Michael Scheuer, the ex-CIA man who wrote the book Imperial Hubris, has been in the news. Scheuer apparently was the agent who, for a number of years, was in charge of trying to capture or kill Osama bin Laden. He was on Meet the Press yesterday, and made some deeply weird comments about his former quarry, as noted by Real Clear Politics. The show’s transcript is here:
MR. SCHEUER: …There has to be some command and control there. And to imagine that it doesn’t–that he’s unable to do it is just absolutely incorrect. He’s really a remarkable man, a great man in many ways, without the connotation positive or negative. He’s changed the course of history. You just have to try to take your fourth-graders’ class to the White House visitors’ center…
MR. RUSSERT: When you say “great man,” people cringe.
MR. SCHEUER: Yes, sir. Absolutely they cringe, but a great man is someone–a great individual is someone who changes the course of history. And certainly in the last five or six years, America has changed dramatically in the way we behave, in the way we travel. Certainly he’s bleeding us to death in terms of money.
MR. RUSSERT: Do you see him as a very formidable enemy?
MR. SCHEUER: Tremendously formidable enemy, sir, an admirable man. If he was on our side, he would be dining at the White House. He would be a freedom fighter, a resistance fighter. It’s–and again, that’s not to praise him, but it is to say that until we take the measure of the man and the power of his words, we’re very much going to be on the short end of the stick.
He sounds for all the world like one of King John’s men talking about Robin Hood. Maybe it would have helped to have someone trying to kill bin Laden who wasn’t such an admirer.
Scheuer offers some thoughts on the “root cause” of Islamic terror, which are completely unhelpful. This exchange was interesting, however:
MR. RUSSERT: Was it appropriate for you to write a book which many viewed as critical to President Bush while you were still a CIA agent?
MR. SCHEUER: Well, that was clearly, sir, the decision of the agency. Any officer serving who writes anything has to put the book through the most–a very rigorous process.
MR. RUSSERT: But people over there stated you were ranting and throwing a tantrum, threatening lawsuits if they didn’t approve your book.
MR. SCHEUER: No, sir …. I did not rant. I did not rave. And, indeed, once the book was published, it was misunderstood as an attack on President Bush. Mr. Tenet, who was in charge then, and his deputies let me speak about it as long as the book was misunderstood. When I turned the interviews around to show that it was a critique of people who have failed to serve the president well, whether it was Democratic or Republican, they shut me up.
Note that Scheuer includes George Tenet among those who were happy with his book as long as he was bashing President Bush.
The only good thing I know about Michael Scheuer is that he detests Richard Clarke. Apparently the feeling is mutual. The Weekly Standard has an article titled Scheuer v. Clarke, which details their feud. I think they’re both right. The conclusion of the Weekly Standard piece is especially interesting:
Scheuer thinks Clarke is a risk-averse poseur who didn’t do enough to fight bin Laden prior to September 11, 2001. … Scheuer said that on 10 separate occasions his unit, codename “Alec,” provided key policymakers with information that could’ve lead to the killing or capture of Osama bin Laden. “In each of those 10 instances,” Scheuer said, “the senior policymaker in charge, whether it was Sandy Berger, Richard Clarke, or George Tenet,” resisted taking action, afraid it would result in collateral damage or a backlash on the Arab street. According to Scheuer, Clarke’s story has changed in the time since. Clarke says the Clinton administration did all that it could to fight terrorism, while the Bush administration was derelict.
One of the reporters raised her hand.
“Just to clarify,” she asked. “Did all these 10 instances take place prior to the Bush administration?”
“That’s correct,” he said.
The conclusion I take away from all of this is that Porter Goss’s housecleaning at the CIA can’t possibly be too thorough.