In the preface to his 2004 memoir, Center of the Storm, former CIA Director George Tenet describes an odd experience that occurred upon his arrival at the White House very early on the morning of September 12, 2001. It was the day after the worst terrorist attack in US history. Smoke was still rising from the Pentagon across the Potomac, and dust was still swirling over the ruins of the World Trade Center in lower Manhattan, a scene of total devastation.
No surprise that security was extremely tight at the White House. Former CIA Director Tenet says he passed through a cordon of secret service agents brandishing weapons; and fighters were visible high above patrolling the skies over Washington. As Tenet strolled under the portico that leads to the West Wing, he was surprised to encounter “one of the godfathers of the neoconservative movement,” Richard Perle, then exiting the White House, a man whose reputation preceded him.
Tenet writes that “as the doors closed behind him we made eye contact and nodded. I had just reached the door myself when Perle turned to me and said ‘Iraq has to pay a price for what happened, yesterday. They bear responsibility.’”
Tenet says he was “stunned,” as well he should have been. What was Perle talking about? And what was he doing at the White House, anyway, especially on this day? True, the man was head of the Defense Policy Board, a civilian advisory group, but the job conferred no official status. It was not a government post. Perle was not a US official, nor a member of the Bush administration. Yet, in this unprecedented moment of national trauma and sorrow, Perle had access to the White House. How come? Tenet had no answer.
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How easy we are to fool and manipulate.
All those responsible for our war of aggression against Iraq must be brought to justice. However, it seems they never will be.