolutely everything that might give your 'narrative' a problem and throw in any old rubbish that might support it," said Christopher Hitchens to that master of fraud, Michael Moore, "and you don't even care that one bit of rubbish flatly contradicts the next bit, and you give no chance to those who might differ, then you have betrayed your craft."
The Wilsons and their enablers not only betrayed their many crafts – including CIA tradecraft – but in so doing they have also betrayed their country.