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This is a longish article but well worth reading (obtained from Truthout). It retells some of Gates'

This is a longish article but well worth reading (obtained from Truthout). It retells some of Gates's past history that our media have yet to revive.

Danger of Keeping Robert Gates



Thursday 13 November 2008

»

by: Robert Parry, Consortium News


 
   Press reports say Barack Obama may retain George W. Bush's Defense
Secretary    Robert Gates as a gesture to war-time continuity,
bipartisanship and respect    for the Washington insider community,
which has embraced Gates as something    of a new Wise Man.

   However, if Obama does keep Gates on, the new President will be
employing someone    who embodies many of the worst elements of U.S.
national security policy over    the past three decades, including
responsibility for what Obama himself has    fingered as a chief
concern, "politicized intelligence."



   During a campaign interview with the Washington Post, Obama said,
"I have    been troubled by the politicization of intelligence in this
administration."    But it was Gates - as a senior CIA official in the
1980s - who broke the back    of the CIA analytical division's
commitment to objective intelligence.



   In a recent book, Failure of Intelligence: The Decline and Fall of
the CIA,    former CIA analyst Melvin A. Goodman identifies Gates as
the chief action officer    for the Reagan administration's drive to
tailor intelligence reporting to White    House political desires. A
top "Kremlinologist," Goodman describes    how Gates reversed a CIA
tradition of delivering tough-minded intelligence reports    with "the
bark on."



   That ethos began to erode in 1973 with President Richard Nixon's
appointment    of James Schlesinger as CIA director and Gerald Ford's
choice of George H.W.    Bush in 1976, but the principle of
objectivity wasn't swept away until 1981    when Ronald Reagan put in
his campaign chief, William Casey, as CIA director.



   Casey then chose the young and ambitious Robert Gates to run the
analytical    division. Rather than respect the old mandate for "bark
on" intelligence,    "Bob Gates turned that approach on its head in
the 1980s and tried hard    to anticipate the views of policymakers in
order to pander to their needs,"    Goodman wrote.



   "Gates consistently told his analysts to make sure never to stick
your    finger in the eye of the policymaker."



   It didn't take long for the winds of politicization to blow
through the halls    of CIA headquarters at Langley, Virginia.



   "Bill Casey and Bob Gates guided the first institutionalized
'cooking    of the books' at the CIA in the 1980s, with a particular
emphasis on tailoring    intelligence dealing with the Soviet Union,
Central America, and Southwest Asia,"    Goodman wrote.



   "Casey's first NIE [National Intelligence Estimate] as CIA
director, dealing    with the Soviet Union and international
terrorism, became an exercise in politicization.    Casey and Gates
pushed this line in order to justify more U.S. covert action    in the
Third World.



   "In 1985, they ordered an intelligence assessment of a supposed
Soviet    plot against the Pope, hoping to produce a document that
would undermine Secretary    of State [George] Shultz's efforts to
improve relations with Moscow. The CIA    also produced an NIE in 1985
that was designed to produce an intelligence rationale    for arms
sales to Iran."



   Hyping Soviet Power



   One of the key distortions pushed by Casey and Gates was the
notion that the    Soviet Union was a military behemoth with a robust
economy - rather than a decaying    power with a shriveling GNP. The
logic of the Casey-Gates position was that    exaggerating the Soviet
menace justified higher U.S. military spending and U.S.    support for
bloody brush-fire wars - central elements of Reagan's foreign policy.



   Since the mid-1970s, the CIA's analytical division had been noting
cracks in    the Soviet empire as well as signs of its
economic-technological decline. But    that analysis was unwelcome
among Reagan's true-believers.



   So, in 1983 when CIA analysts sought to correct over-estimations
of Soviet    military spending - to 1 percent a year, down from 4 to 5
percent - Gates blocked    the revision, according to Goodman.



   From his front-row seat at CIA headquarters, Goodman watched in
dismay as Gates    used his bureaucratic skills to consolidate the
agency's new role underpinning    favored White House policies.



