Christopher Hitchens on “George Tenet’s disgraceful new book”.
In the post-Kuwait-war period, there was little political risk in doing what Tenet had always done and making the worst assumption about anything that Saddam Hussein might even be thinking about. (Who but an abject idiot would ever make a different assumption or grant the Baathists the smallest benefit of the least doubt?) But we forget so soon and so easily. The problem used to be the diametrically opposite one. The whole of our vaunted “intelligence” system completely refused to believe any of the warnings that Saddam Hussein was about to invade and occupy Kuwait in 1990. By the time the menace was taken seriously, the invasion itself was under way. This is why the work of Kenneth Pollack (this time titled The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq) was received with such gravity when it was published in 2002. Pollack had interpreted the signals correctly in 1990—and been ignored—and was arguing that another final round with Saddam was inevitable. His book did more to persuade policy-makers in Washington than anything ever said by Ahmad Chalabi. To revisit these arguments is to be reminded that no thinking person ever felt that the danger posed by a totalitarian and aggressive Iraq was a negligible one. And now comes Tenet, the man who got everything wrong and who ran the agency that couldn’t think straight, to ask us to sympathize with his moanings about “Iraq—who, me?”
A highly irritating expression in Washington has it that “hindsight is always 20-20.” Would that it were so. History is not a matter of hindsight and is not, in fact, always written by the victors. In this case, a bogus history is being offered by a real loser whose hindsight is cockeyed and who had no foresight at all.
There are few people who have been more consistenly correct about the situation in Iraq for the past five years than Christopher Hitchens. When he writes on the subject we should take him seriously because he knows his stuff better than nearly everyone save General Petraeus.