George Tenet: Master Enabler

Monday, April 30, 2007 6:34 AM

Another Bush Administration castoff has resurfaced. Who will be next? Don Rumsfeld? First it was Paul D. Wolfowitz, ex-Deputy Director of the Pentagon, now it’s George J. Tenet, ex-CIA Director. Both were intimately involved in dragging Uncle Sam into the Iraq quagmire, the former as an advocate, the latter as an enabler.

We all know where “neocon” apparatchik Wolfowitz is coming from. He is a transparent agent for the Israel-first agenda. While one is justified in feeling revulsion when contemplating such discredited “neocon” luminaries as Wolfowitz, Libby, Perle and Feith, all of whom are directly responsible for the Iraq war and the aftermath, it is a different story with ex-CIA Director George Tenet. He remains an equivocal character, a mystery man.

A Bill Clinton carryover, Tenet appears to be little more than an ambitious functionary who lost his way in the heady, dishonest world of Washington, and decided to go with the flow, no matter what. I realize that Dante said “The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in times of great moral crises maintain their neutrality,” but Dante was exaggerating. By any measure, the “neocons” must be placed on a lower level than Tenet.

In the context of railroading American into an unnecessary war, one can almost sympathize with Tenet’s predicament. He was surrounded by “neocons” and their fellow travelers. At the time please take into account that most of official Washington, with very few exceptions--Capitol Hill as well as the White House--was agog for war, so well had the mendacity and pressure tactics of the Israel Lobby worked.

If Tenet had been diligent and done his homework, he should have informed Cheney and Bush, “Hey, this is crazy. The CIA possesses no indication, much less hard evidence, of WMD in Iraq. The country has been disarmed and neutered by a ten-year embargo of military supplies. Economic sanctions have spread malnutrition and disease, killing off as many as 500,000 children. Iraq has been under lock down, and we control its airspace. Iraq is a shell of its former self, and is certainly no conceivable threat to the United States. As for the connection between Saddam and Bin Laden, there is none.” Or words to that effect, which facts the dubious duo of Cheney and Bush did not want to hear.

If honest, patriotic conservatives were expecting George Tenet to do something like that amidst the hysteria prevailing in Washington and in the country at large during the 2002-2003 run-up to “Operation Iraqi Freedom,” then clearly we were expecting too much. Tenet would have been viciously slammed as soft on terrorism, soft on national security and as a defeatist in the “neocon” manufactured contest known as the “clash of civilizations.” Tenet would have been out of a job and on the sidewalk. Still, he might have derailed the rush to war, maybe even stopped it altogether. Imagine all the lives and money saved. We will never know.

As it turns out, Tenet decided to retain his prestigious job, but he is being lambasted now--and for good reason.  In terms of ridicule and contempt, one has only to read Maureen Dowd’s NY Times column “More like an Air Ball” to see that Tenet has made himself an outsized target, thanks to his new book, At the Center of the Storm.

Does Tenet believe he can rehabilitate himself at this point by writing a kiss-and-tell-all book, in which he criticizes Dick Cheney? He can’t. In a word, impossible. Cheney’s ratings and credibility are next to zero, where they belong. It’s a cake-walk now to eviscerate Cheney. His policies are a disaster. The Vice President of the United States belongs either in a monastery, doing penance, or in a federal penitentiary, doing time.

Tenet claims that what set him off to go after the Cheney White House was Bob Woodward’s 2004 book Plan of Attack. In some detail, Woodward describes the crucial White House strategy session at which Tenet uses the now infamous phrase “slam dunk”. Having leaked the info to Woodward, Cheney then used the incident on “Meet the Press” to offload the blame for the war to the CIA, outrageously implying that Tenet’s “slam dunk” findings necessitated the invasion, when it was Cheney himself who was the “necessitator-in-chief”. 

Only complete fools or professional purveyors of “neocon” bilge like Rush Limbaugh, Bill Kristol and Fred Barnes, to name three such idiots, could possibly have believed that WMD warnings from the CIA were the basis for invading Iraq. Although Cheney’s pronouncement was a laughable lie, Tenet took umbrage, or so he says.

As we know, the policy came first, then, almost as an afterthought, came the “intelligence” to justify the policy. And Dick Cheney was in charge of both, not the CIA or G.W. Bush. It was Cheney who determined what the intelligence was, not Tenet. It was Cheney who believed, or who pretended to believe, the Feith-based blarney coming out of the Lie Factory in the basement of the “neoconized” Pentagon.

Please understand, my non-elitist friends, that it was at the Pentagon, not the CIA, where the fantasy-producing “intelligence” operation was located, under the direction of Douglas Feith, Esq. One had to accept as trustworthy the Feith-based “intelligence”, because Douglas Feith, Esq. was such an unbiased, objective information gatherer, right? That was clear from Feith’s previous articles on the subject of Israel and the Middle East, wasn’t it? Go look them up, and see.

In short, one can only wonder what George Tenet was doing and thinking when Feith and his fellow “neocon” apparatchiki were fabricating “intelligence” for the Vice President and his sidekick, G.W. Bush, and for the lapdog, establishment press. Tenet must have known it was garbage. Despite the smell, he decided to gulp it down, and not set fire to the garbage dump.

Recall that Tenet was busy briefing G.W. every day, and doing errands on his behalf. Like stepping over to the UN to help out the Administration’s other arch-enabler, Colin Powell, to sell bogus intelligence to the UN Security Council. With Tenet and Powell, we are talking about team players and enablers above and beyond any conceivable rationale known to rational men, other than just wanting to be part of the scene at any cost.

Perhaps you can remember watching that UN showdown in February, 2003. Powell was solemnly delivering his hogwash to the Security Council, with the aristocratic French foreign minister, Dominique de Villepin, observing Powell and listening to the presentation with a perplexed expression which strongly hinted that, insofar as de Villepin was concerned, Colin Powell had lost his mind. Seated directly behind the hapless Powell were CIA Director George Tenet and career Washington factotum, UN Ambassador John D. Negroponte, about whom the less said the better.

Negroponte wisely kept his head buried in papers throughout the disgraceful spectacle. Ditto for Tenet, almost. Was he embarrassed? No doubt he was. But from time to time, Tenet would look up, and gaze over the magnificent room and at its distinguished occupants. With his ironic smile, Tenet was asking himself, “Are we actually going to get away with this?” In his just-released book, Tenet now states, “That was about the last place I wanted to be. It was a great presentation, but unfortunately the substance didn’t hold up.”

No kidding. But did not the CIA Director himself put that misinformation together for Powell to deliver? He says he did, and that he believed it to be true. The question is, why? And why, indeed, was the Security Council the last place he wanted to be? Is that a clue? One can only wonder if George Tenet knew all along, as he sat there in the shadows, that what was coming out of Colin Powell’s mouth was so much warmed-over lies. Perhaps Dante was right after all. 

Copyright 2007 Patrick Foy