Getting to Know Robert M. Gates

Getting to Know Robert M. Gates
By Morgan Reynolds – November 12, 2006

Foreword: After the Republican thrashing on November 7, George W. Bush fired Donald Rumsfeld as Secretary of Defense and nominated Robert M. Gates to replace him. Gates is president of Texas A&M University (my home university where I am professor emeritus) and a former Director of Central Intelligence under Bush the Elder. Who is this guy? Does his nomination promise an end to the suffering in Iraq? Hardly. His record points to more Bush loyalty, fixing intelligence around the policy and mass murder, albeit in a “kinder, gentler” package. Below is an excerpt about Gates from my article, “9/11, Texas A&M University, and Heresy,” in a new book, 9/11 and American Empire, edited by David Ray Griffin and Peter Dale Scott.
While I do not want to launch an ad hominem attack on Mr. Gates, we can hardly overlook his extraordinary credentials, experience and qualifications. Why is this man president of a major state university? His appointment tells us a lot about the military-industrial complex, the global domination project (to use Richard Falk’s term), and the present and future of American universities.

Gates had a 26-year career as an intelligence professional, including 9 years on the National Security Council under four presidents of both major parties.1 After starting at the CIA in 1966 as an intelligence analyst, he was the only entry-level CIA employee to rise to director. (He was appointed to that position by George H.W. Bush in 1991.) The Bush family puts a premium on personal loyalty, and Gates is clearly a Bush family loyalist. Bush 41 has his name on the CIA building in Langley and he would not appoint an outsider as chief spook. Gates’s own memoir, From the Shadows, whose subtitle proclaims himself “the ultimate insider,” fawns over the first President Bush.2 When Gates’ observed the Soviet Union’s collapse from his CIA perch in 1991, this “joyless victory” perhaps led Gates to think about how to create a new enemy to sustain the enormous budgets of the CIA and the military-industrial complex. If he had special insight into the 9/11 hoax, it might partly explain his eagerness to “silence” an A&M faculty skeptic.3
Gates was first nominated to be the director of Central Intelligence in 1987 by Ronald Reagan, who was known as the Great Delegator (which may mean that Gates was really nominated by George H. W. Bush assisted by James Baker), at the height of the controversy over the criminal sale of arms to Khomeini and transfer of money to the Contras. But Gates, facing rejection, withdrew.4 Tom Polgar, a CIA station chief and staffer on the Senate Select Committee on Iran-Contra, wrote in an op-ed piece, “My objections to Gates center on his performance during the Iran-contra affair…. Throughout it, Gates acted as if he was in a complete fog or was interested primarily in keeping the truth from being aired in public or from reaching Congress.”5 During Iran-Contra Gates was CIA deputy director for intelligence, then deputy director of Central Intelligence (hence the number two man), and finally the acting director. Gates was close to Iran-Contra figures and in a strong position to know about what was going on. Although Gates was an early target of investigation, Independent Counsel Lawrence E. Walsh ultimately decided not to prosecute Gates for perjury without stronger evidence. It appears that Gates tried to protect the Agency and leave aggressive criminal activity to Col. Ollie North and company, but that Gates dissembled and suffered “recall failures” under oath before the Grand Jury. In his Final Report of August 4, 1993, Walsh wrote:

