Pentagon pushback?

February 17, 2007

When the threatening political waves forced Dubya to jettison Don Rumsfeld, he was in a bit of a bind. He has a deep backbench of neocon ideologues, but none of them would have emerged from the black hole of the Judiciary Committee, had the Chimperor ventured to nominate him. He was forced to put forward someone with “realist” gravitas.

Robert Gates is no white knight of the left. He is a lifelong militarist, and as a CIA heavyweight he shares the Bush Administration’s axiom that the best way to run a democracy is to make sure the voters are kept in the dark about everything their government is doing. Of the available, confirmable non-neocons, he must have seemed to the Bushites to be as good a bet as any to act in sympathy with their program.

What they may have failed to take into account is that, unlike Rummy, unlike Cheney, unlike Feith or Wolfowitz or DiRita or Kristol or Kagan or Gaffney, Secretary Gates happens not to be insane.

Aside from the handful of dancing monkeys put into place by Chief Organ Grinder Rumsfeld, the military brass have always cast a cold eye on the Cheney Administration’s eagerness for Apocalypse. And I see several hopeful signs that the new SecDef is helping them resist, as effectively as possible without declaring open rebellion, the White House’s evident longing to open up an Eastern Front and march into Stalingrad Teheran.

First, there was the Secretary’s testimony to Congress last week. The talking point was supposed to be that Iran’s supreme leaders, ravening to kill American GIs, had manufactured EFPs for the express purpose of killing American soldiers, smuggled them into Iraq, and handed them to “the enemy” (whose identity was to be left permanently and purposely fuzzy.)
Asked if he thought this was really truly going on, Gates replied:

I think there’s some serial numbers, there may be some markings on
some of the projectile fragments that we found, that point to Iran.

Could he possibly have stuffed more qualifiers into a single sentence? Could he possibly have underlined more clearly how scanty the numbers of weapons involved, and the evidence for any of them, were (that “some, some” beating like a drum)? Notice how he carefull said “point to Iran”, rather than “point to Iran’s government”?

Second, Peter Pace uncatapulted the propaganda.,He threw DC into a tizzy by testifying that he was unaware of any actual evidence that Iran’s government ordered or even knew of these EFP transfers. As a result, Bush himself was backed into a corner. Asked specifically whether there is any such evidence, he couldn’t make the claim. Thereby he flatly contradicted the central thrust of the blindfolded in Baghdad briefing. (Remember Tenet’s “You don’t want the President to be a fact witness on this” back in the dear old days of yellowcake? Same deal here. Bush had planned to imply by association and vague suggestion that there was lots of such evidence; absent Pace’s bombshell, there would have been no direct, pointed questions on exactly that.)

Now, let’s remember just who Peter pace is. He is the survivor of an intense stuggle in a Darwinian fitness landscape, in which fitness was defined by willingness to hew unswervingly to the Defense Secretary’s party line, no matter how unhinged, how uncoupled from reality, it might be. “Yes man” was his career path and sole job description. There is no way he would have given the testimony he gave, without Gates’s permission. Probably not without Gates’s direction.

Third, there was the Secretary’s press conference yesterday. NPR reported that Gates had backed up the Administration’s position on the Iranian IEDs. Then they backed up that assertion with this sound bite:

For the umpteenth time, we are not looking for an excuse to go to war
with Iran,” Gates said Thursday. “I think that the evidence speaks for
itself, and I hope that the (American) people will see that evidence
in that respect.

Shall we unpack this, boys and girls? The “evidence” which has actually been given – to the press, to the Congress, to the public – consists of zip, zero, nada. Assertions, and wildly improbable ones, we have in plenty. Evidence we have none.

When “evidence” is nonexistent, and “speaks for itself”, what it speaks of is nonexistence. To the extent that the show and tell in Baghdad could be thought of as “evidence”, what it has “spoken” to Congress and press is rafts of doubt and oceans of unanswered questions. Taken as Washington blather, what Gates said is what his boss wanted him to say. Taken literally, it conveys the opposite message. I submit that Mr. G. was being deliberately Delphic.

In the light of that interpretation of the first sentence, the second one is equally double-edged. “I hope that the (American) people will see that evidence in that respect” sounds a lot like that classic line from The Who: “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, uh, don’t get fooled again.”



  1. It’s hard to believe that GATES could be the calming effect on these horrible people, isn’t it?

  2. Yeah, that. In the country of the velociraptors, the one-taloned predator is the pacifist.

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