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
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
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
"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
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
"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.
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?