Friday, April 27, 2007

The rush to war...

Former CIA director George Tenet vents some spleen about the handling of intelligence in the runup to the Iraq invasion.

George J. Tenet, the former director of central intelligence, has lashed out against Vice President Dick Cheney and other Bush administration officials in a new book, saying they pushed the country to war in Iraq without ever conducting a “serious debate” about whether Saddam Hussein posed an imminent threat to the United States.

The 549-page book, “At the Center of the Storm,” is to be published by HarperCollins on Monday. By turns accusatory, defensive, and modestly self-critical, it is the first detailed account by a member of the president’s inner circle of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the decision to invade Iraq and the failure to find the unconventional weapons that were a major justification for the war.

“There was never a serious debate that I know of within the administration about the imminence of the Iraqi threat,” Mr. Tenet writes in a devastating judgment that is likely to be debated for many years. Nor, he adds, “was there ever a significant discussion” about the possibility of containing Iraq without an invasion.

Mr. Tenet admits that he made his famous “slam dunk” remark about the evidence that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. But he argues that the quote was taken out of context and that it had little impact on President Bush’s decision to go to war. He also makes clear his bitter view that the administration made him a scapegoat for the Iraq war.

I have no idea if there's anything truly revelatory in the book or not. And, of course, one can always accuse Tenet of being self-serving.

But it does show an insider saying the administration was pretty much determined to invade Iraq, no matter what.

About his "slam dunk" comment:
He gives a detailed account of the episode, which occurred during an Oval Office meeting in December 2002 when the administration was preparing to make public its case for war against Iraq.

During the meeting, the deputy C.I.A. director, John McLaughlin, unveiled a draft of a proposed public presentation that left the group unimpressed. Mr. Tenet recalls that Mr. Bush suggested that they could “add punch” by bringing in lawyers trained to argue cases before a jury.

“I told the president that strengthening the public presentation was a ‘slam dunk,’ a phrase that was later taken completely out of context,” Mr. Tenet writes. “If I had simply said, ‘I’m sure we can do better,’ I wouldn’t be writing this chapter — or maybe even this book.”

And regarding Bush's interest in terrorism:

The book recounts C.I.A. efforts to fight Al Qaeda in the years before the Sept. 11 attacks, and Mr. Tenet’s early warnings about Osama bin Laden. He contends that the urgent appeals of the C.I.A. on terrorism received a lukewarm reception at the Bush White House through most of 2001.

That said, he describes Bush himself in a generally positive light. And he also thinks Al-Qaeda has cells in the United States planning further attacks.

(See related post)

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

What about the part where Tenet says that Clinton gutted the intelligence so bad during the 90's that he (Tenet) had to form a back-door alliance with then Speaker-of-the-House Newt Gingrich in order to get some of what he needed? Against Clinton's objections, Tenet had to work to get appropriations through other appropriations bills. Clinton had cut CIA intelligence 25% at a time when Tenet was trying to get Osama bin Laden's organization.

Wonder when we're going to get to THAT discussion from Tenet's book?


4/29/2007 10:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Concerning the "rush to war" aspect.....everyone seems to forget now that since 1998 it was the policy of the U.S. for regime change in Iraq. Meaning that all of the Congress in 1998, plus the administration then believed the world and the Middle East would be better off with Saddam Hussein gone. It was pretty obvious it could not be done from within Iraq. It was also, IMHO, totally understandable AFTER 9/11 to believe that continuing to tolerate the risk that Saddam Hussein might train or provide al Qaeda and/or other terrorists with the knowledge and weapons they sought was no longer worth taking. In the U.S. indictment of bin Laden 1998 it stated that there was an "understanding" between al Qaeda and Iraq that they would not work against each other and, in fact, would work together in the area of wmd. Also, UNSCOM's final 1999 Report on Iraq listed TONS OF UNACCOUNTED FOR wmd and wmd materials that Saddam NEVER accounted for.

I have no doubt that had this administration NOT gone into Iraq and unseated Saddam, and Saddam had provided al Qaeda with the trainig or wmd it sought, that the Democrats would be condemning the Bush administration for that as well. That's why the administration....whatever administration is in power.....should do what it believes is best at the time.

Unseating Saddam was something ALL the Democrat leaders of the 90's said they wanted and now someone has done that FOR them. That's one problem resolved. Yes---the peace in Iraq has not yet been achieved. But at least one big obstacle has been removed.

Tenet knows all this, but is mad because he thinks he is being blamed for something. And yet, I rarely hear his name mentioned by anybody in this administration.


4/29/2007 11:16 AM  
Blogger Sean Aqui said...

JP5, what's your source for details of the other parts of the book? I'm not doubting your veracity, but I'm almost certain that you, like me, haven't read the book yourself.

As for the "rush to war", we've been over this before. Everyone thought Saddam was a bad guy, and the world would be a better place without him. But there's a far cry from saying that -- and using it to justify sanctions and a no-fly zone -- and actually going ahead and toppling him ourselves.

9/11 didn't change that equation. Saddam had nothing to do with the attacks or Al-Qaeda. So saying we couldn't tolerate the risk of such cooperation after 9/11 makes no sense. By that logic, we could have just invaded anyone who had any sort of gripe with us, on the grounds that they might one day cooperate with AQ to hurt us. That is simply no basis for a foreign policy.

You cite UNSCOM's 1999 report as evidence Saddam was hiding WMDs, ignoring the fact that inspectors returned in 2002 and 2003, with unprecedented access, and began clearing up those questions.

4/30/2007 12:12 PM  

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