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Folks, we got em.  By the balls.  We have, here and now, uncovered one of the great lies of the Bush administration.

Which lie am I speaking of?  The one I discussed in my last diary here.

As I stated there, the circumstantial evidence uncovered by Ron Suskind  in his book The One Percent Doctrine strongly suggests that George Tenet never said the case for Iraqi WMD was a "slam dunk," and that the Bush administration constructed that canard out of whole cloth, and fed it to their tool Bob Woodward ("let's give it to Mikey, he'll eat anything!") to publish to the world.  It was an extremely useful lie, since it supported the White House's bigger thematic lie - that the Iraqi WMD debacle was the fault of poor intelligence gathering by the CIA, as opposed to the White House's unrelenting pressure and a single minded willingness to slant the evidence.

As Suskind documented in his book, the "slam dunk" statement came in the form of a memo written by the White House and transmitted to Woodward.  Accordingly, it wasn't the independent recollections of several individuals, but an authorized coordinated story put together by a team and vetted by the White House communications office.  Such coordination of interested testimony would never make it past the Courthouse steps, much less get admitted in a Court of law, yet it is repeated as gospel by White House flacks and the mainstream media.

But they forgot something.  There is a paper trail.  Not a paper trail from the meeting itself, but a paper trail of White House coordinated statements that suggests that this "slam dunk" comment was a manufactured propaganda phrase in the days when the Iraq intelligence fiasco was becoming clear.

Let's remember some dates here.  According to Suskind, this memo to Woodward containing the "slam dunk" comment was transmitted "not long before the reporter's final, December 11, 2003, interview with Bush for Plan of Attack, due out the following April."

So, sometime in the days before December 11, 2003, the "slam dunk" comment was committed to writing by the White House and transmitted to Woodward.

Which makes this article, dated November 18, 2003, quoting White House neocon ally James Woolsey, profoundly interesting:

Former CIA director James Woolsey said over the weekend that there's no question Iraq and al Qaeda worked together to plan attacks against U.S. interests during the decade leading up to 9/11, describing the evidence of an operational relationship as "a slam dunk."


"This is a slam dunk," the Clinton-era CIA chief contended, noting that his successor, George Tenet, had said the same thing in briefings last year.

Holy.  Fucking.  Shit.  What are the odds that Tenet used the "slam dunk" phrase not once, but twice.  And what are the odds that he was quoted by White House flacks as making that phrase twice in a two week period, once for each statement.

I'll tell what the odds are - not bloody likely.  This was a period, remember, when the Iraq intelligence fiascos were just coming clear, and the White House was going into overdrive to blame the CIA.  Clearly, the "slam dunk" phrase had entered the echo chamber, and the White House was determined to hang the phrase around Tenet's neck whatever it took.

We weren't in that room with Tenet, Bush and Cheney, so we'll never be able to say definitively what was said.  But the circumstantial evidence is piling up that "slam dunk" was the result of an organized black-ops propaganda operation by the White House, using the unctuous stenographer Bob Woodward as the propaganda tool.

So I'll say what I think, based on the circumstantial evidence.  George Tenet never said the Iraqi WMD evidence was a "slam dunk."  Instead, it was a propaganda job by the White House.

But why would Tenet go along with this, you ask?  Why didn't he stand up and say the "slam dunk" phrase was a lie, as soon as he saw it.

Suskind has an answer.  To fully get the picture, you need to read pages 13 through 16 of The One Percent Doctrine. (Plus the rest the book, while you're at it.)  However, I'll give you a taste:

When Republican Congressmen attacked Tenet in the days after 9/11, Bush came swiftly to his aid.  "We cannot be second-guessing our team," the President told a group of angry congressmen aboard Air Force One on September 27, "and I'm not going to.  The nation's at war.  We need to encourage Congress to frankly leave the man alone.  Tenet's doing a good job.  And if he's not, blame me, not him.

At that point, George Tenet would do anything the President asked.  Anything.  And George W. Bush knew it


Nothing more needs to be said.

Cross Posted at Political Cortex

Originally posted to pontificator on Sun Jul 02, 2006 at 01:55 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Interesting (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    casperr, irate, leo joad, MTmofo

    Isn't Dumbya the one member of the administration best known for making sports metaphors?

    Thwarting the forces of conservatism since 1978. -7.63, -5.64

    by wiscmass on Sun Jul 02, 2006 at 01:54:04 PM PDT

  •  Your argument improves (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    pontificator, bibble, irate, TimeTogether

    immensely with the Woolsey find.

    I agree with you that the characterization made to Woodward now becomes quite suspicious.

    However, unlike Powell, Tenet has no surrogate to tell his side of the story.

    Your resolution thus must be rejected.

    Neither Tenet nor McLaughlin  nor any other person has said that Tenet did  not say it.

    "Did not recall" is not good enough.

    While I strongly suspect you are correct, absent a denial by someone, your resolution must fail.

    Ok, semi-retired from blogging. Returning fulltime in December.

    by Armando on Sun Jul 02, 2006 at 02:06:39 PM PDT

    •  Tenet.. (7+ / 0-)

      Will be publishing his own book soon.  Maybe, just maybe, we'll get some additional information on this point then.