Notwithstanding Independent Counsel’s disbelief of Gates, Independent Counsel was not confident that Kerr’s testimony, without the support of another witness to his conversation with Gates, would be enough to charge Gates with perjury or false statements for his testimony concerning the timing of his knowledge of the diversion… The question was whether there was proof beyond a reasonable doubt that Gates deliberately lied in denying knowledge of North’s operational activities. A case would have depended on the testimony of Poindexter. Fiers would not testify that he supplied Gates with the details of North’s activities. In the end, Independent Counsel concluded that the question was too close to justify the commitment of resources. There were stronger, equally important cases to be tried.6
Gates gives us his take on Iran-Contra in his memoirs. It contains, of course, no admission of guilty conduct on his part. He just didn’t know much, he claims, saying:
What I describe below I learned only in the course of the Iran-Contra investigations…I knew very little about the fund-raising and virtually nothing about the NSC’s operational role…I was caught in the middle…The details of all this were known only to a handful of people at CIA headquarters. I was not among them…I had no knowledge of Casey’s close working relationship with North…(pp. 311, 391, 392, 415).
Being out of the loop on the main covert operation of the day does not fit “the ultimate insider,” deputy director for intelligence since 1982, deputy director of central intelligence from April 1986 through March 1989, a man whose office adjoined Bill Casey’s, and who shared his chief of staff (410). Gates was close to then Director Casey and asserts that “With respect to the Iran arms-for-hostages operation, [DCI] Casey was involved from the beginning and, as suggested above, the only senior official who wholeheartedly backed the idea from the outset” (401). Despite Casey’s deep involvement, Gates argues that Casey did not know about the diversion of funds to the Contras from the Iran operation. Knowing how Washington works, I consider this idea, which enhances the odds that Gates was in the dark, far-fetched. More plausible accounts suggest otherwise.7 Gates admits some regret about his failure to act against criminals during Iran-Contra (416-7), but if he had known nothing, there would be no cause for regret.
What to make of Gates’ Iran-Contra behavior? To put it mildly, Gates did not live up to the Aggie Code of honor (“An Aggie does not lie, cheat, or steal or tolerate those who do”). In effect, he defended a government of lawless men, not a government of laws. The Boland amendment, with its restrictions on the executive, is indisputably binding law. Relevant here is the wisdom of libertarian economist and historian Murray Rothbard who said, “[O]nly a few key people need be in on the original crime, while lots of government officials can be in on the subsequent cover-up, which can always be justified as ‘patriotic,’ on ‘national security’ grounds, or simply because the president ordered it. The fact that the highest levels of the U.S. government are all-too capable of lying to the public, should have been clear since Watergate and Iran-Contra.”8
The most glaring defect of Gates’ sanitized screenplay about Iran-Contra is the absence of George Bush, whose presidential library and museum (along with the Bush School of Government and Public Service) are at Texas A&M. On Christmas eve 1992, defeated for reelection, Bush pardoned six former government employees implicated in Iran-Contra, most prominently former Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger. Weinberger was scheduled to stand trial for lying to Congress about his knowledge of arms sales to Khomeini and concealing 1,700 pages of his personal diary detailing discussions with other officials about these matters. Because Weinberger’s notes referred to Bush’s endorsement of the secret shipments to Iran, thereby contradicting Bush’s claims that he had only peripheral knowledge of the arms deal and aid to the Contras, Bush’s pardon had the happy effect of thwarting an expected order to appear before a grand jury or be indicted.

