Kill (at least the career of) the messenger: Fair Game

[Rating:4.5/5]

Pros: Watts and Penn

Cons: what really happened to a dedicated agent

Fair_Game_Poster.jpg

Directed by Doug Liman (“The Bourne Identity”), based on Joseph C. Wilson’s memoir, The Politics of Truth: Inside the Lies that Led to War and Betrayed My Wife’s CIA Identity: A Diplomat’s Memoir, “Fair Game” is particularly timely with the  attacks of the illegitimate president on the professionals of the security agency.

“Fair Game” (2010) focuses on his office’s attempt to discredit former ambassador (to Gabon) Joseph Wilson’s New York Times revelation that the supposed Saddam Hussein Iraq’s purchase of yellowcake enhanced uranium , which was one of the rationales for invading Iraq (included in the 2003 Bush State of the Union address), not only did not happen but was preposterous. Karl Rove and Cheney’s chief-of-staff (and it is impossible to believe with Cheney’s knowledge and approval; indeed Scooter Libby later said that it was Cheney who told him that Plame worked for the CIA) sought to make the story not the administration’s knowing lies but nepotism, specifically, that Wilson was sent by his wife, Valerie Plame, who had been asked about her husband’s connections to Niger officials. Plame did not make the decision to send him to Niger, but the Cheney disinformation machine cast doubt on his challenge to the lie by Bush (and Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, et al.) while avoiding the substance of Wilson’s charge that the Cheney-Bush administration lied about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq in general, and the Niger yellowcake uranimum in particular.

I knew that the Bush administration recklessly exposed that Plame was a CIA covert operative (which is a felony under the Intelligence Identities Protection Act), but the movie showed some of the consequences: one can fairly say the blood of various people (70+) who had been cooperating with her is on the hands of Cheney, Libby, and Dick Armitage (who told Robert Novak that Plame was a CIA agent, which Rove confirmed, hence Novak’s report from “two senior administration officials”). Wilson contradicting Bush administration lies should not have made Plame “fair game,” and destroying her career was done without any consideration of fatally compromising those in the Middle East who could be linked to her. I know that the movie title is a criticism of what was done to Plame and her contacts. “Reckless Mendacity” would be an apt title for the whole run-up to the otherwise catastrophically underplanned conquest of Iraq.

Cheney (via Libby) seeking to make something of the aluminum tubes that the CIA was convinced were not part of a nuclear bomb-making program in Iraq and generally to cherry-pick and leak raw data to justify invading Iraq are also prominent in the movie. (In his testimony to the special prosecutor Cheney claimed not to recall information sought 72 times, a piece of the historical record not posed to him in his current press initiative.)

Having said that everyone knew there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq in an Oscar acceptance speech, Penn was a natural to be cast as Wilson and Naomi Watts was convincingly dedicated to her job playing Plame. And David Andrews was convincing as the bullying Libby (Cheney and Bush played themselves; that is, appeared in archival footage).

Alas, the movie ends with Bush commuting Libby’s sentence rather than being jailed along with Cheney for their multiple crimes. (And, during the movie’s credit, the real Plame testifying to a congressional committee appears alongside closing records, showing how much Watts looks like her).

 

©2014, Stephen O. Murray

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