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Monday, April 30, 2007
Look Who's Back

It seems that no one can stay away from the lure of the spotlight. Some people are famous for a little while, and then they drop off the radar. Not everyone can have a fifty-year career, like Peter O'Toole or Sean Connery. Although, judging by the cited examples, you ought to be from the UK if you crave longevity.

Bob Barker. I needed an American in there.

Someone once said that politics is show business for ugly people, and I wish it had been me. It's a great line, made all the greater by the truth of it. Like show business, most people in it don't stick around in politics for too long, which I attribute to the vast temptations of scandal that come with power. Of course, lots of people wield power without ever being elected, and those people are the best proof of the addictive nature of power.

Over the past twelve months, many retired generals have come forward to speak of their reservations about the war. Those on the left, especially before last year's midterm elections, were thrilled to have unimpeachable military figures speaking out against the war and the Bush administration's miserable inability to run it.

I was less thrilled.

Oh, sure, there was some relief in hearing that people in the know were saying what so many of us had suspected for a few years. But with so many dead and wounded over that period, saying "I told you so" was inappropriate, and furthermore, useless.

I wanted to know why these military leaders, the ones who have spent their lives training for war, fighting in wars, teaching and studying tactics for combat, why these people stood by while giddy dilettantes who shirked their duty during Vietnam, allowed the finest military in the world to be used in such a haphazard and pointless way.

And said nothing.

If even one highly-ranked military official had said, while still in Iraq, that the plan was flawed, that there was no apparent strategy, that American men and women were sacrificing so much in a conflict that we had no business fighting in, perhaps a meaningful dialogue could have started sooner. Saying the Titanic isn't unsinkable after you're already been rescued is meaningless.

Yes, you would have never been promoted again. Yes, you would have been removed from your command. And yeah, the Bush administration would have destroyed your reputation, as they value loyalty to the president over that to the soldiers, the country and especially the truth.

Which brings me to the new book by former CIA director, George Tenet.

The balls on me, to go after a Presidential Medal of Freedom winner.

Tenet is best remembered for his exclamation about the "fact" that Saddam Hussein has WMD. He called it a "slam dunk."

Four years later in his book, he claims that what he meant was that in regard to making a case that the public would believe, well, that was a slam dunk.

Like that's better somehow.

Tenet, in his recollection, was just a hapless guy who meant well, but got swept away in the feverish march to war by Neocons drunk on power. He was the head of the god damned Central Intelligence Agency, and knew the truth, but no one would listen to him.

And like these suddenly concerned retired generals, Tenet has found his voice. Too late, by several years, and thousands of lives.

If George Tenet had resigned and stated why in late 2002 or early 2003, the press might have found its collective balls, and done some actual investigative work that could have uncovered all of the lies and dissembling that the administration had been doing since September 11, 2001. But he didn't. Power and the limelight are tough to walk away from.

Not for everyone, though.

There is a man named John Brady Kiesling, a lifelong diplomat who was working for the State Department under Colin Powell during the run-up to war. In spite of the fact that he knew he was effectively ending his twenty-year career, he concluded his resignation letter to General Powell with the following paragraph:

"I am resigning because I have tried and failed to reconcile my conscience with my ability to represent the current U.S. administration. I have confidence that our democratic process is ultimately self-correcting, and hope that in a small way I can contribute from outside to shaping policies that better serve the security and prosperity of the American people and the world we share."

Was that so hard?

Actually, I'm sure it was. Keeping your mouth shut so you can stay with the team is relatively simple. Telling the President of the United States and his alleged brain trust of sycophants that they are taking this country down the path to a costly, quagmiric foreign policy nightmare is hard. I suppose that's why so few people bothered to do it.

George Tenet has found his voice, and just in time to sell a few books. I heartily encourage you to ignore it.

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posted at 12:18 AM

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