Robert Gates' new book is making the rounds on cable TV news and is getting much attention from the Beltway elites like Bob Woodward. Gates' harshest criticisms were saved for V.P. Joe Biden:
Biden is accused of “poisoning the well” against the military leadership. Thomas Donilon, initially Obama’s deputy national security adviser, and then-Lt. Gen. Douglas E. Lute, the White House coordinator for the wars, are described as regularly engaged in “aggressive, suspicious, and sometimes condescending and insulting questioning of our military leaders.”
You know the Beltway will run with this, because they fawn over almost all military-type leaders. I'm not attacking Gates' personal character, but we must always question the military industrial complex because they have a very checkered record. Max Fisher at the Washington Post grades Robert Gates on one of his own past judgements and the results are eye-opening.
I am not appropriately positioned to evaluate Gates's positions on "every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades." But I can tell you how he performed on the single most important one he ever confronted: ending the Cold War. He was, quite simply, dead wrong.
President Ronald Reagan eventually came around to the idea that, yes, he could and should work with Gorbachev. He was persuaded by, among others, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who famously said that Gorbachev was a man the West could do business with.But Reagan had to overcome the fierce opposition of a top CIA Kremlinologist and eventual CIA director named Robert M. Gates, who maintained for years that Gorbachev was no reformer, that he was not to be trusted and that Reagan would be walking into a Soviet ploy. Quite simply, Gates was wrong, overruled by Reagan, and the world was better off for it.
What, the CIA was wrong about the Soviet Union? How shocking. Howie Klein wrote a great piece about the history of the CIA, how the Dulles brothers engaged in many secret foreign wars to overthrow rulers they hated. (Which eventually got us into the Vietnam war.) As you might know by now, JFK was no fan of the CIA, especially after the Bay of Pigs.
After Kennedy took office, he was unaware that the CIA, in accord with an OK from President Eisenhower and working with the Belgians, had overseen the gruesome torture and brutal murder of the Congo's popular first prime minister, Patrice Lumumba.
With Lumumba already dead a month and his body dissolved in sulphuric acid, Kennedy called for him to be reintegrated into the new nation's government. The CIA-- Allen Dulles, who JFK foolishly kept on as director-- hadn't told him that they had carried out Eisenhower 's orders to have him murdered as a commie dupe.
According to Stephen Kinzer's book about Allen and John Foster Dulles, The Brothers, "Less than two years later, Allen casually admitted that he might have exaggerated the danger Lumumba posed to the West.
A television interviewer, Eric Severeid, asked him if he had come to believe that any of his covert operations were unnecessary. He named just one. 'I think that we overrated the danger in, let's say, the Congo,' Allen said. 'It looked as though they were going to make a serious attempt at takeover in the Belgian Congo. Well, it didn't work out that way at all. Now maybe they intended to do it, but they didn't find the situation ripe and they beat a pretty hasty retreat.'" There was worse to come.
Eisenhower had also authorized the assassination of Fidel Castro. When that didn't work out, he authorized a half-assed invasion of Cuban that came to fruition right after Kennedy became president, the Bay of Pigs. As the clownish plot fell apart in the first minutes of the "invasion," the CIA and some elements of the military tried to get Kennedy to U.S. commit Air Force, Naval and Army resources. He thought they were all out of their minds and realized he had made a terrible mistake by keeping Dulles-- who was completely senile by then-- in office. Again, from The Brothers:
At White House meetings the next day, Kennedy fended off more pleas that he send U.S. forces to support the Bay of Pigs invaders. The strongest came from his chief of naval operations, Admiral Arleigh Burke, who came into the Oval Office late in the evening with an equally agited [CIA official Richard] Bissell.
"Let me take two jets and shoot down this enemy aircraft," Burke pleaded.
"No," Kennedy replied. "I don't want to get the United States involved with this."
"Can I not send in an airstrike?"
"Can we send in a few planes?"
"No, because they could be identified as United States."
"Can we paint out their numbers?"
Grasping for options, Burke asked if Kennedy would authorize artillery attacks on Cuban forces from American destroyers. The answer was the same: "No."
Later that day Kennedy told an aide, "I probably made a mistake keeping Allen Dulles."
…More than one hundred of the invaders had died. Most of the rest were rounded up and imprisoned. For Castro it was a supreme, ecstatic triumph. Kennedy was staggered.
"How can I have been so stupid?" he wondered aloud.
Others were equally stunned. Criticism of the CIA, in both the press and Congress, rose to unprecedented intensity. Allen was not spared. The cover story in Time, headlined "The Cuba Disaster," questioned his very concept of intelligence.
…If Allen had not yet confronted the implications of the Bay of Pigs disaster, Kennedy had. In private he cursed "CIA bastards" for luring him into it, and wished he could "splinter the CIA into a thousand pieces and scatter it into the winds."
He should have. America would have been much better off. But all he did was fire Dulles, too late to prevent the horrors the Dulles brothers committed in our names in Guatemala, Iran, Indonesia, Vietnam, not to mention the Congo and Cuba.