A The New York Times editorial on Christmas, entitled “Mr. Bush’s Unpardonable Act,” charged: “Mr. Bush remains implicated in Iran-Contra and in that sense he has shamelessly pardoned himself.”9 A furious Lawrence Walsh, likening the pardons to Nixon’s Saturday Night Massacre, charged, “The Iran-contra cover-up, which has continued for more than six years, has now been completed.” Bush responded that the Walsh probe constituted an attempt to criminalize a policy dispute between the legislative and executive branches, although in his diary he confessed: “The pardon of Weinberger will put a tarnish, kind of a downer, on our legacy.”10 In addition to Weinberger, Bush pardoned Duane R. Clarridge, Clair E. George, Robert C. “Bud” McFarlane, Elliott Abrams and Alan G. Fiers Jr.11
Among other sins, Gates defends the absurd official tale about 9/11, according to which, in the words of the 9/11 Commission, “This immeasurable pain was inflicted by 19 young Arabs acting at the behest of Islamist extremists headquartered in distant Afghanistan.”12 But his status as an “ultimate insider” means that he knows better, much better. During Gates’ CIA watch in the 1980s the Agency created al Qaeda, the Taliban and Osama bin Laden as anti-Soviet, pro-western assets.13 Although Gates would never admit it, he has to know that, in the words of Webster Tarpley, “High-profile international terrorism is not spontaneous: it is artificial and synthetic.”14 Even the FBI says Osama bin Laden is not wanted for 9/11 because it has no “hard evidence” connecting him to 9/11.
The evidence provided by Tarpley and many other writers suggests that 9/11 is not about the sociology of the Middle East but false-flag state terrorism on the part of the United States and one or more of its allies. The Bush-bin Laden connection goes back to the 1970s.15 Osama will prove elusive as long as he remains a “necessary enemy” in the present American version of what Daniele Ganser and Ola Tunander in the Griffin-Scott volume call “the strategy of tension.”
Perhaps the most consistent trait of the Bush bunch is secrecy, although loyalty runs a close second.16 Robert M. Gates has both traits. A little-known outrage for our so-called republic happened on Nov. 1, 2001, when President George W. Bush signed Executive Order 13233, ordering that a former president’s private papers can be released only with the approval of both the current and former president (or his heirs). Since the Reagan-Bush administration had a “stop the clock” granted, new Iran-Contra evidence can be withheld indefinitely, protecting Bush 41 and Gates from further revelations. Prior to Bush 43’s new secrecy order, the National Archives had controlled the release of documents under the Presidential Records Act of 1978, which stipulated that all papers, except those pertaining to national security, had to be made available 12 years after a president left office. The new Democrat-controlled Congress must contest this usurpation of law. If it succeeds, new Iran-Contra revelations will scandalize Gates, Bush 41 and many others.
For more crtical articles on Gates, see Ray McGovern, Robert Parry, and Charley Reese.
2. Robert M. Gates, From the Shadows: The Ultimate Insider’s Story of Five Presidents and How They Won the Cold War, New York, NY: Touchstone, 1996. While Gates credits western political pressure symbolized by SDI in winning the Cold War, the opposite interpretation is that Gates’ CIA had “an almost unbroken record of mistaken assessments” of the USSR during its final decade, and “U.S. intelligence agencies did not see the crisis of the Soviet Union coming…the USSR succumbed to a domestic coup d’etat thanks to an internal process of delegitimization that Gorbachev himself had initiated. The United States had little or nothing to do with it.” Chalmers Johnson, The Sorrows of Empire, New York, NY: Henry Holt, 2004, pp. 17-8.3.
3. In response to my June 9, 2005 article expressing my suspicion that 9/11 was an inside job, Texas A&M University released this statement by Gates: “The American people know what they saw with their own eyes on September 11, 2001. To suggest any kind of government conspiracy in the events of that day goes beyond the pale.” For the neoconservative argument that a “galvanizing event like a new Pearl Harbor” would promote the global domination project, see Zbigniew Brzezinski, The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives, New York, NY: Basic, 1997, pp. 24-5; Project for the New American Century, Rebuilding America’s Defenses, September, 2000, p. 63.
4. Cannon, Lou, and Bob Woodward. “Gates to Withdraw as CIA Nominee; Reagan’s Choice Facing Senate Rejection.” Washington Post, 2 Mar. 1987, A1;
5. Polgar, Tom. “Gates: The Wrong Choice to Head the CIA.” Washington Post National Weekly Edition, 1-7 Jul. 1991, 24;
7. “[C]ampaign chief, Bill Casey, devised the so-called Iran-Contra scheme, originally known only to a few top officials under the code name ‘the Enterprise.’ The money from the missile sales would be diverted directly to the Contras…” James McConnachie & Robin Tudge, The Rough Guide to Conspiracy Theories, London and New York: Rough Guides, 2005, p. 186.
8. Lew Rockwell, ed., The Irrepressible Rothbard, Burlingame, CA: Center for Libertarian Studies, 2000, p. 307 (“The J.F.K. Flap”).
9. Kitty Kelley, The Family: The Real Story of the Bush Dynasty, New York, NY: Anchor, p. 533.
10. Ibid.
11. There is powerful evidence that Bush, the effective chief of all covert action and de facto head of U.S. intelligence, was at the center of Iran-Contra, see
12. The 9/11 Commission Executive Summary, p. 2,; “They used knives…Mace…and the threat of a bomb” because “they hate our freedoms,” p. 7, The 9/11 Commission Report Can you detect the hubris, the contempt for the American public in this moonshine?
14. Tarpley, pp. 7-8.
15. Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed, The War on Truth: 9/11, Disinformation, and the Anatomy of Terrorism, Northampton, MA: Olive Branch, 2005, pp. 130-3; Craig Unger, House of Bush, House of Saud, New York, NY: Scribner, 2004; J.H. Hatfield, Fortunate Son, Brooklyn, NY: Soft Skull, 2002; Alex Jones, 9-11 Descent into Tyranny, Austin, TX: AEJ, 2002, p. 66.
16. Loyalty was highlighted by Bush’s nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court: “Miers was Bush’s personal lawyer, scrubbing his record as a political candidate and, as White House counsel, she defended the president’s prerogatives in the war on terror…self-effacing to the point of invisibility.” Former Bush White House speechwriter David Frum reported contemptuously, “She once told me that the president was the most brilliant man she had ever met.” Newsweek, October 17, 2005, pp. 32-4.

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