Scooter Libby can be counted another casualty of the Iraq war. Compared to most of the other casualties, he has got off pretty lightly. The consensus seems to be that he will get a relatively short spell in prison – not the 25 years he could be liable for.
In the end, the case against Libby rested on the outing of a CIA agent and the messy details of a cover-up. But the origins of his downfall lie in the Bush administration’s frantic efforts to make the case for the Iraq war. Libby’s boss Dick Cheney asserted in the run-up to the war that there was no doubt that Saddam Hussein was in possession of weapons of mass destruction and had an active nuclear programme. It was Libby’s efforts to try to shore up the argument that Saddam was going nuclear – by smearing people who had cast doubt on the claim – that ultimately did for him.
The Libby affair is reminiscent of the Kelly affair in Britain – which led to the suicide of a government scientist and two government inquiries. Once again, it was the belated realisation that the evidence on Iraqi WMD had been wildly over-spun that lay at the origins of the scandal – and that ultimately ruined lives.