Jewish World Review Jan. 29, 2004 / 6 Shevat, 5764
CIA chief has to go: The intel on Iraq's WMDs was wrong that's unforgivable
The intel on Iraq's WMDs was wrong - that's unforgivable
David Kay says he can't find nuclear, biological or chemical weapons in
Iraq. He thinks there were none on the eve of the American invasion.
Kay, who just stepped down as head American WMD hunter in Iraq, is a
straight shooter. He expected to find banned weapons. If he has
concluded there are none, it's good enough for me.
It should also be enough for President Bush.
Bush has two very big problems. The first is political. In an interview
with Kay, Tom Brokaw correctly observed: "A lot of the President's
critics are going to say, 'This is clear evidence that he lied to the
Kay disagreed. "Well, Tom, if they do that, I think we're really hurting
ourselves. Clearly, the intelligence we went to war on was inaccurate,
wrong. We need to understand why that was. I think if anyone was
abused by the intelligence, it was the President, not the other way
Kay is no politician, but his answer gives Bush a political ladder. He
himself was misled by the CIA, given bad information. This explanation
has the virtue of being true. Bush may have been predisposed - by
family history or personal ideology - to view Saddam Hussein as a
nonconventional threat, but he was not alone. Bill Clinton got the same
information and came to the same conclusion. We know because he has
Making that point, Bush can survive the political fallout. But that raises
the second question: What is the President going to do about it? The
answer should be obvious. If the CIA can't produce accurate, reliable
assessments of threats to American national security, there must be
drastic changes in the way it operates. Starting from the top.
CIA Director George Tenet has been living on borrowed time since
9/11. His agency misjudged the Al Q aeda threat, and for that alone he
should have been fired.
It's now apparent the CIA also missed the significance of Libya's
nuclear program. It failed to grasp Pakistan's role in enabling rogue
states to gain nuclear technology. It was surprised by the North Korean
program. It has no real insight into the situation in Iran. This sort of
incompetence is indefensible.
The President can't say he hasn't been warned. Last summer, he was
deeply embarrassed by the revelation that the agency had vetted the
false claim, which Bush then made in his State of the Union address,
that Saddam had tried to buy nuclear material in Africa.
It was clear back then that Tenet couldn't stay on as CIA director. And
yet he did. Why?
We can only speculate. The CIA director knows a great deal about a
great many things. The Bush family has potentially embarrassing
business and social ties to the Bin Laden clan, the Saudi royals and
other jihadis. Another possibility: George Bush Sr. was once head of the
CIA; there may be closets that his son would like to keep closed.
Let's be charitable. Maybe the President has wanted to be loyal. But he
no longer has that option. If he doesn't shake up the CIA, he can't be
judged a victim of future intelligence failures. He becomes an
This will (and should) have political consequences. More important, it
is dangerous. The invasion of Iraq was vital: the start of the American
counteroffensive against Arab-Iranian aggression. The war, as Bush
himself says, is far from over.
It cannot be won without a CIA that knows what's happening across
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JWR contributor Zev Chafets is a columnist for The New York Daily News. Comment by clicking here.
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