Book Review: The One Percent Doctrine, by Ron Suskind


1-27-07, 9:03 am

The One Percent Doctrine: Deep Inside America’s Pursuit of its Enemies Since 9/11 By Ron Suskind New York: Simon & Schuster, 2006, 367 pages

Of late, investigative journalists have written a veritable tidal wave of tomes dissecting the blunders and missteps of the Bush Administration. Bob Woodward, and Thomas Ricks of the Washington Post have been among the most prominent but there are so many others that one quipster observed that bookstores will soon have to construct an entire section comprised of anti-Bush books. Certainly, the author of the book at hand deserves to have his worthy work placed in this section for this is one of the more insightful explorations of the misrule that has characterized Washington of late. The provocative title is ascribed to the new 'Prince of Darkness,' the man from the 'dark side' himself: Dick Cheney: '’If there’s a one percent chance that Pakistani scientists are helping al Qaeda build or develop a nuclear weapon, we have to treat it as a certainty in terms of our response….It’s not about our analysis, or finding a preponderance of evidence…..It’s about our response.’' Suspicion—no matter how ill-founded—therefore became the basis for action, according to the Vice-President.

This bizarre promulgation reached its zenith during the illegal and ill-fated invasion of Iraq, which proceeded on the ostensible basis of the regime’s possession of weapons of mass destruction—weapons that remain undiscovered. This has culminated in a bloody occupation that is stretching the U.S. military to the breaking point and compromising the nation’s ability to confront pressing and nagging problems of poverty and disease.

But even if there was something to this rather grotesque doctrine, it would be vitiated by other policies of the White House. So-called moderate Republicans like former Secretary of State Colin Powell and retired General Brent Scowcroft have been treated like pariahs. Instead, Washington has relied heavily on Pakistan, whose vaunted intelligence service is riddled with Taliban and al Qaeda sympathizers. This has also meant reliance on the utterly unreliable supposed ally of Saudi Arabia, the nation that produced 15 of the 19 hijackers in September 2001, not to mention Osama bin Laden himself. The animosity and distrust that permeates the relationship between the FBI and the CIA is reminiscent of what befell the Hatfields and the McCoys. Their lack of coordination and reluctance to share intelligence is jeopardizing national security.

This is all compounded by a chilling thesis argued by the author. As he sees it, the U.S. is 'undefendable.' This nation, as the Pentagon might put it, is a 'target rich environment.' As the author sees it, this realization underpins the obvious hysteria that has driven Washington’s wacky and weird policies. The apotheosis of this misguided Administration approach came when the U.S. security services detained suspected 'terrorist,' Abu Zubaydah. Bush, Cheney and their minions all trumpeted the allegation that he was one of the key sergeants of Osama bin Laden himself and that his arrest was another victory for Washington. But this was far from true. In fact, according to one insider, he was '‘insane, certifiable, split personality.’' They proceeded to torture him in order to compel him to talk. And he proceeded to make ever wilder allegations about supposed demonic plots against U.S. interests globally—which sent U.S. agents fleeing in all directions in order to forestall these 'plots.' The specter of a mentally unbalanced man being tortured then 'revealing' various devilish schemes that then send U.S. agents into a frenzied and frantic dither, scurrying hither and yon as if their hair was on fire, is the reigning metaphor for this incompetently conceived 'war on terror.' Suggestive of the hysteria driving Washington policy was the stunning event of April 2003 when 'the head of the FBI’s unit on Hezbollah and radical Shiite fundamentalists took his own life with his bureau-issue revolver.'

In short, the author suggests that the Bush regime has been driven mad by the press of events. Certainly it was unwise for the White House to focus before September 2001 on toppling the regime in Iraq rather than confronting the plans of al Qaeda, which the author suggests was one of their primary flaws. After all, Iraq had oil and was an antagonist of Israel, while al Qaeda controlled no petroleum. Strikingly, the author argues that al Qaeda desperately desired to see Bush re-elected on the premise that their diabolical plans were more likely to be attained with him steering the ship of state and the White House’s stunningly ill-timed and disastrous maneuvers have appeared as the realization of bin Laden’s most coveted dream.

Just as Pentagon chief, Donald Rumsfield, is the villain of Bob Woodward’s best-seller, here the source of evil is Cheney. 'The Iraq war was launched, in large measure, from the left brain of the Vice-President,' writes the author. His nickname at the CIA was 'Edgar' as in the ventriloquist, 'Bergen'—which meant that Bush was his dummy, Charlie McCarthy.

In sum, this book is well worth reading and deserves the plaudits it has received.

--Gerald Horne is a contributing editor of Political Affairs. Send your remarks to