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Plan of Attack Hardcover – April 19, 2004
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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-dont-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 voiceeventually mutedcautioning the president against a rush to war. The most stunning aspect of the story, however, is the glaring intelligence failure of George Tenets 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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Woodward as always has impeccable sources, he speaks with not only George W Bush, but the main players in the Government as well, both on the record and off. The result is a book that is not bogged down in tremendous detail but comprehensive enough to be a strong starting point for anyone who wishes to research the topic matter further.
To be able to write in a clear and concise style while also adding tidbits of information on the protagonists along the way is one of Woodward's strongest assets. I find his books to be remarkable pieces of journalism that do come off as very even handed, he is fair to the parties and lets the reader make up their own mind on what sounds true and what sounds sometimes self-serving on the part of some of the interviewees.
The book was decidedly anti-French as it adopted the Administration's view that the French were against the war because of French commerical interests in Iraq and because the French are pacifists. Woodward never mentions that 85% of the French population was against the war (this war is for DEMOCRACY, isn't it?) and that the French may have really felt as Powell that there were better ways to deal with Saddam than invading Iraq. But, instead Woodward just accepts the possible French bias as true. Conversely, Woodward accepts Bush rationale for war without addressing similar conflicts of interest that the Administration may have had -- Cheney's commerical interest in Haliburton and Bush's oil buddies' desire for Iraqi oil. In reality, both the Bush Administration and the French government may very well have had principled stands and the author should have at least approached both on an equal basis.
You learn inside information about the reasons for war, but the book left me a bit frustrated because I felt the interviewees did plenty of post-conflict rationalizing of pre-conflict acts. But, I must admit that the book was hard to put down.
Clearly, Mr Woodward is cautious by not doubting himself, in front of the interviewees, of their policy and justifications. WMD questioning just comes in the Epilogue...
A few days later (still in January of 2001) Bush received a second briefing from George Tenet, Director of the CIA, and his deputy James Pavitt. Tenet and Pavitt agreed that there were three major threats to the United States. Number One was Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda. Second was WMD's. Third was China. Iraq was barely mentioned.
72 days after 9-11, President Bush clamped his arm on Rumsfeld and said," I need to see you." The arm clamping was a gesture between close friends. Before Rumsfeld became Secretary of Defense, he was interviewed by Bush. Rumsfeld characterized the defensive posture of the Clinton Administration as "reflexive pullback" (Rumsfeld did not have Bosnia in mind) whereas Rumsfeld believed that the new Bush administration should be "forward-leaning." 72 days after 9-11 Bush wanted to know what kind of plans the Secretary of Defense could muster for an attack on Iraq.
The "intellectual" godfather of regime change in Iraq was Paul Wolfowitz. Wolfowitz proposed the enclave strategy. Wolfowitz believed that the US could send troops into southern Iraq and
seize some 1000 oil wells, about two-thirds of all of Iraq's production. From this enclave, support would be given to forces opposing Saddam Hussein. Colin Powell thought Wolfowitz was talking as if 25 million Iraqis would rush to oppose
Hussein. "This is lunacy," Powell said.
On 9-11 some 3000 Americans died. That very same day Rumsfeld raised the question with his staff the possibility of "going after Iraq as a response to the terrorist attacks." The next day, in the inner circle of Bush's war cabinet, Rumsfeld asked if the attacks did not present an "opportunity" to attack Iraq. In an interview a year later, Bush said that Rumsfeld was wise for trying to show that the war of terror was global.
But at that time, it had not been shown that there was _no_ collaborative relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda. That is, it had not been shown to the American public. Since that time it has been shown to the American public that there was no collaborative relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda, that there were no WMD's, and that the CIA tried to tell this to the Bush administration six months before the US invasion. By then it did not matter. By then it did not matter what the intel found; it was all about regime change. Bush's centerpiece of his "war" on terror never was about 9-11; it was about regime change.
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This is the second book of Bob Woodward's trilogy regarding Bush's prosecution of war against Afghanistan and Iraq after 9/11.Read more