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Sharansky, 173 others plead leniency for Libby

by ron kampeas, jta

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washington | "I am not an American citizen," Natan Sharansky begins, and then goes on to make a very American case for leniency for Lewis "Scooter" Libby.

"I hope that in deciding this sentence, you will consider the views of those like me who experienced him as a fine American public servant and a good man," the former Israeli Cabinet minister and prisoner of the Soviet gulag wrote May 1 to federal Judge Reggie Walton.

Sharansky's letter, among 174 appealing for leniency — an unusually high number — were to no avail. On Tuesday, Walton sentenced Libby to 30 months in prison, less than the 37-month maximum but considered high by many analysts.

Libby was convicted of obstructing the investigation into who leaked the name of covert CIA operative Valerie Plame in 2003 as part of a White House retaliation scheme against her husband, Joe Wilson, a prominent Iraq war critic.

Libby, who is Jewish, was the top adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney.

Sharansky was not the only major Jewish figure writing on Libby's behalf. Indeed, the letters seemed equally divided among leading Jewish public policy figures; leading personalities from Cheney's home state of Wyoming; Libby's former government colleagues; and friends and neighbors, including his dentist.

Some of the notable names pleading for leniency included Henry Kissinger and former Jewish officials who worked for President Bush, including Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle and Douglas Feith.

Also Eliot Cohen, a Middle East analyst about to start service as a top foreign policy adviser to Condoleezza Rice; Norman Podhoretz and Midge Decter, the first couple of neoconservative theory; and Walter Reich, a former director of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Arye Genger, a New York businessman who served as a liaison between former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and the Bush administration, credited Libby with trying to reduce civilian casualties among Israelis and Palestinians during the second intifada.

"His meticulous efforts with regard to issues concerning the prevention of loss of innocent lives and human suffering on both sides were remarkable," Genger said.

Also attesting to Libby's dedication to bringing about Israeli-Palestinian peace was James Wolfensohn, the former World Bank president and major Jewish philanthropist who until recently was a top peace envoy to the region.

Perhaps the most poignant letter was from Leon Wieseltier, the Jewish philosopher and writer who said Libby had helped his family out of a legal situation some years ago and "did not charge us a dime."

Wieseltier said that ideologically he is "despised by neoconservatives like Libby," but added: "We do not have the same politics, but there is more to life than politics, even in Washington. About his character I would put my own hand on the Bible."


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