The Assessor Was an Ass

To err is human. To admit a mistake is superhuman. I surely know that. But I was never the "national explainer," nor the "national calmer" or even the "national assessor."

To err is human. To admit a mistake is superhuman. I surely know that. But I was never the "national explainer," nor the "national calmer" or even the "national assessor." I've never been anything "national" nor have I ever been the one all eyes turned to. The "national camp" even threw us out a long time ago.

Now, after the assassination of Ahmed Yassin, all the national explainers and assessors are quick to calm us, taking care to distinguish between "the short term" and the "long term." In the short term, things will be worse. But in the long run, things will be much better, they promise.

The problem with the long term is that it also requires a long memory, and as far as we can remember, these are assessors who find it difficult to find the tip of their noses, so how can we rely on them when they make long-term predictions. These are people who carry large boxes of serious mistakes from their past on their backs, so how do they straighten so tall that they can look into the future?

"National explainer," Amos Gilad, a reserve general, sent an entire country into hysteria when he reported about what could be expected here because of the war in Iraq, which began a year ago. That hysteria caused Israel tremendous economic damage, and may have had an influence on the last elections.

Gilad, who nowadays plays a key role in the Defense Ministry, is an intelligent man, very articulate and extremely sure of himself. He has only one small problem. He is a serial mistake maker.

Presumably, I wouldn't have even mentioned him and his mistakes, if I hadn't read an interview with him in Maariv, where he once again repeats all his mistakes as if reality had not completely contradicted each one of them. But Gilad is not one to let reality confuse his opinions, even after his assessments have become an international laughing stock.

He's not ready to change a single one of his predictions, as if he's ready, right now, to go to Iraq and immediatel-y - with no problem - find all the booty and deliver it personally to the president of the United States.

To admit a mistake, even slightly, that is apparently beyond his capabilities. And if we can"t buy used assessments form him, how can we buy new ones? After all, the man is now the head of the political-security branch of the Defense Ministry.

And this is what the "national explainer" had to say before the war in Iraq: "The horror stories that arrive from Iraq after he falls will shock the world" (February 2003).

"If he is pressed to his back against the wall, he could take desperate steps that would perpetuate his name in history, including using unconventional means" (February 2003).

"Saddam Hussein has enormous quantities of chemical weapons, aimed against half the world".

"This war is one of the miracles that has happened to Israel - look at the shining dawn that is rising" (February 2003).

"We know that he is continuing his effort to acquire nuclear weapons" (March 2003).

"Saddam has huge laboratories and much more unconventional weapons ... and if the Americans catch the right people, they will find out even much worse things" (April 2003).

So, there you have it, a collection of nonsense, delusions, stylized stargazing, and other utterly baseless gobbledygook that this mean sees and even invents, out of wishful thinking.

The entire world already knows that there weren't even traces of weapons of mass destruction found in Iraq, the Americans and British have given up their searches, there wasn't even a conventional army worth the name to be found in Iraq, and what was found was more similar to a pile of junk than an army.

Even the Knesset subcommittee that investigated the intelligence agencies, established by the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee after the war in Iraq - and which did only half the job it should have done - eve it has defined all those assessments as broken reeds not worth a thing. The only question is how the committee itself functioned in "real time" to get rid of the failure in time.

However, the general in reserves and the advisor on permanent duty sticks to his previous assessments. George Bush, fighting for reelection, has already given up the weapons of mass destruction issue, as has Tony Blair, fighting for his political life.

But someone like Gilad never gives up. He's still convinced of his own assessments as the one and only assessment, for the entire world. But is this the right person for a high-ranking position in the government dealing with diplomatic and security matters?

As is my wont, I can't control my urges. Our assessments, even if they were flawed here and there, were said and written before the war in Iraq, but Gilad and his colleagues - officers and commentators, commentators and officers, who can tell them apart - broke up laughing, because they were so sure of themselves. And they have an important role to play - instead of explaining things and calming us, they'll scare us to death, so to whom will we then turn our eyes if not to them.

Those same people, Gilad and his ilk, now explain to us again what will happen to us "in the short run" and "the long run," all the while completely ignoring what John Maynard Keynes once famously pointed out - "in the long run, we are all dead."