Gates a Bad Retread from Reagan Days
November 10, 2006
One day in the early 1990s, while I was sitting in the reading room at the J-School at UNC-Chapel Hill, I heard an expletive from a person sitting close by. Turns out that Rudy, a fellow student, had just expressed his opinion on learning that Robert Gates had been confirmed as the CIA director.
Talk about scary revisits from the Reagan days. Even with John Negroponte and Eliott Abrams finding a place in this Administration, Robert Gates has enough frightening baggage from that era to match anyone.
Given his record, it is really ironic that Gates has been slated to replace a person who is said to have politicized the intelligence-gathering and decision-making operations and, on top of that, is infamous for reaching out to Saddam in the early ’80s.
The media are talking about how Gates is a throwback to Poppy Bush’s time. But his formative years in the upper echelons of government were as the deputy CIA chief during the Reagan Administration, when he was intimately involved in the Iran-Contra scandal and was busy exaggerating the Soviet threat.
As Lawrence Walsh, the independent counsel investigating Iran-Contra and deputy attorney general in the Eisenhower Administration, points out in “Firewall: The Iran-Contra Conspiracy and Cover-Up,” Gates was in on the whole Ollie North illegal operation from the start.
“Two questions had not been answered satisfactorily: Had Gates falsely denied knowledge of North’s Contra-support activities?” Walsh writes. “Had Gates falsely postdated his first knowledge of North’s diversion of the arms sales proceeds to the Contras?”
“We did not believe Gates,” Walsh adds. “It simply was not credible that the second-highest officer of the CIA would forget a warning of an illegal activity linking President Reagan’s two favorite programs. We decided against prosecuting Gates for making a false statement, however, because there had been only one witness to each of the conversations he claimed to have forgotten.”
To borrow a phrase from Bush senior, Gates was in “deep doo-doo” during Iran-Contra and was able to get confirmed as the CIA director only because by 1991, the country and Congress had O.D.’d on Iran-Contra and thought it best to move on.
Gates was also deputy CIA chief at a time when the CIA was funding and training death squads in El Salvador that were engaged in mass slaughter.
Robert Parry, a former reporter for AP and Newsweek who has done some excellent work on the Reagan cabal, has tracked Gates’s career closely.
“At Gates’s confirmation hearings in 1991, former CIA analysts, including renowned Kremlinologist Mel Goodman, took the extraordinary step of coming out of the shadows to accuse Gates of politicizing the intelligence while he was chief of the analytical division and then deputy director,” Parry writes. “The former intelligence officers said the ambitious Gates pressured the CIA’s analytical division to exaggerate the Soviet menace to fit the ideological perspective of the Reagan administration. Analysts who took a more nuanced view of Soviet power and Moscow’s behavior in the world faced pressure and career reprisals.”
David Corn at The Nation states that Gates even tried unsuccessfully to get a CIA analyst to state in a report that Nelson Mandela was a communist. “This behavior was consistent with his reputation as a political animal willing to curry favor with the political masters downtown and sacrifice sound analysis,” he writes.
Parry alleges that Gates has other skeletons in his closet. He was involved in the “October Surprise” plot that had Reagan operatives reaching out to the Iranian government and promising a better deal if it released the U.S. embassy hostages after the 1980 presidential election, Parry says. And, Parry says, Gates was part of a secret operation to arm Saddam Hussein in the 1980s, including helping him acquire cluster bombs and supplies for chemical weapons.
It is really ironic then that Gates has been slated to replace a person who is said to have politicized the intelligence-gathering and decision-making operations and, on top of that, is infamous for reaching out to Saddam in the early ’80s.
Wonder what my friend Rudy thinks now.