Unfair Game

12/08/2010 05:23 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Dr. Charles G. Cogan Associate, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard's Kennedy School

Although Naomi Watts is a subject of continuing fascination, I can hardly believe her claim, in the role of Valerie Plame in the film "Fair Game," that she was beaten up as a part of her CIA training at "the farm." Things just don't happen that way, certainly not to young American CIA aspirants.
There also seems to be a whiff of hyperbole in the acts of derring-do in Iraq by Naomi/Valerie, including contacting an Iraqi nuclear scientist who was later left high and dry with his family at a Baghdad bus stop - their exfiltration having been decommanded by the CIA because of an op-ed by husband Joe Wilson exposing the myth of uranium from Niger ordered by Iraq, and the subsequent attempt by forces in the Bush Administration to smear the ex-Ambassador and "out" his wife.
The clips of Administration officials, from George W. Bush on down, concerning "mobile labs," "aluminum tubes" and "45 minutes" prep time for Saddam's weapons, when shown in sequence, demonstrate just how much this was an exercise in marketing, not intelligence.
The verisimilitude to actual players is impressive. There is a weatherbeaten George Tenet, a rotund Karl Rove, and a spot-on Scooter Libby. Even the distinctive-looking Sean Penn, because of a thick mane of dark hair, bears a passing resemblance to Joe Wilson.
The film, like the earlier "The Good Shepherd," which has more manifold distortions, is good cinematography. This shows that fiction is stranger than truth, and therefore more attractive to viewers.

Editor's Note: Charles Cogan was the chief of the Near East-South Asia Division in the Directorate of Operations of the CIA from August 1979 to August 1984. It was this Division that directed the covert action operation against the Soviets in Afghanistan. He is now a historian and an associate of the Belfer Center's International Security Program at Harvard University's Kennedy School.