Saturday, June 30, 2007

"This false unanimity was no accident ... It was the personal creation of Mr. Gates."

From part three of Roger Morris' series on Robert Gates and his legacy.

When it came to the Soviet Union, [President Jimmy] Carter was typically inconsistent in his first months in office, veering between one tactic and another in arms control while a bureaucratic war over SALT II erupted around him. On Gates' recommendation, the new president met with perennial hawk Paul Nitze, now representing the Committee on the Present Danger, the latest right-wing, military-industrial front fielded to attack détente. Soon, Brzezinski and Gates had won a defining victory. They had persuaded Carter to bring in the national security advisor's old friend and onetime co-author, Samuel Huntington, as a special consultant on strategic policy. The Harvard reactionary would later become one of the gurus of the neoconservative movement (and author of the ubër-Orientalist book, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order).

In the summer of 1977, his cohorts would leak to the Washington Post that Huntington's job was "to scare the Carter Administration into greater respect for the Soviet Union." Working in liaison, Huntington, Gates, and hard-liners in and out of government promptly did just that -- a process which culminated in Presidential Review Memorandum #10, (in which both Brzezinski and Gates were instrumental). A time-honored "study," using flawed or confected intelligence and meant to channel presidential policy, the infamously shallow PRM-10 nodded to détente, while legitimizing the fraudulent premise of the old Team B, that 1976 group of right-wing outsiders a Reagan-nervous Ford had commissioned to counter the CIA's non-existent underestimation of Soviet strength.

The conveniently have-it-both-ways Huntington-Brzezinski-Gates document combined "cooperation and competition" into a single U.S. policy toward Russia -- the first half to be honored with pledges of faithfulness by diplomatic day; the second indulged with a serial philanderer's abandon by covert-action night. Among other historic effects, PRM-10 would be the basis for what would develop into Carter's "rapid deployment force" in the Persian Gulf, meant to protect American "access" to Middle Eastern oil, and eventually into a full-fledged Gulf military command, CENTCOM.

It would signal the beginning of what historian Andrew Bacevich has labeled our "oil wars" in the region. More generally, the "report" sanctioned, for a new era, the use of trumped-up "special" panels or consultants to incite political alarm in the body politic whenever militarism -- and especially military spending -- was thought to be in danger of waning.

Against the continuing obstruction of Brzezinski and Gates, Vance would coax SALT II, which had seemed imminent at Carter's inauguration, to a cheerless Vienna signing at a summit meeting in July 1979. By then, however, the negotiations had been eviscerated by Congressional opposition that emerged ineluctably out of the growing mood of confrontation with the USSR; and the agreement would die just six months later without Senate ratification when Carter withdrew the treaty as part of his outraged reaction to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Meanwhile, just as all the hawks prodded him to do from the first weeks of his presidency, Carter went on to approve major new weapons programs -- what the Soviets, in mounting alarm, saw as "an endless build-up of power" -- that made the shell game of "cooperation" a travesty.


Meanwhile, during 1978, they were attending, with similar heedlessness, to the long death rattle of the Shah's regime. That disaster, prelude to another crisis that now confronts the new Secretary of Defense, is captured in snapshots.

There is Jesse Leaf, the CIA's analyst for Iran who has never been to Iran or met an Iranian. Like Gates, as a Soviet specialist, he is an "expert" in the country he "analyzes" only "from afar." He nonetheless grasps the coming collapse, not from the "Shahdulation" of official reporting, but from incidental reading of Alexis de Tocqueville's work on the rotten ancien régime of eighteenth century France. When he tries to warn his superiors of what the future may hold, unlike Gates, he sees his career stunted.

There is Brzezinski's call to U.S. Ambassador William Sullivan in Tehran in February 1979, as fighting rages in the streets of the Iranian capital. The national security advisor tells the ambassador that the American Army attaché must have his friends in the Iranian military "overthrow" the weak post-Shah regime and "take control of the country ... to restore order." The attaché is hiding in the basement of the Iranian Army commander's headquarters, pinned down by gunfire, and can hardly save himself, much less Iran, for Washington. "I can't understand you," Sullivan replies sarcastically, "You must be speaking Polish." It might have been an epitaph for so much. ...

[In 1983] Casey names Gates as chairman of the National Intelligence Council that oversees the preparation of all National Intelligence Estimates (NIEs).

Though the CIA put such documents together, intelligence analysts at the Pentagon and the State Department traditionally inserted footnotes of dissent. Now, they are suddenly prevented from doing so. "This false unanimity was no accident," comments a former ranking State Department official. "It was the personal creation of Mr. Gates." ...

[Spring 1985] Gates also convenes a special group to issue a memo arguing that the Soviets were behind the 1981 attempted assassination of Pope John Paul II. Asked years later about the murder plot by historian Fred Halliday, he replies, "It will probably remain one of the great unanswered questions of the cold war." Reflecting White House pressure, in the same vein Gates also presses analysts to implicate the Russians in European terrorism, though most analysts know that reports prompting the White House request are false and based on the CIA's own "black propaganda" operations ordered by Casey at Gates' own urging.

In May 1985, Gates issues a Special National Intelligence Estimate on Iran reversing all previous analyses and stressing Soviet inroads into that country (even though the fundamentalist Shiite regime of the Ayatollah Khomeini loathes communism).

In August 1985, an NSC meeting discusses the illegal supplying of U.S. missiles to Iran, via Israel, whose own inventories would then be replenished by the administration.

On October 1, 1985, CIA National Intelligence Officer Charles Allen tells Gates of suspicions that funds are being illegally diverted from some unknown source to the Nicaraguan Contras, though Gates claims he will not remember being told any of this until almost a year later.

A November 22nd Gates memo reports that Iranian-sponsored terrorism has "dropped off substantially," another major reversal in analysis, though no specific evidence is cited. Later that same month, U.S. Hawk missiles are shipped illegally to Iran.

In 1985, the CIA first notices "significant" numbers of "Arab nationals" coming to Pakistan to fight with the U.S.-backed Afghan Mujahideen in the anti-Soviet war. "Our mission was to push the Soviets out of Afghanistan. We expected a post-Soviet Afghanistan to be ugly, but never considered that it would become a haven for terrorists operating worldwide," Gates would write in his memoirs. He would be blunter with historian Halliday: "Frankly, we weren't concerned about what post-Soviet Afghanistan was going to look like." ...

January [1987], [Secretary of State] Shultz tells Gates: "I feel you all have very strong policy views. I feel you try to manipulate me. So you have a very dissatisfied customer. If this were a business, I'd find myself another supplier." It is only the first of much Shultz testimony. "I had come to have grave doubts, "he would tell Congress later, "about the objectivity and reliability of some of the intelligence I was getting."


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