Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS), speaking on the House floor this week, singled out the top U.S. intelligence official and compared the assessment of U.S. intelligence agencies to British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, who is best known acquiescing to Hitler’s demand to expand the Third Reich into what was then Czechoslovakia in 1938.
Pompeo specifically addressed Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. In January, Clapper related during Hill testimony an assessment on whether Iran had made a decision to build a nuclear weapon. “We don’t believe [Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamanei] has made that decision yet,” Clapper said. By saying “we,” Clapper was not speaking for himself, but for the bureaucracies that he leads and coordinates between, collectively known as the U.S. intelligence community.
But that didn’t stop Pompeo from taking a wildly overwrought shot at Clapper on the floor of the House:
Our president’s intelligence chief has said that the Iranians have not yet decided to build a bomb. To me, these words are reminiscent to those of Neville Chamberlain, who doubted that the Nazi command had finalized its decision to invade all of Europe, both East and West. The threat was either ignored or considered too irrational to be possible by a timorous and distracted world bent on avoiding conflict.
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Pompeo’s attack on Clapper — a Vietnam veteran who made a career in intelligence — seems a thinly-veiled call to military action against Iran, albeit one based on a persistent and flimsy counter-factual about World War II history and preventative wars.
War hawks frequently make Chamberlain comparisons, it seems, to those who express any reluctance whatsoever to go to war. Those who so much as urge caution get charged with “appeasement,” as President Obama has been. Likewise, hawks laud Winston Churchill — though that historic analogy, too, is imperfect for their purposes.
A potential Iranian nuclear weapon is widely considered a threat to both the security of the U.S. and its allies in the region, and the nuclear non-proliferation regime. The Obama administration vows to keep “all options on the table” to deal with the possibility, but the efficacy and consequences of a strike raise serious questions, leading the U.S. to pursue, for the meantime, a pressure track aimed at a negotiated resolution of the Iranian nuclear crisis.
One wonders if Pompeo would make his shocking comparison with Chamberlain for Israeli intelligence officials, who’ve also reportedly concluded Iran hasn’t decided to build a nuclear bomb.