No Tears for the Real Robert Gates

In
the early 1970s, I was chief of the CIA’s Soviet Foreign Policy Branch in which
Robert M. Gates worked as a young CIA analyst.While it may be true that I
was too inexperienced at the time to handle all the management challenges of
such a high-powered office, one of the things I did get right was my assessment
of Gates in his Efficiency Report.
I
wrote that if his overweening ambition were not reined in, young Bobby was sure
to become an even more dangerous problem.Who could have known, then, how
huge a problem? As it turned out, I was not nearly as skilled as Gates at
schmoozing senior managers who thus paid no heed to my warning.Gates was
a master at ingratiating himself to his superiors.
The
supreme irony came a short decade later when we – ALL of us, managers,
analysts, senior and junior alike – ended up working under Gates.Ronald Reagan’s
CIA Director William Casey had found in Gates just the person to do his
bidding, someone who earned the title “windsock Bobby” because he was clever
enough to position himself in whatever direction the powerful winds were
blowing.
To
justify theexpensive military buildup of the 1980sand the proxy
warsthat Reagan wanted foughtrequired judging the Soviet Union to
be ascendant and marching toward world domination. In that cause, Gates was
just the man to shatter the CIA’s commitment to providing presidents with
objective analysis. He replaced that proud legacy with whatever “information”
would serve the White House’s political needs.
As
Casey’s choice to head the CIA analytical division and then serve as deputy CIA
director, Gates showed himself to be super-successful at weeding out competent
analysts, especially those – like Melvin A. Goodman – who knew the Soviet Union
cold and recognized its new President Mikhail Gorbachev for the reformer he
was.
Those
analysts who refused to toe Gates’s line – which required judging Gorbachev to
be a phony and ignoring signs of the coming Soviet collapse – lost their jobs
to more malleable managers who saw things the Gates way.Goodman was one
senior analyst who quit in disgust.
Yet,
those CIA bureaucrats, who weremore interested in personal promotion than
promoting the truth, thrived under the Casey-Gates regime. The likes of John
McLaughlin and Douglas MacEachin, whom Gates put in charge of Soviet analysis,
wormed their way to the top of the agency.However, since the CIA had
blinded itself to signs of the change that Gorbachev represented, the agency
missed the fall of the USSR in 1991.
Despite
that stunning embarrassment, Gates’s acolytes suffered no career damage. After
all, they were simply regurgitating the “wisdom” of Gates, who –after he
moved over to President George H.W. Bush’s National Security Council staff –
had kept insisting to the very end that the Soviet Communist Party would NEVER
lose power.
So,
it should have come as no surprise two decades later thatmany of those
same CIA bureaucrats who had been promoted under Gates would be part of the
malleable managerial ménage that did President George W. Bush’s bidding in
conjuring up fraudulent intelligence to “justify” the disastrous war on Iraq in
2003.
Then,
Gates, who says in his new memoir Duty that he supported the invasion of
Iraq, was brought back into government in 2006 as Defense Secretary to oversee
the war’s escalation, the much-touted “surge,” which led to the deaths of
another 1,000 US soldiers and countless more Iraqis but failed to achieve the
political and economic reconciliation that Bush had set as its top goal.
I
wrote about Gates back then – as well as when he was reappointed as Defense
Secretary by President Barack Obama in 2009 – so I decided that there were more
useful things for me to do than, once again, expose Gates.More useful
things like exposing other
mendacious miscreants
, like Director of National Intelligence James Clapper
and National Security Agency Director Keith Alexander.
The
mainstream US news media was again falling short (surprise, surprise) in
exposing these current operators, and Gates, after all, left the Official Washington
scene in 2011. I also didn’t want to risk nausea by reading Gates’s latest
Apologia pro Vita Sua.
I
thought that anyone following the copious reporting on Consortiumnews.com
regarding Gates would greet with appropriate skepticism his latest self-serving
set of excuses. [See, for instance, “Robert
Gates Double-Crosses Obama
.”] Plus, the un-malleable Mel Goodman, the only
CIA division chief to quit rather than bend to Gates’s dishonesty, had just
given us an excellent piece titled “Bob
Gates’s Mean, Misguided Memoir.
Veterans
Deserve the Truth
So,
my personal thinking was to give Gates a pass this time around. But then I
began reflecting on my experiences over the past three months spending time
with US military veterans, including in Gates’s new home state of Washington
and in North Carolina and Florida, on speaking tours hosted largely by my
fellow Veterans For Peace.Most of my hosts are survivors of the Vietnam
War, the Gulf War of 1991, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Most of them still grapple
with serious wounds of one kind or another.
Then,
when I got home this past weekend from my latest speaking tour, I read Dan
Zak’s sympathetic-to-Gates feature
story
in the Washington Post, describing how Gates wells up with tears when
he thinks of the 11,000 troops (Gates’s own count) killed or wounded in Iraq
and Afghanistan on his watch as Defense Secretary.
That
got me to thinking about my hosts and their families and all such survivors of
unnecessary warfare. They surely deserve the truth about Gates’s self-serving
role in prolonging the agony, the killing, and the maiming in both Iraq and
Afghanistan – the unconscionable waste of life, the trauma and the missing
limbs for which Gates bears huge responsibility.
And
it occurred to me that Gates’s rapidly written memoir represents a holding
action.His hurry to publish, even while the administration that he most
recently served is still in office, betokens an unseemly rush to get his turgid
version of events on the record, creating a decent interval before Afghanistan
implodes, as Iraq is now doing (with 70 killed on Sunday alone).
Eventually
the inescapable truth will out – at least for those who can “handle the
truth.”Namely, that what happened during the celebrated “surges” in Iraq
and Afghanistan amounted to little more than a sacrifice of thousands of US
troops on the altar of the unbridled ambition that I observed in the first
Efficiency Report that I wrote on Gates.
The
many pages of his memoir devoted to how much he loved those troops – and how he
has asked to be buried among them at Arlington National Cemetery – amounted to
anattempt to anticipate and deflect accusations that he, in actuality,
betrayed those young men and women by sending more of them to die just to buy
time for President Bush and other politicians to slip out of Washington before
the ultimate defeats in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Americans
also deserve to know how presidents from Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush
through George W. Bush and Barack Obama cynically used Gates’s skills and
ambitions to give them political cover for their own dirty work, from the waste
of countless billions in taxpayer dollars on excessive military spending to the
justification and prosecution of misguided and feckless wars.
That’s
why I feel I must break my promise to myself that I would not devote one
additional minute to exposing this Teflon-coated charlatan, Robert
Gates.Why? Because nowhere has the Fawning Corporate Media been quite so
fawning as in their misbegotten adulation of “wise man” Gates.
Five
years ago, for example, the late “dean of the Washington press corps,”
Washington Post columnist David Broder, hailed Gates as “incapable of
dissembling.”It is too late to disabuse Broder of his fantasy on Gates.
But it may not be too late to inform those still interested in the real Bobby
Gates that it would be much closer to the truth to say that Gates was
“incapable of not dissembling.”
Toward
that end, I have dug out just three articles that I have authored in recent
years in an attempt to put Robert M. Gates in some honest context. They are: “Gates and the Urge to
Surge
”; “Afghan
Lessons from the Iraq War
”; and “How to Read Gates’s
Shift on the Wars
.”
Ray
McGovern
works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of
the Saviour in inner-city Washington.He came to Washington over 50 years
ago and worked as a CIA analyst under seven Presidents, one less than
Gates.Ray now serves on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence
Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).
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