      I certainly haven't put forth enough to prove he didn't say it.  But I believe I've put forward evidence that severely undercuts the claims of those who say he did.

      The way to change the country is to win elections.

      by pontificator on Sun Jul 02, 2006 at 02:11:37 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  The timeline, Armando! (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I've posted this in pontificator's previous diary. Whether or not the slam dunk comment was made up to hang around Tenet's neck is, IMO, irrelevant.

      The relevant point is the what the meeting itself says about Bush's supposed open-mindedness. In order to sell the idea that Bush was duped by bad intelligence, they must show this meeting to be something it wasn't: an intelligence briefing. This meeting perpetuates the myth of George W. Bush as victim of bad intelligence rather than victimizer of the truth.

      The timeline blows that argument to pieces.

      If that meeting really was the honest-to-goodness intelligence briefing that convinced our noble president of the need for war, why was it taking place in December? Why was this all-important briefing about Iraq's WMD and the threat posed occurring after four months of no-doubt claims by Bush administration officials about the very thing Bush and Tenet were supposedly discussing? Think about it: if this meeting was really about the case to convince Bush (as the myth goes) and not about whether it was enough to convince the public, why was Bush needing to be convinced when his own public statements say otherwise?!! Likewise, if Bush didn't want anyone to "stretch the case" why were White House officials already stretching the case themselves? Bush already was convinced of the need for war! This December meeting had nothing to do with convincing the Decider-in-Chief to make the "tough decision" about whether the intelligence justified war. Bush wanted it. Congress had already authorized it. The only remaining variable was the American public. Would they buy it?

      •  Furthermore.... (0+ / 0-)

        To take this a step further....Are these the words of an unconvinced man?

        "Some ask how urgent this danger is to America and the world. The danger is already significant, and it only grows worse with time. If we know Saddam Hussein has dangerous weapons today -- and we do -- does it make any sense for the world to wait to confront him as he grows even stronger and develops even more dangerous weapons?

        ... The evidence indicates that Iraq is reconstituting its nuclear weapons program. Saddam Hussein has held numerous meetings with Iraqi nuclear scientists, a group he calls his "nuclear mujahideen" -- his nuclear holy warriors. Satellite photographs reveal that Iraq is rebuilding facilities at sites that have been part of its nuclear program in the past. Iraq has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes and other equipment needed for gas centrifuges, which are used to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons.

        If the Iraqi regime is able to produce, buy, or steal an amount of highly enriched uranium a little larger than a single softball, it could have a nuclear weapon in less than a year. And if we allow that to happen, a terrible line would be crossed. Saddam Hussein would be in a position to blackmail anyone who opposes his aggression. He would be in a position to dominate the Middle East. He would be in a position to threaten America. And Saddam Hussein would be in a position to pass nuclear technology to terrorists.

        George W. Bush, October 7, 2002

        If that December meeting between Bush, Tenet, and McLaughlin were really proof of the president's victimhood, why the hell was he making statements of certainty months BEFORE this supposedly all-important intelligence briefing took place?

        The only plausible answer is obvious: the meeting wasn't about the intelligence, it was about the advertising.

  •  The only slam dunk here.,, (6+ / 0-)

    is that the administration wanted this war in the worst way and that's what they got.

    "Gentlemen, you can't fight in here. This is the War Room!" President Merkin Muffley

    by irate on Sun Jul 02, 2006 at 02:09:39 PM PDT

  •  Woosley & Cheney (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    SpecialEFX, leo joad

    Are the manifestation of Evil!

    And Rumsfeld too.  These guys are the manipulators.

    Supported 100% all-the-way by Bush, of course.

  •  They used Tenet and Powell (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    leo joad

    Both were loyal and happy to please. Tenet wondered why he was kept on after Bush took over the oval office.  Well, we know now.

    Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity. Horace Mann (and btw, the bike in kayakbiker is a bicycle)

    by Kayakbiker on Sun Jul 02, 2006 at 02:23:23 PM PDT

  •  Much as I would prefer to believe (0+ / 0-)

    Tenet didn't make the remark, I must say that I have no inherent problem believing he might have used a phrase like "slam dunk" more than once.  Indeed, imo, knowing that he ever said it once makes it more, not less likely that he might have said it again.

  •  Tenent admitted to this publicly though? (4+ / 0-)

    I posted this in the previous thread, and I'm still looking for some input.  Risen says that Tenant has admitted to using the phrase and apologized for it.  Anyone have a reference that confirms this?

    "Got to kick at the darkness 'til it bleeds daylight"--Bruce Cockburn

    by Free Radical on Sun Jul 02, 2006 at 02:41:44 PM PDT

    •  Er, Tenet rather (0+ / 0-)

      Had multiple brain farts making me look like a complete illiterate there.

      Tenet Tenet Tenet Tenet Tenet...

      "Got to kick at the darkness 'til it bleeds daylight"--Bruce Cockburn

      by Free Radical on Sun Jul 02, 2006 at 02:43:43 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Found NY times article backing this up (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      pontificator, matt2525


      So if you're arguing that he never said it, then you have to be saying that Tenet is lying when he admitted to it in front of 1,300 people.

