Berger's treatment was light compared with that of Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, Scooter Libby. Special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald prosecuted him for perjury and obstruction of justice for making statements contradicted by journalists Tim Russert and Matt Cooper, and last week, the 11-member jury found him guilty on four counts. He could face years in jail. The case arose out of attempts by Libby and others to refute the charges of retired diplomat Joseph Wilson that the administration had manipulated intelligence before the Iraq war.
Wilson is the Titus Oates of our time, a liar whose lies served the needs of a political faction. Oates's lie was that there was a "popish plot" to murder King Charles II; Wilson's lie was part of the "Bush lied and people died" mantra that has become the canonical version of history to much of the mainstream media and the Democratic Party.
Wilson's story, retailed to journalists and then presented in a column in The New York Times, was that he had debunked evidence that Iraq was seeking uranium from Niger and that his report had circulated in the highest levels of the administration; he suggested that he had been sent to Niger in response to a request by Cheney.
In fact, as a 2004 bipartisan report of the Senate Intelligence Committee found, all those claims were false, as well as his denial that his wife had recommended him for the Niger trip.
Still, the "Bush lied and people died" mantra resonates. Yet there was no lie. Given Saddam Hussein's previous use of weapons of mass destruction and his refusal to cooperate with weapons inspectors, George W. Bush had to assume he had WMDs, just as Bill Clinton had before him -- as we were reminded by Hillary Rodham Clinton's speech in favor of the Iraq war resolution.
The Libby verdict in no way undercuts that. But the Republicans are running behind in the battle to write history.