I’ve been reading a lot lately, a lot more than usual that is, and one of the books I recently finished is The One Percent Doctrine by Ron Suskind. Suskind, whose last book Way of the World is one of my favorite nonfiction books, has written some impressive, in-depth books about the Bush administration and its “War on Terror” that provide a lot of damning details about Bush and company.
To fight the war on terrorism successfully, US Vice President Dick Cheney pushed for treating suspicions – the probability that Pakistani scientists were helping al-Qaida develop nuclear weapons- to be treated as a certainty even if there was a one percent chance. Action and response were what mattered, evidence and analysis be damned. The one percent doctrine was what this “strategy” was called and it’s no surprise that during this time the US carried out their war on terrorism in a heavyhanded, ineffcient and even illegal manner, causing resentment and mistrust that persist to this day. The damage to their global reputation, exacerbated by the invasion of Iraq, also endures.
I read Ron Suskind’s most recent book Way of the World a while ago, and having enjoyed that one, especially the poignant and personal way he wrote about the individuals involved in the US Middle East troubles, borrowed this book which was written before Way of the World. It focuses a lot on the CIA and its then-leader George Tenet who comes off as a gregarious and embattled chief trying hard to do an impossible job- find Osama bin Laden – whilst being hamstrung by his loyalty to George W. Bush who kept him on after the 9-11 attacks despite calls to fire him by critics. This led to the CIA being used as a rubber stamp for the case to invade Iraq. We see Tenet be pushed and hounded continuously by Bush, Cheney and their guys to back the war, and eventually Tenet would find himself burned, being cast off and being made a fallguy for the fallacious decision to invade Iraq.
Cheney, not surprisingly, is the main villain in this story, an armchair warrior who seeks to wage war without caring about the moral and ethical implications but at the same trying to cloud the minds of others. At one key stage of the path to waging war on Iraq, we are introduced to one of his key “concepts” – keeping information and details, in this case an intelligence report that disproved most of the evidence that Iraq had been trying to get nuclear materials to make weapons, from the president, in order to allow the president to plead ignorance if things went wrong. He also tries to strong-arm the CIA into backing up the case for war by drumming up false or weak evidence. Clearly his despicability knew no bounds.
By now, much of what’s revealed in this book has already been known but it is still unnerving to see how flawed and deceptive the decisionmaking process can be at the highest levels of power in the world’s only superpower. Whatever the shortcomings of this current US president, at least he and his officials can never be as vile and manipulative as his predecessor.