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Friday, April 27, 2007

Payback's a bitch
Posted by Jill | 6:15 AM
George Tenet, who received a Medal of Freedom, presumably in return for keeping silent about the Bush Administration's determination to invade Iraq and the hell with the consequences, is silent no more:

“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.

A copy of the book was purchased at retail price in advance of publication by a reporter for The New York Times. Mr. Tenet described with sarcasm watching an episode of “Meet the Press” last September in which Mr. Cheney twice referred to Mr. Tenet’s “slam dunk” remark as the basis for the decision to go to war.

“I remember watching and thinking, ‘As if you needed me to say ‘slam dunk’ to convince you to go to war with Iraq,’ ” Mr. Tenet writes.

As violence in Iraq spiraled beginning in late 2003, Mr. Tenet writes, “rather than acknowledge responsibility, the administration’s message was: Don’t blame us. George Tenet and the C.I.A. got us into this mess.”

Mr. Tenet takes blame for the flawed 2002 National Intelligence Estimate about Iraq’s weapons programs, calling the episode “one of the lowest moments of my seven-year tenure.” He expresses regret that the document was not more nuanced, but says there was no doubt in his mind at the time that Saddam Hussein possessed unconventional weapons. “In retrospect, we got it wrong partly because the truth was so implausible,” he writes.

Yet even Tenet is still in the same kind of codpiece-worshipping manlove that has characterized pundits from Chris Matthews to G. Gordon Liddy when talking about the diminutive Drunk-in-Chief:

Despite such sweeping indictments, Mr. Bush, who in 2004 awarded Mr. Tenet a Presidential Medal of Freedom, is portrayed personally in a largely positive light, with particular praise for the his leadership after the 2001 attacks. “He was absolutely in charge, determined, and directed,” Mr. Tenet writes of the president, whom he describes as a blunt-spoken kindred spirit.

I have never understood the appeal of this notion of "in charge, determined, and directed" to which at least 30% of Americans have also been in thrall for the last five years. A strong leader is a positive, especially after a national trauma, but it's troubling that Americans from the least-informed to the former head of the CIA succumbed to this kind of phony macho posturing that was always more about emulating movie tough guys than about real leadership. When you think about Franklin D. Roosevelt, whose demeanor was never that of a tough guy, disability or no, standing up and saying "We have nothing to fear but fear itself", Americans looked at their families and said, "YOu know what? He's right. We'll get through this." But George W. Bush painted himself as the all-potent daddy-protector, but instead of being a nurturing father who puts a child's fear at ease, he played on those primal fears to gain support for consolidation of power.

It's almost too easy to make Cheney the lightning rod for everything that's gone wrong with the Iraq war. His ice-cold demeanor, the snarl which curls every time the man opens his mouth, the utter sang-froid that gives the impression that he could order a bombing that would wipe out an entire population of a medium-size country and then devour a couple of racks of ribs without pausing for breath, make him the perfect embodiment of Darth Vader. But is it really right to let Bush off the hook? Does anyone still believe that given what we know about Bush's issues with his father, that Iraq would have been handled one iota differently if Cheney weren't around?


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