We have talked repeatedly about the guerrilla war that the CIA, long a Democratic stronghold, has conducted for years against the Bush administration. Increasingly, that war is breaking out into the open, and we are sorry to see that our old friend (and Deacon’s former roommate) Paul Pillar appears to be playing a key role. Robert Novak reports:
A few hours after George W. Bush dismissed a pessimistic CIA report on Iraq as ”just guessing,” the analyst who identified himself as its author told a private dinner last week of secret, unheeded warnings years ago about going to war in Iraq. This exchange leads to the unavoidable conclusion that the president of the United States and the Central Intelligence Agency are at war with each other.
Paul R. Pillar, the CIA’s national intelligence officer for the Near East and South Asia, sat down Tuesday night in a large West Coast city with a select group of private citizens. He was not talking off the cuff. Relying on a multi-paged, single-spaced memorandum, Pillar said he and his colleagues concluded early in the Bush administration that military intervention in Iraq would intensify anti-American hostility throughout Islam.
The Bush-CIA tension escalated Sept. 15 when the New York Times reported a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) that was circulated in August (not July, as the newspaper reported), spelling out ”a dark assessment of Iraq” with civil war as the ”worst case” outcome. The NIE was prepared by Pillar, and well-placed sources believe Pillar leaked it, though he denied that at Tuesday night’s dinner.
For President Bush to publicly write off a CIA paper as just guessing is without precedent. For the agency to go semi-public is not only unprecedented but shocking.
The CIA official spokesman said Pillar’s West Coast appearance was approved by his ”management team” at Langley as part of an ongoing ”outreach” program. However, the spokesman said, Pillar told him that the fact I knew his name meant somebody had violated the off-the-record nature of his remarks. In other words, the CIA bureaucracy wants a license to criticize the president and the former DCI without being held accountable.
Through most of the Bush administration, the CIA high command has been engaged in a bitter struggle with the Pentagon.
We have said how much we admire Pillar, but it is sad to see him participating in the Agency’s backstabbing of the President they are supposed to be serving. While I haven’t read Pillar’s report on Iraq, it is also a little hard to see how it could have contained anything especially revelatory. An invasion of Iraq might stimulate anti-Americanism in the Arab world? Really? Who knew? But what, exactly, did the CIA propose to do about the anti-Americanism that was already rife in the Arab world?
And I don’t see what possible justification there could be for leaking the report after the fact–except, of course, that it was another blow in the CIA’s war against the Bush administration. No wonder Bush takes information he receives from the Agency with a dose of skepticism.