George Tenet - Novice Author
Former Director of the CIA, George Tenet is 54 years old and has written a book for the first time. Apparently, it is creating quite a stir on the book circuit (is there still a "book circuit?). Though it deals with decisions regarding war and peace, it isn't an instant classic like Tolstoy's tome War and Peace. Though he probably was provided a capable ghostwriter, I'm sure it wasn't someone adept at rhyming like the late Dr. Suess. So, why are people talking so excitedly about this book? Oh yeah, like several other books written by former high ranking members of the Bush administration his book is being used to bash the president and vice president. Does anyone think he'd be interviewed on 60 Minutes if the book wasn't mainly unfavorable?
I have not yet read the book, so I won't comment in detail about it. However, I was asked yesterday why Tenet wrote the book now. At the time, I responded the mostly likely reason is money. Publishers understand that the shelf life for interest in a book about the inner workings of government is very limited. Tenet signed the deal to write this book in December 2004 five months after leaving the CIA so I'm a little surprised it hasn't made it to book stores earlier. Another reason people write "tell all" books is to rehabilitate their reputation. Considering everything that took place during Tenet's tenure as DCI I have to conclude repairing his reputation is just as important as the financial gain.
Separately, some are using Tenet's betrayal of confidences (honest or otherwise) to revive the the old criticism of President Bush for not having cleaned house when he took office. On its face, that criticism seems valid since most presidents replace the CIA director upon taking office. Problem with that criticism is it ignores the unusual circumstances of the 2000 election certification. The months spent dealing with Al Gore's inability to understand how the Electoral College works ended up delaying the transition process. With a truncated time frame prior to the inauguration a decision was made not to do all of the normal wholesale changes, especially in positions dealing with security. Beyond that, the charge that he should not have been retained because he was a longtime Democrat doesn't hold water. Yes, he was appointed DCI by Clinton, but his political career began as a legislative aide to Republican Senator John Heinz.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not excusing Tenet for his decision to write the book now or for any of the inaccuracies. However, I am saying that it is easy in hindsight to claim he shouldn't have been retained. Reality is, while it did not work out in this instance, continuity in some of these positions (which shouldn't be all that political anyway) isn't such a bad idea.
Some other people have read Tenet's book and are prepared to comment about the particulars.
Rich Lowry of National Review Online says George Tenet’s Slam-Dunk "At the Center of the Storm" is a classic self-serving tell-all. The whole article is a good read but the last two paragraphs are what matters.
Victor Davis Hanson examines how Tenet's memory differs from what he asserted prior to the invasion of Iraq, particularly regarding Abu Musab Zarqawi.
Both the description of Zarqawi as a threat with al Qaeda links and enjoying sanctuary in Iraq seems born out by his later deadly career and blustering letters to al Qaeda heads. So why the contrition now on that casus belli? Al Qaeda was responsible for killing 3,000 Americans; one of its worst terrorists was freely enjoying sanctuary in Iraq; what has changed about that fact?
William Kristol examines one of the most blatant inaccuracies (lies?) in the book. Tenet apparently made up a quote from Richard Perle to demonstrate that there was a fervor to go to war with Iraq immediately after 11 September 2001.
Thomas Joscelyn of the Weekly Standard reviews Chapter 18 of the book and what it tells us about the relationship between al Qaeda and Iraq under Saddam Hussein.
Some will no doubt highlight Tenet's claims about the Bush administration hyping Saddam's ties to 9/11. In reality, he provides little verifiable evidence to back up this claim. As Tenet's chapter title suggests, he also believes that Saddam's Iraq lacked "authority, direction, or control" over al Qaeda. Few would argue with this assessment. But that does not make the threads of evidence connecting Saddam's regime to al Qaeda any less troublesome.
Zarqawi, AI, chemical weapons projects, high-level contacts, Egyptian al Qaeda members plotting from Baghdad: it adds up to a very alarming picture.
I'm sure there will be more articles picking apart this book by some of citing it as gospel by others who feel it bolsters the preconceived notions about the current administration. Tenet will be in the news until a pretty blonde girl goes missing or someone swimming in the ocean is surprised to find out we keep sharks in the water.