Sunday, June 5, 2011

1991: Gates of Hell

Robert Gates will be retiring soon - again - but the mindset he represents is still going strong. It's unsurprising that Bush the Lesser would put this fellow back into a position of responsibility, and somewhat less so that Barack Obama would choose to keep him there. But very little surprises me anymore. Meanwhile, Bob is doing some kind of victory lap to close out his tenure. Lately he's pleaded for more "patience" from the American people after a decade of counterinsurgency failures in Afghanistan - nearly half of that under his watch. And he's telling our Asian allies that our "budget woes" back home won't stop us from expanding our empire of military bases. That's the bold thinking we've come to expect.

For the second time in less than a month, we have a prime example of the utter cynicism with which the US Senate shirks its constitutional duty to advise and consent to presidential appointments. By confirming Robert Gates, to be Director of Central Intelligence (DCI), the Senate has promoted a bald-faced liar, a man all too willing to pervert intelligence for political ends. This toadying little yes-man is arguably the worst possible choice for the job at this time. Indeed, at this juncture in history, Congress should be debating whether the job itself is still necessary.

Bob Gates is an unreconstructed Cold Warrior taking the helm of the CIA at a time when conventional wisdom holds that the Cold War is over. But the fact that Gates has been wrong about nearly every major intelligence question of the last decade –  from Gorbachev to Saddam to Noriega to Khomeini – does not disqualify him in the eyes of his masters. Nor do his transparent evasions before Congress render him unfit for duty. This is exactly what is required of a DCI to toe the official line and deceive the American people.

The Senate, unwilling to confirm Gates for the same job in 1987 because of his blatant lies, now apparently believes the man is not lying when he promises never to lie to them again. Four years ago, Gates was grilled over his role in scripting perjury for then-DCI William Casey, who claimed arms sold to Iran were actually oil drilling equipment. Gates was forced to withdraw his nomination before the vote. Now he expects us to believe that he was unaware of the illegal diversion of profits from these sales to fund the Nicaraguan contras – despite an extensive paper trail to the contrary.

Gates has a long record of distorting intelligence to fit the prejudgments of his superiors. He earned a promotion in 1982 for authoring a memo – unsupported by the evidence – which blamed the Soviets for international terrorism. He promoted the myth that the KGB was behind the attempted assassination of Pope John Paul II (though the assailant was an extreme right-winger from a NATO country). And he dutifully prepared memos justifying the sale of arms to non-existent "moderates" in Khomeini's Iran.

Throughout the '80s, under Gates' watch, the CIA repeatedly over-estimated Soviet military spending in an attempt to justify record Pentagon budgets and completely overlooked the significance of Gorbachev's reforms. Many of Gates' subordinates testified – at considerable risk to their careers – that he had created a climate of hostility to any intelligence which contradicted his preconceptions. Of course, in so doing, Gates was simply following in the footsteps of his mentor. As DCI in the mid '70s, George Bush created a whole new team of Soviet analysts to give him the desired justifications for increased Cold War spending.

Aside from his grotesque distortions and appalling policy recommendations, Gates will remain a prime suspect in the alleged "October Surprise" deal, at least until it is more thoroughly investigated Gates served in the National Security Council in the Carter White House at a time when somebody there was leaking information to the Reagan Bush campaign about Carter's efforts to obtain the release of US hostages in Iran. When Carter was prevented from doing so, Reagan was elected, and billions of dollars worth of arms began flowing to Iran within weeks of Inauguration Day and Bob Gates began receiving a series of promotions.

None of the foregoing proved any impediment for 64 US Senators in promoting Gates once again, to reign over our $35 billion-a-year intelligence “community." At least one Senator, however, New York's Daniel Patrick Moynihan, believes that the CIA itself is obsolete. Moynihan has introduced legislation to abolish the agency and fold all intelligence-gathering functions into the State Department. Representative Barbara Boxer has also proposed eliminating virtually all covert action. Of course, in today's Congress, these proposals are about as popular as Pee Wee Herman at a Baptist picnic.

When former DCI Stansfield Turner was asked recently what possible use we have for the CIA in a post-Cold War world, he mentioned the need to support US economic competitiveness. Turner was finally coming out of the closet with the CIA's true mission, stripped of its overblown Red Menace rationale. The agency was created in the first place because of lobbying from Fortune 500 types who wanted a covert action capability for interventions on their behalf. It has been rooted in mendacity and lawlessness from its inception.

No matter how genuine the need to counter Russian imperial ambitions, the Cold War, first and foremost, served as a cover for our own empire building. As the CIA's covert op cowboys booted from power any governments insufficiently willing to play ball with US corporations, the Russian Bear was our all purpose excuse. Now that the Russians are unable to keep their own republic intact, let alone their empire, some more creative excuses will be required. The most popular candidate, now covering our escalating intervention in Peru, is the menace of international narcotics trafficking – a bitter irony, given the CIA's long history of collusion with such forces.

The Central Intelligence Agency has been a mercenary army for WaIl Street from day one, a prostitution of every nation's legitimate need to collect intelligence. There is no reason why US taxpayers should continue to fork over unaccounted for billions to subsidize the balance sheets of multinational corporations who are shipping jobs overseas. We should be demanding an explanation from anyone who suggests otherwise – not just from this small-minded bureaucrat freshly installed at Langley, but from the war-mongering aristocrat who appointed him.

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