      "Got to kick at the darkness 'til it bleeds daylight"--Bruce Cockburn

      by Free Radical on Sun Jul 02, 2006 at 03:05:48 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  My question (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Is why he would tell the audience he said it, but tell Suskind he doesn't remember saying it.  Very confusing, and something I hope Tenet clears up when he writes his own book.  Suskind book strongly implies that, because Tenet felt indebted to Bush for not firing him after 9/11, he was willing to fall on his sword, again and again, and take the blame for things that weren't his fault.  Perhaps that's part of the reason he got the medal of freedom (I haven't gotten to that part of book yet -- it's at the end).

        But it'd definitely a mystery, and you raise a very good point by citing to the Tenet speech where he seemingly admits saying "slam dunk."

        The way to change the country is to win elections.

        by pontificator on Sun Jul 02, 2006 at 04:44:33 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  I don't quite get the point of this (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    leo joad

    Even if he didn't exactly say "Slam dunk" isn't it more relevant whether he actually expressed skepticism about the Iraq/al Qaeda link? Because even if he didn't say the exact words, if he expressed the essence of that, it's not really news, in my opinion.  

  •  Quote confirmed ... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Free Radical

    I believe I recall a CIA or other official confirming the Tenet quote in a Frontline program:

    The interviewee (I'd have to watch the whole show again to isolate him) mentioned Tenet's interest in sports, his "man's man relationship" with Bush, and his tendency to use sports analogies and metaphors, hence the "slam dunk." But I forget whether the official said it WAS said by Tenet, or SOUNDED LIKE something Tenet would say.

    Why do you have to be a nonconformist like everybody else? - James Thurber

    by JuliaAnn on Sun Jul 02, 2006 at 06:30:26 PM PDT

    •  In _State of War_, it mentioned... (0+ / 0-)

      ...that Tenet was a sports fan, especially basketball.  Page 11, hardcover:

      Bush found in Tenet not just a fellow jock--Tenet is a true expert on college basketball and an ardent fan of Georgetown University, his alma mater...

      It's not an unusual phrase.  Consider other sports sayings, like "knocking it out of the park",  "hail Mary", "4th and goal"...we could have a whole thread of these.  As a chess player, I'm sure I use the term "stalemate" far more than a typical person.

      "Got to kick at the darkness 'til it bleeds daylight"--Bruce Cockburn

      by Free Radical on Sun Jul 02, 2006 at 06:40:41 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  From the Frontline episode ... (0+ / 0-)

    In the fall of 2002, there's the NIE. The president wants to give the speech ... in Cincinnati; it has the yellowcake stuff in it. [Tenet] fights and writes a couple of memos to get it taken out. We're on a kind of juggernaut to war here. The State of the Union coming up, and then there's going to be the U.N. speech by the secretary of state [Colin Powell]. How is Tenet through this period? Is he on a slippery slope? Does he know it? Is he waging a kind of back-channel war?
    I think it was a very personal and pensive time for George, yeah. He, I think, asked himself whether or not he wanted to continue on that road and to be part of it. I think there was a lot of agonizing that George went through about what would be in the best interest of the country and national interest: Whether or not he would stay in that position and continue along a course that I think he had misgivings about, or whether or not his leadership of the agency at a very critical time -- still with the war on terrorism and knowing that we're going to be going into Iraq -- whether his greatest contribution to the country was to stay in position. I think he had some long nights that he thought over whether or not he was going to be perceived as part of this road going against Iraq.

    [What about the use of the term] "slam dunk"?
    Unfortunate use of term. I think what George was basically referring to was that John McLaughlin, who is an exceptional analyst and briefer, was presenting the case as best it could be. When there were challenges made to that case, in terms of "Is that all there is?," George had his natural tendency to sort of defend his deputy and say -- whether the term "slam dunk" was used or not, I don't know. But George wanted to make sure that John was the one to present it, because John was the consummate analyst; he could present it the way it needed to be presented, and whatever that discussion was that followed that briefing, that briefing still stood. ..
    Did he believe the stuff that was in the NIE and the stuff that Powell ultimately said before the U.N.? ...
    He had to rely on what the community provided to him in that estimate, the language that was in there, and so he wanted to make sure that that was going to be presented fairly. Did he know all the details under ... that whole report? Nobody did at that point, because it wasn't reinvestigated and revalidated. But he, I think, felt as though it was his appropriate place to stand behind or sit behind Secretary Powell at the U.N., because it was an intelligence case that was being made, and there were a lot of long, long nights that went over that material as best they could at the time, so that the legal brief or the intelligence brief could be presented to the world. ...

    From PBS interview with John Brennan, March 8, 2006. From 1999 to 2004 Brennan worked closely with George Tenet, first as his chief of staff, then as deputy executive director of the CIA. He also directed the National Counterterrorism Center from 2004 to 2005.

    Why do you have to be a nonconformist like everybody else? - James Thurber

    by JuliaAnn on Sun Jul 02, 2006 at 07:11:15 PM PDT

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