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April 18, 2004 - Another Book You Might Not Want to Read

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"History?  We don't know.  We'll all be dead."



I’m rather fond of an old Duke Ellington thing called “Come Sunday.”  Nice piece.  Well, on Sunday, the day this is published, Bob Woodward will appear on the CBS show “60 Minutes” to introduce his new book Plan of Attack.  The book will be available in stores the following day. 
The Associated Press got its advanced copy and has a preview. 

See A book on Bush's secret rush to war
Friday, April 16, 2004 – but this link is from The International Herald Tribune on Saturday, April 17, 2004 – time zones being what they are. 

The big thing with Woodward’s new book is easy to sum up:


President George W.  Bush secretly ordered a war plan drawn up against Iraq less than two months after U.S. forces attacked Afghanistan in 2001 and was so worried the decision would cause a furor he did not tell everyone on his national security team, according to a new book on his Iraq policy. 

Bush feared that if news got out about the Iraq plan as U.S. forces were fighting another conflict, people would think he was too eager for war, Bob Woodward writes in "Plan of Attack," a behind-the-scenes account of the 16 months leading to the Iraq invasion. 

Bush did not address those preparations when asked about them Friday, saying, "I do know that it was Afghanistan that was on my mind and I didn't really start focusing on Iraq until later on."


Yeah, yeah.  Bush had a Jones for taking over Iraq and getting the guy who plotted to assassinate his father and all that – long before anyone thought.  It was a war of choice he’d had on his mind for years and years.  The 9-11 attacks were an excuse.  The WMD stuff was a sham.  Heard it before. 

This is nothing new. 

Woodward does quote Bush as saying, “I knew what would happen if people thought we were developing a potential war plan for Iraq.  It was such a high-stakes moment and ...  it would look like that I was anxious to go to war.  And I'm not anxious to go to war."

Really?  Guess so. 

Bush and his crew have indeed been all over the media denying accusations they were preoccupied with Iraq at the cost of paying attention to the Al Qaeda terrorist threat leading up to the 9-11 thing.  Why?  Because Bush’s own counterterrorism chief, Richard Clarke, quit in huff and, under oath, testified the Bush crew was blithely ignoring the real threats multiplying left and right.  Clarke’s point?  The administration's determination to invade Iraq undermined the war on terror.  Wrong war.  Stupid move.  Doesn’t address the problem.  Bush is a fool being led by manipulative, nasty folks.  Yeah, yeah.  That’s being said a lot. 

Woodward book, if the Associated Press is correct, indicates the key manipulative, nasty fellow is Vice President Dick Cheney.  He was the one who exploited Bush and got him intensely focused on Saddam Hussein – and this started as soon as Bush took office and continued even after the terrorist attacks theoretically made the destruction of Al Qaeda the “top priority.”

But the details in the AP item are just cool:


Woodward says Bush pulled Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld aside Nov. 21, 2001 - when U.S. forces and allies were in control of about half of Afghanistan - and asked him what kind of war plan he had on Iraq.  When Rumsfeld said it was outdated, Bush told him to get started on a fresh one. 

Bush said Friday the subject of Iraq came up four days after the terrorist attacks when he met his national security team at Camp David to discuss a response to the assault.  "I said let us focus on Afghanistan," he said, taking questions after a meeting with Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain. 

Asked about the Nov.  21 meeting with Rumsfeld in a cubbyhole office adjacent to the Situation Room, Bush said only, "I can't remember exact dates that far back."

The book says Bush told Rumsfeld to keep quiet about their planning and when the defense secretary asked to bring the CIA director, George Tenet, into it at some point, the president said not to do so yet. 

Even Bush's national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, was apparently not fully briefed.  Woodward said Bush told her that morning he was having Rumsfeld work on Iraq but did not give details.  In an interview two years later, Bush told Woodward that if the news had leaked, it would have caused "enormous international angst and domestic speculation."


A secret plan to wage a war of choice, and he doesn’t even tell his own people, and doesn’t want us to know, or anyone in other countries? 

Could this be?  Surely not….  Maybe. 

It seems also that General Tommy Franks, who was in charge of the Afghan war as head of Central Command, “uttered a string of obscenities when the Pentagon told him to come up with an Iraq war plan in the midst of fighting another conflict.”

No doubt. 

