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Bush at War Paperback – July 1, 2003

244 customer reviews
Book 1 of 4 in the Bush at War Series

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Editorial Reviews Review

Bush at War focuses on the three months following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, during which the U.S. prepared for war in Afghanistan, took steps toward a preemptive strike against Iraq, intensified homeland defense, and began a well-funded CIA covert war against terrorism around the world. The narrative is classic Woodward: using his inside access to the major players, he offers a nearly day-by-day account of the decision-making processes and power battles behind the headlines. Woodward's information is based on tape-recorded interviews of over a hundred sources (some unnamed), including four hours of exclusive interviews with the president, along with notes from cabinet meetings and access to some classified reports.

Woodward's analysis of President Bush's leadership style is especially fascinating. A self-described "gut player" who relies heavily on instinct, Bush comes across as a man of action continually pressing his cabinet for concrete results. The revelation that the president developed and publicly stated the so-called Bush Doctrine--the policy that the U.S. would not only go after terrorists everywhere but also those governments or groups which harbor them--without first consulting Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Colin Powell, or Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is particularly telling. Other principals are examined with equal scrutiny. Though National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice emerges as soft-spoken and even tentative during group meetings, it becomes clear that Bush is dependent on her for candid advice as well as for conveying his thoughts to his cabinet. The relationship between Powell and Rumsfeld (and to a lesser degree Powell and Cheney) is often strained, exposing their differences regarding how to deal with Iraq and whether coalition building or unilateralism is most appropriate. Woodward also describes how CIA director George Tenet prepared a paramilitary team to infiltrate Afghanistan to set the groundwork for invasion, and how this ushered in a new era of cooperation between the defense department and the CIA. A worthwhile and often enlightening read, this is a revealing and informative first draft of the Bush legacy. --Shawn Carkonen --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Quoting liberally from transcripts of National Security Council meetings and hundreds of interviews with those in the presidential inner circle, including four hours of interviews with Bush himself, the Washington Post assistant managing editor, best-selling author and Watergate muckraker manages to provide a nonpartisan account of the first 100 days of the post September 11 war on terror. While Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, President Bush and CIA Director George Tenet are impressive, Donald Rumsfeld and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz come off as hawkish and reactionary, repeatedly calling for a strike against Iraq in the first days of the conflict while pushing for a more widespread, global war. Woodward does an excellent job of exposing the seat-of-their-pants planning sessions conducted at the highest levels of power and the hectic diplomacy practiced by Powell and Bush in trying to get the air war against Afghanistan off the ground. He also brings to light the divisions among the planners concerning the bombing in Afghanistan, which made little impact until late in the game, when the Taliban lines were finally hit. In addition to recounting the heated arguments about when and how to retaliate against Al Qaeda, Woodward also follows Special Ops agents flown into Afghanistan with millions in payoff money weeks in advance of any other American presence. Living in harsh conditions with little to no support, these "110 CIA officers and 316 Special Forces personnel," in this account, ran the show, and effectively won the war with their intelligence gathering operations. While at times relying a bit too heavily on transcribed conversations, Woodward nonetheless offers one of the first truly insightful and informative accounts of the decision making process in the war on terror. 16 pages of b&w photos.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; Reprint edition (July 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743244613
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743244619
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.2 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (244 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #264,565 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Bob Woodward is an associate editor at The Washington Post, where he has worked for 44 years. He has shared in two Pulitzer Prizes, first for the Post's coverage of the Watergate scandal with Carl Bernstein, and later for coverage of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. He has authored or coauthored 17 national nonfiction bestsellers, 12 of which have been #1 national bestsellers.

Photos, a Q&A, and additional materials are available at Woodward's website,

His most recent book, The Last of the President's Men, is being published by Simon & Schuster on October 13, 2015.

In 2004, Bob Schieffer of CBS News said, "Woodward has established himself as the best reporter of our time. He may be the best reporter of all time."

In a lengthy 2008 book review, Jill Abramson, the managing editor of The New York Times, said that Woodward's four books on President Bush "may be the best record we will ever get of the events they cover . . . . They stand as the fullest story yet of the Bush presidency and the war that is likely to be its most important legacy."

