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Plan of Attack Hardcover – April 19, 2004

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Editorial Reviews Review

The 2003 American invasion of Iraq was contentious, not just in the arena of global public opinion, but within the tight-lipped world of the George W. Bush White House. As Bob Woodward reveals in Plan of Attack, Vice-President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld were part of a group leading the charge to war while Secretary of State Colin Powell, General Tommy Franks, and others actively questioned the plan to invade a country that had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks while war in Afghanistan was still being waged. Woodward gained extensive access to dozens of key figures and enjoyed hours of direct contact with the President himself (more time, seemingly, than former Bush administration officials Richard Clarke and Paul O'Neill claim to have had). As a result, he's able to cite the kind of gossip you won't find in a White House press release: Franks calls Pentagon official Douglas Feith "the f*cking stupidest guy on the face of the earth," Powell shares his alarm over how the cautious Cheney of the first Bush administration had transformed into a zealot, and Saudi Ambassador Prince Bandar seems to enjoy significantly more entrée and influence than most anyone would have thought. Bush is shown as a man intent on toppling Saddam Hussein in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 and never really wavering in his decision despite offering hints that non-military solutions could be achieved. Light is also shed on CIA director George Tenet, who insists that the evidence that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction was "a slam dunk" only to later admit that his intelligence was flawed when months of post-war searches turned up nothing. But the book's most interesting character is Powell. A former soldier himself, who finds himself increasingly at odds with the agenda of the administration, Powell rejects evidence on WMDs that he sees as spurious but ultimately endorses the invasion effort, apparently out of duty. Upon its publication, the Bush administration roundly denied many of the accounts in the book that demonstrated conflict within their circles, poor judgment, or lousy planning, but the Bush/Cheney reelection campaign nonetheless listed Plan of Attack as recommended reading. And it is. It shows alarming problems in the way the war was conceived and planned, but it also demonstrates the tremendous conviction and dedication of the people who decided to carry it out. --John Moe

From Publishers Weekly

Based on exhaustive research and remarkable access to the White House, including two sessions with President Bush and more than 75 interviews with administration officials, veteran Washington Post assistant managing editor Woodward delivers an engrossing blow-by-blow of the run-up to war in Iraq. In November 2001, just months after September 11, Woodward reports, Bush pulled aside defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld and asked him to secretly begin updating war plans for Iraq. Sixteen months later, in March 2003, after an intense war-planning effort, a tense political fight at home and a carefully crafted "if-you-don’t-we-will" diplomatic strategy with the U.N., the American invasion began. Woodward has penned a forceful, often disturbing narrative that captures the deep personality and policy clashes within the Bush administration. Bush, along with Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, Karl Rove and Paul Wolfowitz, are portrayed as believing in a sweeping mission to export democracy and to have America be viewed as strong and willing to walk the walk. They are counterbalanced by Colin Powell, who emerges here as a reluctant warrior, a pragmatic voice—eventually muted—cautioning the president against a rush to war. The most stunning aspect of the story, however, is the glaring intelligence failure of George Tenet’s CIA, from bad WMD information to what Woodward reports as the outright manipulation of questionable intelligence to make the case for war. With this book, Woodward, the author of an astonishing nine number-one bestsellers, has delivered his most important and impressive work in years. Ultimately, this first-class work of contemporary history will be remembered for shedding needed light on the Iraq War, whatever its final outcome.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 467 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; First Edition edition (April 19, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 074325547X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743255479
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.6 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (272 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #277,670 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

In the last 36 years, Woodward has authored or coauthored 15 books, all of which have been national non-fiction bestsellers. Eleven have been #1 national bestsellers -- more than any contemporary non-fiction author.

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

His most recent book, Obama's Wars, is being published by Simon & Schuster on September 27, 2010.

Since 1971 Bob Woodward has worked for The Washington Post, where he is currently an associate editor. He and Carl Bernstein were the main reporters on the Watergate scandal for which the Post won the Pulitzer Prize in 1973. Woodward was the lead reporter for the Post's articles on the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks that won the National Affairs Pulitzer Prize in 2002.

