Friday, April 27, 2007

Former CIA director blasts Cheney in new book

From the New York Times:

"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.

This is huge. Interestingly, Tenet appears to admire Bush and focuses his vitriol on Cheney. I'm not sure I can absolve Tenet to the degree that he wants. I don't doubt that Bush and Cheney had other reasons for getting rid of Saddam, but what Tenet told Bush made the invasion all the more inevitable. It appears that prior to invasion Bush and Cheney had assumed, like many people inside and outside the government, that Iraq just had to have some WMD lying around somewhere. After all, Saddam had used them in the past. An assumption, though, is not a slam dunk, and Tenet had an obligation to say so. I don't find his distinction, that he made the "slam dunk" comment about strengthening a presentation making the case for the existence of WMD, to be particularly exculpatory.

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