February 27, 2007

State of Denial

State of Denial: Bush at War, Part III
Bob Woodward


(February 27, 2007)

The court history of the American expedition to Iraq. Woodward had unequalled access to the upper echelons of the White House, the Pentagon, and the State Department, and so provides a fascinating exploration of tensions and conflicts within the administration, and between the upper echelons in Washington and their representatives in Iraq. To a considerable extent, this volume is an indictment of Donald Rumsfeld, whose machinations and weaknesses Woodward finds to be primarily responsible for the debacle. Woodward depicts Condoleeza Rice as an overmatched simpleton, and Colin Powell as a team player who was systematically deceived and duped by his peers and his president. Woodward's access to Bush diminished as the rosy glow of post-9/11 adulation faded and as Iraq began to unravel, but clearly Woodward finds Bush inattentive and easily manipulated, first by Saudi Prince Bandar and then by Rumsfeld and his neoconservative dream. Throughout, Cheney looms as a specter whose role and influence was largely unknown, a silent presence at meetings who was rumoured to wield great influence but whose actions even Woodward cannot actually detect.

The court history of this age is perhaps its least interesting aspect. In future years, I suspect, we’ll show decreasing interest in these feeble, narrow, and ultimately powerless men and women at the top. But they did exercise something like control, and it seems certain that any of them could have prevented the disaster had they been able to summon the right mix of eloquence and courage at the critical moment.