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George Tenet on O'Reilly Factor

Reported by Chrish - May 3, 2007 -

George Tenet, author of the book "At the Center of the Storm," was interviewed by Bill O'Reilly yesterday 5/1/07, and an edited version was shown today 5/2/07 in three parts. Main topics were 9/11, Osama bin Laden, Afghanistan, and of course, Iraq. O'Reilly, claiming to be trying to get to the truth, nevertheless managed to make repeated jabs at Americans who do not believe the Bush administration's explanations ("the Bush-lied crew") and FOX's all-purpose target, haters.

First off O'Reilly assured Tenet he was not in it to bash him or make him look like an idiot (of course not, he's not a Democrat), and O'Reilly wouldn't be "taking calls from Boise Idaho." You know, those ignoramuses out there in the flyover red-states.

The first segment dealt primarily with the intelligence before 9/11. O'Reilly played the clip of Clinton insisting to Chris Wallace on FOX News Sunday that he got closer than anyone to killing bin Laden; he gave the order to kill him. However, in Tenet's book he states that he was told by former Attorney General Janet Reno that killing OBL would be illegal, and neither Clinton nor Bush gave the order to kill him. Tenet's understanding was that if in the course of a capture attempt OBL was killed, that was OK. O'Reilly repeated the Reno assertion that killing OBL would be illegal, presumably to discredit Clinton's emphatic insistence that he had in fact authorized a finding for the CIA to kill him, and pronounces that he thinks neither Clinton nor Bush has ordered it.

O'Reilly asserted that there is a propaganda war going on re the Iraq-Osama bin Laden "link" between the "Bush-lied crew" (henceforth the BLC) and Tenet/Bush administration/Clinton.

O'Reilly asked Tenet about meetings with Condoleezza Rice in the summer of 2001, and his warnings of an imminent threat. O'Reilly would have been "banging that table" (demonstrating), and Tenet claimed he was banging every table and was running around all summer with his "hair on fire", yet when O'Reilly interrupted to say that then it's Bush's fault for not heeding, Tenet defended Bush and blamed policies, procedures, etc., that ultimately failed the families of 9/11. In yet another indication of his extreme narcissism, O'Reilly injected "You should have called ME!' insinuating he could have prevented 9/11 if only someone had told him! Tenet of course recognized the ridiculousness of the offer and sounded annoyed as he said that he didn't know the attacks, "imminent, multiple, spectacular," were coming here - HE could have stopped them had he known when and where!

O'Reilly was interested to learn from Tenet's book that the CIA was in charge of the military campaign that overthrew the Taliban. Oops, not quite: they were responsible for strategizing the retaliatory strikes in Afghanistan, "locked at the hip" with Special ops. They were successful, except for Topra Bora. The BLC supposedly says of the CIA/Special Ops "incompetent idiots." Tenet said they did what they could with what they had, and that's what happened.

The second segment dealt with WMDs. Tenet firmly believed what Powell told the UN, as did O'Reilly, who figured that the Bush administration wasn't insane enough to go in front of the whole world and lie. When Tenet took offense at the word "lie," O'Reilly jabbed his finger and reminded him to keep the BLC in mind - how big it is in America and throughout the world, and how it has taken on a life of its own.

O'Reilly rewrote history in describing Powell's stance. He said

"He's saying they've got these deadly weapons and we're afraid that they're going to hand them off to terrorists - Al Qaeda and everybody else, and this guy better open up to the inspectors, he better let them in, or we're gonna move 'em out."

He continued, in an oddldefiant manner, "If we'd found WMDs, we'd be heroes today, I believe, in the world's eyes." Well, duh. He asked Tenet to explain himself personally, and Tenet said that based on what he knew over the prior ten years about Hussein's deceptions and denials, data he had seen, Hussein's thwarting of the UN, he believed in his core that Hussein had them O'Reilly accepted that and said "OK. Mistake - everybody makes 'em."

