Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Hank Crumpton on Wolfowitz: "What was he smoking?"

I read Hank Crumpton's book "The Art of Intelligence: Lessons from a Life in the CIA's Clandestine Service" in about six hours spread over two flights between NY and Seattle. It's a great book which I highly recommend everyone read.The recent attempt by Paul Wolfowitz to rewrite his colossal fuck-up on the Iraq war or to even have the audacity to provide advice prompted me to go back and find this relevant section:

Chapter: "Afghanistan, Strategy"
pp. 187-188
A few days later, Tenet and I were in the White House Situation Room. National Security Advisor Rice chaired the meeting. Rumsfeld, Card, Secretary of State Colin Powell, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Myers, and others attended. 
<cut for brevity> 
Rice asked Tenet to provide an update, followed by General Tommy Franks, who piped in via secure video from CENTCOM HQS in Tampa. Others added their views. There were some questions about Afghanistan, and I provided some short ansers. I was cautious in my responses. I did not know this environment. 
It was making sense. All of the people here were sticking to their roles as I had imagined them. They were all calm and polite. They were rational. 
Then it got weird. 
With no prelude, prompt, or reference point that I could fathom, Wolfowitz launched into a monologue. 
"Iraq. We must focus on Iraq - 9/11 had to be state-sponsored. Iraq is central to our counterterrorism strategy." He spoke with great emphasis. There was a short pause, with no response. So he lectured in this vein for another couple of minutes. Then he stopped as abruptly as he had started. 
There was a heavy silence around the table. 
I looked around the room. Still nobody said anything. 
What was he smoking? I wondered. 
There was nothing in our intelligence collection or analysis that implicated Iraq in 9/11. On the contrary, Saddam Hussein was a secular despot with no affinity for AQ ideology or for AQ as an ally of convenience. White Saddam was a terrorist and supported terrorist groups, especially those in the radical Palestinian networks, he saw AQ as more of a threat than an ally. Moreover, AQ had organized, trained, and plotted the 9/11 attack from Afghanistan, not Iraq. 
I sat mum. It seemed too strange to warrant a response, particularly from me, the new guy, policy rookie, field spook. But neither did anybody else challenge Wolfowitz. I dismissed the commentary as temporary contorted logic, an aberration of an otherwise intelligent and responsible policy leader. I had no idea what would unfold in the next couple of years.

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