It's refreshing, in a twisted kind of way, to encounter a news story where everyone involved is wrong – or at least _in_ the wrong. It offers some relief from the usual – especially in these times – black-and-white-with-no-shades-of-gray situation, where the heroes and villains stand out in sharp relief, are dressed to match their assigned roles, and the villains snarl like Dick Cheney while the heroes talk like Dudley Do-Right. Such a case is the ongoing – apparently for want of a more important story, which beggars belief right there – saga of Nancy Pelosi – the Maven of Miscue and Guru of Gaffe – and her alleged brainwashing about waterboarding at the hands of the CIA -- or was it the Bush administration? -- and that's one of the key points of the story. Since it's clear that she's not even sure who briefed her, anything else she says about the matter is suspect. One minute it was the CIA, and the next minute it was the Busheviks. I'm sure that, at the time, the distinction was considered – by her and by virtually anyone else – somewhat trivial. After all, doesn't the CIA work for whatever administration is in power at the time? Well, maybe. Or – as any good conspiracy theorist will tell you – it's more likely that the reverse is true, i.e. that the CIA is the actual power center of the government, and any given president and his administration are just front men (and women). My personal theory is – as I'm sure you've come to expect – off at an angle from either of those. It is, basically, that the CIA is, in effect, a parallel and autonomous government that, like any other governmental entity, has, as it's first priority, self preservation. So anything that it does is aimed at that goal, and everything else is a side effect. But what makes the CIA somewhat unusual, if not unique, is its complete lack of accountability – budget-wise and mission-wise – to anyone, or anything, except itself. Its budget and personnel structure are so secret that I'll bet even most of the people who work there don't know anything about it. Plus, it has its own private army (and navy, and air force) and secrets and deception are its stock in trade – which makes it just slightly hilarious that Our Gal Nancy alleged that she'd been deceived. Well, duh! When you're dealing with professional deceivers – the best of the best – and you're also asking them silly-assed questions about their tactics, and when they suspect that you're not exactly on their side, how surprised can you be when they proceed to blow smoke up your butt? And if they accidentally, or randomly, or even intentionally, tell the truth now and then, how would you know? What data base would you call upon to compare it to? So really, our esteemed elected representatives are putty – Silly Putty, in fact -- in the hands of the intel types; always have been, always will be. (Who, for instance, provided the "data" that served as the rationale for invading Iraq? And who fell for it? I rest my case.)
Another amusing facet to all this is Leon Panetta's rush to the defense of an organization that he was just now put in charge of (or so he thinks). Pelosi was “briefed truthfully”, he says. How does he know? I guess the first thing he did upon moving into his office in Langley was to get briefed on all of the briefings up to that time that the agency had ever provided to Congress since the days of Wild Bill Donovan. Or, when Pelosi started kicking up a fuss, he got briefed on just the briefings that she allegedly attended (“attended” naturally also implying “listened” and “understood” -- both of which are stretches in her case). But in any case, he wasn't there, so he has to rely on his underlings for an accurate picture of what was said and to whom. And that problem with that is... well, you know.
And who else feels compelled to wade into this fetid broth? Why, House Republican leader John Boehner, of course – who feels that Nancy ought to put up or shut up, i.e. either provide evidence of deception or apologize to our brave boys in the CIA. To say that he misses the point would be to understate the situation by a light year or two. When it comes to information – useful or otherwise – Congress, not to mention the American public overall, is totally at the mercy of the intelligence agencies and their mouthpieces. Ultimately, for any issue being discussed, they have to take their word for it because... well, just because, OK? There is a point, in all of these briefings – and you know darned well this applies to the “behind-closed-doors” type in particular – when the briefer falls back on the tried-and-true “national security” argument and refuses to say more. What's a Congressperson to do? Say “prove it”? But if the intel type provided sufficient data to “prove it”, they would be forced to reveal facts that would cause critical harm to American interests should they ever be revealed outside this room, etc., and we know that in any given Congressional committee room there are at least two or three left-wing radicals from California, or Massachusetts, or somewhere like that, sitting there just waiting for the opportunity to spill the beans on the CIA (or the administration, if it happens to be Republican at the time), compromise national security, and generally ruin everything. So it really is a hopeless case.
And then there's Pelosi herself, who has had to eat at least a few bites of crow, like referring to “the dedicated men and women of the intelligence community”. Gee, where was all this generosity back when the intel people were all working for the Eeeevil George Bush? Back then, they were all his slaves... mindless robots programmed to do only his will, and none other... lawless... inhuman... and so on. Now they're hard-working, loyal patriots – now that they work for Obama, that is. And if any of them went so far as to lie to her, that's only because there was some Bushite breathing down their neck, threatening them with termination if they didn't maintain the party line.
So, to sum up: Pelosi says she's been fooled by the master foolers. They say no, they told her the truth -- which is, of course, exactly what you'd expect them to say if they'd fooled her. But the implication is that she was fooled by someone else, i.e. their ex-bosses in the Bush administration. Either that or she's mistaken and wasn't fooled after all. And so she admits that she wasn't fooled by the foolers but by the Bush people. But Boehner misses that part of it and tells her that she'd better prove that she was fooled or apologize to the foolers who she already said didn't fool her after all. But Boehner's party has less power than a Palestinian at an AIPAC meeting, so there's nothing keeping her from telling him to get stuffed.
Well... frankly, I don't buy any of it. Assuming that Pelosi was ever briefed, I'll bet the briefing was full of euphemisms and reassurances along the lines of, “leave the details to us”. But on the other hand, I'm sure that she knew more then than she now admits to having known, but she decided to go along to get along. And the CIA is perfectly aware that it provided her with the semi-cleaned-up version of things that is used when the people being briefed are seen as less than totally “reliable”. And Panetta is finding out what it's like being a figurehead who's out of the loop -- all you can do is parrot the party line and hope for the best. And Boehner is being, under that veneer of naivete, both hypocritical and opportunistic. And Pelosi is scrambling to figure out which “position” is going to lose her the least amount of support. And the Bushites are beside themselves with laughter... wherever they are (mostly retired to their respective ranches, I figure). And everybody else sees it for the farce that it is.