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No Fun Playing Cassandra (She Says as She Pulls Her Hair Out)

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I can't help posting my two cents after reading "No I-Told-You-Sos: Opponents of the Iraq War Voice Pain, Not Vindication, At Predictions They Could Only Hope Would Be Wrong." Today's Washington Post article reviewed the experiences of retired Army Lt. Gen. William E. Odom, head of the National Security Agency under President Ronald Reagan; Jessica Tuchman Mathews, president of the Carnegie Endowment of International Peace; Zbigniew Brzezinski, former national security adviser under President Jimmy Carter; Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) and retired Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni, all prescient prognosticators who have been proven completely correct in their dire warnings about invading Iraq. The piece could easily be entitled: "Warning Business Sucks." Due to the pre-war fervor that existed at the time, Odom, Mathews, Brzezinski, Lee, and Zinni were not only shunned and scolded by their peers, but also disinvited from participation on professional forums and basically treated as Benedict Arnolds.

(The same thing, by the way, happened to me. I voiced similar warnings a couple of weeks before the Iraq War began and ended up with an office full of FBI agents up in arms, figuratively speaking of course, telling my boss they could no longer trust me, after serving 13 years as our FBI office's legal advisor. So I obligingly stepped down.)

But that's hardly the worst part of playing Cassandra. The worst part is having one's nightmarish warning come true. You can sense Odom, Tuchman-Mathews, Brzezinski, Lee and Zinni almost wincing when asked by the reporter if they now feel "vindicated." I wrote about the inherent sadness of the "whistleblower's" situation back in 2004 for a piece entitled, "What I Learned, Pre- and Post 9-11" in Minnesota Law and Politics Magazine. To better illustrate the problem, I used the example of the O-ring engineers whose warnings about the Challenger fell on deaf ears and who, after the Challenger blew up, had to seek mental counseling:

"When a warning is attempted, it usually goes unheeded and the warner still has to suffer through the horrible aftermath. There's no vindication in being right, in those circumstances. For example, take the O-ring engineers who unsuccessfully tried--based on their knowledge of the predicted cold temperature's adverse affect upon the O-ring seals--to get NASA management to postpone the Challenger's doomed launch. They may have been right, but being "right" in such circumstances is inherently part of a greater failure. The poor "whistleblower" usually just ends up blaming him/herself for not having tried harder or sooner."

No wonder poor Cassandra is depicted pulling her hair out. I forget, did she end up going crazy? Or did she just give up voicing warnings? Before you google to find out the rest of that story, I feel compelled to play Cassandra one more time myself by reminding folks of the one aspect of my pre-war warnings that hasn't quite materialized (yet). In 2003, I wrote:

''We should be deluding neither ourselves nor the American people that there is any way the F.B.I., despite the various improvements (being implemented), will be able to stem the flood of terrorism that will likely head our way in the wake of an attack on Iraq. What troubles me most is that I have no assurance that you (the FBI Director) have made that clear to the president.''

Significant terrorist incidents have certainly skyrocketed on the international level so that part has come true. But so far, the U.S. has managed not to suffer another serious international terrorist attack on its own soil. Bush falsely credits his misguided "war on terrorism" saying we're fighting "the enemy" in Iraq and elsewhere instead of at home when it is just the opposite, the threat of terrorist attack on U.S. soil increases every day Bush is allowed to continue his wrong-headed "war" which has made Iraq a training ground for Al Qaeda terrorists and helps Al Qaeda's recruiting efforts.

I keep thinking if only the Bush Administration could be stopped and saner, more effective methods of combating terrorism instituted, the part of my warning about future terrorist attacks on U.S. soil might not come true and/or prove so calamitous. Notably, Zbigniew Brzezinski is also back in the warning business, this time trying to alert Senators about the "plausible scenario for a military collision" (deja vu) by which the Bush Administration could expand war to Iran.

Maybe Cassandra syndrome isn't only a curse but also a blessing of hope springing eternal that this time they'll listen?

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