Two book reviews, one in the New York Times, and the other in the Washington Post, examine Ron Suskind’s new book, “The One Percent Solution.”
The book’s title comes from Cheney’s post-9/11 doctrine that if there is even a one percent chance that a horrific terrorist attack could happen, the government should treat it as a certainty, and act with all due haste to prevent it. As Cheney described it, “it’s not about our analysis, it’s about our response.”
After enduring the destruction of the Twin Towers in New York City and the damage to the Pentagon in Virginia/Washington, people were shaken up enough for that to sound like a plausible doctrine to follow.
The only problem is that in practice it led to cherry picking intelligence and doctoring facts beyond recognition. Worse, it didn’t lead us to a more effective strategy to defeat Al Quaeda in Afghanistan but only to a misdirected turning of our attention to Saddam Hussein in Iraq, which never was a threat to us.
This book and these two reviews make it clear that Cheney and Rumsfeld held a deeply flawed doctrine and searched out and promoted deeply flawed intelligence to support their obsession with Iraq while the really bad guys got away with murder. Literally.
One of the book’s vignettes portrays the capture of Abu Zubaydah, who the administration touted as Al Quaeda’s chief of operations. The capture was much ballyhooed, and he was the first detainee shipped away to a secret overseas prison. Meanwhile, Zubaydah, despite the hype, turned out to be merely the conduit for arranging travel for wives and other minor logistical duties. And when he was caught, intelligence agents quickly recognized that he was actually mentally ill, suffering from split personality. Both Bush and Cheney were briefed about this. And at the request of George Bush, intelligence agents used “harsh interrogation techniques” on him. So, before you know it, this mentally ill guy is spinning plots and schemes, each more dire than the last because he’s both delusional and being tortured. He’ll say anything at that point. Great way to gather intelligence about something serious.
And the next thing you know, we spent all of 2004 responding to yellow and orange alerts all over the place as U.S. agents rushed hither and dither to follow up on the rantings of a mentally ill person who under torture was giving them what they wanted to hear, whether it had any basis in reality or not.
Listen, when good people like John Kerry, John Edwards and others in Congress admit that they were wrong to vote for this war because they were misled by faulty intelligence, it’s true. We were all snookered. Even George Tenet, the much maligned CIA chief, comes out looking like a conflicted public servant trying to be loyal to his president by providing information that he knew Bush and Cheney wanted to hear rather than what was actually true. So how do you fault people in Congress for their votes, given the disinformation and the climate of fear that prevailed and that was deliberately manipulated by a cynical government which no longer respected truth or facts?
And those who refused to be deceived, like Han Blix; the UN weapons inspector; Bob Graham of Florida, who served as the Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee; Richard Clark, a top White House Security Adviser; and Paul O’Neill, former Treasury Secretary; found their careers and their personal reputations ruined by an administration that aggressively attacked and slimed any critic.
In fact, this administration is still trying to do it. Look at their attempts to paint critics like John Murtha as cowards. The administration’s favorite attack is now to accuse every critic of wanting to “cut and run.”
But it’s no longer working. There’s now a host of the most highly decorated officers from the Iraqi war who have retired or resigned their posts just to speak out. And the public realizes that what critics, like Jim Webb among others, has said from the beginning is true. You can’t just invade a hostile country without an exit strategy, without even a plan once you’ve won. We won the battle but we’re losing the war we never should have entered in the first place.
And meanwhile as Saddam Hussein is marched around like a show pony at a show trial, our true enemy, Osama bin Laden grows stronger in the mountains of Pakistan after we let him slip through our fingers. Something else, by the way, those intelligence analysts tried to warn the administration about and which the administration ignored. And this book lays it all out.
And now it’s time that we demand that they give us a timeline and get our troops out. That’s not cutting and running. That’s resource management. And common sense.