Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Frontline's "The Dark Side"

Only historians will be able to judge whether or not George W. Bush (aka Bush 43) is the worst American President ever. Only time will tell if the legacy of his Administration is as awful as it appears -- what with the Iraq War, the failure to capture or kill Osama bin Laden and wipe out Al Qaida, Abu Graib, Guantanamo Bay, astronomical budget deficits, unjust tax policies, Hurricane Katrina, skyrocketing gasoline prices, global warming, rising interest rates, rising inflation, stem cell research, illegal immigrants, social security reform, Medicare prescription drugs, yadda, yadda, yadda...

No one needs to wait, however, to judge Dick Cheney as the WORST Vice President in the history of the United States. Ditto for Donald Rumsfeld as this nation's WORST Secretary of Defense ever.

I urge people to take the time to watch the PBS FRONTLINE program entitled "The Dark Side." You can watch the full program online.

In "The Dark Side," FRONTLINE tells the story of the vice president's role as the chief architect of the war on terror, and his battle with Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet for control of the "dark side."

This country has never had a Vice President as powerful as Dick Cheney and never had a Secretary of Defense who probably is feared as much as Donald Rumsfeld.

Cheney and Rumsfeld have worked side-by-side together for over three decades. Starting back in the Nixon Administration, many years ago, Dick Cheney, then a young intern on the Hill, began his political career working as a staff aide for Rumsfeld. Politically, their views of the world and their view of government are very similar.

Later, as Gerald Ford took office, Don Rumsfeld was chosen as White House Chief of Staff. He selected Dick Cheney as his deputy. Together they took over running the White House. Both were formidable bureaucratic infighters. One day they proved it, literally remaking the Ford Administration in a legendary maneuver performed entirely behind-the-scenes in what was referred to as the "Halloween Massacre." They managed to cut Henry Kissinger's job in half; Vice President Rockefeller was swiftly marginalized; William Colby, then running the CIA, was replaced by George H. W. Bush; Rumsfeld moved to be Secretary of Defense; and Cheney moved up to Rumsfeld's old job as Chief of Staff. It was an extraordinary tactical flourish.

After the Ford Administration, Rumsfeld made his fortune in private industry. Cheney spent a decade as the Congressman from Wyoming where he was immersed in intelligence matters.

Then, Richard Cheney became Secretary of Defense for the first President Bush. In the shadow of Colin Powell, he had quietly managed the military in the first Gulf War.

After 9/11, Cheney and Rumsfeld wanted the military to come up with a plan for attacking Al Qaida in Afghanistan, but the Pentagon was caught flat-footed. The military was totally unprepared in the wake of 9/11 for anything needed to be done in Afghanistan. They had no plans on the shelf. They had no idea what was required.

Rumsfeld was angry. He wanted quick action from a small force. The Generals from Central Command, led by four star Tommy Franks, had operational plans for different parts of the world, but nothing for Afghanistan. Meanwhile, George Tenet and his anti-terror CIA teams were ready to go. It was a bitter pill for the Pentagon.

In the initial stages of the war on terror, Tenet's CIA was rising to prominence as the lead agency in the Afghanistan war. Tensions between Cheney and Rumsfeld on the one side and Tenet on the other were really high. But when Tenet insisted that there was no connection between Al Qaida and Iraq, Cheney and Rumsfeld initiated a secret program to re-examine the evidence and marginalize the agency and Tenet.

Early in the Bush administration, Cheney placed a group of allies throughout the government who advocated a robust and pre-emptive foreign policy, especially regarding Iraq. After the attacks on 9/11, Cheney seized the initiative and pushed for expanding presidential power, transforming America's intelligence agencies, and bringing the war on terror to Iraq. Questionable intelligence was "stovepiped" to the Vice President and presented to the public.

Dick Cheney deeply distrusted the CIA. He remembered how wrong the CIA had been in failing to predict the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Iranian Revolution, Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait, and more. In the end, many believe the battle between the Vice President and the CIA has destroyed the Agency.

Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld are the main protagonists that got us into a pre-emptive war in Iraq -- a war America is now going to lose because there's no way for America to win. That's how the Iraq War and the Vietnam War are alike. What constitutes "winning" anyway? Slogans such as "Americans will stand down as Iraqis stand up" are just empty rhetoric. Congressman Murtha is correct. American soldiers are an occupying force. The troops should come home sooner rather than later.

In the final analysis, the ultimate evaluation of George W. Bush's presidency will be judged based on the failure of the Iraq War and how he followed the advice of the worst Vice President and the worst Secretary of Defense in the history of the United States. That will be his eternal epitaph.


Anonymous dk said...

Great show about rotten people.

8:33 PM  

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