Tuesday, December 07, 2010

The Wilsons Got (Fair) Game!

On Friday, I decided to treat myself to a movie. For several weeks, I have been wanting to see the film Fair Game but could never fit it into my busy schedule. Part of the problem is that the film is only playing in ONE theater in Portland: Fox Tower, my favourite theater in the metro area because it plays the movies I want to see (it caters to the intelligent film goer with critically acclaimed, Award nominated, foreign, independent, and documentary films). When I lived downtown, I could catch the late show because it was only a ten minute walk from my apartment. Now that I depend on public transit, I always have to keep the last bus of the night in mind when I am downtown in the late evenings. Had I still lived downtown, I would have caught the late show on opening night.

Fair Game is one of the very few films that I was really excited to see this year and it did not disappoint. Unlike Howl (which I was a little disappointed with, though I thought it was good for the most part), Fair Game hit a homerun with me. What's not to like? Its based on a real event, its about politics, deals with international issues, slams the Bush Administration, and shows us a little bit how the Central Intelligence Agency works. I loved this movie. I was taken in from the start as I learned more details from a story I was pretty familiar with.

If you have been in hibernation since the stolen election of 2000, Fair Game is about the petty revenge of the Bush Administration that revealed the identity of a CIA Agent to discredit retired Ambassador Joseph Wilson, who had written an essay refuting President George W. Bush's claim that Saddam Hussein had bought yellow cake uranium from Niger. Outing a CIA agent is considered a criminal offense that carries a prison sentence and a hefty fine. In fact, in 1991 President George Herbert Walker Bush had this to say about a CIA outing scandal: "I don't care how long I live, I will never forgive Philip Agee and those like him who wantonly sacrifice the lives of intelligence officers who loyally serve their country." The Elder Bush served as the Director of the CIA before he became Reagan's Vice President. He also said: "Even though I'm a tranquil guy now at this stage in my life, I have nothing but contempt and anger for those who betray the trust by exposing the name of our sources. They are, in my view, the most insidious of traitors." Oh really?!? But it's okay when junior does it? What a phony hypocrite!

Now I'm no defender or fan of the Central Intelligence Agency, but it says something about the wretched evilness of the Bush Administration to make me side with an organization I consider to be more dangerous than the Mafia. The biggest reason why I dislike the CIA is because I believe that this organization is immoral, as well as responsible for sowing a lot of seeds of discord in the world. Yeah, they like to pretend that they are simply an "intelligence gathering organization" to protect our country from our enemies. I have no problem if it was limited to just that. But...as any political science major learns in college, the CIA has been responsible for undermining popularly-elected governments in Chile, Guatemala, Iran, Cuba and the Phillippines, among others. Thugs like Manuel Noriega and terrorists like Osama bin Laden were on the CIA payroll, until they thumbed their noses at the U.S. and suddenly found themselves at the center of a major manhunt (Operation "un"-Just Cause in 1989 for Noriega; Operation Peek-a-Boo, We Don't See You for bin Laden since 2001).

When I interned in D.C. a decade ago, I was fortunate enough to go on a tour of the CIA Headquarters in Langley VA (part of the White House internship program, which made my BYU Washington Seminarians jealous because the facilitator was not able to secure a tour due to the fact that we had three foreign students on our program). At the main building (named The George Herbert Walker Bush Center for Intelligence), they have a quote from the Bible on the wall: "Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free." The problem with working for the CIA is that you're expected to tell the truth to your supervisors but lie to everyone else.

As one Iraqi immigrant lady asked CIA Agent Valerie Plame in the film, how does one keep the truth straight when they have to lie all the time to people. Her response is that you have to remember why you're telling the lie in the first place. Its about gaining critical information. I couldn't be a CIA agent, because I'm such a horrible liar. I have always felt bad when I lied to someone. I generally believe in being brutally honest at all times. The times where I've had to lie to keep someone else's confidence, I always felt bad about being put in such a situation. One example of this was when my brother had called me a couple hours before I had planned to call our mom. He revealed that he had gotten evicted from his apartment a month earlier. He did not want me to tell mom and said that he would tell her the next time he talked to her. When I talked to mom, I knew she was going to ask about him and I hated not being able to tell her. All I said was, "That is something Chris is going to have to tell you himself."

Another time was when I visited some church members I knew in Norfolk VA. As young men in the early 1990s, Nathan and I became friends because of this middle aged couple from church. In 2000, I visited them one weekend and I knew that they were going to ask me about Nathan, since he didn't keep in touch with them and they knew that he and I were close friends. Nathan told me not to tell them that he was engaged and getting married in a few months. I told him that he needed to call them up and tell them before my visit. He didn't. When they asked me about him, I hated that I was sworn to secrecy. I wanted to tell them everything, but I kept my word to Nathan. I can't tell you how awful it feels for me to withhold information or to lie to someone. It is not right for others to expect me to lie for them. It puts me through such inner turmoil. This is when having a loyalty gene sucks.

