Bush, Tenet, and Bagman Bartlett (Updated)


George Tenet’s new book has stirred up some supposed controversy, primarily by acknowledging and confirming a bunch of stuff we already knew. Why any of this should be “controversial” at this point is beyond me. Maybe because the Great American “Don’t Tell Me, I Don’t Want to Know” Public remains as inexcusably clueless as it was when almost half of it voted for the Emperor for the second – count ’em, second – time and is determined to stay that way.

There’s no “news” here despite the “Today’s Circus” blanket coverage by the so-called “news” media except for two minor details. The first is the surprising – and disappointing – decision by “I’ll Fall on My Sword for You” Tenet to continue covering Junior’s ass. He’s still willing to take the rap for Bush on behalf of the CIA for “mistaken” intel when actually his agency got it right it –

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.

– and he continues to praise Dear Leader’s cynical exploitation of 9/11.

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.

He puts all the responsibility on Cheney, writing as if Junior, you know, didn’t realize the VP was up to all that shit.

In their threat briefings for the incoming Bush administration in late 2000, Tenet writes, CIA officials did not even mention Iraq. But Cheney, he says, asked for an Iraq briefing and requested that the outgoing Clinton administration’s defense secretary, William S. Cohen, provide information on Iraq for Bush.

A speech by Cheney in August 2002 “went well beyond what our analysis could support,” Tenet writes. The speech charged, among other things, that Hussein had restarted his nuclear program and would “acquire nuclear weapons fairly soon . . . perhaps within a year.” Caught off-guard by the remarks, which had not been cleared by the CIA, Tenet says he considered confronting the vice president on the subject but did not.

Bill Moyers, in his documentary the other night, once again noted that CIA analysts had dumped Ahmad Chalabi as a source because he was wrong all the time. Meanwhile, Doug Feith and David Wormser had shoveled Chalabi over to Wolfie and the VP, who were running DJ Ahmad C all around town vouching for every crazy claim he and his INC “defectors” were making no matter how nonsensical, irrational, or just plain loopy they were.

The analysts similarly debunked “Curveball”, the yellowcake hoax, and the aluminum tube hoax, but Tenet seems not to have bothered to have brought that information to Bush’s attention, confining himself to general statements like this:

Mr. Tenet describes helping to kill a planned speech by Mr. Cheney on the eve of the invasion because its claims of links between Al Qaeda and Iraq went “way beyond what the intelligence shows.”

Once upon a time, long ago in a galaxy far, far away, George Tenet used to have balls. But then the Emperor George came to town, ascending a throne he brought with him for the occasion, and Tenet’s spine went on a permanent vacation. Like everybody else inside the Beltway, it seems, from bureaucrats to reporters to Congress to Cabinet Secs, Tenet folded like a rented suit whenever the Emperor sneezed.

Tenet’s spine-free refusal to butt heads with his God, the Emperor George I, left his analysts hanging in mid-air like Wile E. Coyote before he plunges off the cliff. If Tenet is bitter now about the way the Administration used him as a scapegoat, the truth is he did the same thing to his own agency and deserves every bit of condemnation he gets. He brought it on himself by his cowardice.

Bagman Bartlett

The second bit of news came in a response on NPR’s ATC last night. Ace RNC political hack/PR flack and Rove surrogate Dan Bartlett, responding to Tenet’s charge that no option other than invasion was ever discussed inside the White House, declared that he “knew for a fact” that statement wasn’t true. He repeated that assertion this morning on NBC.

White House counselor Dan Bartlett yesterday called Tenet a “true patriot” but disputed his conclusions, saying “the president did wrestle with those very serious questions.” Responding to reports from the book in yesterday’s New York Times, Bartlett suggested that the former CIA director might have been unaware of all the discussions. President Bush, Bartlett said on NBC’s “Today Show,” “weighed all the various consequences before he did make a decision.”

The question is, how does he know that? On NPR, he went as far as to appear to claim that he had been present for those arguments.

That stopped me. Dan Bartlett, Karl Rove’s right-hand political dirty tricks co-ordinator and all-around bagman, had been included in the inner councils of the most significant decision of the Emperor’s reign while the Director of the CIA was not? Huh?

Danny Boy had apparently toned that assertion down by the time he hit NBC but that then leaves the question open once more: if he wasn’t there – and given his role, there’s no earthly reason he should have been – how the hell does he know what went on?

That, in turn, leaves us with one of two conclusions: either Bartlett wasn’t inside those convocations, in which case his statement is worthless, or he was, thus proving once again that the Bushies were more concerned with propaganda than facts.

Not that that’s news, either, now I come to think of it.

Update (April 29): James Fallows goes even further. Of Bartlett’s contention that there were discussions, he writes:

I say plainly: that is a lie. To be precise about it, no account of the Administration’s deliberations, by anyone other than Bartlett just now, offers even the slightest evidence that this claim is true. Innumberable [sic] accounts offer ample evidence that it is false. I have asked this direct question to many interviewees who were in a position to know: was there ever such a meeting or discussion? The answer was always, No. The followup challenge to Bartlett should be: show us a memo, show us a policy paper, show us a scheduled meeting, show us notes taken at the time to substantiate the idea that the Administration ever seriously considered what the nation would gain or lose by invading Iraq, and what the alternatives might be. What the Administration actually considered, according to all known evidence, is how it would invade Iraq, and when.

Once again, as if the past they claim they’ve overcome never happened, our news honchos got played again. La plus ca change….

(Link from Kevin Drum via The Wege)

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