Jeffrey LewisGeorge Tenet Pep Talk

AP Special Correspondent Charles J. Hanley has a readable, accessible summary of the Iraq WMD debacle in the Guardian.

Hanley opens with an anecdote that I haven’t seen before:

Beneath the giant dome of a Baghdad palace, facing his team of scientists and engineers, George Tenet sounded more like a football coach than a spymaster, a coach who didn’t know the game was over.

“Are we 85 percent done?’’ the CIA boss demanded. The arms hunters knew what he wanted to hear. “No!’’ they shouted back. “Let me hear it again!’’ They shouted again.

The weapons are out there, Tenet insisted. Go find them.

Veteran inspector Rod Barton couldn’t believe his ears. “It was nonsense,’’ the Australian biologist said of that February evening last year, when the then-chief of U.S. intelligence secretly flew to Baghdad and dropped in on the lakeside Perfume Palace, chandelier-hung home of the Iraq Survey Group.


  1. Dan (History)

    Blake: Let me have your attention for a moment! So you’re talking about what? You’re talking about…(puts out his cigarette)…bitching about that [inspection] you shot, some son of a bitch that doesn’t want to [show you his weapons], somebody that doesn’t [have] what you’re [looking for], some broad you’re trying to screw and so forth. Let’s talk about something important…. (to Levene) Put that coffee down!! Coffee’s for closers only. (Levene scoffs) Do you think I’m fucking with you? I am not fucking with you. I’m here from [Langley]. I’m here from [Cheney and Rove]. And I’m here on a mission of mercy. Your name’s Levene?
    Levene: Yeah.
    Blake: You call yourself a [weapons inspector], you son of a bitch?
    Moss: I don’t have to listen to this shit.
    Blake: You certainly don’t pal. ‘Cause the good news is—you’re fired. The bad news is you’ve got, all you got, just one week to regain your jobs, starting tonight. Starting with tonight’s [inspection]. Oh, have I got your attention now? Good. ‘Cause we’re adding a little something to this month’s [inspection] contest. As you all know, first prize is a Cadillac Eldorado. Anyone want to see second prize? Second prize’s a set of steak knives. Third prize is you’re fired. You get the picture? You’re laughing now? You got leads. [Cheney and Rove] paid good money. Get their [weapons and find] them! You can’t [find] the [weapons] you’re given, you can’t [find] shit, you ARE shit, hit the bricks pal and beat it ‘cause you are going out!!!
    Levene: The leads are weak.
    Blake: ‘The leads are weak.’ Fucking leads are weak? You’re weak. I’ve been in this business fifteen years.
    Moss: What’s your name?
    Blake: FUCK YOU, that’s my name!! You know why, Mister? ‘Cause you drove a Hyundai to get here tonight, I [was flown over in an F-16]. That’s my name!! (to Levene) And your name is “you’re wanting.” And you can’t play in a man’s game. You can’t [find] them. (at a near whisper) And you go home and tell your wife your troubles. (to everyone again) Because only one thing counts in this life! Get them to sign on the line which is dotted! You hear me, you fucking faggots?
    (Blake flips over a blackboard which has two sets of letters on it: ABC, and AIDA.)
    Blake: A-B-C. A-always, B-be, C-closing. Always be closing! Always be closing!! A-I-D-A. Attention, interest, decision, action. Attention—do I have your attention? Interest—are you interested? I know you are because it’s fuck or walk. You close or you hit the bricks! Decision—have you made your decision for Christ?!! And action. A-I-D-A; get out there!! You got the prospects comin’ in; you think they came in to get out of the rain? Guy doesn’t walk on the lot unless he wants to [manufacture weapons of mass destruction]. Sitting out there waiting to give you their [weapons of mass destruction]! Are you gonna take it? Are you man enough to take it? …You see, pal, that’s who I am. And you’re nothing. Nice guy? I don’t give a shit. Good father? Fuck you—go home and play with your kids!! (to everyone) You wanna work here? Close!! (to Aaronow) You think this is abuse? You think this is abuse, you cocksucker? You can’t take this—how can you take the abuse you get on [an inspection]?! You don’t like it—leave. I can go out there tonight with the materials you got, [find] myself fifteen thousand [tons of yellowcake]! Tonight! In two hours! Can you? Can you? Go and do likewise! A-I-D-A!! Get mad! You sons of bitches! Get mad!! You know what it takes to [find weapons of mass destruction]?
    (He pulls something out of his briefcase)
    Blake: It takes brass balls to [find weapons of mass destruction].
    (He’s holding two brass balls on string, over the appropriate “area”—he puts them away after a pause)
    Blake: Go and do likewise, gents. The [nukes are] out there, you pick it up, it’s yours. You don’t—I have no sympathy for you. You wanna go out on those sits tonight and close, close, it’s yours. If not you’re going to be shining my shoes. Bunch of losers sitting around in a bar. (in a mocking weak voice) “Oh yeah, I used to be a [weapons inspector], it’s a tough racket.” (he takes out large stack of red index cards tied together with string from his briefcase) These are the new leads. These are the [Baghdad] leads. And to you, they’re gold. And you don’t get them. Because to give them to you is just throwing them away. (he hands the stack to Williamson) They’re for closers.
    I’d wish you good luck but you wouldn’t know what to do with it if you got it. (to Moss) And to answer your question, pal: why am I here? I came here because [Cheney and Rove] asked me to, they asked me for a favor. I said, the real favor, follow my advice and fire your fucking ass because a loser is a loser.”

    Apologies to David Mamet, and all those poor losers who have never seen the movie.