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Dissension in the Ranks

November 15th, 2004 · No Comments

It’s hard to sufficiently emphasize the jaw-dropping power of David Brooks’ Times column from this weekend. Brooks reports, in essence, that the career analysts at the CIA are so appalled at the manipulative cherry-picking of their bosses in the White House that they’ve been pushed to the point of leaking pre-war analyses, so that when the president claims that there was unambiguous evidence of the threat posed by Iraq, the American people can be aware (as, in a democracy, you might think they should be) that it’s a huge fucking lie. Brooks’ conclusion? The president had better start cracking the whip at Langley! Maybe while he’s busy calling the CIA a pack of “mutineers” he might spare a moment to ask what it takes to push a bunch of veteran public servants to mutiny.

The Spectator‘s also complaining about “girlie men” at the CIA (an epithet that might be, uh, interesting to see the author deliver in person) resigning instead of toughing it out and trying to fix matters. This seems to me to miss the point, as though high-ranking senior officials resign out of personal selfishness, desperate to avoid unpleasant internal wrangling, rather than bravely hanging on. It’s just the opposite: However bad Porter Goss might be (and I’ve no idea), to resign is to make a significant personal and professional sacrifice in hopes of bringing to bear some kind of public pressure to correct problems at the top that make even the most diligent analyst’s efforts fruitless. Does it matter how much great stuff they’re turning out if the Office of Special Plans is going to cram the intelligence results into some ideologically preordained Procrustean bed anyway? It’s precisely because resignation involves sacrifice that it’s so effective as a means of signalling how seriously wrong things have gone.

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