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Last Updated: Wednesday, 7 March 2007, 12:27 GMT
Washington diary: Libby, the movie
By Matt Frei
BBC News, Washington

The investigation lasted almost three years and it cost millions of dollars. The trial took three weeks and the jury deliberated for 10 long days. And now we know.

Lewis Libby outside court in Washington
White House aide Lewis "Scooter" Libby: convicted of perjury
Ambassador Joe Wilson told Larry King last night that he and his wife Valerie Plame have signed a deal with Warner Bros of Hollywood to offer their consulting services - or maybe more - in the making of the forthcoming movie about the Libby trial.

It is not clear whether the former ambassador with the flowing grey mane will play himself or whether Harrison Ford could step up to the plate.

Will Cate Blanchett take the part of Valerie Plame or will the blond beauty appear as herself?

The names are made for Hollywood. Valerie Plame sounds like someone out of a Raymond Chandler thriller.

Scooter Libby could have been dreamt up by Quentin Tarantino for a remake of Reservoir Dogs.

Libby, the diminutive, courteous and mildly poetic consigliere reminds me of Posca, Caesar's freed slave and flunky in the HBO drama Rome. He even sports an uncannily Roman hairstyle.

Heroes and villains

The backdrop of Washington intrigue and backstabbing is of course a gift for any movie maker.

As President Harry Truman once said: "If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog!" The conflict in Iraq adds the necessary poignancy.

HAVE YOUR SAY
Libby is almost certainly a fall guy, although hardly an innocent man
Karl Petrick, Kingston, Jamaica

I can see the studio bosses salivating now. "This material practically writes itself," they will exclaim.

But does it? Who are the heroes and who are the villains?

Even the jury admitted that it sympathised with the defendant, although not enough to exonerate him from the specific question at hand: did Scooter lie under oath?

As the valiant and lonesome champion of truth who takes on the mighty administration and its henchmen in the White House of black lies, Ambassador Joe Wilson seems a little too glamorous.

By the way, I have a few questions. If he discovered in the summer of 2002 after his trip to Niger that Saddam Hussein was not trying to buy yellow cake concentrated uranium in Africa, why did it take him a year to go public?

Should he not have piped up in the run-up to war, at a time when the administration was making its arguments about WMD and not after the invasion had already taken place?

Valerie Plame and Joseph Wilson
CIA agent Valerie Plame was revealed as an undercover agent
And, I am sorry, but how could someone as unavoidably stunning as Valerie Plame ever go undercover? It would be like having Madonna as a store detective!

The role of the villain is also not as obvious as it may seem.

The man who actually leaked Valerie Plame's identity as a CIA agent was the former number two to Secretary of State Colin Powell, the solidly built, "tell-it-like-it-is" Dick Armitage.

By all accounts he passed on the relevant information to the journalist Robert Novak as a piece of gossip.

Mr Armitage did not even know that Ms Plame had been undercover.

He wanted to highlight the fact that Ambassador Joe Wilson had been dispatched on his high-level fact finding mission to Niger by none other than his own wife.

In other words, Ambassador Wilson was the beneficiary of a marital junket. What is more Dick Armitage was always quietly against the Iraq War. So, in Hollywood terms he would make a lousy villain.

'Prince of Darkness'

That leaves the vice-president.

OK, I admit, this one is easy. After all, Dick Cheney has been rehearsing for the part of Prince of Darkness ever since he was in his mid-30s.

Remember too, it was the vice-president who was put in charge of the exploratory committee to find a suitable candidate for vice president by George W Bush.

He reached the conclusion that no-one could do the job better than himself. So let Dick play Dick. No actor would come close.

US Vice President Dick Cheney
Libby was chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney
The problem here is not so much the characterisation but the plot.

This trial may have revealed how the administration went after one critic. But it failed to produce the smoking gun, the one phrase, the one picture, the one fingerprint that might have nailed the vice president to the conspiracy.

So given all these loose ends could "Scooter Libby, The Verdict" ruin the administration?

I doubt it.

Libby's crime may be rooted in the lingering questions about why we went to war. But it no longer comes as a surprise.

America has had three years to get used to the idea that the administration did not exactly err on the side of caution when it came to pre-war intelligence.

Casualties of war

What the public wants to know now is how the troops can come home with minimal losses, a shred of dignity and the avoidance of a regional war.

The stakes are too high for Middle America to lose sleep about what Scooter said and when he said it.

His goose is cooked. The scandal is just another log on the fire of dismay and disappointment in a White House that has long lost credibility.

The rats and mould at the Walter Reed medical facility have probably inflicted far more damage on the administration than Tuesday's guilty verdict.

I was struck by a black-and-white photograph dating back to 2003. It showed Dick Cheney conferring with Don Rumsfeld while Scooter Libby looks on attentively.

One has been sacked, one will probably go to jail - unless the president pardons him - and one has been sidelined.

They are, after all, the most high-profile casualties of their own war.

There is only one way the Libby saga can scoot to the next more damaging chapter. And that is if Scooter reveals the grimy entrails of the Bush White House.

That is assuming he possesses genuine, incriminating information and the public is prepared to believe a man who has been convicted of lying under oath.

In Hollywood they have a word for scripts that are bought by a studio but never made into a movie. They are "optioned". Perhaps that will be the fate of this incomplete story.


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