Hollywood myth-making on Valerie Plame controversy
WE'RE NOT in the habit of writing movie reviews. But the recently released film "Fair Game" - which covers a poisonous Washington controversy during the war in Iraq - deserves some editorial page comment, if only because of what its promoters are saying about it. The protagonists portrayed in the movie, former diplomat Joseph C. Wilson IV and former spy Valerie Plame, claim that it tells the true story of their battle with the Bush administration over Iraqi weapons of mass destruction and Ms. Plame's exposure as a CIA agent. "It's accurate," Ms. Plame told The Post. Said Mr. Wilson: "For people who have short memories or don't read, this is the only way they will remember that period."
We certainly hope that is not the case. In fact, "Fair Game," based on books by Mr. Wilson and his wife, is full of distortions - not to mention outright inventions. To start with the most sensational: The movie portrays Ms. Plame as having cultivated a group of Iraqi scientists and arranged for them to leave the country, and it suggests that once her cover was blown, the operation was aborted and the scientists were abandoned. This is simply false. In reality, as The Post's Walter Pincus and Richard Leiby reported, Ms. Plame did not work directly on the program, and it was not shut down because of her identification.
The movie portrays Mr. Wilson as a whistle-blower who debunked a Bush administration claim that Iraq had tried to purchase uranium from the African country of Niger. In fact, an investigation by the Senate intelligence committee found that Mr. Wilson's reporting did not affect the intelligence community's view on the matter, and an official British investigation found that President George W. Bush's statement in a State of the Union address that Britain believed that Iraq had sought uranium in Niger was well-founded.
"Fair Game" also resells the couple's story that Ms. Plame's exposure was the result of a White House conspiracy. A lengthy and wasteful investigation by a special prosecutor found no such conspiracy - but it did confirm that the prime source of a newspaper column identifying Ms. Plame was a State Department official, not a White House political operative.
Hollywood has a habit of making movies about historical events without regard for the truth; "Fair Game" is just one more example. But the film's reception illustrates a more troubling trend of political debates in Washington in which established facts are willfully ignored. Mr. Wilson claimed that he had proved that Mr. Bush deliberately twisted the truth about Iraq, and he was eagerly embraced by those who insist the former president lied the country into a war. Though it was long ago established that Mr. Wilson himself was not telling the truth - not about his mission to Niger and not about his wife - the myth endures. We'll join the former president in hoping that future historians get it right.