Tuesday 10 November 2009
Michael Crowley of the
This is a good time to review that "controversial image" and to consider whether and how much Mr. Gates has really changed.
As deputy director for intelligence and then deputy director of the CIA, Gates was wrong about every key intelligence question of the 1980s - either because he allowed his assumptions to override the evidence or because he was politicizing the evidence. A Kremlinologist by training, Gates was one of the last American hardliners to comprehend the changes taking place in the
He was wrong about the Soviet withdrawal from
Gates was eager to give his bosses what they wanted during the Reagan and Bush administrations in the 1980s and 1990s.When CIA Director William Casey wanted a National Intelligence Estimate that blamed international terrorism on the Soviet Union, Gates guided the project. When Casey wanted an intelligence assessment blaming
For an estimate to justify selling arms to
Gates' tailoring of intelligence for President Ronald Reagan led to his nomination to be CIA director in 1987 after Casey succumbed to a brain tumor. The Senate Intelligence Committee did not believe that Gates was being truthful about his denials of knowledge regarding Iran-Contra, and committee Chairman David Boren (D-Oklahoma) convinced Gates he would not survive the committee's vote. Gates wisely withdrew his nomination. He was nominated a second time in 1991 by President George H.W. Bush and, once again, was prepared to withdraw his nomination following testimony and sworn affidavits that documented his politicization of intelligence on the Soviet Union, Central America, the Persian Gulf and Southwest Asia.
Boren convinced Gates that he could get him through the process, and the White House brought in a senior political operative, Kenneth Dubberstein, to manage the nomination. Gates survived, but attracted more negative votes (31) than all other candidates for the position of director in the CIA's history. A Senate staffer told me that Boren was willing to stick his neck out for Gates because the senator had a guarantee from the nominee that he would dutifully report all CIA transgressions to the committee chairman.
Gates failed the first test of this so-called guarantee. He predictably covered up evidence of CIA information about Iraqi laundering of
Hard-liner Gates had no hesitation in trying to compromise the conciliatory policy initiatives of Secretaries of State George Shultz and James Baker in the Reagan and Bush administrations. When CIA Director Casey wanted to throw a wrench into Shultz's détente policies with the Kremlin, it was Gates who crafted anti-Soviet speeches and op-eds that resurrected the evil empire line. Interestingly, Gates still refers to
When national security adviser Brent Scowcroft wanted to hinder Baker's interest in an arms control dialogue with
On policy issues, when Gates wasn't slavishly following the hard-line initiatives of his patrons, he performed as a windsock, hewing to the prevailing winds and never being out of step with his bosses.
When President George W. Bush supported the surge, Gates did his volt-face. The notion of placing a missile defense system in
It is unfortunate that all of this has become ancient history to pundits like
It is certainly far too soon for
Melvin A. Goodman is national security and intelligence columnist for Truthout. He is senior fellow at the Center for International Policy and adjunct professor of government at
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"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs