Wednesday, May 20, 2009

No Sense of History


If you read Michael Gerson's columns, you know that he has no sense of history. Not just about things like World War II and Nazism, but about what was happening one or two doors down the hall when he was sitting in a little office writing speeches for the President. One suspects that the only words he ever heard while working at the White House were, "Shut up, Gerson's coming."

Today he provides yet another "case in point":
In a little over 100 days, the Obama administration and the Democratic Congress have delivered a series of blows to the pride and morale of the Central Intelligence Agency.
This would involve releasing memos confirming the use of (a word Gerson still can't manage to choke out) torture, and that the Bush Administration had repeatedly lied about its use of torture. And Nancy Pelosi stating that the CIA misled her about its use of torture, something the CIA hasn't actually denied. That would be... all. But Gerson's doing his usual stenography, so what do facts matter to his analysis....

So let's flash back in time a few years, to the days of "Shut up, Gerson's coming" Gerson's service in the White House and what certainly couldn't have been "hypocritical congressional investigations":
The CIA has hit back angrily after reports that a United States Senate committee will criticise the agency and its embattled director, George Tenet, for "shoddy" pre-war intelligence on Iraq's suspected illegal weapons programmes.

The agency's senior officials summoned the media to a hastily-arranged briefing at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia late on Friday. With its credibility at stake, they insisted that an internal review had found no evidence of faulty work.
Thank goodness for the sane intervention of Peter Hoekstra (R-MI):
Hoekstra didn't spell it out in his note. But what he was saying was that he believed a CIA cabal has tried to undercut Bush regarding the war in Iraq - that CIA officials opposed to the war plotted against the president and sought to undercut his case for war by leaking stories indicating that the intelligence cited by Bush and his aides on Iraq's WMDs and purported connections to al Qaeda was not that strong.
G.W. always had the CIA's back:
US President George W. Bush refused to take the blame for using flawed data on Iraq's nuclear program in his State of the Union speech, saying the CIA cleared it before it was delivered.
And nobody in the White House would have dreamed of setting up an independent intelligence agency to second-guess (or undermine) what the CIA had to say:
It is no secret now that Douglas Feith, George W. Bush's undersecretary of Defense for policy, set up his own intelligence operation in the Pentagon, known as the Office of Special Plans. According to current and former Pentagon officials, Feith believed that the CIA and other intelligence agencies dangerously underestimated threats to U.S. interests.
The Bush White House, as you might expect, was also very careful to protect CIA operations and operatives. All of this, of course, left the CIA feeling respected and valued by the White House.

Gerson's arguments get no better from there:
Traveling recently in Iraq, Pelosi noted, "If we're going to have a diminished military presence, we'll have to have an increased intelligence presence." This has been the main Democratic argument against the whole idea of the war on terror - that guns and bombs are no substitute for timely information. "This war on terror is far less of a military operation and far more of an intelligence-gathering, law-enforcement operation," Sen. John Kerry once claimed.
In his curious ad hominem, Gerson somehow manages to miss the point that Pelosi is correct. If you're going to reduce the presence of U.S. forces in an area, and rely on fewer soldiers to control insurgency and potential terrorist activity, you need better intelligence. What about that is difficult to understand? And I recognize that it's standard operating procedure for stenographers like Gerson to sneer at the concept of the war on terror as being about pursing terrorists, as opposed to dropping the ball in Afghanistan in order to launch a massive war of choice against a country that was not involved in 9/11 (while slandering the CIA for somehow failing to find a connection), but in what sense have our victories in the "war on terror" been driven by that huge war in Iraq? Can Gerson actually make the case that Kerry was wrong, let alone that his approach wasn't superior to G.W. "Who's Bin Laden, again" Bush's?
But this object of praise - intelligence-gathering - is again the object of liberal assault. "To put the matter at its simplest," writes Gabriel Schoenfeld, "American elites have become increasingly discomfited over the last decades by the very existence of a clandestine intelligence service in a democratic society."
Oh, it must be true because Gabriel Schoenfeld says so. Er, just a moment... who the [bleep] is Gabriel Schoenfeld? You know, it's great that with in the right-wing echo chamber, Gerson can find other commentators that share his beliefs, and its great that he can quote them rather than resorting to, you know, boring things like facts, but it's hardly a way to build a valid argument. But then, he thinks the speck in the eye of the Democratic Party is larger than....

You know what else is lost in Gerson's "analysis"? The realization that in a Democracy it's appropriate, healthy, and sometimes very necessary for our elected officials to take on institutions like the CIA.

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