Tenet's new book joins the ranks of other books written by people who were
close to president George W Bush in 2001:
Richard Clarke's "Against All Enemies", Ron Suskind's and Paul O'Neill's book "The Price of Loyalty", and Bob Woodward's book "Plan of Attack".
George Tenet is the former director of the CIA, widely quoted by the Bush administration as the man who provided the evidence on Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction that turned out to be wrong. Tenet's book "At the Center of the Storm" aims at setting the record straight: Tenet's words were consistently used out of context, and he blames vice-president Dick Cheney (not the CIA) for convincing Bush that Saddam Hussein represented an immediate threat. As most readers will focus on the process that led to war, few will notice the section about the early months of 2001, before the terrorist attacks. Tenet documents that the Bush administration reversed Clinton's priorities on terrorism.
Tenet's testimony is consistent with Clarke's and O'Neill's. Only the fanatics (on one side or the other side of the political spectrum) can have doubts as to what happened. The Bush administration as a whole thought that whatever Clinton did was to be undone. In particular, they dismissed Clinton's actions on preventing terrorist attacks. Every member of the Bush administration, from John Ashcroft (the man who should have had anti-terrorism as his first priority) to Condy Rice (the woman who should have been frequently communicating with anti-terrorism czar Clarke) dismissed the threat as, basically, a Clinton exaggeration. We will never know if September 11 could have been prevented, but it certainly could not have been prevented by this administration's belief that terrorism was not an imminent threat to the USA. Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz and other neo-cons were, on the other hand, determined to remove Saddam Hussein from power, even before September 11. The terrorist attacks gave them a good excuse to proceed. They forced the CIA to provide evidence that was not there. Bush was largely clueless as to what was going one. A very stupid man (not an insult, just a fact about his I.Q.), he relied on the advice of much smarter people who had their own agendas.
Tenet delivers, indirectly and involuntarily, a lifesaver to Dick Cheney when he mentions that Al Qaeda fighters left Afghanistan and found refuge in Iraq. Cheney and Bush have always claimed that one reason to attack Iraq was that there was a connection between Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein. That connection was never proven and largely dismissed by the international community. Now it is Tenet in person who seems to reopen the debate.
Tenet is not terribly credible in his smearing campaign of other Bush advisors (namely, Condy Rice). He was in charge of intelligence, not the others. He sat next to Powell when Powell delivered his presentation to the United Nations. He admits that he met daily with the president in person. Why blame Condy Rice for not doing what he, Tenet, was paid to do?
Interestingly, Tenet confesses that he does not know why there has been no terrorist attack on USA soil since september 2001: it would be so easy for Al Qaeda to send and arm suicide bombers and stage a series of spectacular attacks on shopping malls, casinos, amusement parks, etc. If Al Qaeda is so determined to strike, and if it is so easy to enter the USA illegally from the Mexican border, why don't they do it? Tenet leaves the impression that Al Qaeda may be plotting something much bigger, something that will make bombs in supermarkets look amateurish.