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Tenet takes the fall as

Bitter division opens over Iraq quagmire

By Fred Goldstein

On June 3, CIA Director George Tenet became the first high-level member of the Bush administration's group of war conspirators to resign. It was just 14 months since Washington opened up its war of conquest against Iraq.

Whether he was pushed out or jumped, the resignation of Tenet, one of the inner circle who was highly instrumental in justifying the war, is a major setback for Bush--particularly in the midst of an election campaign. It is a confession of failure and bitter division at the summit of the capitalist state.

But it is only the most dramatic expression of the growing pressure on the Bush administration by the ruling class--pressure brought about by discontent and disillusionment over the failure of the Iraq adventure to bring about the anticipated rapid imperialist victory and all the spoils of war that were expected to follow.

On one level, Tenet is a victim of the inner struggle within the Bush administration and can be viewed as a scapegoat for Bush. But on a more basic level, Tenet is a casualty of the heroic Iraqi resistance.

With respect to the Iraq war, the charge against Tenet is that he oversaw the furnishing of unreliable information about the possession of weapons of mass destruction by Saddam Hussein's government--information that turned out to be false. The truth came out in a report by David Kay, whom Bush had assigned to be in charge of searching for the weapons after the war.

But the real failure--not only of Tenet and the CIA, but of Bush, Cheney, Rice, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and the entire group of war makers--was not to anticipate the predictable Iraqi resistance, which has startled the U.S. ruling class by tying up the world's mightiest military power and to this day denying them and their puppets control over the country.

Niger forgeries and State of the Union

The depth of the failure on the part of the administration, and the way in which Tenet was victimized by it, is indicated by the handling of the so-called Niger uranium issue, in which Saddam Hussein was alleged to be importing enriched uranium from that African country.

In the fall of 2002, Tenet called Condoleezza Rice's chief aide, Stephen Hadley, to warn Bush not to put anything in an upcoming speech about the alleged Iraqi attempt to purchase uranium. That sentence was struck out of the speech. But later, when Bush gave his State of the Union speech in January 2003, two months before the Pentagon's invasion, the line about the uranium reappeared. After the war, a scandal broke: the documents substantiating the charges about Niger uranium had been forged.

Condoleezza Rice tried to get out of it by saying that Tenet had not read the speech and had to take the blame. But Tenet had already told Rice's highest aide that the allegation was false. Yet it had appeared in Bush's annual speech to Congress.

How could such a risk be taken? Only if the Bush administration was absolutely confident that the U.S. would gain immediate, total victory in Iraq and the question of the justification for the war would never be raised. Military triumphalism, patriotic chauvinism such as followed the Gulf War of 1991, would prevail and the ruling class would not care one bit about how or why Washington got into the war.

Had it not been for the Iraqi resistance, the question of the phony evidence about non-existent weapons of mass destruction would have been a minor footnote in history, brought up only by bourgeois dissidents and the left. The ruling class would never have paid attention to it. They would have been too busy counting their profits from the oil, from the takeover of the Iraqi economy, and from the payola flowing from construction of military bases and so on.

Tenet, who had moved with caution early in the campaign to promote the war, as witnessed by his warning to Bush about the uranium lie, came around to be a crucial and indispensable part of the conspiracy to go to war.

Maneuvers over inspections

The Bush administration hoped to wage the war on the grounds that Saddam Hussein would defy UN resolutions on inspections. To this end, the U.S. manipulated a Draconian resolution that gave the inspectors almost absolute freedom to completely violate Iraq's military security while it was under threat of war. Bush expected a refusal and was geared up for war.

But Saddam Hussein maneuvered to prevent the war. He allowed the most intrusive inspections demanded by the U.S. The Iraqi government even allowed the destruction of newly purchased missiles. It complied with every demand. The regime basically foiled the provocative strategy of the Bush administration. Hans Blix, the chief weapons inspector, could produce no evidence of weapons of mass destruction.

It is unusual, if not unprecedented, for the head of the CIA--an agency cloaked in secrecy, whose function is to carry out espionage, sabotage and subversion undercover--to have its director come publicly and dramatically on the world stage to support a war policy. But the only way to counter Iraq's maneuver and the testimony of Hans Blix and justify the war was to get Tenet and the CIA to swear to the world that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.

Tenet did his job when he made a forced appearance, sitting behind U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell at a UN Security Council meeting, to demonstrate that he was the underwriter of the speech in which Powell made the final pre-war indictment of the Iraqi government, diagramming the existence of so-called mobile biological weapons factories--another charge that turned out to be false.

When the resistance to the occupation started up in earnest, the entire pack of lies fell apart and the conspirators were all suddenly responsible for their pre-war claims.

