It's a familiar scene: A Clinton holdover writes a book attacking the Bush administration and is paraded around through the network newsrooms for partisan fun and his own profit. I'm talking about George Tenet's soon-to-be released book attacking Cheney and Rice, absolving himself of all error and making a puzzling claim about what he meant when he said the Iraqi WMD program was a "slam dunk" basis for justifying war on Saddam Hussein's Iraq.
While conceding the CIA believed that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction before the 2003 U.S. invasion, Tenet says that wasn't what he was referring to by "slam dunk." No, he was talking about putting "a better case together for a public case," he writes.
Despite the media fuss, what he really meant isn't important.
Congress didn't endorse the Iraq War and America today is not trying to win it because of a cute phrase from someone at an Oval Office meeting, or because of "16 words" about Saddam seeking uranium from Africa in a State of the Union speech.
In its resolution authorizing action against Iraq in October, 2002, Congress named lots of other reasons, including that:
- "Iraq had large stockpiles of chemical weapons and a large-scale biological weapons program . . ."
- "Iraq's continuing weapons of mass destruction programs threatened vital United States interests and international peace and security . . . "
- Iraq was continuing its "supporting and harboring (of) terrorist organizations."
- "Iraq persists in violating resolutions of the United Nations Security Council by continuing to engage in brutal repression of its civilian population . . ."
- Saddam had already used "weapons of mass destruction against other nations and its own people" - such as chemical weapons against Iraqi Kurds.
- The Iraq regime had shown a "willingness to attack" the U.S. "including by attempting in 1993 to assassinate former President Bush . . ."
- Al-Qaida members "are known to be in Iraq."
Lost in all this is the truly bizarre behavior of the CIA's WMD operation under Tenet.
I remind you of the fantastically moronic and preposterously named Operation Merlin:
Mark Levin shocked many listeners when he reported that President Bill Clinton gave nuclear technology to the Iranians in a harebrained scheme.
He said that the transfer of classified data to Iran was personally approved by then-President Clinton and that the CIA deliberately gave Iranian physicists blueprints for part of a nuclear bomb that likely helped Tehran advance its nuclear weapons development program.
The CIA, using a double-agent Russian scientist, handed a blueprint for a nuclear bomb to Iran, according to a new book "State of War" by James Risen, the New York Times reporter, who exposed the Bush administration's controversial NSA spying operation, claims the plans contained fatal flaws designed to derail Tehran's nuclear drive.
But the deliberate errors were so rudimentary they would have been easily fixed by sophisticated Russian nuclear scientists, the book said.
The operation, which took place during the Clinton administration in early 2000, was code named Operation Merlin and "may have been one of the most reckless operations in the modern history of the CIA," according to Risen."
In any event, a just released report will certainly warrant further scrutiny of the Agency's operations under Tenet, an agency which missed the AQ Khan network, perhaps because it was satisfied to use Plame's fabulist, big-mouthed tea-drinking husband as its fact checker:
The International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) has published the new document titled "Nuclear black markets: Pakistan, A Q Khan and the rise of proliferation networks: A new assessment".
According to the paper, the arrest and public confession of Khan in 2004 confirmed the existence of a global proliferation network which had, over almost two decades, provided nuclear technology, expertise and designs to Iran, North Korea, Libya and possibly other countries.
The IISS has now claimed that Khan was not the only nuclear arms merchant and Pakistan was not the only country implicated in his shadowy network. It spanned three continents and eluded both national and international systems of export controls that had been designed to prevent illicit trade.
This highlighted concerns that nuclear technology was no longer the monopoly of the industrially advanced countries, but possibly can be purchased off-the-shelf by both states and terrorist groups. (Emphasis Supplied.)
In sum, under Tenet the CIA gave Iran the means to jumpstart its nuclear weapons program and missed utterly an extensive worldwide nuclear armament operation. And that fact is a "slam dunk".