Thursday, September 22, 2005

A Clear Lack of Intelligence, Part Duh

The rhetorical scholar Kenneth Burke talked a lot about a phenomenon he called “scapegoating.” This doesn’t simply mean simply finding someone to blame for something unpleasant. For Burke, it means the drive to expunge or alleviate guilt by projecting it onto something else, then attempting to destroy this “something else” as a way of destroying one’s own sense of responsibility.

I offer this as a way of understanding the otherwise
inexplicable attempt of Mark Hyman to lay the blame for today’s intelligence failures on actions President Jimmy Carter took nearly 30 years ago.

Yes, in a continuation of his remarks about intelligence failures, Hyman claims that it’s all the fault of Democrats, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton in particular.

Hyman charges that the downfall of American intelligence began with a “case of a wimpy conscience” in the wake of the Church Committee hearings in 1974. These were hearings (one of several sets of such hearings) designed to look into the abuse of U.S. intelligence services (especially the C.I.A.). Apparently for Hyman, “wimpy conscience” means not allowing the president to use the C.I.A. to spy on domestic political opponents or assassinating foreign leaders (these being two of the more important results of the hearings).

Of course, these hearings were precipitated by abuses of intelligence services by the Nixon White House, both at home and abroad (particularly with regard to the war in Vietnam), but Hyman glosses that point. He also fails to mention that although Jimmy Carter did codify a number of the Church Commission’s suggestions through
Executive Order 12036, this happened in 1978—four years after the Church Commission. He also fails to mention that Carter was simply following in the footsteps of President Ford, who had put most of these measures in place two years earlier in his Executive Order 11905. Finally, Hyman doesn’t acknowledge that in 1981, President Reagan undid much of these restrictions when he rescinded Carter’s order with his own Executive Order 12333.

To believe Hyman’s tale, one would not only have to ignore the fact that it was Ford who started the reforms, but that somehow Carter so decimated the intelligence service in less than three years that the following 12 years of Republican rule (four of which were under a president who had served in the C.I.A.) couldn’t undo them.

Hyman also tries to lay blame at the feet of the Clinton administration by saying they “handcuffed” intelligence operations during their tenure. Unfortunately, Hyman doesn’t say how they did this. Nothing. It’s the very definition of a baseless charge. He does, however, make a separate charge that Jamie Gorelick, deputy Attorney General in the Clinton administration, had created a “firewall” that prevented intelligence sharing. This has been a favorite point of rabid right webpages and talk radio, but
even John Ashcroft has said it’s an invalid charge.

So implying that our current intelligence woes are the fault of a man who was president for four years more than a quarter century ago and offering charges without a lick of support are obvious signs of desperation. But why so desperate, Mark?

Perhaps it’s because the current Bush administration has so much to answer for when it comes to intelligence failures. Richard Clarke, who served in the Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, and Bush II administrations has said that the current administration ignored his pleadings to take al-Qaida seriously. And he has proof. Clarke
wrote a memo immediately after the Bushies took power telling them explicitly and with urgency that they needed to deal with al-Qaida. They didn’t. Even a week before 9/11, the Bush administration was still not listening to an increasingly frustrated Clarke beg them to pay attention to al-Qaida.

As Clarke himself said, such a loss of focus would not have happened in the Clinton administration. Remember, by the way, that the Clinton administration fired missiles at suspected al-Qaida targets in 1998 and had been planning on launching another strike at the very beginning of 2001, only to decide that it would be more proper to pass along the plan to the new administration rather than begin such an operation in the last few days of their time in office. The Bush administration promptly shelved the whole issue.

And in our previous post, we’ve already touched on the nightmare scenario that we find ourselves in due to the willful ignorance (and manipulation) of existing intelligence by the Bush administration in order to start a war in Iraq.

Yes, I suppose if I was a member of the Bush administration or one of its leading cheerleaders, I’d be desperate to do anything that would destroy my sense of responsibility for what’s happened in the last five years. And who knows—maybe blaming Jimmy Carter for the whole mess actually lets people like Hyman sleep easier at night.

But I can’t help but wonder if, after he’s gone to bed at 9:00 p.m. and drifted off to Never-Never land, the president sees some of the faces of the 2000 young Americans who have died because of his “lack of intelligence.”

And that’s The Counterpoint

Hyman Index: 2.41


At 12:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The attempt by these Neo-Fascists to blame and smear Jimmy Carter sets a new high-water mark for these idiots in their distortion of reality for the sheeple.

President Carter warned us in several of his addresses to the country over a quarter of a century ago, that our soldiers would be fighting wars for oil in the middle-east if we didn't change our energy and foreign policies - absolutely prophetic.

Of course, future Republican administrations sided with the oil company elites and destroyed all the bridges and roads to energy independence that Jimmy had started to construct, in favor of short-sighted, short-term profits.

Yes, for them it is imperative that Jimmy Carter be smeared, blamed and discredited, as they can't afford for the truth to bubble up to the surface.

Thanks Ted, and keep bustin' Hyman.
Mike B. in SC


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