Tenet's fate is ironic because much of the false intelligence that has been uncovered comes from Ahmad Chalabi, who is a creature of the Rumsfeld-Wolfowitz-Feith group in the Pentagon--a group at war with the CIA.

It is a measure of the relationship of forces inside the administration and also the caution with which the ruling class is handling the crisis that Tenet has resigned, while Rumsfeld is still standing.

The self-styled Cabal

Seymour Hersh of the New Yorker, who helped in initially exposing the torture scandal and who has authoritative sources in the military, revealed in the magazine's March 12 issue the existence of a little known, but crucial, operation in the Pentagon.

"They call themselves, self-mockingly, the Cabal--a small cluster of policy advisers and analysts now based in the Pentagon's Office of Special Plans. In the past year, according to former and present Bush administration officials, their operation, which was conceived by Paul Wolfowitz, the Deputy Secretary of Defense, has brought about a crucial change of direction in the American intelligence community. These advisers and analysts, who began their work in the days after Sept. 11, 2001, have produced a skein of intelligence reviews that have helped to shape public opinion and American policy toward Iraq. They relied on data gathered by other intelligence agencies [such as Israel--F.G.] and also on information provided by the Iraqi National Congress, or I.N.C., the exile group headed by Ahmad Chalabi. By last fall, the operation rivaled both the CIA and the Pentagon's own Defense Intelligence Agency, the DIA, as President Bush's main source of intelligence regarding Iraq's possible possession of weapons of mass destruction and connection with Al Qaeda."

This group had contempt for Tenet and the CIA as soft. The CIA had torn apart their findings. It is said that Rumsfeld forbade the Pentagon staff from attending CIA briefings. Thus the now-famous "slam dunk" remark attributed to Tenet in Bob Woodward's book, "Plan of Attack"--that when Bush asked "How confident are you, George?" about the intelligence, Tenet replied, "Don't worry, it's a slam dunk"--is only a tiny part of the picture. If he actually made this intemperate remark, and Bush and Rice were the only others in the room, according to the book (!), Wood ward's rendition was calculated to set Tenet up for the blame.

Tenet was the most vulnerable and the weakest personality within the administration. But it was the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld group that orchestrated the war and miscalculated the people of Iraq and their long-standing hatred for and struggles against being colonized, from the days of the Turkish empire to the British empire and now the U.S. empire.

The ruling class, which was wildly for the war before the resistance, is now growing disillusioned. The exit of Tenet is only one sign of the pressure.

Ashcroft and torture

John Ashcroft is now under pressure from Congress to reveal a startling 50-page document, prepared for Rumsfeld by Justice Department lawyers, that openly claimed the right of the president, as commander-in-chief, to supersede any laws against torture. These charges, while being pursued modestly right now, are of My Lai and Watergate proportions--should the bourgeoisie decide to escalate the struggle.

There's more. Rumsfeld himself is beginning to feel the heat of the investigations into torture in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo. Time magazine recently publicized an e-mail showing that Cheney had a direct and traceable hand in awarding no-bid Iraq contracts worth billions to the Halliburton Co. And Bush himself has had to hire an attorney in connection with the leak that led conservative columnist Robert Novak to reveal that Valerie Plame, the wife of Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, was a CIA agent.

The numerous investigations demonstrate the bitter strife within the ruling class and their deep concern about the competency and ability of the present group to retrieve the situation in Iraq. All this comes as the result of the struggle of the Iraqi people and the world-wide anti-war movement that supports them.

The attempts to keep the Bush administration off balance now may also be calculated to inhibit them from trying to save themselves by carrying out a pre-election military adventure based upon some provocation.

John Kerry's program for Iraq is none too appealing to the bosses, either. His program to internationalize the occupation has little promise for them. The European imperialists show no inclination at all to send troops or money into the Iraqi quagmire. Kerry's call for 40,000 more troops is hard to reconcile with the enormous strain upon the rank-and-file soldiers and the growing resentment against "stop-loss" orders.

Bush has tried to gain a respite by carrying through the charade of turning over "sovereignty" to a puppet group, headed by a CIA terrorist who has been revealed to be the architect of bombings, killings and sabotage. The fact that the Bush administration could come up with nothing better than this discredited group is a sign of weakness.

All the maneuvering in the UN Security Council to get a unanimous resolution agreeing to the U.S. occupation has not stopped the resistance and is strictly the result of negotiations among the imperialist powers in typical colonial fashion. It can only evoke the further disgust and hatred of the Iraqi people and will strengthen the resistance in the long run.

Reprinted from the June 17, 2004, issue of Workers World newspaper
This article is copyrighted under a Creative Commons License.
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