One of my roommates during the D.C. semester happened to be the most honest person I have ever met. I trusted him completely, even if we had disagreements over music, pop culture, and religion (he was a big time moralist). When we had a conversation about working for the CIA (because one fellow intern was really interested in working for that organization), Jantzen said that he would make an awful agent because he couldn't lie. He made a joke that as an agent, he would ask someone nicely for information he needed rather than go through the pretense of being a friend and working for some fake company as a cover. When he said that, I knew I had a kindred soul, someone who felt just as badly as I when asked to lie to someone.

I think there is a spiritual price for lying and any organization that is based on it is as far away from spiritual as one can get. Thus, I consider it a great sacriledge that this organization has a Bible quote on the wall of their headquarters building. What would Jesus do? He wouldn't be a damn CIA agent, that's for sure! Having to tell lies in the course of one's work and then keeping track of what you told to which person just seems to require too much energy and I wouldn't be surprised if many CIA agents end up mentally ill at some point. Or else they are pathological liars, which means they are perfect for the agency.

Naomi Watts plays Valerie Plame, a CIA agent working to secure weapons of mass destruction around the world through her network of informants. Her job takes her to places like Kuala Lumpur, Amman, and who knows where else. Her husband, Joseph Wilson (played by the excellent Sean Penn) knows that she is CIA but when she says that she's flying off to Cleveland for a few days, he doesn't really know if she's really going there or going to another location. I imagine that it has to be especially difficult for agents with children. Because children are generally honest and unreliable about keeping confidences, a CIA parent obviously has to lie about his or her work.

The drama of the film supposedly follows real-life in chronological order. The director wanted to make a factually accurate film, which is understandable. The movie is not just meant to entertain, but to inform, and to vindicate Wilson and Plame against the villainous regime of George W. Bush. Joseph Wilson comes across as the uncompromising hero devoted to exposing the lies no matter how uncomfortable or dangerous it gets for his family. The differences in how they handled the crisis nearly drove a marriage to divorce. Wilson is committed to the truth at all costs, while Plame remained loyal to the best interest of the CIA, which is ironic considering how they threw her under the bus. Bush administration officials who leaked her identity to reporter Robert Novack (whom I've always despised. He's a neo-conservative stenographer propagandist pretending to be a journalist) destroyed her career. CIA agents exist in anonymity. Once the cover is blown, they are useless to the organization and all their contacts in countries around the world could be at risk for extermination by enemies. None of that matter to the Bush regime. It was all about revenge, revenge, revenge.

Pictured above are the real Joseph Wilson and Valerie Plame. The movie Fair Game has their endorsement and they have appeared on the Charlie Rose Show promoting the movie. I really hope they were paid well by Hollywood. Thank God Hollywood is overrun by liberals. If one has been on the receiving end of Bush's bullying ways, all they have to do is sell their story to Hollywood.

The term "Fair Game" for the book and movie comes from a comment Karl Rove had told the Sunday morning political talk show host Chris Matthews: "Wilson's wife is fair game." In the game of politics of personal destruction, whatever information you have on someone to destroy their credibility, you should use without thinking of the consequences or what might be best for the country.

Ambassador Joseph Wilson has a distinguished career. He served various diplomatic posts in Africa (Niger, Gabon, Congo, Togo, Sao Tome and Principe, and South Africa) and the Middle East (Iraq). He is known as the last American to have met with Saddam Hussein (in 1990 or 1991). In the film, Wilson (Sean Penn) told a friend one of the most chilling quotes I have ever heard. Apparently, Saddam had said this: "I would rather kill my closest friends in error than to allow my enemies to live." That is the mark of an evil man. Hopefully, he's still burning in hell (he was executed on my 35th birthday in 2006). In addition to serving these diplomatic posts, he was also a Congressional Fellow for Senator Al Gore in the 1980s.

My path crossed with Ambassador Wilson in 1997, when I served my two week Naval Reservist duty at the American military base in Vaihingen, Germany (near Stuttgart). He was in his last week there and he had a farewell meeting. I had helped put together his farewell ceremony booklet. When I read his biography sheet, I was impressed because he had the career I hoped to have some day. I talked to him a little bit about how to make that happen. I forget what he said. I had forgotten about him until Bush made him a famous man in 2003. When I saw his photo on TV and in magazines, I thought he looked familiar but it didn't dawn on me that he was the guy I had met at Patch Barracks in Germany until he published a book in 2004 about his work experience as well as the fight with the Bush administration on the weapons of mass destruction claim in the 2003 State of the Union Address.

