“I’m so bored. I hate my life.” - Britney Spears

Das Langweilige ist interessant geworden, weil das Interessante angefangen hat langweilig zu werden. – Thomas Mann

"Never for money/always for love" - The Talking Heads

Tuesday, December 30, 2003


"If the accused says that she is innocent and falsely accused, and that she wishes to see and hear her accusers, then it is a sign that she is asking to defend herself. But it is an open question whether the Judge is bound to make the deponents known to her and bring them to confront her face to face. For here let the Judge take note that he is not bound either to publish the names of the deponents or to bring them before the accused, unless they themselves should freely and willingly offer to come before the accused and lay their depositions in her presence And it is by reason of the danger incurred by the deponents that the Judge is not bound to do this. For although different Popes have had different opinions on this matter, none of them has ever said that in such a case the Judge is bound to make known to the accused the names of the informers or accusers (but here we are not dealing with the case of an accuser). On the contrary, some have thought that in no case ought he to do so, while others have thought that he should in certain circumstances.
But, finally, Bonifice VIII decreed as follows: If in a case of heresy it appear to the Bishop or Inquisitor that grave danger would be incurred by the witnesses of informers on account of the powers of the persons against whom they lay their depositions, should their names be published, he shall not publish them. But if there is no danger, their names shall be published just as in other cases. -- Malleus Maleficarum, "The Hammer of Witches"

Badly formed categories create deformed acts.

As we wrote in the last post, the motive for Libyan acquiescence in purging itself of WMD has been much discussed,. Either the Iraqi invasion scared Khadaffi, or Khadaffi was already at the negotiating table, forced to it by the sanctions. Libya had already made moves to conciliate the West over Lockerbie before the invasion of Iraq, so there’s a lot to be said for the latter position. On the other hand, there’s nothing like a crude show of force to make an aging dictator wet his pants. And so on.

However, there’s an air of unreality about the whole discussion. Libya doesn’t need an atom bomb at the moment, but it would like, awfully, an influx of a couple billion dollars worth of “conventional” weaponry. The insistence on distinguishing between WMD and other weapons has the effect of allowing other weapons to be sold. These other weapons have been, overwhelmingly, the cause of mass destruction since Hiroshima. The casualty list is in the tens of millions. There’s been no mention at all of Libya’s recent history in all the reports about Libya’s offer. Naturally – how dare a country like Libya even have a history! But, in spite of the American idea that the rest of the world’s history is like tv – it only happens when we turn it on – history is going on even when the screen is dark and our studios are asleep. Libya has every reason at the moment to prefer the buying of tanks to the creating of an atom bomb. There is the non-report, in this country, of Libya’s aggression in Mauritania; Libya has caused trouble with its neighbors before, invading Chad, defeating an Egyptian army, etc., etc. Again, one would think that an administration that has pretended to be concerned about guarding Iraq’s neighbors from an aggression that wasn’t even on the horizon, in the case of Saddam H., would be alert to the aggression that is actually happening in Libya. But that would be to put too much faith in the propagandists who run the Pentagon. Still, this, one would think, would come up, be part of the news discussion at some point. Our bet is that it will … in two or three years from now. On page E, in some Sunday section of some paper, pigeonholed jovially as just one of those unexpected consequences.

And that’s an old history in itself. Paper’s are definitely not for connecting.

Right before Christmas, part of the Libya story, and part of our own history itself, became detached from the lock of the status quo. That’s always interesting. Edwin Wilson, who, with much fanfare, took a fifty year sentence for selling Khadaffi weapons in 1982, was partly vindicated in an appeals court in Houston in November, with the judge making particularly nasty comments about the prosecutorial team that withheld from Wilson the knowledge that an affadavit they had procured from the CIA stating that Wilson had no contact with the agency after he left it in 1971 was fraudulent, and had been found to be so by the CIA itself, and had been known to be so by the prosecutors themselves, whose willful concealment of this knowledge put a man in prison for thirty years.

It is a sign of the times that this decision was greeted by an editorial in the Washington Post that had the craftsmanship of the kind of thing Pravda used to spin out for Brezhnev. In other words, it was intellectually vacuous, morally vicious, and terminally silly. It isn’t surprising that the WP is now a fairly conservative paper. The D.C. establishment has been Republican since the Reagan years. It would be as odd for the W.P. to be out of synch with the Industry as it would be for the Los Angeles Times to diss the Oscars. However, the WP has a record of investigating the ways of power, and that is something it has to preserve, since the core of its identity is wrapped up in the various myths of Watergate and such. However, the Wilson case has always stuck in the WP’s craw. We’ve gone back and read what the papers said at the time of Wilson’s arrest and trial, in 1981 and 1982. The NYT was surprisingly hard hitting about the evidence for a CIA-Libya connection – while the WP confined itself to a few articles that did not, as they say, move the story along. It was obviously a story that, even at the time, the Post did not want to see moved along. This editorial exhibits that spirit of inertia and face-saving:

Thursday, November 13, 2003; Page A30

FOR THE PAST two decades, Edwin Paul Wilson has been a kind of prototype of a rogue intelligence operative. The former CIA officer was convicted in a series of trials in the 1980s of illegally selling arms and explosives to Libya -- and, after he was lured back to face trial, of seeking to have prosecutors and key witnesses killed. Mr. Wilson's defense on the arms-dealing crimes was simple: He was still working for the agency, he claimed, and the deals were a means of securing intelligence, which he then passed on. His high living and cozying up to Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi were merely cover. He was no rogue but a patriot.

Unsurprisingly, Mr. Wilson's success in marketing this theory to judges and juries has been limited, because the evidence is overwhelming that he is, as the government alleges, a vicious, self-serving thug. But recently a federal judge in Texas threw out one of Mr. Wilson's convictions in particularly animated and angry language. In the main, the decision by U.S. District Judge Lynn N. Hughes seems a justified response to astonishing prosecutorial misconduct that cries out for investigation. But Judge Hughes does not stop there. He seems as well to validate the substance of the former spy's trial defense and even compares him to Japanese Americans interned during World War II. Such victimhood Mr. Wilson's history will not bear."

Etc. Etc.

The toady's distinction between a rogue and a patriot -- as if they were mutually exclusive categories -- comes right out of the era of Joseph McCarthy. What is suprising about the WP editorial is that it doesn't at all grapple with the consequences of Wilson's trial -- consequences that are very D.C.-centric. After all, Lynn Hughes has all but accused a retired federal judge on the most prestigious federal court, the DC Federal District court, of colluding in a felony. One would think that this would stir even the lizard like blood that flows in the veins of the Post Editorial staff. Well, it doesn't. From this editorial, you would never know that the 'one" of the convictions thrown out by the court was the main one, and that it has the effect of freeing him. The DoJ quietly folded, December 23rd, announcing that they wouldn't appeal the case. It is, eminently, the type of case that could burn too many fingers, now, if it is fully disputed in another trial. But not to worry -- in our next post, LI will engage with this and other issues. Where the Post fears to tread, we will tread -- with spike healed boots.

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