Former CIA Director George Tenet’s hotly anticipated book about What He Did to Get Us Into War will hit the shelves on Monday, and the New York Times has an advance copy. Scott Shane and Mark Mazzetti write,
George J. Tenet, the former director of central intelligence, has lashed out against Vice President Dick Cheney and other Bush administration officials in a new book, saying they pushed the country to war in Iraq without ever conducting a â€œserious debateâ€ about whether Saddam Hussein posed an imminent threat to the United States.
The 549-page book, â€œAt the Center of the Storm,â€ is to be published by HarperCollins on Monday. By turns accusatory, defensive, and modestly self-critical, it is the first detailed account by a member of the presidentâ€™s inner circle of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the decision to invade Iraq and the failure to find the unconventional weapons that were a major justification for the war.
â€œThere was never a serious debate that I know of within the administration about the imminence of the Iraqi threat,â€ Mr. Tenet writes in a devastating judgment that is likely to be debated for many years. Nor, he adds, â€œwas there ever a significant discussionâ€ about the possibility of containing Iraq without an invasion.
Well, OK, so we knew that. But it’s nice to have corroboration.
Tenet admits to making the famous “slam dunk” remark that Bob Woodward wrote about in one of his books. But he says it was taken out of context and, in any event, played no part in the decision to go to war.
Mr. Tenet described with sarcasm watching an episode of â€œMeet the Pressâ€ last September in which Mr. Cheney twice referred to Mr. Tenetâ€™s â€œslam dunkâ€ remark as the basis for the decision to go to war.
â€œI remember watching and thinking, â€˜As if you needed me to say â€˜slam dunkâ€™ to convince you to go to war with Iraq,â€™ â€ Mr. Tenet writes.
As violence in Iraq spiraled beginning in late 2003, Mr. Tenet writes, â€œrather than acknowledge responsibility, the administrationâ€™s message was: Donâ€™t blame us. George Tenet and the C.I.A. got us into this mess.â€
Shane and Mazzetti say that Tenet portrays President Bush “in a largely positive light” but is much less kind to Cheney, Wolfowitz, Feith, and others who, before and after 9/11, largely ignored al Qaeda because they were obsessed with Saddam Hussein. Tenet also settles some scores with Condoleezza Rice and Stephen Hadley.
And Tenet corroborates what many former Clinton Administration officials said about the Bushies ignoring warnings that al Qaeda was really, truly dangerous and needed to be made a high priority.
The book recounts C.I.A. efforts to fight Al Qaeda in the years before the Sept. 11 attacks, and Mr. Tenetâ€™s early warnings about Osama bin Laden. He contends that the urgent appeals of the C.I.A. on terrorism received a lukewarm reception at the Bush White House through most of 2001.
â€œThe bureaucracy moved slowly,â€ and only after the Sept. 11 attacks was the C.I.A. given the counterterrorism powers it had requested earlier in the year.
There’s a bit more background about the book and the “slam dunk” remark in this Washington Post article.
Update: Paul Kiel writes,
George Bush insulates himself from reality! The administration didn’t seriously entertain the notion that Iraq didn’t have WMD’s! Dick Cheney is an asshole!
OK, so the revelations in George Tenet’s new book aren’t going to shock anyone, but they are notable considering the source.
Yeah, pretty much. There was some hope Tenet would reveal something new, but it doesn’t seem that he did.