During that State of the Union, Bush laid out his case for why we needed to take out Saddam Hussein. I remember the ridiculousness of that address, because he was using data from the late 1980s, mentioning that Saddam had gassed his own people. Yeah, that famous incident happened in the late 1980s and it merited exactly ZERO outrage among conservatives and Republicans who were citing it as a reason for going to war in 2003. Hypocrites! Saddam had a chemical weapons lab because of people like Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld, who were buddies with the dictator in the 1980s. But it was just 16 words from that address that became the subject to much attention: "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa." Future Americans will wonder why Bush was not impeached and removed from office for making that statement (when Clinton was impeached for his comment: "I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky"). If I ever meet GWB, I would recite those sixteen words back to him just to see how he reacts.

The first ludicrous thing about Bush's infamous sixteen words was why he would commit U.S. troops to a war based on BRITISH government intelligence. We have our own intelligence agency to base American foreign policy on. The truth is that Bush did not have clearance from the CIA to include that line in his address. He was told by the CIA to take it out, but his speechwriters kept putting it back in. They wanted a war against Iraq by any rationale that it took to get Americans to go along (using the spectre of 9/11 and the existential threat WMDs presents, rather than saying that its a nation-building mission or that we're going to liberate our oil from those greedy Arabs).

The second infuriating thing about the sixteen words is that Africa, the world's second largest continent, gets credit for doing business with Saddam. It infuriates me when people always refer to Africa in one lump mass. When people travel to Europe or Asia or Latin America, they generally say which country they are going to, but whenever Africa is mentioned, the entire continent is named. Since I can name most of the nations of Africa from memory (I impressed a Jamaican girl at BYU with my knowledge because she didn't think a non-black person would be able to name more than five countries in Africa), I want to know which country they are talking about. After all, there's a huge difference between South Africa and Senegal, Egypt and Ethiopia, Mozambique and Morocco. I think Bush probably mentioned the continent rather than name a specific country so he would not be pinned down for exposure. They knew they were lying, and there's nothing that a liar hates more than being exposed as the naked emperor that he is. The truth is that the Bush Administration based the rationale for war against Iraq on a forged document written by a graduate student. I'd love to see a future president base his or her decision on one of my political science papers!! That would be the ultimate honour. Ha!

One does not work a career in the Foreign Service without gaining some lifelong contacts, which is what Joseph Wilson had done. The CIA had sent him to Niger to talk to his contacts to find out the truth about the document that Bush cited in his address. Wilson learned that there was no way a sale of uranium that required 50 trucks would be able to be unnoticed. There were too many procedures and potential witnesses to a convoy of trucks (a rare event in Niger). He concluded that there was no way Saddam had sought to buy anything from Niger. As our soldiers found out early on, there were no WMDS found in Iraq (though loyal Fox Propaganda viewers swear that its true). Nothing might have ever come of Wilson's fact-finding mission if he hadn't been so audacious in writing an essay that appeared on the op-ed pages of The New York Times in July 2003. It was titled "What I Didn't Find in Africa." I'll give you three guesses on what he didn't find.

The sordid saga produced hers and his books. Valerie Plame's book, though, has several pages where black lines appear over whatever she supposedly wrote. Redacted info. I don't know if she purposefully designed her book to take on this appearance or if the CIA really did go through her book to redact sensitive or secret information.

Wilson's book is more than just a rehashing of his and Plame's experience at the hands of Bush goons. Its also an autobiography, where he makes a case for living overseas and what life is like for a Foreign Service officer. I like his writing style and when he came to Portland in May 2008 to campaign for Hillary Clinton for president, I got him to sign my copy of his memoirs, which he personalized of his own initiative: "With regards and fond memories of Patch Barracks."

Sean Penn does a great job channeling Joseph Wilson's persona. One can't help but walk out of the theater admiring Wilson and Plame for standing up to the bullying Bush administration and showing what true courage looks like. Its awesome to see someone committed to speaking the truth to power and not backing down. Someday in the spiritual realm, I wonder how the soul of Bush will feel when he has to come face to face with all of his lies, deceit, and petty revenge against anyone who dared to stand up to him and reveal him for the fraud that he has been all his life. When you have the Tillman family, Wilson, Plame, the Gore family, and Cindy Sheehan against you, how do you sleep at night?

I highly recommend this film. I hope that it gets a Best Picture nomination, as a poke in the eye against Bush Administration officials. That would be awesome! This was a story that had to be told and more Americans need to learn more about what happened. The guy who plays Scooter Libby is downright scary in a bone marrow chilling way. Too bad his prison term got commuted. Justice on earth is imperfect, but just wait until the karmic boomerang makes a reappearance when these people least expect it. Ka-pow!

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