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Robert Gates Double-Crosses Obama

By       Message Robert Parry     Permalink
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But the evidence is clear that Gates used top-down management techniques to get his way. CIA analysts sensitive to their career paths intuitively grasped that they could rarely go wrong by backing the "company line" and presenting the worst-case scenario about Soviet capabilities and intentions, Ekedahl and other CIA analysts said.

The CIA's proud Soviet analytical office underwent a purge of its top people. "Nearly every senior analyst on Soviet foreign policy eventually left the Office of Soviet Analysis," Goodman said...

"The politicization that took place during the Casey-Gates era is directly responsible for the CIA's loss of its ethical compass and the erosion of its credibility. ...

"The fact that the CIA missed the most important historical development in its history -- the collapse of the Soviet Empire and the Soviet Union itself -- is due in large measure to the culture and process that Gates established in his directorate."

The Afghan Folly

But Gates's legacy at the CIA had other even more lethal consequences. Because of his insistence on overstating Soviet strength, Gates misread the opportunity presented by the emergence of Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev in the late 1980s. From Gates's perch near the top of the U.S. national security establishment, he kept calling Gorbachev a phony who would never withdraw Soviet troops from Afghanistan.

When Gorbachev did withdraw Soviet troops in February 1989, Gates -- then serving as President George H.W. Bush's deputy national security adviser -- joined in the decision to rebuff Gorbachev's proposal for a cease-fire and a coalition government between the Soviet-backed regime of President Najibullah in Kabul and the CIA-supported mujahedeen. Instead, Gates and his colleagues set their sights on a decisive victory for the CIA- and Saudi-backed forces, which included Osama bin Laden and other Islamist extremists.

Contrary to the conventional wisdom of Official Washington that America's "big mistake" in Afghanistan was to abandon the mujahedeen after the Soviets left in early 1989 -- a myth pushed by Gates himself -- the reality was that the Bush-41 administration continued funneling money and weapons to the rebels for nearly three more years as the fractious mujahedeen failed to take Kabul but busied themselves slaughtering civilians and each other.

Najibullah's regime actually outlasted the Soviet Union, which fell apart in late 1991. Ironically, after failing to detect cracks in the Soviet empire dating back at least to the 1970s, Gates and his cohorts claimed credit for its "sudden" collapse. But the chaos in Afghanistan, which might have been avoided if Gates had cooperated with Gorbachev, soon set the stage for new national security threats to the United States.

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By fall 1991, President George H.W. Bush had reinstalled Gates at the CIA -- as director -- all the better to frustrate investigations into October Surprise, Iran-Contra and Iraq-gate.

After Bush's defeat in 1992, Gates had hoped to stay on, but was removed by President Bill Clinton. Gates retreated to Washington State, where he worked on his first memoir, From the Shadows. Afterwards, ex-President Bush arranged to get Gates a job at Texas A&M, where Gates, the ever-skillful bureaucrat, soon rose to become the school's president.

Meanwhile, in the mid-1990s, the fundamentalist Taliban emerged from Afghan refugee camps in Pakistan and successfully marched on Kabul. One of the Taliban's first victims was Najibullah who was tortured, castrated and hung from a light post. Thankful for the help from Saudi-backed jihadists, the Taliban also granted refuge to Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda band which had shifted its terror war from the Soviets to the Americans.

After George W. Bush's disputed election victory in 2000, many of Gates's neocon allies returned to power in Washington and -- after al-Qaeda carried out the 9/11 attacks -- U.S. forces were dispatched to Afghanistan to oust the Taliban and root out al-Qaeda, whose surviving leaders mostly fled to Pakistan.

Rather than fully stabilize Afghanistan, Bush-43 and the neocons quickly pivoted toward Iraq with an invasion that overthrew Saddam Hussein. Soon, U.S. forces found themselves bogged down in two inconclusive wars, in Afghanistan and Iraq. By 2006, Iraq was descending into a sectarian civil war and Bush faced the prospect of a humiliating military defeat. He and his neocon advisers began thinking about a U.S. military escalation, to be called a "surge."

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But Generals John Abizaid and George Casey, the Iraq field commanders, felt they had already begun tamping down the violence through a mix of alliances with Sunni tribes, reducing the American "footprint," separating Shiite and Sunni communities, and targeted killings of al-Qaeda militants. Abizaid and Casey were supported in their strategy by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

So, as President Bush settled on the "surge" -- a plan to dispatch 30,000 more soldiers -- he also decided to replace his military command, recalling Abizaid and Casey and cashiering Rumsfeld. Bush turned to Gen. David Petraeus to implement the "surge" and recruited Gates to sell it as the new Defense Secretary.

The Democrats and the Washington press corps were easily fooled. They misinterpreted the personnel changes as a sign that Bush had decided to wind down the war. Gates was hailed as an "adult" who would lead the impetuous "war president" out of the Iraq quagmire. But the reality was the opposite. Gates became Bush's guide for going in deeper.

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Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq, can be ordered at It's also available at

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