   "While serving as deputy director for intelligence from 1982 to
1986,    Gates wrote the manual for manipulating and centralizing the
intelligence process    to get the desired intelligence product,"
Goodman stated.



   Gates promoted pliable CIA careerists to top positions, while
analysts with    an independent streak were sidelined or pushed out of
the agency.



   "In the mid-1980s, the three senior [Soviet division] office
managers    who actually anticipated the decline of the Soviet Union
and Moscow's interest    in closer relations with the United States
were demoted," Goodman wrote,    noting that he was one of them.



   "The Reagan administration would not accept any sign of Soviet
weakness    or constraint, and CIA director Casey and deputy director
Gates made sure intelligence    analysis presented the Russian Bear as
threatening and warlike," Goodman    wrote.



   These institutional blinders remained in place for the rest of the 1980s.



   "As a result, the CIA missed the radical change that Mikhail
Gorbachev    represented to Soviet politics and Soviet-American
relations, and missed the    challenges to his rule and his ultimate
demise in 1991," Goodman wrote.



   When the Soviet Union - the CIA's principal intelligence target -
collapsed    without any timely warning to the U.S. government, the
CIA analytical division    was derided for "missing" this historic
moment. But the CIA didn't    as much "miss" the Soviet collapse as it
was blinded by Gates and    other ideological taskmasters to the
reality playing out in plain sight.



   Goodman was not alone in identifying Gates as the chief culprit in
the politicization    of the CIA's intelligence product. Indeed,
Gates's 1991 confirmation hearing    to be George H.W. Bush's CIA
director marked an extraordinary outpouring of    career CIA officers
going public with inside stories about how Gates had corrupted    the
intelligence product.



   There also were concerns about Gates's role in misleading Congress
regarding    the secret Iran-Contra operations in the mid-1980s, an
obstacle that had prevented    Gates from getting the top CIA job when
Casey died in 1987.



   Plus, in 1991, Gates faced accusations that he had greased his
rapid bureaucratic    rise by participating in illicit or dubious
clandestine operations, including    helping Republicans sabotage
President Jimmy Carter's Iran hostage negotiations    in 1980 (the
so-called October Surprise case) and collaborating on a secret    plan
to aid Iraq's dictator Saddam Hussein (the Iraqgate scandal).



   Despite significant evidence implicating Gates in these scandals,
he always    managed to slip past relying on his personal charm and
Boy Scout looks. For    his 1991 confirmation, influential friends
like Senate Intelligence Committee    Chairman David Boren,
D-Oklahoma, and Boren's chief of staff George Tenet made    sure Gates
got the votes he needed.



   In his memoir, From the Shadows, Gates credited his friend, Boren,
with clearing    away the obstacles. "David took it as a personal
challenge to get me confirmed,"    Gates wrote. (Tenet's help on Gates
also earned him some chits with the Bush    Family, which paid off in
2001 when Tenet was Bill Clinton's last CIA director    and was kept
on by George W. Bush, whom he served loyally, if incompetently.)



   After getting confirmed in 1991, Gates remained CIA director until
the end    of George H.W. Bush's presidency. However, even after Bill
Clinton removed him    in 1993, Gates never wandered far from the Bush
Family orbit, getting help from    George H.W. Bush in landing a job
as president of Texas A&M.



   Damaging Documents



   During the Clinton years, documents surfaced implicating Gates in
questionable    actions from the 1980s, but the new evidence got
little notice.



   For instance, the Russian government sent an extraordinary
intelligence report    to a House investigative task force in early
1993 stating that Gates had participated    in secret contacts with
Iranian officials in 1980 to delay release of 52 U.S.    hostages then
held in Iran, a move that undercut President Carter.



   "R[obert] Gates, at that time a staffer of the National Security
Council    in the administration of Jimmy Carter, and former CIA
Director George Bush also    took part‚" in a meeting in Paris in
October 1980, the classified    Russian report said.



   In the 1980s, Moscow was very interested in the U.S. dealings with
the new    Islamic government of Iran, a neighboring country to the
Soviet Union.



