The Airing of Grievances
Monday, April 19, 2004
The Sins of the Father
Bob Woodward's new book, Plan of Attack, about the Bush White House's path to war certainly sounds fascinating. The Grey Lady lifts up the skirt to show us some of the salacious claims that Woodward makes here (free reg.). Among the teasers they drop for us:
- "President George W. Bush asked Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld on Nov. 21, 2001, to start a (secret) war plan for Iraq."
- "The book also reveals that the director of Central Intelligence, George Tenet, told President Bush in December 2002 that intelligence about Iraq possessing weapons of mass destruction was "a slam dunk," but later told associates that he and the C.I.A. should have stated up front in that fall's National Intelligence Estimate and other reports that the evidence was not ironclad, that there was no smoking gun."
- "General Franks said in September 2002 that his people had been "looking for Scud missiles and other weapons of mass destruction for 10 years and haven't found any yet,"
And most damning of all - Woodward claims that Bush and his inner circle were terrified of appearing "wimpy" like his father did in the wake of the first Gulf War
- "As Mr. Bush himself says of the weeks leading up to the war: "I began to be concerned at the blowback coming out of America: `Bush won't act. The leader that we thought was strong and straightforward and clear-headed has now got himself in a position where he can't act.' And it wasn't on the left. It was on the right.""
These revelations are truly amazing, and absolutely terrifying.
But no, the story does not just end there? In a Cozmo "I told you so..." almost on par with Kwame not firing Omarosa, peep this:
- "Later Mr. Woodward observes that Secretary of State Colin Powell warned the president in January 2003 that military action against Iraq would leave the United States responsible for rebuilding the country and dealing with whatever global fallout the invasion might cause, but adds that the president never asked his top diplomat for advice, and that Mr. Powell never volunteered any."
- "During the buildup to war, this book contends, tensions between Mr. Powell and Mr. Cheney grew so toxic that the two men "could not, and did not, have a sit-down lunch or any discussion about their differences." Mr. Powell is described as thinking that the vice president had an unhealthy fixation on Saddam Hussein and was constantly straining to draw (unproven) connections between Al Qaeda and Iraq. As Mr. Woodward puts it: "Powell thought that Cheney took intelligence and converted uncertainty and ambiguity into fact." As for Mr. Cheney, he reportedly complains to hawkish friends Â at a dinner party he and his wife gave on April 13, 2003, to celebrate the Marines' arrival in Baghdad Â that Mr. Powell "always had major reservations about what we were trying to do." He and his friends are described as chuckling about the secretary of state, whom Mr. Cheney characterizes as someone interested in his own poll ratings and popularity."
For his part in all this, Powell claims he was not out of the loop. I am not buying it. He made a fool of himself in front of the UN by showing off trailers he claimed were WMD factories. I don't believe that Powell got up there and lied to the entire planet with the conviction that he did. I just don't think Powell has that in him. It is remarkable, however, that the most important member of the cabinet when it comes to foreign policy, the Secretary of State, was pushed aside by the Cheney-Rove-Rumsefeld triumverate. That they set Powell up for the fall like he was their house boy makes me dislike and distrust those three even more.
This story reminds me of John Cornwell, whose shocking biography of Pius XII, Hitler's Pope, was only allowed to be researched written because the Vatican was convinced the conservative Catholic Cornwell would write a sympathetic book on the much maligned WWII era ponitff, whom they were hoping to cannonize. Instead, Cornwell was horrified by what he had read in the Vatican's files, and wrote a scathing book detailing how Pius was not only unsympathetic to the plight of the Jews during WWII, but effectively sold Germany to the Nazi party for the Catholic Church's right to retain its school system in Germany. Not unlike Cornwell, Bob Woodward was given unprecidented access - this time to a sitting cabinet - because of his flattering portyal of Bush in Bush at War, his 2002 book. He interviewed 75 staffers, all speaking at Bush's behest. What he found was clearly not what the President was hoping for, as it was certainly less than flattering to the President or to any senior members of his administration. As for me, I can't wait to see how the White House spins this. Bob Woodward is just the latest Bush "insider" to give an account that portays the Cheney-Rove-Rumsfeld wing of the White House as overbearing, war mongering bullies who conviently ignored facts pushed our "adolescent" president around, and forced the country into war.