The Seven Questions No One Asked Robert Gates

Washington Dispatch: Is the Senate holding a confirmation on Bush’s pick to replace Rumsfeld – or a ritual blessing?

By James Ridgeway
December 6, 2006

No one in Washington thinks there’s any question about Robert Gates getting confirmed as Secretary of Defense. The hearings this week before the Senate Armed Services Committee are one of the capitol’s purely ceremonial affairs: Gates is the ostensible reason for the get-together, but the real goal is to honor outgoing committee chairman John Warner — who, it’s worth remembering, for the past five years has presided over the Senate’s oversight of the war in Iraq.

Only two committee members proffered any real questions on the first day of the confirmation hearings. The first was Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., who simply asked the nominee what everyone wants to know: Would you support attacking Iran and Syria? Gates pretty much said no. Then Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., asked Gates if he believed that Iran wants nuclear weapons. Gates said yes, adding that in his view, the effort is largely driven by the need for a deterrent.

The rest of the hearing was simply embarrassing, with senators complimenting the US government for giving “sovereignty” back to Iraq, opining that not all Muslims were bad, and buffing up their bona fides for the 2008 presidential campaign.

What follows are a few questions senators should have asked Gates to make these hearings worthy of the name – and could still raise in floor debate. But don’t hold your breath.

  1. Why did the CIA fail to predict the collapse of the Soviet Union?
  2. What role did you have as a subordinate of CIA director William Casey in the Afghan war against the Soviets?
  3. Please tell us all the occasions since 1988 (under both Bush administrations) on which you were asked for advice on the Afghan and Iraqi wars and what advice you gave.
  4. In 1984 you wrote Casey that: “It is time to talk absolutely straight about Nicaragua,” and added, “The Nicaraguan regime is steadily moving toward consolidation of a Marxist-Leninist government, and the establishment of a permanent and well-armed ally of the Soviet Union and Cuba on the mainland of the western hemisphere. Its avowed aim is to spread further revolution in the Americas.” You said this was an “unacceptable” course and argued the U.S. should do everything “in its power short of invasion to put that regime out.” Any hopes of causing that regime to reform itself for a more pluralistic government are “essentially silly and hopeless.” With Daniel Ortega back in power, what should we do now? Does he now pose a threat to the western hemisphere? Are hopes for a pluralistic government still “essentially silly and hopeless”? Your views, please.
  5. In 1985 you wanted to “redraw the map of North Africa,” advocating invading Libya with a force of 90,000 American soldiers, seizing half the country, and overthrowing Muamar Ghaddafi. On the basis of your advice, Casey ordered up a list of Libyan targets. Please explain your thinking on Libya.
  6. You have said that you first learned of the operation we now know as Iran-Contra when Eugene Hasenfus’s plane was shot down over Nicaragua on October 5, 1986. If that is so, tell us about your meeting on October 1, 1985 with the CIA’s National Intelligence Officer, Charles Allen, who told you of his suspicion funds were being diverted to the Contras. What action did you take when he told you this?
  7. Some of your former colleagues at the CIA allege that you played a role in politicizing intelligence at the agency, a claim you have long denied. Can you explain how a memo came to be drafted under your direction, based on information from one source, that alleged Soviet involvement in the papal assassination plot? Why did your cover note on this memo, which was sent to the president and the vice president, call this assessment a “comprehensive examination”?

James Ridgeway is the Washington Correspondent at Mother Jones.

Gates Confirmed

From: “Dr. Robert M. Gates”
To: undisclosed-recipients
Date: December 7, 2006

To the Aggie Family:

The United States Senate yesterday voted to confirm me as the 22nd
Secretary of Defense. I will be sworn in and take office on December
18th, and will resign as the 22nd President of Texas A&M that same day.

And so it is final. My last official act as President will be to
preside at the commencement ceremonies on December 15-16.

You already know that I am leaving this incredible University
reluctantly and with a heavy heart. By the same token, Aggies – more
than anyone else – understand why I must do so.

Our University is in good hands and on an upward course. All the major
initiatives – expanding the faculty, new undergraduate degree programs,
greater diversity, more than half a billion dollars in new
construction – 90% of it for academic facilities, and unprecedented
involvement of faculty, staff and students in decision-making – are on
track, taking us to new heights of academic excellence. It is now also
evident that our athletic program is on track to reach a new level of
national competitiveness.

As the end of my service as President draws near, please know that: for
the rest of my life I will always be an Aggie. Wherever I am, whatever
I am doing, as long as I live I will bleed Maroon.

A final request to all in the Texas A&M family. Never forget who we
are and where we came from. Never forget the Aggie Code of Honor. And
never forget the obligations of duty and honor and country.

God bless all of you, God bless Texas A&M, and God bless America.

Gig ’em Aggies.

Until we meet again.

Robert M. Gates
Texas A&M University

3 arrested in D/FW airport security breach

05:18 AM CST on Wednesday, November 1, 2006

By HOLLY YAN / The Dallas Morning News

Three men being chased by officers Tuesday night drove through a security fence at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport and ran across an airfield before they were arrested near a terminal.

D/FW DPS officers began pursuing the men’s vehicle on East Airfield Drive about 8 p.m. on suspicion of reckless driving, airport spokesman David Magaña said. The men crashed through the fence on the northeast side of the airfield operations area of the airport, abandoned their vehicle and ran across the airfield toward the terminal area. They were arrested near Terminal A.

‘The investigation is continuing, but at this point there is no indication that the incident was related to an act of terrorism,’ Mr. Magaña said.

Two of the airport’s seven runways were temporarily closed as a precaution. One arriving flight was diverted during the incident, and three departing flights were delayed, Mr. Magaña said.

Officials said there was no danger to any aircraft. Local and federal agencies were investigating the incident, but the charges had not been released.”