George Tenet Putting Himself in a Worse Light



I’ve been listening to the discussions about George Tenet’s new finger-pointing book (and fingers certainly should be pointed). His new gloss on his “slam dunk” statement is clear:

“We can put a better case together for a public case. That’s what I meant,” Tenet told “60 Minutes.”

In other words, he now says that he did not imply a “slam dunk” case that Saddam had prohibited weapons, but rather that he meant that convincing others of that was a “slam dunk.” In other words, it would be easy to fool the public. That’s supposed to put him in a better light? It sounds a lot worse to me. A lot.

Michael Scheuer, in today’s Washington Post, skewers Tenet for insisting to Bob Woodward that he warned the administration about the dangers of Al Qaeda attacks. As he notes, he could have mentioned that during his testimony under oath:

“I was talking to the national security adviser and the president and the vice president every day,” Tenet told the commission during a nationally televised hearing on March 24, 2004. “I certainly didn’t get a sense that anybody was not paying attention to what I was doing and what I was briefing and what my concerns were and what we were trying to do.” Now a “frustrated” Tenet writes that he held an urgent meeting with Rice on July 10, 2001, to try to get “the full attention of the administration” and “finally get us on track.” He can’t have it both ways.

Note: I find Scheuer’s take on such issues interesting, but he’s far too much of a gung-ho “kill ’em all!” type for me. In a conversation with a small group he told me that we had to be much harder against terrorists and not worry about collateral damage, which I challenged, only to be told that he didn’t really care how many others were killed if we got bin Laden. That can’t be right and it didn’t convince the others in the conversation, either. He makes a milder version of that outrageous claim in his Washington Post article:

“The hard fact remains that each time we acquired actionable intelligence about bin Laden’s whereabouts, I argued for preemptive action. By May 1998, after all, al-Qaeda had hit or helped to hit five U.S. targets, and bin Laden had twice declared war on America. I did not — and do not — care about collateral casualties in such situations, as most of the nearby civilians would be the families that bin Laden’s men had brought to a war zone. But Tenet did care. “You can’t kill everyone,” he would say. That’s an admirable humanitarian concern in the abstract, but it does nothing to protect the United States. Indeed, thousands of American families would not be mourning today had there been more ferocity and less sentimentality among the Clinton team.

6 Responses to “George Tenet Putting Himself in a Worse Light”

  1. Tom G. Palmer

    It’s not “factual” to claim that killing hundreds of thousands of innocents, as I challenged him to justify (he said it would be ok in order to get bin Laden, since we’re in a war), is justified.

  2. Joe Strummer

    There’s a certain logic to Scheuer’s view in the same way that there was a certain logic to Bomber Harris. I find both views offensive, but a good deal less offensive than the prevailing military doctrines that have got his where we are in Afghanistan and Iraq.

  3. In his book Imperial Hubris, Scheuer approvingly quotes Admiral Bull Halsey’s reaction to Pearl Harbor, which goes something like “by the time we’re done the only place where the Japanese language will be spoken will be in hell.”

    Then again, that’s his (Scheuer’s) job and his role. It’s like dentists being in favor of flossing. His analysis (in his book) is excellent and deep.