Wednesday, June 21, 2006

The Dark Side

Kremlinology for our time: Frontline has produced a detailed, unsettling examination of how the Cheney-Rumsfeld team took control of intelligence and foreign policy from September 2001 on.

The Dark Side proceeds very much -- okay, entirely -- from the point of view of the Cheney clique's opponents or victims within the regime: Richard Clarke, Jim Wilkerson (Powell's aide), Paul Pillar (CIA), Michael DeLong (Army), and many, many more. Stephen Coll, Dana Priest, and Ron Suskind are the journalists most often heard from. The immediate emotion the program left me with was a vague dread. While never raising explicitly the idea that Cheney and Rumsfeld might decline to relinquish power on or before January 20, 2009, it manages to convey the sense that if that should happen, most of the people seen onscreen should look to their personal safety.

But that's crazy talk, eh? The fact that such a show can be made and shown (and purchased for $29.95) makes clear the country's not a stifling dictatorship. The Dark Side is part of a massive push-back by the realist faction of the intel and foreign policy elite that includes a recent rundown of the Niger yellowcake lie by Craig Unger and the new Ron Suskind book The One Percent Doctrine.

The producer's online chat at the Washington Post today is worthwhile so far. Off to follow along; more later. [See comments]



At 12:21 PM, June 21, 2006, Blogger Nell said...

One of my criticisms of The Dark Side is the overemphasis on Cheney's and Rumsfeld's Cold War mentality and resulting commitment to the idea of state sponsorship of terror as an explanation for their drive to connect Al Qaeda to Saddam Hussein's regime.

Earlier Frontlines made much clearer the extent to which the two came into the administration with a pre-existing goal of invading and occupying Iraq, and used a manufactured link to the September 11 attacks as a way to mobilize public support for it. Viewed that way, the panic Cheney and Rumsfeld felt at the CIA's vastly greater readiness to respond immediately after the attacks is even more understandable and desperate.

But, as the earlier Frontline pieces show, Bush was already on board the Iraq-next-ASAP train by the time the decision to attack Afghanistan was made. They got Blair onside very quickly, as well -- information that never makes it into TDS. That counters the show's implicit narrative of the crucial manipulation occurring after the fall of Kabul.

At 12:31 PM, June 21, 2006, Blogger Nell said...

I asked a question embodying the preceding comment at the online chat but it was too late in the queue. There's a lively discussion at the Frontline site, apparently (link in post); hardcore regime defenders out in strength.

At 2:34 PM, June 21, 2006, Blogger Nell said...

Another hard-to-swallow premise of The Dark Side is that Cheney's distrust of the CIA was based on its actual failures of the previous decades. In fact, he and Rumsfeld were drivers of the 'Team B' effort of the 1970s and 80s to get around the CIA's failure to provide the ideologically desired analysis; and Team B managed to get things even more spectacularly wrong than the CIA -- no mean feat.

At 3:51 PM, June 26, 2006, Blogger JoshSN said...

Doesn't seem like a fair-ish show, but individual episodes of Frontline are managed by individual producers.

Don't let your "We must be free, because I saw Frontline" attitude take you out the door. We must be free because one major theatre group showed Farenheit 9/11 was followed quickly by the Carlyle Group buying Loew's Group.

And, even if you saw it, there is a great degree to which the largest corporations can simply push a particular agenda, and if just slightly more than 50% of the voters buy it, you won't win.

This morning the Senate (with at least one House member) had a hearing with Wilkerson, the main Republican INR guy who has been complaining (I stream audio only C-SPAN, so don't get their names), and at least one other. They deserve hearing.

But they also made the unusual case, at one point, that the Iraq case was the best work they'd ever done. That if one examines the record, Iraq was actually (if not simply better than average) the best US Intel is doing nowadays.

Now the hearings are on the Downing Street Memo. A lot of people have read that, but seem to be ignoring this set of leaked material from the UK. It seems real. It very strongly establishes the "UK and Australia will only participate for WMD, not for 'regime change' argument." Hosted on, a Zip of 6 PDFs. I think, actually, the current hearing is referring to the same documents? Can't say for sure.

At 4:00 PM, June 26, 2006, Blogger JoshSN said...

Oh, a analysis of the documents is here.

At 2:36 PM, June 29, 2006, Blogger Nell said...

C-SPAN irritatingly doesn't provide direct, or permanent, links to its video. But for the next 90 days or so, you can find the hearing Josh mentions through the 'all recent videos' link.

Look for:
Senate Cmte. Hearing on Iraq Pre-War Intelligence
The Senate Democratic Policy Cmte., chaired by Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND), conducts an oversight hearing on pre-war intelligence relating to Iraq. Witnesses include former State Dept. & CIA officials, former weapons inspectors, weapons issues experts & the journalist of the "Downing Street Memos."
6/26/2006: WASHINGTON, DC: 3 hr.


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