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Sunday, April 29, 2007

Men of Honor Don't Do This

Men of honor don't do this.

That was George Tenet's reaction to hearing his "slam dunk" comment appear in the pages of Bob Woodward's book Plan of Attack. Those words were spoken in a private meeting with the top five officials of the Bush White House. Once he heard those words leaked to a reporter and (in Tenet's view) spun to imply Tenet felt the existence of WMD in Iraq itself was a "slam dunk", or the war to topple Saddam would be a "slam dunk" or whatever the spin on the spin was supposed to be, Tenet knew the knives were out.

Throughout the interview with Scott Pelley, Tenet came across as paternally defensive (in an odd, patronizing and disingenuous way) about the employees in the CIA and frequently combative, particularly on issues related to torture. Tenet repeatedly expressed frustration over the failure to block the original September 11 plot, implying in a way that he rejected the "blame" collectively pinned on the CIA and himself in particular.

George, let's be perfectly clear. No one is holding you or any other person individually responsible for the events of September 11 or intelligence estimates that said Saddam had X tons of WMD material awaiting a final weaponization effort, etc. No one has seen any documents unearthed after September 11th that put 20 names, a date, four flight numbers and four buildings on a map with a big red circle. No one has seen a stash of photos turned up with UN inspectors grinning for the camera inside every claimed weapons bunker and WMD factory showing nothing but empty space and cobwebs.

What we HAVE seen is an Administration specifically staffed with people who actively AVOID seeking counsel from alternate perspectives. We HAVE seen an Administration which staffed key civilian security and defense positions with people advocating a very consistent, adventurous approach to altering the political and economic environment in the Middle East. You saw this mindset in action ONE DAY AFTER September 11 when Richard Perle spoke to you in the White House and said "we have to hold Saddam to account for what happened" when you yourself absolutely knew beyond any doubt that September 11th was perpetrated by Al Queda and had nothing to do with Saddam Hussein or Iraq.

In that environment with that cast of characters, what did you do?

Despite enjoying one-on-one daily meetings with the President of the United States, when alarm bells began going off in the summer of 2001, you played the well-behaved government bureaucrat and asked to tee up a meeting with another cabinet officer to get the escalated threat situation on the agenda.

September 11th didn't occur because of one single massive intelligence gaff on the part of one person or one agency. It happened within the context of a bureaucratically induced mental stupor which fogged our vision and dulled our imagination from considering what might be possible.

The Iraq war didn't happen because of one single intelligence failure either. The Iraq war happened because dozens / hundreds of people failed to distinguish between intelligence couched with the normal CYA caveats created for consumption by equally savvy intelligence professionals versus intelligence being systematically cherry-picked to make a case for a decision that was pre-ordained. Unlike the rest of us, who had to wait over a year after the war began to hear of that pre-ordained decision, you knew of it on September 12, 2001, and you continued to aid and abet the charade for eighteen months until it failed and those above you needed to toss the growing circle of sharks behind the S.S. Whitehouse some chum.

George, here's a news flash. There are many things this Administration has done that honorable men and women wouldn't do. The invasion of Iraq lies at the top of that list and you played a key role in maintaining the environment that allowed such a disastrous course to be set without one person on deck mentioning "iceberg", much less shouting it.

George, you're right. Men of honor don't do this. You were part of that team. Put 2 and 2 together.