April 30, 2007
Another Bush Administration castoff has resurfaced. Who will be next? Don Rumsfeld? First it was Paul D. Wolfowitz, ex-Deputy Director of the Pentagon, now it’s George J. Tenet, ex-CIA Director. Both were intimately involved in dragging Uncle Sam into the Iraq quagmire, the former as an advocate, the latter as an enabler. We all know where “neocon” apparatchik Wolfowitz is coming from. While one is justified in feeling revulsion when contemplating such discredited “neocon” luminaries as Wolfowitz, Libby, Perle and Feith, all of whom are directly responsible for the Iraq war and the aftermath, it is a different story with ex-CIA Director George Tenet. A Bill Clinton carryover, Tenet appears to be little more than an ambitious functionary who lost his way in the heady, dishonest world of Washington, and decided to go with the flow, no matter what. I realize that Dante said “The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in times of great moral crises maintain their neutrality,” but Dante was exaggerating.
In the context of railroading American into an unnecessary war, one can almost sympathize with Tenet’s predicament. He was surrounded by “neocons” and their fellow travelers. At the time please take into account that most of official Washington, with very few exceptions—Capitol Hill as well as the White House—was agog for war, so well had the propaganda of the “neocons” and the pressure tactics of the Israel Lobby worked. If Tenet had been diligent and done his homework, he could have informed Cheney and Bush, “Hey, this is crazy. The CIA possesses no indication, much less hard evidence, of WMD in Iraq. The country has been disarmed and neutered by a ten-year embargo of military supplies. Comprehensive economic sanctions have spread malnutrition and disease, killing off as many as 500,000 children. Iraq has been under lock down, and we control its airspace. Iraq is a shell of its former self, and is certainly no conceivable threat to the United States. As for the connection between Saddam and Bin Laden, there is none.” Or words to that effect, which facts Cheney and Bush did not want to hear.
If we were expecting George Tenet to do something like that amidst the hysteria prevailing in Washington and in the country at large during the 2002-2003 run-up to “Operation Iraqi Freedom,” clearly we were expecting too much. Tenet would have been viciously slammed as soft on terrorism, soft on national security and as a defeatist in the “neocon” manufactured contest known as the “clash of civilizations.” Tenet would have been out of a job. On the positive side, maybe he could have derailed the rush to war, even stopped it. We will never know. As it turns out, Tenet is being ridiculed now for good reason, after losing his precious job. In terms of ridicule, one has only to read Maureen Dowd’s NY Times column “More like an Air Ball” to see that Tenet is an outsized target, thanks to his new book, At the Center of the Storm, and deservedly so.
Does Tenet believe he can rehabilitate himself at this point by writing a kiss-and-tell-all book, in which he criticizes Dick Cheney? He can’t. In a word, impossible. Cheney’s ratings and credibility are next to zero, where they should be. It’s a cake-walk now to eviscerate Cheney. His policies are a disaster. The Vice President of the United States belongs either in a monastery, doing penance, or in a federal penitentiary, doing time. Tenet claims that what set him off was Bob Woodward’s 2004 book Plan of Attack. The White House strategy session at which Tenet uses the now infamous phrase “slam dunk” is described in some detail. Having leaked it to Woodward, Cheney then used the incident on “Meet the Press” to offload the blame for the war to the CIA, implying that Tenet’s “slam dunk” findings necessitated the invasion. Only complete fools or professional purveyors of “neocon” agitprop like Rush Limbaugh, Bill Kristol and Fred Barnes could possibly have believed such nonsense, to wit, that warnings from the CIA were the basis for invading Iraq. Still, it was the apotheosis of hypocrisy and falsehood, and Tenet took umbrage, or says he did.
As we know, the policy came first, then, almost as an afterthought, came the “intelligence” to justify the policy. Dick Cheney was in charge of both, not the CIA or G.W. Bush. It was Cheney who determined what the intelligence was, not Tenet. It was Cheney who believed, or who pretended to believe, the Feith-based blarney coming out of the Lie Factory in the basement of the “neoconized” Pentagon. Please understand, my non-elitist friends, that it was at the Pentagon, not the CIA, where the true “intelligence” could be found. One had to accept as trustworthy the Feith-based “intelligence”, because Douglas Feith, Esq. was such an unbiased, objective information gatherer. That was clear from Feith’s previous articles on the subject of Israel and the Middle East, wasn’t it? In short, one can only wonder what George Tenet was doing and thinking when Douglas Feith and his fellow “neocon” apparatchiki were fabricating “intelligence” for the Vice President.
Well, it appears that Tenet was busy briefing G.W. every day, and doing errands on his behalf. Like stepping over to the UN to help out the Administration’s other arch-enabler, Colin Powell, to sell bogus intelligence to the UN Security Council. With Tenet and Powell, we are talking about team players and frontmen above and beyond any conceivable rationale known to rational men, other than just wanting to be part of the scene at any cost. Perhaps you can remember watching that UN showdown in February, 2003. Powell was solemnly delivering his bilge to the Council, with the aristocratic French foreign minister, Dominique de Villepin, observing Powell and listening to the presentation with a perplexed expression which strongly hinted that, insofar as de Villepin was concerned, Colin Powell had lost his mind. Seated directly behind the hapless Powell were CIA Director George Tenet and career Washington factotum, UN Ambassador John D. Negroponte, about whom the less said the better.
Negroponte wisely kept his head buried in papers. Ditto for Tenet. Was he embarrassed? No doubt he was. But from time to time, Tenet would look up, and sheepishly gaze over the magnificent room and at its distinguished occupants. With his ironic smile, Tenet proclaimed softly but clearly, “Are we actually going to get away with this?” In his just-released book, Tenet now states, “That was about the last place I wanted to be. It was a great presentation, but unfortunately the substance didn’t hold up.” Indeed, it didn’t. But the CIA Director put that misinformation together for Powell to deliver, didn’t he? One can only wonder if George Tenet strongly suspected, as he sat there in the shadows, that what was coming out of Colin Powell’s mouth was so much flapdoodle. Perhaps Dante was right after all.