State of Denial
by Bob Woodward

2006, Simon and Schuster, 491 pgs.  

A lot of people were upset with “our Bob” for hanging out with the President—does anyone else have a mental block when it comes to calling this ’person’ our president?—and his band of merry warmakers. 

Mr. Woodward preceded State of Denial with Bush at War and Plan of Attack.  My guess is he ingratiated himself to the people he was interviewing in those two books in order to be able to slam them convincingly in State of Denial.

And slam he does.  This is vintage Watergate Woodward, the insider who lets it all hang out. 

Well, lets most of it all hang out.  Bob doesn’t really go behind the curtain to discover the truly sinister machinations behind 911, nor the Oil Wars masquerading as attacks on terror.

But it’s enough.  What SOD accomplishes is the timely expose of what another writer (Thomas Ricks of the Washington Post) has called Fiasco.  And Bob Woodward shines most of the light on Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfeld.

In the months leading to the attack, which was launched March 19, 2003, Dapper Don managed to demean or ignore the uniformed military around him as well as his civilian subordinates.  Rumsfeld had a couple of ideas on the new military, and pursued them as an autocrat wearing blinders.

The Neocons said Iraq would welcome us as liberators.  Which lasted about as long as it took that big statue of Saddam to topple.  After that, a lot of Iraqis were pissed for various reasons, not the least of which was resentment of occupiers.

The Neocon ideologues, of which Rumsfeld was one, wanted to punish the Baathists.  Thus the first big blunder in Iraq was letting the military and intelligence services evaporate with their weapons into the surroundings.  We let hundreds of thousands of unemployed young men with weapons disappear the better to become the insurgency.

Let’s see, that’s two catastrophic denials back to back.

Then they fail to find the WMDs.  How could that go wrong?  This wasn’t especially a Rummy issue, more the White House and Cheney ignoring doubts of senior CIA folks before the war.  CIA leader George Tenet took the fall for it.  Obviously another major denial of the facts.

Abu Ghraib surfaced in late April, 2004.  Again, denial.  Rumsfeld should have been aware of the systematic abuses and outrageous practices at these American-military-run prisons.  Was he aware of it?  Just a couple of days ago, German prosecutors filed a suit against Rumsfeld and others for enabling abuses at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay.  Let’s hope justice prevails.

But Bush (read Cheney) would not accept Rummy’s resignation.

Woodward goes on with the “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” policies in Iraq.  Translators were needed desperately, never provided.  Bush and co. substituted goals for strategy.  No significant problem—from electric power, sewers, water, prisoner abuse, education, oil pipeline security—was given systematic attention.

The book is well written with a special insight of someone who is “embedded” with all the key players.  He goes to show you can’t put Humpty Dumpty back together again, so you’d better not knock him over.


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