Last week, the New York Times editorialized under the byline of arch conservative Bret Stephens that America’s global position was “crumbling” and only a new national security team with people “like Bob Gates” could save it. For the past several years, Gates has done his best to vilify Joe Biden’s policies. It is unlikely that the president is ready to commit geopolitical suicide by inviting Gates or anyone with Gates’ Cold War ideas to join the administration. Nevertheless, the mainstream media has tended to treat Gates like an elder statesman so perhaps it’s time to review his sordid career.
Gates’ deceitful record has not always been in the public view, but there is sufficient evidence of a bureaucratic career devoted to reckless self-promotion. In 1987, President Ronald Reagan nominated Gates to be the successor to the late William Casey as director of central intelligence. Gates had to withdraw his name from the confirmation process because the chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, David Boren (D-Ok), told him that the committee didn’t believe his claim to have no involvement with the Iran-Contra scandal. Boren even called Lawrence Walsh, the independent counsel investigating Iran-Contra, to ascertain whether Gates would be indicted. Walsh “doubted Gates’ veracity,” but said he would “probably not” be indicted.
In 1991, President George H.W. Bush nominated Gates for a second time and, despite testimony from senior CIA officials regarding Gates’ role in Iran-Contra, he survived unprecedented opposition to serve the shortest tour of duty of any CIA director in history. President Bill Clinton ignored Gates’ pleas to remain at CIA.
Gates has been the consigliere of the Bush family, a story that has been well documented by investigative journalists such as Robert Parry, but ignored by the mainstream media. Gates’ memoir gave a free pass to both Bush administrations because he is the creation of George H.W. Bush, who made Gates the director of the George H.W. Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M. George W. Bush made Gates the secretary of defense in 2006. In addition to avoiding criticism of either Bush, Gates never questioned the intelligence process in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003, which destabilized the Middle East, and directly contributed to the rise of Iran’s influence in Iraq as well as the emergence of the Islamic State.
I recently learned about Gates’ deceitful role in trying to destroy the reputation of an outstanding journalist, Dusko Doder, who was the first reporter in Moscow to record the death of Soviet leader Yuri Andropov and the power struggle inside the Politburo to name a successor. In doing so, Doder scooped the CIA station in Moscow, which his reporting had been doing on a regular basis. The CIA mounted a campaign of revenge against Doder suggesting that he was a KGB stooge on the KGB’s payroll. Several years later this story reached the pages of Time magazine. It was Gates who filed a deposition to support the Soviet source, a defector, in the libel suit that Doder had filed. Doder’s memoir, “The Inconvenient Journalist,” describes the CIA campaign in sordid detail. In an unusual settlement, Time apologized to Doder, paid hundreds of thousands to him in damage as well as additional hundreds of thousands to Doder’s lawyers.
Interestingly, Doder was the bureau chief for the Washington Post in the 1980s, filing important stories about the Soviet decline. During the same period, Gates as deputy director for intelligence was wrong about every aspect of Soviet policy, making sure that his analysts could not report Moscow’s decline. The pairing of Casey and Gates at the CIA in the 1980s introduced the problem of politicization of intelligence that Gates’ supporters, such as George Tenet and John McLaughlin, replicated in the run-up to the Iraq war in 2003. Tenet eventually apologized to Gates; McLaughlin continued a campaign of obfuscation, lying about CIA’s program of sadistic torture and abuse.
Gates’ campaign against Biden began in 2009, when the vice president accurately warned President Barack Obama not to get “boxed-in” by Gates and the Joint Chiefs of Staff who were lobbying on the Hill for the deployment of additional forces to Afghanistan. Gates sanctioned, possibly coordinated, the testimony of general officers to increase the U.S. troop presence. Gates, who told “Sixty Minutes” last month that he was sickened by the U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, signed more deployment orders for Afghanistan than any other secretary of defense. Stephens agrees with Gates that Biden has a “long history of being on the wrong side of major foreign policy and national security issues.” He seems unaware of Gates’ support for the use of military force over the years. Biden doesn’t need this kind of advice. The nation doesn’t need Gates’ advice.
As secretary of defense, Gates persistently lobbied the Congress for funds to modernize nuclear forces as well as regional missile defenses that have no utilitarian value for U.S. interests. Gates took credit for installing a regional missile defense in Poland to “better defend the United States against Iranian ballistic missiles, again making no strategic sense. As deputy director for intelligence, Gates regularly cherry-picked intelligence to support the hardline views of President Reagan and Bill Casey, and even wrote sensitive memoranda for Casey advocating air strikes to destroy Nicaragua’s “military buildup.” These memoranda took him far outside the political lane any CIA director or deputy director should occupy.
Let’s hope that Biden will ignore the hardline views of Stephens on such issues as Iran and China, and simply find ironic humor in recommendations to include Bob Gates as a major player in the administration.