My thought on this whole stupid affair is this: this was a concerted retribution effort that had nothing to do with any "agressive counterargument" to Wilson's claims. Nobody has ever disagreed with Wilson's assessment that Iraq was not trying to purchase uranium in Niger. Nobody has ever taken the illogical leap that the fact that Wilson's wife was on the panel that sent him, that this undermined the actual conclusions which Wilson drew on his trip. The suggestion that this was a "junket" is assinine. A junket is a free trip on the public dole, not the conducting of important public business at public expense. Nobody has ever suggested that Wilson didn't do the job he was asked to do by the CIA, or that he didn't do it thoroughly.
But the most compelling indication that nobody actually believed in the supposed "junket" argument, and that the whole flimsy "argument" was an obvious pretense to justify outing Plame, is that this was done anonymously. If Cheney really believed this supposed argument, why not come right out himself in the press the day the article is published and say "we never believed what Joe Wilson reported because we think he didn't do a thorough job in investigating. Rather, he treated the assignment as a 'junket,' which was arranged in part by an anonymous individual with whom he had close personal ties, offering him a free trip to Africa where he didn't do the important work he was asked to do. Therefore, we disregarded his conclusions, and relied on other information we had about Iraq's attempts to purchase uranium in Africa, principally from British sources that relied on documents that many, including the CIA, felt were crude forgeries, but which we accepted because the British sources apparently accepted the documents at face value."
Is that about the worst argument ever? Would anyone have taken that counter argument seriously? Of course not, which is why the whole thing was done anonymously, and in cowardly. Joe Wilson put his argument on the front page of the newspaper with his name right on it. Why couldn't Cheney be man enough to do the same with his counterargument? Also note -- as framed above, there was an easy way to assert the argument without identifying a covert operative by name, endangering that operative's contacts and every other operative that worked for the same 'front' business, weakening our intelligence gathering on Iran's nuclear program, and destroying a career that had been devoted to US national security.