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.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

193 of 214 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 19, 2004
Format: Hardcover
As ever, Bob Woodward has put together an incredibly cohesive book, stuffed to the gills with facts and words directly from Bush and "all the president's men." The reporter in Bob Woodward really comes out here because he lays out the facts as he was told them by the President himself and the facts are very eye-opening. In my opinion, he is restrained in putting forth his own conclusions or opinions. I found it to be just fantastic and interesting, and the facts can be interpreted to suit both sides of the aisle. Read it!
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327 of 367 people found the following review helpful By Kerry Walters VINE VOICE on April 19, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Woodward's new book, based on interviews with 75 White House insiders--including the President--is a chilling example of what happens when the Chief Executive of the most powerful country in the world decides he's going to war--or, as Condoleezze Rice puts it, engages in "coercive diplomacy."
According to Woodward, Bush decided as early as November 2001 to wage war against Iraq, and diverted several hundred millions of dollars from the Congressional Afghanistan campaign appropriation to develop war plans. None of the inner circle except Rice was informed of the President's plans. He told Woodward that he didn't feel the need to discuss the plans because he knew his people were on board. Desperate for a way to sell the war to the American public, Bush pressed George Tenet for assurances that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction. Tenet gave the thumbs-up (himself, no doubt, feeling pressure to provide the answer Bush wanted), and the war was just a matter of time. Whenever counterevidence to Tenet's insistence that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction showed up--as with Hans Blix's UN reports--senior advisors to the President accused the authors of the reports of deliberate deception.
One of the surprising themes in Woodward's book is just how intent George Bush was on waging war with Iraq. The story on the street, of course, is that Bush was manipulated into war by his senior advisors. But if Woodward is correct, Bush played this one himself. He was undoubtedly influenced by people like Cheny and Rumsfeld, but he made the decision himself. He wanted a war, and he got it.
This book deserves to be read alongside other recent ones: John Dean's _Worse than Watergate, for example, or Ron Suskind's _Price of Loyalty_. Thought the imperial presidency died with Richard Nixon's resignation? Think again.
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189 of 211 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 19, 2004
Format: Hardcover
As a Conservative Republican, I cannot let ideology get in the way of the clear headed fact that G.W. Bush is the most embarassing, shameful, and decietful President in my lifetime (I'm 59). Secrecy does not bode well in a democratic republic. This book covers the deceit leading up to the Iraq war, an un-called for war, and a war that put U.S. Soldiers in harms way, needlessly. All the while the Bush administration was cutting military pay--and losing ground in the war on terror. Shame on them.
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49 of 52 people found the following review helpful By W. Roes on April 19, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I have not finished the book yet. However, I do have to say that the construction of the book and the authority given to it by the detailed information from so many people inside the administration itself makes it a stirring read. I find it increadible that so many people prejudge the book as a "Slam the President" book. I saw Woodward on an interview and the the interviewer was definitely trying to get Woodward to make judgemental statements regarding the President, but he would not do it. He stated (which is clear in his book) that he is a reporter and simply is presenting the facts as told to him and let the reader decide. Sure, what is in the book looks bad for Bush, but it is his own words, and those close to him. If history will judge him harshly, so be it. I think most Presidents are judged harshly by history. So far, I would guess that very few in Bush's administration agreed with his decision about Iraq, but he was the boss. So they are trying to implement his descision the best they can and try to minimize the political damage he has done to himself and harm he has brought on the whole world. People like Powell, Rice, Tenet, and Rumsfeld know they will be judged by history also. And I believe this is why they spoke so frankly with Woodward. And he has to keep his sorces safe, because Bush has shown himself to be severely vindictive.
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40 of 42 people found the following review helpful By Theodore Littleton on July 30, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book provides an interesting peek inside the American government, but the limitations of its nearly contextless, straightforward, in-their-own-words format reduce its utility. One has no good way of judging, for example, whether President Bush is being sincere when he repeatedly claims that he was reluctant to go to war and did everything he could to vet intelligence properly, or if he simply says it because that's how he would like things to be perceived. Such passages are therefore of little value to readers, who must rely on other sources and their own inferences.

This style interferes with Woodward's greatest strength: his doggedness and perceptiveness as an investigative reporter. Instead, he presents something of a hybrid between old journalism and new, in which the subjects are exceedingly self-aware as they provide their stories, but are granted relentless even-handedness at any opportunity for criticism. Unfortunately, compounding this problem, Woodward simply does not demonstrate great writing ability. His prose can be extremely purple, which helps lead to the same criticism some offered of his book Maestro - it often seems deferential, if not downright reverent of its subjects.

That said, Woodward doesn't seem to take the administration's perspective as gospel, instead passing it along as faithfully as possible for the reader to decide. But one must take them with so many grains of salt that, for better or worse, it's hard to imagine what the original flavor could have been. This book is a case study in why conventional wisdom says that documentaries must have viewpoints.
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