Sunday, April 29, 2007



I feel like I know ex-CIA agent Michael Scheuer because of his extraordinary book, Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror. That isn't to say I swallow every single opinion he spouts. But what he's spouting about the so-called "War" on Terror, is a lot better than what Bush and Cheney-- or anyone else for that matter-- have been farting out. His OpEd in today's Washington Post is a crucial companion piece for anyone who hasn't read his books but who plans to read George Tenet's (or even just watch Tenet tonight on 60 Minutes.

He says he likes Tenet but that he let the CIA and the country down, primarily by buying into the ideological spin coming out of the White House. "At a time when clear direction and moral courage were needed, Tenet shifted course to follow the prevailing winds, under President Bill Clinton and then President Bush-- and he provided distraught officers at Langley a shoulder to cry on when his politically expedient tacking sailed the United States into disaster."

Scheuer claims that At the Center of the Storm, many of whose premises were debuted earlier by Ron Suskind and Bob Woodward (courtesy, obviously-- if not directly, of Tenet), is "disingenuous about Tenet's record on al-Qaeda." He points out how Woodward showed Tenet in a very heroic light, "warning national security adviser Condoleezza Rice of pending al-Qaeda strikes during the summer of 2001, only to have his warnings ignored. Tenet was indeed worried during the so-called summer of threat, but one wonders why he did not summon the political courage earlier to accuse Rice of negligence, most notably during his testimony under oath before the 9/11 commission."
Then there's the Iraq war. Tenet is now protesting the use that Rice, Vice President Cheney and other administration officials have made of his notorious pre-war comment that the evidence of Iraq's supposed weapons of mass destruction programs amounted to a "slam dunk" case. But the only real, knowable pre-war slam dunk was that Iraq was going to turn out to be a nightmare.

Tenet now paints himself as a scapegoat for an administration in which there never was "a serious consideration of the implications of a U.S. invasion," insisting that he warned Bush, Cheney and their Cabinet about the risks of occupying Iraq. Well, fine; the CIA repeatedly warned Tenet of the inevitable disaster an Iraq war would cause-- spreading bin Ladenism, spurring a bloody Sunni-Shiite war and lethally destabilizing the region.

But as with Rice and the warnings in the summer of 2001: Now he tells us. At this late date, the Bush-bashing that Tenet's book will inevitably stir up seems designed to rehabilitate Tenet in his first home, the Democratic Party. He seems to blame the war on everyone but Bush (who gave Tenet the Medal of Freedom) and former secretary of state Colin L. Powell (who remains the Democrats' ideal Republican). Tenet's attacks focus instead on the walking dead, politically speaking: the glowering and unpopular Cheney; the hapless Rice; the band of irretrievably discredited bumblers who used to run the Pentagon, Donald H. Rumsfeld, Paul D. Wolfowitz and Douglas J. Feith; their neoconservative acolytes such as Richard Perle; and the die-hard geopolitical fantasists at the Weekly Standard and National Review.

They're all culpable, of course. But Tenet's attempts to shift the blame won't wash. At day's end, his exercise in finger-pointing is designed to disguise the central, tragic fact of his book. Tenet in effect is saying that he knew all too well why the United States should not invade Iraq, that he told his political masters and that he was ignored. But above all, he's saying that he lacked the moral courage to resign and speak out publicly to try to stop our country from striding into what he knew would be an abyss.

This morning I drove back from the California Democratic state convention and I was listening to the radio when General William Odom's voice came over the airwaves. Recall that Odom was Director of the National Security Agency and Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence, the Army's senior intelligence officer. He is neither a Democrat nor a Republican, just a dyed-in-the-wool patriot who no one-- except of course Cheney and Rove-- could ever accuse of being soft on terror or on any enemy of this country. "To put this in a simple army metaphor," he explained, "the Commander-in-Chief seems to have gone AWOL, that is 'absent without leave.' He neither acts nor talks as though he is in charge. Rather, he engages in tit-for-tat games… I hope the President seizes this moment for a basic change in course and signs the bill the Congress has sent him. I will respect him greatly for such a rare act of courage, and so too, I suspect, will most Americans." General Odom makes it clear to anyone who hasn't been paying attention-- or who lacks the analytic facilities to understand-- that the Bush Regime has been "squandering U.S. lives and helping Iran and al-Qaeda" in his badly bungled war in Iraq.
"The challenge we face today is not how to win in Iraq; it is how to recover from a strategic mistake: invading Iraq in the first place," he said. "The president has let (the Iraq war) proceed on automatic pilot, making no corrections in the face of accumulating evidence that his strategy is failing and cannot be rescued. He lets the United States fly further and further into trouble, squandering its influence, money and blood, facilitating the gains of our enemies."

And Odom isn't alone among highly decorated and well-respected former military officers urging Bush to sign Congress' plan for winding down the war. Almost unheard of, even an active-duty Army officer, Lt. Colonel Paul Yingling, published a scathing attack on how the war has been run and botched. Like Scheuer, he feels that military officers should be held accountable and that those who see the mendacity in U.S. policies should resign and speak out. Ironically, even Bush's own handpicked pet general, David Petraeus admitted to Congress last week that the occupation in Iraq "would get harder before it gets easier" and warned of the enormous commitment and sacrifice facing the U.S. in Iraq.


Six former CIA officers wrote Tenet a letter describing him as "the Alberto Gonzales of the intelligence community," and called his book "an admission of failed leadership." They also said he has "a moral obligation" to return the Medal of Freedom he received from President Bush and to donate most of his book royalties to U.S. soldiers wounded in Iraq and families of the dead. One of the agents behind this, Larry Johnson, is a right wing hack but others are normal Americans.
The writers said they agree that Bush administration officials took the nation to war "for flimsy reasons," and that it has proved "ill-advised and wrong-headed."

But, they added, "your lament that you are a victim in a process you helped direct is self-serving, misleading and, as head of the intelligence community, an admission of failed leadership.

"You were not a victim. You were a willing participant in a poorly considered policy to start an unnecessary war and you share culpability with Dick Cheney and George Bush for the debacle in Iraq."

And Christopher Hitchens apparently crawled out of his bottle to call Tenet's new book a sniveling, self-justifying disgrace.

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At 4:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love reading your blogs. Please keep up the good work. Let us know if you ever need a band for anything.

-Michael:) (singer)


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