   In July 1981, the Soviets even shot down an Argentine-registered
plane that    strayed into Soviet airspace while delivering a supply
of weapons from Israel    to Iran with the Reagan administration's
secret knowledge and blessing.



   The Russian allegation about Gates and the Paris meeting in
October 1980 also    didn't stand alone. The House task force had
other evidence from French and    Israeli intelligence officials, as
well as witnesses from the arms-trafficking    field, corroborating
reports of Reagan-Bush contacts with Iranian officials    in Europe
during Campaign 1980.



   However, the House task force never followed up on the Russian
report because    when it arrived - on Jan. 11, 1993 - the chairman,
Rep. Lee Hamilton, D-Indiana,    had already decided to get rid of the
October Surprise case as part of a sweeping    clean of investigations
into alleged Reagan-Bush wrongdoing.



   Years later, Lawrence Barcella, the task force's chief counsel,
told me that    in late 1992 evidence implicating the Republicans in
the October Surprise caper    had begun pouring in, so much so that he
urged Hamilton to extend the investigation    several months.



   Instead, Hamilton ordered the inquiry wrapped up - and the October
Surprise    allegations rejected - all the better to start the new
Clinton administration    with a bipartisan gesture to the
Republicans.



   Like much of the other incriminating evidence, the Russian report
was shoved    into a box and stuck in a remote Capitol Hill storage
room. I discovered it    in late 1994 after gaining access to the task
force's documents.



   By then, however, there was almost no media interest in the "old"
 scandals of the Reagan-Bush years. Not only were those stories
dated, but many    of the central players were either dead or - like
Gates - out of government.



   Iraqgate Scandal



   Gates also was implicated in a secret operation to funnel military
assistance    to Iraq in the 1980s, as the Reagan administration
played off Iran and Iraq    battling each other in the eight-year-long
Iran-Iraq War.



   Middle Eastern witnesses alleged that Gates worked on the secret
Iraqi initiative,    which included Saddam Hussein's procurement of
cluster bombs and chemicals used    to produce chemical weapons for
the war against Iran.



   Gates denied all the Iran-Iraq accusations in 1991, and Boren's
Senate Intelligence    Committee never pressed too hard to check them
out.



   However, four years later - in early January 1995 - Howard
Teicher, one of    Reagan's National Security Council officials, added
more details about Gates's    alleged role in the Iraq shipments.



   In a sworn affidavit submitted in a Florida criminal case, Teicher
stated that    the covert arming of Iraq dated back to spring 1982
when Iran had gained the    upper hand in the war, leading President
Reagan to authorize a U.S. tilt toward    Saddam Hussein's Iraq.



   The effort to arm the Iraqis was "spearheaded" by CIA Director
William    Casey and involved his deputy, Robert Gates, according to
Teicher's affidavit.



   "The CIA, including both CIA Director Casey and Deputy Director
Gates,    knew of, approved of, and assisted in the sale of non-U.S.
origin military weapons,    ammunition and vehicles to Iraq," Teicher
wrote.



   Ironically, this same pro-Iraq initiative involved Donald
Rumsfeld, then Reagan's    special emissary to the Middle East. An
infamous photograph from 1983 shows    a smiling Rumsfeld shaking
hands with Saddam Hussein.



   Teicher described Gates's role as far more substantive than
Rumsfeld's. "Under    CIA Director [William] Casey and Deputy Director
Gates, the CIA authorized,    approved and assisted [Chilean arms
dealer Carlos] Cardoen in the manufacture    and sale of cluster bombs
and other munitions to Iraq," Teicher wrote.



   However, like the Russian report, the Teicher affidavit was never
seriously    examined or explained.



   After Teicher submitted it to a federal court in Miami, the
affidavit was classified    and then attacked by Clinton
administration prosecutors. They saw Teicher's    account as
disruptive to their prosecution of a private company, Teledyne
Industries,    and one of its salesmen, Ed Johnson.



   Gates benefited, too, from Official Washington's boredom with -
and even hostility    toward - Reagan-Bush-I-era scandals.