Woodward was born March 26, 1943 in Illinois. He graduated from Yale University in 1965 and served five years as a communications officer in the United States Navy before beginning his journalism career at the Montgomery County (Maryland) Sentinel, where he was a reporter for one year before joining the Post.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

35 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Steven Laine on April 1, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I picked up Bob Woodward's "Bush at War" when I was looking for an objective telling of how Bush got into and approached the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. There are too many partisan accounts that say Bush is all right or all wrong and I was looking for less politics and more information. This book provides that in great and sometimes tedious detail.
This book is focused on the period from just before 9-11-01 to prior to the Bush administration's going to war in Iraq, but after the Congress gave the Bush administration the authority to unilaterally do what it felt was required there. The book ends with Bush awaiting UN enforcement of the many Iraq-related resolutions. This is 90% focused on Afghanistan, NOT IRAQ.
Richard Clarke's highly critical book on Bush and his alleged lack of attention to terrorism prior to 9/11 came out while I was reading this book Surprisingly enough, Clarke is not mentioned at all in the Bush at War book in spite of his being the head of the Counter-Terrorism office in the White House.
The first quarter of "Bush at War" did a nice job of taking me back to the emotional shock of the Trade Tower attacks and the virtually universal feeling in America of patriotism and joining together. The remainder of the story describes in repetitive detail the frequent meetings among the White House principals, (with and without Bush) regarding what kind of response was appropriate, what was achievable and when could it be done. Logistically they found it difficult to reopen old intelligence contacts in Afghanistan and get men and material over there. I was surprised out how difficult the logistics are in fighting a war all the way around the world.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Randy E. Aveille on October 13, 2004
Format: Paperback
Bob Woodward, who was a major player in breaking the Nixon Watergate scandal and also wrote the book-made-into-movie, "All the Presidents Men," writes his account of President George W. Bush's presidency during the first 100 days after the attacks on the two World Trade Center towers on September 11, 2001. Conscientiously fair, Woodward has put together a quite comprehensive behind-the-scenes documentary-style book that reveals a full-disclosure look at the Bush war cabinet, their meetings and interactions with one another, interviews with the President and much more.

Of interest to those who seek authenticity, this book will make you feel like a fly on the wall. According to Woodward, Bush at War includes: "contemporaneous notes taken during more than 50 National Security Council and other meeting where the most important decisions were discussed and made." Additionally, Woodward states that he "interviewed more than 100 people involved in the decision making and execution of the war [in Afghanistan], including President Bush" (4 hours of interviews), "key war cabinet members, the White House staff, and officials serving at various levels of the Defense and State Departments and the CIA." Needless to say, a great deal of investigative effort was put into this book, which can be said of all Mr. Woodward's books.

I read Bush at War about a year-and-a-half ago, and after much time and reflection, I am amazed at the amount of access to the Administration that Woodward was given. I found this to be rather astonishing, as it was almost certainly an unprecedented move by a world leader in terms of permitting the scope and freedom that Woodward enjoyed.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Daniel Darling VINE VOICE on March 7, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Who can chronicle a major event in world history better than Bob Woodward? Once again, Woodward is at the center of the storm, sharing minute details of the early stages of President Bush's War on Terror.
I was very pleased with Woodward's objective approach. He didn't take a knee-jerk liberal or conservative bent--he just told the story. Obviously, his view of Rumsfeld may be a bit skewed because of limited access and yet pays him the respect he is due.
I particularly enjoy Woodward's deep bios of the main characters. I learned information about each member of the cabinet and I feel better informed for having read the book.
The biggest surprise of this book: the role of Condi Rice. Bob made it obviously clear how large a role she plays in this administration. I left feeling that she could one day run the country and had a keen sense of responsibility, leadership, and faith.
The only flaw is the subtle insistence that Bush is in over his heels. I think every writer is tempted to buy into the conservatives-must-be-dumb theory. For the most part, he gives Bush enormous credit and lets the American people understand that he is a man on a mission.
This is an extremely enlightning book and gives a real insider's account. Buy it and put it on your nightstand.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By C. Middleton on May 11, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Woodward is an international media legend. The cause of his world renown was, of course, unearthing the Watergate scandal, leading to the eventual resignation of a president. Because of his long tenure at the Washington Post and reputation as a `pure' reporter, we expect great things from this man; at least reporting the facts in a bipartisan fashion. In Bush at War, he focuses on the Bush administrations response to 9/11 in the form of the invasion of Afghanistan, as many have deemed the "forgotten war". Woodward reveals an administration, at times, hysterically grasping at a way to attain some kind of retribution for 9/11. A war cabinet at odds with each other, all seeming to have their own agendas, and in the end, after Afghanistan was supposedly won; only a few al Qaeda terrorists were captured, (16 of the top 22 leaders were still at large, and the arch enemy, bin Laden, well hidden and laughing at us from his secret hideaway) though the oppressive Taliban was disbanded, ironically and sadly, Afghanistan still remains a potential haven for al Qaeda terrorists.
One should not include this text as just another `Bush bashing' exercise, because the president is depicted as a passionate and determined leader, albeit inexperienced, hell-bent on bringing those responsible for 9'11 to justice. Woodward skilfully puts the reader in the shoes of the president, and we feel his anger, frustration and one-eyed goal for retribution. The president's cabinet, however, are depicted as mostly floundering during the crises, fighting with one another, vying for power, in the pursuit of their own particular goals. The vice president is a crafty fellow, a smiling political assassin, so to speak, while Rumsfield is depicted as your basic playground bully.
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