Skip to comments.Wrong Choice For Freedom Medal
Posted on 12/15/2004 6:57:38 AM PST by scrossman
Rocky Mountain News
The wrong choice for freedom medal President misfires in honoring former CIA director
December 15, 2004
George Tenet is a dedicated and brave public servant who once threatened to resign if President Clinton pardoned a convicted spy whose case was under review. But Tenet does not deserve the Presidential Medal of Freedom that George W. Bush bestowed upon him Tuesday, and the award has been devalued as a result.
Tenet was one of three men who received the Medal of Freedom in this latest ceremony, and all three played major roles in America's war on terrorism and the invasion or pacification of Iraq. Retired Gen. Tommy Franks led U.S. troops in Iraq and in Afghanistan; Paul Bremer was in charge of governing Iraq until the transfer of power in June to an interim national government. And Tenet is of course the former CIA director whose lengthy service in two administrations ended with his resignation this year.
We can understand the president's desire to recognize Franks' success as a commander, and even to reward the hard work of Bremer - although the latter's legacy in Iraq remains as uncertain as the fate of January's scheduled elections. But Tenet? His unforgettable contribution to the war was to preside over possibly the most humiliating intelligence failure since the two shocks of the Korean War - the North Korean attack itself in June 1950 and the massive Chinese entry in October.
It was Tenet who told the president, according to Bob Woodward's book Plan of Attack, that evidence for Saddam Hussein harboring weapons of mass destruction amounted to a "slam dunk." It was Tenet's agency that assured Secretary of State Colin Powell that the case he made so emphatically before the United Nations for the existence of WMDs in Iraq was accurate and trustworthy.
Bush praised Tenet as "one of the first to recognize and address the threat to America from radical networks," and said the former director was "ready with a plan to strike back at al-Qaida and to topple the Taliban" immediately after 9/11. Both statements may be true, but they ignore the fact that U.S. intelligence also failed to detect the existence of the 9/11 plot. We have never characterized this failure as a scandal in the fashion of some supercharged critics (including several 9/11 victims' families). But the fact that the World Trade Center and Pentagon could be attacked so successfully is hardly a tribute to U.S. intelligence, either.
The president can of course give the Medal of Freedom to whomever he likes. There is no consistent theme or thread of accomplishment linking the hundreds of recipients since President Truman established the honor in 1945 and President Kennedy reinstated it in 1963 - except, perhaps, that the vast majority have been people of exceptional achievement, whether in politics, business, religion, science or the humanities. Tenet can boast of many achievements, too, but sometimes a man's resumé, fairly or not, must be distilled to a single defining moment.
For Tenet, that moment occurred in the run up to war in Iraq. The CIA director was asked a question of monumental importance. He provided an answer. The answer was wrong.
Copyright 2004, Rocky Mountain News. All Rights Reserved.
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It is a little late now to worry about it. I did not agree with the award either.
Other awards devalued as a result of their winner (or nominee):
Nobel Prize - Yassar Arafat
Pulitzer - Molly Ivans
Oscar - Michael Moore