   Instead, the polite and personable Gates continued to enjoy
influential protectors    on both sides of the aisle, from Republicans
around George H.W. Bush to Democrats    like David Boren and Lee
Hamilton.



   Plus, some of Gates's CIA proteges, such as former Deputy Director
John McLaughlin,    were liked by Democrats as well as Republicans.
(McLaughlin was a member of    Obama's intelligence advisory group
during Campaign 2008.)



   Great Timing



   Gates's connections - and his timing - served him well when he was
placed on    the Iraq Study Group in 2006 along with its co-chairs,
Lee Hamilton and Bush    Family lawyer James Baker. By fall 2006, the
ISG was moving toward recommending    a drawdown of U.S. forces in
Iraq.



   Meanwhile, President George W. Bush found himself in need of a new
Defense    Secretary to replace Donald Rumsfeld, who had grown
disillusioned with the Iraq    War.



   Though Rumsfeld was viewed publicly as a hardliner, privately he
sided with    his field commanders, Generals George Casey and John
Abizaid, in favoring a    smaller U.S. "footprint" in Iraq and a
phased withdrawal. Rumsfeld    put his views in writing on Nov. 6,
2006, the day before congressional elections.



   With Rumsfeld going wobbly, Bush turned to Gates and - after
getting Gates's    assurance that he would support Bush's intent to
escalate the war, not wind    it down - Bush offered him the job.



   Rumsfeld's firing and Gates's hiring were announced the day after
the Nov.    7 elections and were widely misinterpreted as signs that
Bush was throwing in    the towel on Iraq.



   Rumsfeld's memo was disclosed by the New York Times on Dec. 3,
2006, two days    before Gates was scheduled for his confirmation
hearing. [See Consortiumnews.com's    "Gates Hearing Has New
Urgency."]



   But Democrats on the Senate Armed Services Committee were so
enthralled by    the false narrative of Bush tossing over the
ideologue (Rumsfeld) in favor of    the realist (Gates) that they took
no note of what the real sequence of events    suggested, that Bush
was determined to send more troops.



   Gates was whisked through to confirmation with no questions about
the Rumsfeld    memo and with unanimous Democratic support. Sen.
Hillary Clinton and other senior    Democrats praised Gates for his
"candor."



   Within a few weeks, however, it became clear that Bush - with
Gates's help    - had bamboozled the Democrats.



   Not only did Bush dash the Democrats' hopes for a bipartisan
strategy on Iraq    by junking the ISG recommendations, but he chose
to escalate by adding 30,000    new troops. Instead of negotiating
with Iran and Syria as the ISG wanted, Bush    sent aircraft carrier
strike groups to the region.



   For his part, Gates joined in pummeling the Democrats by
suggesting that their    legislation opposing the "surge" was aiding
and abetting the enemy.



   "Any indication of flagging will in the United States gives
encouragement    to those folks," Gates told reporters at the Pentagon
on Jan. 26, 2007.    "I'm sure that that's not the intent behind the
resolutions, but I think    it may be the effect."



   During Campaign 2008, Gates also opposed Obama's plan to set a
16-month timetable    for withdrawing U.S. combat forces from Iraq.



   Nevertheless, Gates remains a favorite of the Washington insiders,
many of    whom - like Lee Hamilton - have expressed warm support for
the idea of keeping    him on at least for the early part of the Obama
presidency.



   If the President-elect is serious about taking that advice, he
first might    want to review the extensive evidence of Gates's
devious behavior and consider    whether Gates deserves the trust of
the American people - and their newly elected    government.



   This is the third part of a series on the political realities that
will face President Obama. For part one, click on "Can the Republicans
Change?" For part two, click on "Obama: Beware the Lessons of '93."

   ---------

   Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s
for    the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Neck Deep:
The Disastrous    Presidency of George W. Bush, was written with two
of his sons, Sam and Nat,    and can be ordered at
neckdeepbook.com.
His two previous books, Secrecy &    Privilege: The Rise of the Bush
Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq and Lost History:    Contras, Cocaine,
the Press & 'Project Truth' are also available there.    Or go to
Amazon.com.





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