NEW YORK, April 27: The former director of central intelligence (CIA) George J. Tenet has lashed out against US Vice President Dick Cheney and other Bush administration officials in a new book, saying they pushed the country to war in Iraq without ever conducting a “serious debate” about whether Saddam Hussein posed an imminent threat to the United States, the New York Times asserted in a front-page report.
In a report the newspaper said that it's reporter purchased a copy of the 549-page book, “At the Center of the Storm,” to be published by HarperCollins on Monday.
The Times said that “By turns accusatory, defensive, and modestly self-critical, it is the first detailed account by a member of the president’s inner circle of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the decision to invade Iraq and the failure to find the unconventional weapons that were a major justification for the war.”
“There was never a serious debate that I know of within the administration about the imminence of the Iraqi threat,” Mr Tenet writes in a devastating judgment that is likely to be debated for many years. Nor, he adds, “was there ever a significant discussion” about the possibility of containing Iraq without an invasion. Mr Tenet admitted having made his famous “slam dunk” remark about the evidence that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. But he argues that the quote was taken out of context and that it had little impact on President Bush’s decision to go to war. He also makes clear his bitter
view that the administration made him a scapegoat for the Iraq war.
Mr Tenet described with sarcasm watching an episode of “Meet the Press” last September in which Mr Cheney twice referred to Mr Tenet’s “slam dunk” remark as the basis for the decision to go to war.
“I remember watching and thinking, As if you needed me to say 'slam dunk' to convince you to go to war with Iraq,” Mr Tenet writes.
As violence in Iraq spiralled beginning in late 2003, Mr Tenet writes, “rather than acknowledge responsibility, the administration’s message was: Don’t blame us. George Tenet and the CIA got us into this mess.”
Mr Tenet takes blame for the flawed 2002 National Intelligence Estimate about Iraq’s weapons programmes, calling the episode “one of the lowest moments of my seven-year tenure.”
He expresses regret that the document was not more nuanced, but says there was no doubt in his mind at the time that Saddam Hussein possessed unconventional weapons. “In retrospect, we got it wrong partly because the truth was so implausible,” he writes.
Despite such sweeping indictments, Mr Bush is portrayed personally in a largely positive light.