New York—Yesterday’s disposal of CIA director George Tenet occurred hours before Bush flew off to Rome, which is blocked off and braced to protect the President from thousands of anti-war protesters and possible violent attacks from the Black Bloc anarchists.
The Italian security services fear that the anarchists will try to lure them to skirmishes in the suburbs, leaving the center of the city open to attack. A video of Italian hostages on Al Jazeera has only heightened the mood of anger and resentment, putting people on edge for tomorrow’s meeting.
Bush’s visit is another of his harebrained schemes to cobble together the Coalition of the Willing—this time with nostalgic glances to World War II: the June 4 anniversary of the liberation of Rome, and June 6 D-Day.
Tenet had done yeoman’s work for Bush, falling on his sword countless times to protect the president. So many times, in fact, that in Washington, no one will be impressed, let alone surprised, that he is leaving just in time for a nice summer vacation.
Now the White House can sit back and see whether getting rid of Tenet will do any good.
His departure is opportune because now the Bush White House can try to blame the outing of Valerie Plame, the CIA undercover agent exposed by Bob Novak, as another failure of the CIA. That gets Karl Rove and the White House staff off the hook, leaving them unhindered in executing the Bush re-election strategy.
Will dumping the CIA director provide a sufficient apology for knowingly telling the American public there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, when the administration knew there were none? Probably not, because everyone now knows, thanks to Richard Clarke, that Bush was going to war against Iraq from the moment of his inauguration. The idea of “weapons of mass destruction” was just a Bush PR ploy.
Can Tenet take the blame for falling for Ahmed Chalabi, who has long-time connections with American intelligence? Not likely, because Chalabi was also the Pentagon’s boy. (As for the new head of the interim Iraq government, Ayad Allawi, he also is a former exile who has lengthy ties to U.S. intelligence.)
Will dumping Tenet appease the furious survivor families of 9-11 who are tired of being diddled by Bush and who increasingly think the government had foreknowledge of 9-11 threats? Maybe. But so far, the fault traces to the FBI’s counterterrorism agents, who let probable al Qaeda operatives slip through their fingers-most notably in downtown New York during June 2001, but also at the Newark field office in 2000. Not to mention the episode in April 2001, when FBI agents sent to their superiors the reports of a debriefing of a long time FBI asset in Afghanistan that Osama bin Laden was preparing a large attack using airplanes on one or another of five big American cities, including New York.
But one thing the dumping of Tenet will accomplish, at least temporarily, is to take the heat off Pentagon boss Donald Rumsfeld, who mounted his own intelligence apparatus to compete with the CIA’s in promoting the war on Iraq. The neocon cadre embedded in the upper echelons of the Pentagon can breathe a little easier. And Rumsfeld’s virtual government across the river can move on to new challenges, such as the toppling of Saudi Arabia and a wider role for American combat troops.
As for Dick Cheney, who together with Rumsfeld wields the real clout in the Bush government, everything’s coming up roses.