Lou Quacious

Unseen Outsider Insight....

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Mission Accomplished or Impossible?

President Bush marked the fourth anniversary of his infamous “mission accomplished” speech with an address that seemed to imply the fight was just beginning and any attempt to end the war with a timeline or by other means was nothing less than a declaration of defeat. With the war dragging on four years past its supposed accomplishment you have to wonder what the game plan is now or if there even is one. Hopefully none of the leadership envisioned the morass of misery that’s been unleashed in the wake of the invasion, but what exactly were they expecting to happen in such a volatile and hostile region.

Former CIA chief George Tenet’s new book is out and he’s been everywhere peddling it so we are finally hearing some of the truths about the build-up to war. We don’t seem to get the full story until it’s time for the book tour, long after the revelations are of any consequence and far too late to make a tangible difference. Tenet was asked recently why he didn’t come out sooner and his response was that he didn’t want to “write angry,” like his only possible venue for going public was writing a book post-retirement. Why wasn’t he doing the rounds on the talk shows, expressing his reservations back when it could have affected policy and possibly kept us out of an unnecessary war?

It seems a confrontation with Saddam Hussein was inevitable from day one with the Bush Administration regardless, and September 11th only hastened and legitimized the drive towards war. Richard Perle is said to have come to Tenet just after 9/11 talking about how Iraq had to pay a price and Saddam must bear responsibility, this made him wonder who in the White House Perle had been meeting with so early on. Perle on the other hand claims to have never said anything remotely like this and that Tenet is merely trying to shift blame to the White House and away from the CIA for the intelligence failures. Tenet seems to contend all available intelligence pointed towards the likelihood of weapons of mass destruction existing in Iraq(thus no failure) and even if it hadn’t the administration was going to make the intelligence fit their pre-arranged agenda in any event .

Condoleezza Rice has said it was “intelligence failure’s worldwide” and not Tenet or anyone else’s fault they all got it wrong, but if the rest of the world thought of Saddam as such an imminent threat why was our coalition of the willing so sparse? Bush and Cheney were going to war no matter what, they just wanted it to look good and justified when they did and Tenet regardless of what he says was complicit in that. Even if his “slam dunk” contention was based on bad information he knew they were manipulating his agencies assumptions and being imprudently impatient when it came to using force. He says the administration misused his “slam dunk” comment and it wasn’t as boisterous or definitive as Woodward had everyone believe. He claims to have stopped one speech by Cheney on the eve of war that he thought oversold the threat, but what does one speech so late in the game matter when months of rhetoric had been exaggerating and distorting the menace. The ship had already sailed and he was onboard with their message, he could have gone public or to congress with his supposed qualms but he didn’t. Maybe such a move would have slowed the run-up to war or created enough uncertainty about the sensibility and feasibility of an Iraq invasion and occupation as to have made it too politically radioactive to proceed with maybe not. We’ll never know because he said nothing.

Tenet who resigned in June of 2004 oversaw the CIA in two critical periods (pre-9/11 and pre-Iraq war) and botched both of them fatally, yet he feels comfortable having received the Medal of Freedom for his efforts to fight terrorism. He says he and the CIA were responsible for taking out 2/3 of al-Qaeda and saved thousands of lives by diffusing many potential threats in ways the public will never know about, undoubtedly, but let’s look at what we do know.

On “Meet the Press” recently, Tenet spoke at length about the summer of 2001, a time period we now know was extremely crucial in intelligence circles, as this was the time that “chatter” about the impending attacks was at its peak. He said as early as March he started alerting various officials outside his agency about a burgeoning threat from Osama bin-Laden and his affiliates and in July he went to Condoleezza Rice and said an attack was imminent. In early August he informed the President personally about his certainty that bin-Laden and al-Qaeda had everything in place for a major attack, on American soil, soon. He then wondered why nothing seemed to be happening operationally to thwart this definite and defined threat, yet he sat on his hands all summer as the evidence mounted to overwhelmingly alarming levels. If he had gone public or at least leaked something to the media about how the CIA was positive a large scale terrorist attack was looming the resulting hysteria/publicity could have delayed or derailed the plot. While he didn’t necessarily drop the ball he definitely didn’t pull out all the stops, more could have been done to mitigate disaster if the CIA really was so certain it would occur.

So what were Tenet’s accomplishments in his tenure? There was a supposed plot to assassinate Al Gore in Saudi Arabia while he was Vice President that was foiled. Numerous attempts by al-Qaeda to obtain nuclear weapons were hindered and so was an alleged plan to release cyanide gas in New York subways. We’ll never know for sure the extent to which the world is better off because of Tenet’s involvement only where he faltered and the consequences of his lack of initiative are widespread. He could have had a hand in stopping the largest terrorist attack in history and discouraging the worst foreign policy move by this country ever, neither of which he did. He sat idly by taking notes on it all for his memoirs and now wants us to not blame him or the agency he presided over for the numerous missteps, oversights, and gaffes that lead us to war.

While all the blame surely doesn’t rest with Tenet, there is plenty to go around, but some of it does land squarely at his and the CIA’s feet. The neocon’s and their ilk are the most to blame, but we shouldn’t let the enablers off the hook either. And that includes the pliant congress, the malleable press, and the mistaken intelligence community. It seems if everyone had done their jobs a little more thoroughly and been a tad less hasty when it came to something as significant as waging a war we might not be where we are today; stuck in an intractable debacle with no clear, clean end in sight.


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