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Saturday, February 27, 2010

I was fired today for voicing my opinion. I guess I should've shut up.

Conflicts arise in many forms, the most common being political and personal. The nastiest ones involve one side gaining the upper hand at undermining the other side’s ability to effectively defend themselves, or express their case, or perspective on the issue. Take for instance the case of Valerie Plame Wilson, the ex covert CIA operative who made international headlines on July 14, 2003, when she was callously outed by Washington Post journalist, Robert Novak, in his column. As a result, Plame’s career as a couterproliferations (CTP) agent came to an end.

Although the Plame scandal, otherwise known as Plamegate, may be considered as old news, there are still many valuable lessons to be learned from that scandal—especially those related to pursuing the guilty, regardless of station, and holding them accountable for their actions. Regardless of status, if one is the victim of an unjustified malicious act that is either aimed at discrediting, belittling, defaming, or humiliating you, allowing the guilty party to silence you only gives the perpetrator more power over you.

Cover of Cover via AmazonIn Plame’s memoirs, Fair Game: My Life as a Spy, My Betrayal by the White House, she describes the tumultuous events that she and her husband, former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, faced once Novak’s infamous article was published. For those that are not familiar with Plamegate, allow me a summary. Joe Wilson was sent to Niger by the CIA to determine whether Iraq had ever attempted to purchase yellowcake uranium. In his debriefing by the CIA, he told them that he did not find any evidence of the sort. The CIA then relayed their results—based on Wilson’s claims—to the White House. Yet, the Bush administration still invaded Iraq in 2003 under the pretext that the US Government had obtained proof that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. Four months later, Wilson wrote an op-ed in the New York Times titled: What I didn’t find in Africa. The article detailed how the Bush administration twisted intelligence in order to justify the invasion of Iraq. In retaliation, senior White House officials leaked the identity of his wife to the press in order to discredit him. Although the Wilsons faced problems that ranged from severe financial difficulties and death threats, they fought back. And despite the fact that all odds were against them, their plight inspired others to come forward and support them. As a result, Plamegate ended with the indictment and conviction of I “Scooter” Libby, the Chief of Staff to former Vice President, Dick Cheney. Although Libby was the only White House staff member to face jail time (brief as it was), others such as Karl Rove, Richard Armitage, and Cheney—the Big Dick of them all—did not walk away from the incident without their reputations being severely tarnished.

Many victims of harassment, either sexual or psychological, could learn from the Wilsons. In many cases, many victims of harassment would rather take the easy route and walk away. For example, many victims of workplace harassment would rather change jobs rather than stick up for their own civil rights. The act of walking away plays into the hands of bullies and gives the success and psychotic euphoria they crave. Furthermore, people who do not stand up and defend themselves against personal injustice supply their victimizers with more daThis photo is on the Valerie Plame wikipedia p...Image via Wikipediangerous power to inflict pain and wreck havoc on other lives.

The Wilsons fought back against one of the highest offices in the nation. Yes, the battle was lengthy, stressful, and at times even fraught with danger. But in the end they emerged victorious and much stronger than those who tried to smear and ruin them. Many victims of harassment or other forms of psychological torment, for reasons of a personal nature, chose not to go the same path as the Wilsons. However, the lesson to be learned from their experience is clear. You don’t have to be a giant to stand up for your rights and face the bully, you only need courage and intelligence.

Donations to the Joe and Valery Wilson Legal and Support trust available here.
Russell Brooks is the author of the action/thriller, Pandora's Succession, and the short story, To the Last Bite

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