Reading the Woodward Troika

Listening to the President’s speech made me think about Woodward’s book’s on Bush and Iraq.  Wasn’t General Shinseki fired for saying we needed more troops in Iraq at the beginning of the war?

During December, the release of Bob Woodward’s third book on the Bush administration and the war in Iraq finally compelled me to read all three in his series,

  • Plan of Attack
  • Bush at War
  • State of Denial

First, I can’t recommend that anyone read all three unless you enjoy the rehashing of the same data in multiple forms.  Also, Woodward seems to change some of his points of view of the data between books, drawing different conclusions as the series moves forward.

Second and more importantly, what can I say . . . reading the books made me fell sad, distraught, embarrassed, disappointed, disgusted and a flood of other emotions with almost too many adjectives required to describe them.

I am always a bit wary of any one historian’s view of events.  History is very easy to shape and virtually all historians do so to make their own point.  Revisionist history from the cheap seats is very easy and frequently invoked.  With that in mind, Woodward’s characterization of the events leading up to, entering and continuing the war in Iraq certainly made understand the extreme egotism, idealism and a range of other goals and agendas that were at play.  After reading the books, though, I was surprised how much I felt like the biggest issue was actually one of mismanagement, incompetence and poor decision-making.

Tenent’s abdication of his guardian role and Powell’s ultimate good soldier capitulation represented the ultimate breakdown in any checks and balances that should exist.  Of course, President Bush, as the buck-stops-here manager didn’t appear to work too hard to get at any dissension in the ranks either.  The President’s misguided and distorted patriotism clearly caused him to blatantly disregard the facts.  Of course the various lies, bullying and personal agendas only served to make the situation that much harder to deal with.

By now, everyone has an opinion on the good and the bad, the right and the wrong.  Again, my breakthrough was the concept of seriously screwed up management in the White House.  Not a good sign for the future.  As if I need another bad harbinger.

Tenent’s and Powell’s failures to sway the administration remain the points from Woodward’s writing that will echo in my head long after I forget the amazing quantities of stupid other stuff that went on.

Of course, the President asked Colin Powell for his opinion on the matter of war with Iraq.  Powell clearly stated his opinion against going to war.  In the summer of 2002, according to Woodward, Powell told the President:

“You are going to be the proud owner of 25 million people . . . You will own all their hopes, aspirations, and problems. You’ll own it all.

Powell and Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage called this the Pottery Barn rule: “You break it, you own it.”

They appear to have been correct . . .

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