Ex-CIA Chief George Tenet, Vacuum Cleaners & WMD
"Tenet . . . a charlatan . . . A willing co-conspirator, he did for Bush and Cheney what propaganda minister Joseph
Goebbels did for Hitler. The key difference is that Goebbels and his Nazi collaborators, rather than writing books and
taking sinecures to enrich themselves, were held accountable at Nuremberg." -- CIA veteran Ray McGovern, " Four-letter Word for Tenet: Liar "
Following the thorough public bashing of former CIA director George Tenet over his current book, At the Center of the Storm, his mea culpa about botched Iraq WMD war intelligence -- the question arises: Could the Bush II administration’s
inspiration for bogus intel have come out of the Hollywood can of Our Man in Havana? [LINK
Greenwich Village’s Film Forum was packed for a recent showing of the 1950s satirical comedy starring Alec Guinness as a
Havana vacuum cleaner salesman turned secret agent who feeds his British spymasters sketches of one of the vacuums in
his shop made to resemble a Cuban weapons plant. And he invents subagents to go with the drawings. All to find a way to
pay for his teenage daughter Milly's education and shopping sprees -- and to keep her out of the paws of Ernie Kovacs,
the chief of Havana security who wants to marry Milly.
It was unclear how many Village moviegoers were familiar with the plot prior to seeing the film, which is based on
Graham Greene’s 1958 novel by the same name. What was clear was the shared realization afterwards that the story line
bore an uncanny resemblance to the phony Iraq war intel Tenet ultimately presented to George W. Bush, who was looking
for reasons to invade Iraq.
Months before the Iraq war, for example, Bush II was propagandizing about aluminum tubes, centrifuges and nukes in a
speech in Cincinati (Oct. 2002):
“Evidence indicates that Iraq is reconstituting its nuclear weapons program," he said. Saddam Hussein held numerous
meetings with Iraqi nuclear scientists, a group he calls his "nuclear mujahedeen” – his nuclear warriors. . . . Iraq has
attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes and other equipment needed for gas centrifuges, which are used to
enrich uranium for nuclear weapons.”
Even though the INR (Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence and Research) and DOE (Department of Energy) believed
those very same aluminum tubes were meant for artillery shells, the CIA headed by Tenet and the DIA (Defense
Intelligence Agency) prevailed with the tale that the tubes were designed for use in centrifuges. This is ultimately
what Bush gleaned from the one-page summary on WMD that Tenet read to Bush, who then went into shock & awe mode on March 20, 2003 to "disarm Iraq and free its people".
Our Man in Havana author Graham Greene, coincidentally, spent some years working for the British Secret Service. Here he gives us
London’s spymasters examining the Cuban vacuum cleaner sketches:
‘A vacuum cleaner!’ Hawthorne bent down and examined the drawings again, and the cold struck him once more.
‘Makes you shiver, doesn’t it?'
‘But that’s impossible, sir. He felt as though he were pleading for his own career, ‘It couldn’t be a vacuum cleaner,
sir. Not a vacuum cleaner.’
‘Fiendish, isn’t it?’ the Chief said. ‘The ingenuity, the simplicity, the devilish imagination of the thing.’ He removed
his black monocle and his baby-blue eye caught the light and made it jig on the wall over the radiator. ‘See this one
here six times the height of a man. Like a gigantic spray. And this – what does this remind you of?’
Hawthorne said unhappily. ‘A two-way nozzle.’
‘What’s a two-way nozzle?’
‘You sometimes find them with a vacuum cleaner.’
‘Vacuum cleaner again. Hawthorne, I believe we may be on to something so big that the H-bomb will become a conventional
Instead of Tenet peddling his "non-fiction" book, which has only further discredited him, perhaps he should have
considered writing a novel. Finding a place for characters like Judith Miller and Ahmad Chalaby would have been easy
enough -- and for a genuinely good laugh, some might even have forgiven him.
Suzan Mazur has traveled extensively in the Islamic world and covered conflicts in Sudan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and
Kashmir (India/Pakistan). Her reports have appeared in the Financial Times, Economist, Forbes, Newsday, Philadelphia
Inquirer, and other publications, as well as on PBS, CBC and MBC. She has been a guest on McLaughlin, Charlie Rose and
various Fox Television News programs. Email: sznmzr @ aol.com