“Tenet . . . a charlatan . . . A willing co-conspirator, he did for Bush and Cheney what propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels did for Hitler. The key difference is that Goebbels and his Nazi collaborators, rather than writing books and taking sinecures to enrich themselves, were held accountable at Nuremberg.” — CIA veteran Ray McGovern, “Four-letter Word for Tenet: Liar”
Following the thorough public bashing of former CIA director George Tenet over his current book, At the Center of the Storm, his mea culpa about botched Iraq WMD war intelligence — the question arises: Could the Bush II administration’s inspiration for bogus intel have come out of the Hollywood can of Our Man in Havana?
Greenwich Village’s Film Forum was packed for a recent showing of the 1950s satirical comedy starring Alec Guinness as a Havana vacuum cleaner salesman turned secret agent who feeds his British spymasters sketches of one of the vacuums in his shop made to resemble a Cuban weapons plant. And he invents subagents to go with the drawings. All to find a way to pay for his teenage daughter Milly’s education and shopping sprees — and to keep her out of the paws of Ernie Kovacs, the chief of Havana security who wants to marry Milly.
It was unclear how many Village moviegoers were familiar with the plot prior to seeing the film, which is based on Graham Greene’s 1958 novel by the same name. What was clear was the shared realization afterwards that the story line bore an uncanny resemblance to the phony Iraq war intel Tenet ultimately presented to George W. Bush, who was looking for reasons to invade Iraq.
Months before the Iraq war, for example, Bush II was propagandizing about aluminum tubes, centrifuges and nukes in a speech in Cincinnati (Oct. 2002):
“Evidence indicates that Iraq is reconstituting its nuclear weapons program,” he said. “Saddam Hussein held numerous meetings with Iraqi nuclear scientists, a group he calls his ‘nuclear mujahedeen’ – his nuclear warriors. . . . Iraq has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes and other equipment needed for gas centrifuges, which are used to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons.”
Even though the INR (Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence and Research) and DOE (Department of Energy) believed those very same aluminum tubes were meant for artillery shells, the CIA headed by Tenet and the DIA (Defense Intelligence Agency) prevailed with the tale that the tubes were designed for use in centrifuges. This is ultimately what Bush gleaned from the one-page summary on WMD that Tenet read to Bush, who then went into shock & awe mode on March 20, 2003 to “disarm Iraq and free its people”.
“‘A vacuum cleaner!’ Hawthorne bent down and examined the drawings again, and the cold struck him once more.
‘Makes you shiver, doesn’t it?’
‘But that’s impossible, sir.’ He felt as though he were pleading for his own career, ‘It couldn’t be a vacuum cleaner, sir. Not a vacuum cleaner.’
‘Fiendish, isn’t it?’ the Chief said. ‘The ingenuity, the simplicity, the devilish imagination of the thing.’ He removed his black monocle and his baby-blue eye caught the light and made it jig on the wall over the radiator. ‘See this one here six times the height of a man. Like a gigantic spray. And this – what does this remind you of?’
Hawthorne said unhappily. ‘A two-way nozzle.’
‘What’s a two-way nozzle?’
‘You sometimes find them with a vacuum cleaner.’
‘Vacuum cleaner again. Hawthorne, I believe we may be on to something so big that the H-bomb will become a conventional weapon.’”
Instead of Tenet peddling his “non-fiction” book, which has only further discredited him, perhaps he should have considered writing a novel. Finding a place for characters like Judith Miller and Ahmad Chalaby would have been easy enough — and for a genuinely good laugh, some might even have forgiven him.