The BLC, he said, was putting out there that there was no reason to go into Iraq except Bush's venality. (No they said it was the oil, stupid.) But in Tenet's book he says that an Al Qaeda leader, Al Zarqawi, was given "safe haven" in the north of Iraq.

Tenet outlined three "causes for concern": Contacts, Training, and Safe Haven. All three were met, which made Iraq a cause for concern to the CIA. What was NOT met were criteria for Iraqi complicity: Authority, Direction, and Control, for any terrorist act that Al Qaeda has committed.
Some people tried to take the valid concerns farther than it deserved and create "command linkages." O'Reilly shrilled that if you believe the NYTimes, there was no link, and Tenet pretty much told him there wasn't. Their "street smarts" might tell them otherwise, but by the book, there were legitimate areas of concern, no more.

In the third part, O'Reilly wonders how such a noble venture could have been conducted with such poor planning. Everybody in the country was behind it except the "kooks." Comment: The "kooks" were right. It would probably kill Bill to acknowledge that, though. Because the polls were running 80-85% in favor of the invasion, those who opposed it were automatically vilified and marginalized by the likes of Bill O'Reilly. Now that it turns out they were right and he was wrong, you'd think a little humility would be in order. But noooooo.

O'Reilly claimed that the night the statue of Hussein came down, he saw Iraqis looting the armories with nobody stopping them. And it doesn't seem to him there was any kind of plan to secure the country after we got "him." (Comment: Pet peeve - I still have the headline from 3 days after the invasion that screams The oil fields are secured! The ministries, the museums, the palaces, the weapons caches were all being looted and trashed, but the oil was secured. There most certainly was a plan, poor deluded BOR.)

Tenet said there should have been an integrated plan that encompassed war fighting, conflict termination, peacekeeping, and stabilization. O'Reilly wanted to know who's to blame for the lack of plan, but Tenet said he wouldn't get into that and O'Reilly let it go. Hmmm. O'Reilly wanted to blame the Pentagon, and tried to get Tenet to say they wouldn't listen to his complaints that there wasn't a plan, but Tenet set him straight again: what he sent to Washington was intelligence that said there was a problem, an insurgency brewing.

O'Reilly announced that the war in Iraq has changed everything in America: it's divided the country, the hatreds are palpable. People hate Tenet, they hate O'Reilly, they hate across the board. (Obviously a Memo went out to emphasize the "hatred" meme today.) O'Reilly said we are still in great danger, because our enemies, the jihadists and Iran primarily, see the weakness created by all the hate and will exploit it. Does Tenet think Americans understand the threat posed by Iran?

Tenet is the finger-pointer now, and warns O'Reilly to be careful about Iran. We have an Iranian problem to be concerned about, specifically the nuclear program and support of Hezbollah, but in his view we don't want to fight Sunni and Shia Islam simultaneously. There's a foreign jihadist piece to this, to be sure, but this is a domestic problem we're dealing with; let's handle one thing at a time. When O'Reilly ruefully says he doesn't know if we can, Tenet asked him what he would do. He apparently didn't see the signs "Please don't feed the enormous ego" on the way in.

O'Reilly didn't answer and replied with a question of his own: if Iran subverts the government in Iraq, how will we ever stabilize it? Tenet suggests that we gather Iran and Syria, look them in the eye, and have straight talks about how we're going to get out of this together. In his view, Iraq is a problem that we have to make bigger - it's the region now, not just Iraq. There's a lot of danger, and it's a time for adroit diplomacy, strategy, big thinking.

O'Reilly asked Tenet if he was still Director of the CIA, what would he advise Bush to do in Iraq? We need to transition away from the front asap, and give the COmmand, Control, Intelligence, Support and training, and they'd have to take up Responsibility.

The interview was heavily edited and a little choppy at times. O'Reilly got his points across without once using "far-left' or accusing a movie star, and his beloved Bush emerged untarnished and ever the victim.