Woodward also seems to claim Cheney was key in a curious decision on March 19, 2003, to strike Iraq before a forty-eight-hour ultimatum for Saddam Hussein to leave the country had expired.  General Franks was, Woodward says, against it, saying it was unfair to move before a deadline announced to the other side.  If the book is correct, Rumsfeld and Rice favored the early strike, and Secretary of State Colin Powell leaned that way.  But the AP reports Woodward is claiming that Bush did not make his decision until he had cleared everyone out of the Oval Office except the vice president.  "I think we ought to go for it," Cheney is quoted as saying. 

Good man, Cheney.  And you know what we did. 

Well, we did hit hard a tad early with precision smart bombs and GPS equipped cruise missiles.  Heck, I saw it on television.  And, Woodward claims, Tenet did call the White House before dawn to say the Iraqi leader had been killed.  Oops.  Saddam wasn’t there.  Maybe Saddam instinctively knew when we said forty-eight hours we were sort of joshing. 

CBS has more detail in a news release before the Sunday interview with Woodward.  See Journalist Shares War Secrets, their “60 Minutes” teaser. 

Here’s one nugget:


In the interview, Woodward talked about how the administration was able to finance secret preparations for the Iraq war. 

"President Bush, after a National Security Council meeting, takes Don Rumsfeld aside, collars him physically and takes him into a little cubbyhole room and closes the door and says, 'What have you got in terms of plans for Iraq?' What is the status of the war plan?  I want you to get on it.  I want you to keep it secret," says Woodward. 

"...The end of July 2002, they need $700 million, a large amount of money for all these tasks.  And the president approves it.  But Congress doesn't know and it is done.  They get the money from a supplemental appropriation for the Afghan War, which Congress has approved.  ...Some people are gonna look at a document called the Constitution which says that no money will be drawn from the treasury unless appropriated by Congress.  Congress was totally in the dark on this."


Hey, a little less humanitarian aid for the Afghans, and you get a war plan for invading and occupying Iraq – and no one is the wiser.  Not quite legit, but clever. 

And the Washington Post has some further nuggets. 

See Bush Planned for War as Diplomacy Continued
William Hamilton, Washington Post, Friday, April 16, 2004; 3:00 PM

I like this:


Woodward describes a relationship between Cheney and Secretary of State Colin L.  Powell -- never close despite years of working together -- that became so strained that Cheney and Powell are barely on speaking terms.  Cheney engaged in a bitter and eventually winning struggle over Iraq with Powell, an opponent of war who believed Cheney was obsessed with trying to establish a connection between Iraq and the al Qaeda terrorist network and treated ambiguous intelligence as fact. 

Powell felt Cheney and his allies -- his chief aide, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, deputy defense secretary Paul Wolfowitz and undersecretary of defense for policy Douglas Feith and what Powell called Feith's "Gestapo" office -- had established what amounted to a separate government.  The vice president, for his part, believed Powell was mainly concerned with his own popularity and told friends at a private dinner he hosted a year ago to celebrate the outcome of the war that Powell was a problem and "always had major reservations about what we were trying to do."

Before the war with Iraq, Powell bluntly told Bush that if he sent U.S. troops there "you're going to be owning this place." Powell and his deputy and closest friend, Richard L.  Armitage, used to refer to what they called "the Pottery Barn rule" on Iraq -- "you break it, you own it," according to Woodward. 

But, when asked personally by the president, Powell agreed to present the U.S. case against Hussein at the United Nations in February, 2003 -- a presentation described by White House communications director Dan Bartlett as "the Powell buy-in."


Well, he’s a good soldier, and knows better than to try to stand up to Dick Cheney. 

And this is amusing:


The president described praying as he walked outside the Oval Office after giving the order to begin combat operations against Iraq on March, 19, 2003, and the powerful role his religious belief played throughout that time. 

"Going into this period, I was praying for strength to do the Lord's will.  .  .  .  I'm surely not going to justify war based upon God.  Understand that.  Nevertheless, in my case I pray that I be as good a messenger of His will as possible.  And then, of course, I pray for personal strength and for forgiveness."


Yep, God made him do it.  He was reluctant, but God made him do it and will forgive him. 

Well, others might not. 

The Post also reports Bush was asked by Woodward how history would judge the war.  Bush's reply was classic: "History.  We don't know.  We'll all be dead."

Well, that could happen sooner than we’d all like, given how things are going. 

If you want to know more about all this you can watch the Woodward interview Sunday, or buy the book on Monday – or just pour a stiff drink and hope for the best in the coming weeks and months.  


Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
The inclusion of any text from others is quotation
for the purpose of illustration and commentary,
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