Director of Central Intelligence General Michael Hayden’s assertion on “Meet the Press” on Sunday that he has a “personal belief” that Iran has a nuclear weapons program would not be so disturbing if it had not been preceded by statements from President Bush and Vice President Cheney. On March 19th, Bush was apparently speaking in “shorthand” when he said Iran has “declared they want a nuclear weapon to destroy people.” It is not clear how exactly that would be expressed in Farsi, but no matter as words often get in the way when one is trying to make a point. Four days later Dick Cheney said that Iran was “…heavily involved in trying to develop nuclear weapons enrichment…” Cheney’s remarks, whatever they actually mean or were intended to mean, are no real surprise as he has long let his agenda of demonizing Iran drive his rhetoric. He has also tended to make his facts up as he goes along in what has become a Bush White House tradition.
But Hayden’s comments are perhaps the most disturbing as he is not a politician and is supposed to support fact-based intelligence analysis. Either the facts demonstrate something or they do not. That he has a “personal belief” should be confined to whatever church he attends. When he says that he thinks that Iran has a nuclear weapons program that is the message that is left on the table, not his own intelligence community’s assessment that it does not. Agence France Presse, for example, reported his comments under the heading “CIA Chief says Iran has nuclear weapons drive.” That Hayden, in his comments, also defended last year’s National Intelligence Estimate on Iran that reported that Iran had abandoned its program was lost in the article. Hayden’s need to express his personal feelings on an issue that is intimately related to the prospects for war and peace might also reveal an unfortunate inclination on the part of high level public officials to support the White House no matter what the consequences. Now that Admiral William Fallon is gone, there does not appear to be anyone who is willing to go against the tide.
One wonders what it would be like to having a whole week go by without someone in the US government bashing Iran. How would it feel if American politicians and government officials were suddenly to begin referring to Iran in a serious way, as if it were a real country inhabited by real people who actually care for their children and want to enjoy life. It is undeniably more comforting to think of Iran as a place whose president is the latest manifestation of Hitler, spewing out venom, producing ranks of dead-eyed warriors dedicated to martyrdom, and, inter alia, cranking out nuclear weapons to hand over to terrorists. Having someone to hate is as American as apple pie, so it seems.