I missed the interview on 60 Minutes with former CIA director George Tenet, but as I made my way through DFW on the way to my gate, I saw the crawl on CNN on the TV monitors: “WHITE HOUSE BLASTS FORMER CIA CHIEF” and had pictures of Secretary of State Rice and all the other talking heads that the White House trots out on an increasingly often basis to try to debunk the stories and the books that former White House officials are now publishing.
It is probably human nature to have a knee-jerk and negative reaction when someone gets off the reservation, so to speak, and tells his side of the story, especially when it portrays the administration in such a bad light. And, to be fair, it sure doesn’t speak well of the teller of the tales that he waits this long to speak out. One of the more typical reactions I’ve seen on blogs and sites of all political stripes has been a variation on “Now you tell us?” I’m sure that a lot of people are wondering how many of our soldiers — not to mention Iraqi civilians — died while Mr. Tenet kept his silence until he could get the galleys back from his book. It is cold comfort to know that even if he had spoken out three years ago after he left his job that we are finding out that missed signals and incompetence were a part of the daily life of the CIA before and after it was abundantly clear that there were people out there who were actively drawing up plans to attack us. (Troll prophylactic: yes, Mr. Tenet was a holdover from the Clinton administration, but the claim that it’s all Bill Clinton’s fault, along with everything else that the Bush administration has managed to bungle, is fatuous. Mr. Bush retained Mr. Tenet and pinned a Medal of Freedom on him. If Mr. Tenet’s job performance was so poor, so beholden to the prior administration, and so prone to bad judgment, the president would have fired him when he took office. Oh, wait…)
It’s also cold comfort that even if Mr. Tenet had spoken out against the manipulation of intelligence by the administration that got us into the war, it would not have changed the inevitable outcome. This president and this administration were determined to go to war against Saddam Hussein whether or not the attacks of September 11, 2001 had occurred; there is ample evidence from both inside and outside the administration to prove that, and Mr. Tenet’s revelations are, as the White House press secretary is fond of saying, “old news.”
So now that Mr. Tenet is out and selling his tale, the right wing Orcosphere is trashing him as a liar, a Clinton mole, prone to factual errors, and a toady of the liberal media that has never given President Bush and the war a fair shake, and so on. The line boils down to “Well, we never really liked him anyway.”
I’m sure that Mr. Tenet knew this was coming; after all, he worked in the Bush administration and knows all too well how the noise machine works. He saw what happened to Richard Clarke, Paul O’Neill, and David Kuo when they pulled back the curtain on the Great and Powerful Oz. I’m sure he can suck it up and suffer the slings and arrows with good grace as he passes by yet another funeral for a dead soldier from the war that he helped start — on his way to the next book signing.
Cross-posted from Bark Bark Woof Woof.