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State of Denial: Bush at War, Part III Paperback – September 3, 2007
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"Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress"
Is the world really falling apart? Is the ideal of progress obsolete? Cognitive scientist and public intellectual Steven Pinker urges us to step back from the gory headlines and prophecies of doom, and instead, follow the data: In seventy-five jaw-dropping graphs, Pinker shows that life, health, prosperity, safety, peace, knowledge, and happiness are on the rise. Learn more
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From Publishers Weekly
Rather than a liberated state, Iraq has become this administration's "state of denial." With apparently limitless access, Woodward recounts the trials and tribulations of Bush, focusing on Iraq. Woodward presents a broad range of sincere efforts, missed opportunities and blatant mistakes by Bush and his team of advisers. According to Woodward (and many others in the administration), one of Bush's most contemptuous denials is his continual endorsement of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. But the ultimate denial by Bush is his refusal to be genuine, sincere and honest with Americans, other world leaders and the war-torn impoverished Iraqis. His fear of showing weakness, doubt or emotion actually debilitates and discredits his humanity. Woodward illustrates Bush's emotional capacity, even revealing several times when Bush cries. This, more than any speech, would make Americans believe again in their president, but Bush denies Americans this reality. Boyd Gaines delivers the facts with a reporterlike authority and tone while perceptively capturing the emotional resonance of spoken words, his Bush impersonation improving as the audiobook progresses. Overall, his performance coincides neatly with Woodward's writing style.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"State of Denial feels all the more outraged for its measured, nonpartisan tones and relentless reporting. It is nothing less than a watershed.... The full story of the Iraq War will be told by historians....This book...will be at the top of their shelves as they proceed to the altar of judgment."
-- Ted Widmer, The Washington Post Book World
"Serious, densely, even exhaustively reported, and a real contribution to history in that it gives history what it most requires, first-person testimony....This is a primer on how the executive branch of the United States works, or rather doesn't work, in the early years of the 21st century."
-- Peggy Noonan, The Wall Street Journal
"Never-before-reported nuggets in every chapter....It offers the most revealing in-the-room glimpse of the Bush administration that we have so far."
-- Walter Shapiro, Salon.com
"State of Denial is brimming with vivid details about White House meetings, critical phone calls, intelligence reports, and military affairs....Impressively detailed and eye-opening revelations about the Bush administration's handling of the Iraq war and its aftermath."
-- Chuck Leddy, The Boston Globe
"Woodward's book is packed with details about the gulf between the information the administration had and the picture it presented."
-- USA Today
"Woodward's trilogy on the Bush administration at war is essential, and compelling, reading."
-- Foreign Affairs
Top customer reviews
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Woodward had several targets in this book. The first one is George W. Bush, who is characterized as being satisfied with the direction of foreign affairs and plays the role of cheerleader. Throughout the book I grew more anxious about whether anybody can truly communicate with Bush. One would hope the president listens to advisors, experts in different matters, as nobody knows everything and we all rely on others in this way. There just didn't seem to be evidence that Bush listens to others, although we can't know without being able to observe Bush in person.
The second target is Donald Rumsfeld. Rumsfeld seems to be very smart, self-confident and hard-working. He also is clearly a micromanager. Micromanaging the Pentagon is an impossible thing to do. It's too large and diverse. What went lacking is focused management of the war. This was extremely unfair to the volunteer troops deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan. I kept wishing if only the late Colonel David Hackworth could be put into the mix of war leaders. Hackworth was famous for being a great warrior, leader and having utmost concern for the fighting troops.
There are several third echelon targets. An interesting one is Condoleezza Rice. Rice also worked hard as did Rumsfeld. The work ethic and the brains were there. But being George Bush's friend was apparently more important to Rice than playing the role of National Security Advisor, leaving the country with nobody identifiable to give unpopular advice to the president. I felt the tragedy here yet we have to acknowledge that many countries have a nepotism system that precludes the kind of checks and balances that we used to take for granted. I felt that Rice could have been working in her capacity for a country with a dictatorship. Still, I have to allow the possibly that the greater tragedy put me in this frame of mind.
It occurred to me that Woodward has quite a staff. I can't imagine one man producing this set of books all by himself. There is simply too much research for one journalist to do solo. I'm glad also to live in a country where critical expressions such as this are possible.
How was this actually a new strategy? Bob Woodward clearly delineates that it is a radical change in strategy. Prior to that point there was no strategy. Ground Commanders sought to help the Iraqis in their specific areas; theater commanders thought in terms of global issues; the NSC was kept out of the loop by the Secretary of Defense who reminded everybody again and again that he was in the chain of command they were not; the SecDef then ignored his own position in the chain of command when it might look bad on him; and, finally, the President and his War Cabinet refused to accept that the war was going poorly. They were in a "state of denial."
George Bush's denial is a bit frightening. While not in the book I recall him bragging in the '04 debates that he thought about the war "every single day!" Like I am supposed to be impressed with that. The President is the commander-in-chief and declared himself in Woodward's Plan of Attack as a "wartime President." In this work the President's style of deferring again and again to the SecDef and his commanders shows how hands off he his and how he cannot know what's going on without delving into specifics. While some can be faulted for delving too much (read- Jimmy Carter), to ignore facts is what Woodward describes as a State of Denial.
While George W. Bush may be the second worst President in recent memory, he is not the antagonist of this work. Donald Rumsfeld fits the classic mold of "all the power, none of the responsibility." He could easily be confused with my old boss who once told me I'd been filling out a form wrong "for years." (A form she would not let me send without her prior review and approval.) Rumsfeld spoke of being the top man and being in the chain of command and then deferring to his generals. He opening declares at the end of the book that he is not a military commander! He says the choice to go in with so few troops was not his choice but General Franks!
While this is terrible and horrible and not only bad for business but killing tons of young Americans and innocent Iraqis, it is not what I found the worst of things. During Hurricane Katrina, the President had his chief of staff, Andy Card, call Rumsfeld to call out the Louisiana National Guard. This was in the early morning. Rumsfeld refused, using the excuse of chain of command. Apparently in this instance only the President could ask him to do that. The President only was able to handle this by mid afternoon. The fact of the matter is that not only did Rumsfeld care not for the lives of innocent Iraqis or even American troops (sending them to the theatre without proper equipment or mission) he callously ignored the pleas of American civilians trapped in the sinking Mississippi Delta.
Andy Card, Jay Garner and David Kay all come out looking like the heroes of this book. They saw missions and goals going wrong and attempted to facilitate a change: Card through interoffice diplomacy, Garner through the chain of command (guess where that broke down) and Kay through straight talk to both Congress and the President.
Yet the President and his War Cabinet again and again refused to accept the facts as shown by reports and judgments of independent staff. Thus, it created a complete mess. It was a mess without a strategy for victory or for withdrawal. Thus, the surge is a new strategy, because anything is different than nothing.
I give this work only four stars out of five, but still place it in MUST READ!