View Full Version : Reviewing George Tenet on George Tenet

Tom Odom
05-10-2007, 03:35 PM
The title of George Tenet's book is truly George Tenet with a nominal sub-title of At The CENTER of the STORM, My Years at the CIA. I say that because Tenet's name is embossed in font larger than the title and he certainly continues that personal fixation throughout the book. I would expect that from someone writing their memoirs; this work is sort of a memoir, albeit a memoir of limited time and select focus.

Overall I would offer a few impressionistic comments about the book. As indicated above, this is very much an ego-centered book, especially a bruised ego. Tenet's main purpose in writing comes across clearly as "they (the others in the Bush II administration besides the President) were mean to me." That would have made a clearer title for the book. If you saw the media-PR hype on the book's release, you already know that to be the case. When you start reading, it takes awhile for it to sink in that he really intends to use a 500-page book as a vehicle to redress his diminished reputation. Given that Tenet served as DCI in two very different administrations including operations in the Balkans, 9-11, OEF, OEF, and accepted the Medal of Freedom at his resignation, I found it disappointing that he would climax his book on the issue of 16 stupid words in the President's State of the Union address. His acceptance of a $4 Million book deal for this 500-page bit of payback is just another case of "I got mine to whine."

Another impression from my read of this is "naive wannabe." Tenet was and is a politician, albeit one of the non-elected variety in that he served in the Senate staff and politically maneuvered until he was selected to high public office, beginning as Deputy DCI. As a intelligence official participating in sensitive negotiations with foreign powers and inside Washington DC, he seems naive to say the least. Reading this book makes it clear that he never really understood the old saying, "if you want a friend in Washington DC, get a dog." I don't know if Mr. Tenet ever bought a dog; his book makes it clear that he spent too much time seeking friends when he should have been seeking results. He did this as a negotiator between the Israelis and the Palestinians. He did it as a senior officer inside the US government. And ultimately he failed in both arenas due to his naiveté.

As for the wannabe impression, Mr. Tenet loved to portray himself as a long-term intelligence officer. I heard him on television describe his "life in the shadows" and he uses terms like that in the book. He was not an intelligence officer. He was not an intelligence analyst. And he certainly was not an intelligence operator. He was supposed to be the senior intelligence manager in the U.S. government. My read of his self-described role as DCI was to bury himself in matters that should have been left to the professionals under his command.

Finally I would offer a single phrase for Mr. Tenet's depiction of his actions and effectiveness as the DCI, that of "cop out." Every time Mr. Tenet describes his role in the run up to war in Iraq, he cops out with an excuse that he was there to provide intelligence, not decide policy. The role of the DCI is to provide the President and the U.S. government with what is needed to make effective decisions. The artificial division between intelligence and policy at this level is both microscopically thin and hugely porous. Yet Mr. Tenet seems to place himself safely on the sidelines when it comes to questions of policy--at least until he gets hung out to dry on those sixteen silly words in the State of the Union Address.



05-10-2007, 03:54 PM
Hey Tom !
Glad you made this a little easier to read and decide upon.

After your review and that of current book reviews In tell-all, Tenet talks Iraq and a war of choice — bad choices (http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/life/books/reviews/4773816.html) I think I'll pass.

Now, it wouldn't have anything to do with my years along side of those fine folks constantly contradicting each other and reviewing our DAO reports using 1960-based mentality :rolleyes:, but George's memoirs just plain old suck :D

I like this review the best (but, yours are more diplomatic):

"What I couldn't stop wondering was, had the president been convinced by some of his advisers that the blame (for the failure to find nuclear or biological weapons in Iraq) should be shifted to me? In the end, I will never know the answer to that question."

Oh, come on ...

What a Charlie Delta you are :eek:

Tom Odom
05-10-2007, 04:10 PM
Hey Stan,

Rarely does a book successfully both anger and bore me to tears like this one. His continued self-promoting and self-excusing made me angry. The intermittent whining noise was mind deadening. I found I could read a chapter at a time and no more.

Save your money--or just use the money for beer, instead.



J Wolfsberger
05-10-2007, 07:44 PM

Thanks, you made my decision easier, too. Yes, the money will be better spent on beer.

From everything else I've heard him say and write, and especially his complicity in the final neutering of the CIA under Clinton, I'd always assumed he was a complete idiot - another Washington drone who got a high position for years of faithful buzzing. All the quotes and reviews on this book confirm that opinion.

Tom Odom
05-10-2007, 08:06 PM

I guess I should not look for an X-Mas card this year from Tenet. Oh well.

Seriously, I believe the book has a place later when longer looks at this administration and the Clinton Presidency take place. But as a serious lay out of the events, strategy, and outcomes beyond the political who shot Johns, this book just does not get there.


05-11-2007, 03:49 AM
I have to say, I've read a boatload of diplomatic and political memoirs in my time ( you haven't lived until you've slogged through two volumes of Cordell Hull's insights, such as they were) and I can't recall anything that has received as universal a condemnation as George Tenet's screed.

In comparison, Richard Nixon ( whose memoir is really interesting even when it needs to be taken with a salt mine) received uncritical adulation.