Friday, June 04, 2004


Thoughts on Tenet

I think there are quite a few people out there who think that CIA director George Tenet was fired yesterday. I must say I am one of them - I believe that with things going poorly in Iraq, especially given the whole Chalabi affair, Tenet took the fall. Despite the fact that the CIA had soured on Chalabi, I think Bush & co. can paint a "We're making changes to make sure our intelligence doesn't fail us again" picture with this and a lot of people will buy it. Given that we don't know whether Tenet actually resigned or was canned, Juan Cole gives three reasons why Tenet should have resigned:
(1) Bush has retained counsel to advise him on the outing of Valerie Plame as a CIA agent. "That Bush retained counsel suggests that he intends to continue to cover for the slime who outed Plame, thereby endangering the lives of dozens of key contacts in the Third World who had been seen hanging out with her over the years when she had a cover as an energy consultant."
(2) Bush paid no heed to Tenet's reservations about the existence of an Iraqi nuclear weapons program, and used the threat of Iraqi nuclear weapons to lead the country into war. "The nuclear claim helped convince the country to go to war. It was false. Tenet knew it was false. He told Bush that. Bush either knew it was false and said it anyway, or he disbelieved Tenet. Either thing should have produced Tenet's resignation."
(3) Somebody leaked sensitive intelligence information to Ahmed Chalabi about Iranian codes. "The leaker is probably a neocon with Defense Department links. Bush could also produce this person if he wanted to. He has not."

Cole's conclusion:
Note that Plame's portfolio was fighting the spread of weapons of mass destruction. Someone in Bush's circle set that effort back years by outing her. And note that having broken Iran's code, the US was in a better position to monitor any Iranian efforts to develop WMD. Now that capability has been lost.

With all this brouhaha about fighting weapons of mass destruction proliferation, the Bush administration has actually set back those efforts horribly, for the purposes of petty political gain. It took us to war in Iraq on a WMD pretext. But that turns out to have been a scam on someone's part, and we are much less safe now than before.
Given Cole's assessment of the situation, why is it, then, that polls show Americans as trusting George Bush when it comes to national security more than they trust John Kerry? It's because he says so. As eagerly as he trumpets false claims of Iraq's threat to the US, Bush trumpets his own accomplishments in quashing that threat. Bush speaks as if he is winning. He says things that would lead you to believe that the war on terrorism has been wildly successful, that everything in Afghanistan is under control, that Al Qaeda is on the run. Attacks on the US are evidence that "the enemy is desperate." Despite evidence to the contrary, Bush says what people want to hear - that "we" are winning the war on terror. That feeds into people's genuine fear of terrorism and the results are evident in the polls. Now, of course, Republicans use the polls to point to Bush's success in national security and defense and counter-terrorism and all that, as if polls are an indication of accomplishments. The fact of the matter is that Bush's record is disgraceful - his only real success has been in taking advantage of people's fear and to constantly say good things about himself.

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