Tenet’s Blind Eye

Admiral Horatio Nelson is reliably reported to have put his telescope to his blind eye in order not to "see" the order Admiral Sir Hyde Parker, the overall commander of the British fleet at the naval battle of Copenhagen, had sent Nelson – via hoisted signal flags – to break off his attack. Hence the idiom "to turn a blind eye," meaning to refuse to acknowledge something you know to be true.

Nelson – who went on to become Britain’s greatest naval hero – triumphed that day by "turning a blind eye."

But the same cannot be said for George "Slam-Dunk" Tenet.

In fact, the greatest strategic disaster in our nation’s history – the Bush-Cheney war of aggression against Iraq – could not have occurred if Tenet had not turned a blind eye to the reports provided by the on-the-ground UN inspectors in Iraq, especially in the months immediately preceding it.

But the history of Tenet’s tragically turning a blind eye to the truth begins no later than 1995, when Tenet was deputy director of the CIA.

Gen. Hussein Kamel, director of Saddam’s nuke and chem-bio weapons programs (and also Saddam’s son-in-law), had defected to Jordan, carrying with him thousands of program documents.

Kamel was extensively debriefed by UN officials and the CIA.

Kamel revealed that – at his direction – Iraq had already destroyed all chemical and biological agents and weapons, including the missiles to deliver them. The International Atomic Energy Agency had discovered and destroyed what remained of the unsuccessful Iraqi nuke program.

Quoth Kamel, “Nothing remained.”

By 1998, the UN inspectors were able to verify to the Security Council that Kamel had indeed told the truth. Whereupon several members proposed that the “sanctions” imposed on Iraq in 1991 be lifted.

President Clinton refused to allow it, claiming he had “intelligence” to the contrary.

Then, to the horror of the Security Council, Clinton launched Operation Desert Fox, a massive multi-day bombing offensive against Baghdad, allegedly to destroy nukes hidden beneath Saddam’s palaces, but actually an attempt to assassinate Saddam Hussein.

As a result of the failed assassination attempt by Clinton – using "intelligence" provided by Tenet’s agents masquerading as "inspectors" of the UN Special Commission on Iraq – Saddam didn’t allow UNSCOM inspectors to return.

Hence, a few months later, the UN Security Council created a new entity to replace UNSCOM, the UN Monitoring, Verification, and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC).

Unlike its predecessor, UNMOVIC staff were UN employees, as had been the IAEA staff all along.

Now, scroll forward to the spring of 2002. UNMOVIC inspectors had not yet been allowed entry to Iraq, but IAEA inspectors had continued to be allowed in and continued to report that Iraq was in compliance with its Safeguards Agreements.

Nevertheless, Bush and the Cheney Cabal decided that the rationale for the upcoming invasion of Iraq was to be the (nonexistent) threat to you and yours of the mushroom-shaped cloud.

We now know, thanks to Walter Pincus and Barton Gellman at the Washington Post – the White House Iraq Group was established by President Bush’s chief of staff in August 2002, to essentially “market” to gullible consumers what was – as we now know, thanks to the Downing Street Memos – Bush’s impending war of aggression against Iraq.

WHIG – which met weekly in the White House Situation Room – included the president’s political adviser Karl Rove, National Security Adviser Condi Rice, her deputy Stephen Hadley, Vice President Cheney’s Chief of Staff Scooter Libby, and various congressional and media relations flacks.

WHIG reportedly “operated” out of the vice president’s office.

On Aug. 26, 2002, Cheney declared,

“We now know that Saddam has resumed his efforts to acquire nuclear weapons. Among other sources, we’ve gotten this from firsthand testimony from defectors, including Saddam’s own son-in-law.”

On Sept. 7, Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair conferred at Camp David.

On Sept. 8, Michael Gordon and Judith Miller reported in the New York Times that Iraq “has embarked on a worldwide hunt for materials to make an atomic bomb.”

Not coincidentally, WHIG launched that very day its “public relations campaign,” featuring radio and TV appearances involving Cheney, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, Condi Rice, Secretary of State Colin Powell, and others, all citing the Gordon-Miller article and all warning about the danger of Saddam’s “smoking gun coming in the shape of a mushroom-shaped cloud.”

The next day, Sept. 9, Congress began demanding that Tenet provide Congress, as required by law, timely, objective intelligence – “independent of political considerations” – and based upon “all sources available” to the intelligence community.

Of course, IAEA reports constituted the best "source" of intelligence available to Tenet. And, of course, Tenet turned a blind eye to them.

But not everyone – even at the time – turned a blind eye.

In particular, on March 17, 2003, 10 days after the director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency publicly reported to the UN Security Council:

“One, there is no indication of resumed nuclear activities in those buildings that were identified through the use of satellite imagery as being reconstructed or newly erected since 1998, nor any indication of nuclear-related prohibited activities at any inspected sites.

“Second, there is no indication that Iraq has attempted to import uranium since 1990.

“Three, there is no indication that Iraq has attempted to import aluminum tubes for use in centrifuge enrichment. Moreover, even had Iraq pursued such a plan, it would have encountered practical difficulties in manufacturing centrifuge out of the aluminum tubes in question.”

Henry Waxman, then the ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, began formally requesting [.pdf] of Condi Rice, then Bush’s national security adviser, an explanation of the use, by President Bush and other top administration officials, of “fabricated intelligence” to “justify” Bush’s exercise of the highly conditional authority Congress had provided under the Joint Resolution to Authorize the Use of United States Armed Forces Against Iraq.

Fabricated intelligence!

Not only did Tenet turn a blind eye to the "best intelligence" – that of UN inspectors – he delivered to Congress a fabricated "slam dunk" case to be used as the basis for congressional authorization of Bush’s impending war of aggression against Iraq!

Well, UNMOVIC – which was asked by Bush to flee Iraq on the eve of Operation Iraqi Freedom and has never been allowed by Bush to return – has just issued its final report.


"The UN’s verification experience in Iraq also illustrates that in-country verification, especially on-site inspections, generate more timely and accurate information than other outside sources such as national assessments.”

Will Congress accept that truth? Will Congress prevent another Bush-Cheney war of aggression, this time against Iran? Or will it turn a blind eye?

Author: Gordon Prather

Physicist James Gordon Prather has served as a policy implementing official for national security-related technical matters in the Federal Energy Agency, the Energy Research and Development Administration, the Department of Energy, the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Department of the Army. Dr. Prather also served as legislative assistant for national security affairs to U.S. Sen. Henry Bellmon, R-Okla. -- ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee and member of the Senate Energy Committee and Appropriations Committee. Dr. Prather had earlier worked as a nuclear weapons physicist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California and Sandia National Laboratory in New Mexico.