The strangest thing happened soon after George Tenet resigned as CIA director. Critics and supporters of the Bush administration and Iraq War both attempted to depict Tenet as a fall guy -- an innocent scapegoat for errors made by others.
Shortly before Tenet resigned, David Corn of The Nation had reasoned that because Tenet was still on the job, President Bush must not have cared about being misinformed that finding Iraq's WMD would be "a slam dunk." "Shouldn't someone be held accountable?" asked Corn -- maybe CIA chief George Tenet? Or ... Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith, Richard Perle?" But Perle had already resigned in February. With Tenet also gone, the new technique for blaming intelligence failures on somebody other than the person in charge of intelligence has been to claim Tenet was merely a helpless fall guy for White House bullies.
Writing in Al Jazeerah, Mike Whitney depicted Tenet as "just a public servant carrying out his duties. ... Tenet had nothing to do with any of this. ... Tenet, of course, was intended to be the 'fall guy'; a role he decided to reject by leaving early." At Salon.com, Martin Sieff concluded: "The abrupt departure of Tenet had nothing to do with justice. ...The true architects of catastrophe in Iraq continue to sit safely in the Pentagon." New York Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer also insisted, "No one should make him (Tenet) a fall guy for anything."
Such Bush critics fear that blaming the CIA for intelligence failures might largely absolve the White House and Pentagon from responsibility for military decisions based on CIA misinformation. Blaming the president, vice president and Secretary of defense is far more useful to the Democratic Party and Al Jazeerah than blaming the CIA.
Ironically, a few writers attempting to defend the White House and Pentagon also claimed Tenet should not be blamed. These supporters of the Iraq War ended up claiming -- as war critics did -- that Tenet did nothing wrong.
Michael Barone of U.S. News and World Report wrote that Tenet's infamous "slam dunk" remark "was the conclusion as well of every other competent intelligence agency in the world. Tenet was right. Given that Saddam Hussein's Iraq had possessed weapons of mass destruction (mustard and nerve gas before 1991) ... and given that Saddam's regime had not accounted for WMDs he had (reportedly) possessed, any prudent intelligence agency would have to have concluded that he still had them. Moreover, there was no evidence that could have been obtained which would have convinced a prudent intelligence agency that Saddam did not possess them."