Sunday, October 08, 2006

Woodward's State of Denial

Woodward's State of Denial: My selection. Just finished the State of Denial by Bob Woodward. I have read every book that Woodward has written, including his book on the Supreme Court and the other one on the life of Jim Belushi. If you like information and learning about the inner working of government, you have to read him. But he has no analytical skills, and no research skills whatever (he says for Chapter 10 that "information in this chapter comes primarily from interviews with six knowledgeable sources"(p. 499). Imagine if undergraduates write that in their papers). But he has the ability to indirectly "blackmail" people in high office: in that he puts those who talk to him in favorable light in his narrative, and those who don't talk to him in a very negative light. That is his method. It is the method of yellow journalism of course. You have to know that, to know what you are getting. Bob Woodward is a close social friend with Prince Bandar, so Bandar always comes across as forceful and important and heroic. His first two books on the Bush administration are pathatically fawning and hagiographic. He is somebody who knows people in power, and yet is very easily impressed with them, and is easily swayed. He is not a good journalist: and Watergate was not due to diligence or great journalistic skills on his part. He simply was lucky to receive the information from "deep throat." That was all. When I read the press accounts of the book I knew that there was much more than was reported. Many in the US media will not read the book, but will read the reviews. And the reviews so far simply repeat the same points made in the first account in NYT. Many important things were missed, I felt. In general, Woodward is different in this book. He atypically inserts himself in the narrative, and offers a point of two but only to resurrect himself from the sagging reputation from the last two books. You read the book, and several things come to your mind. How incompetent not only is Bush, but the rest of the team: Rice, Rumsfeld (who uses his knowledge and "competence" to scheme and lie and deceive), Pace, Myers, Hadley, etc. There was a scene that said it all for me: it was a meeting with videoconference, and there was Bush instructing Khalilzad on how to best deal with Sunnis and Shi`ites. Yes, Bush opining on Sunnis and Shi`ites: a classic of the bland leading the bland. There you have Bush (as candidate for president) telling Prince Bandar: "I don't have the foggiest idea about what I think about international, foreign policy." (p. 3). There was a reference about Bandar establishing friendships around the world including with leaders in Israel (p. 4). Bush telling Rice "I don't have any idea about foreign affairs." (p. 6); that same man is now running the world, and wanting to restructure the Middle East. If only the American people, especially those who voted for him, would see the tragic ironies in those admissions. How little American voters ask of their leaders, especially--ironically--when they run for the presidency. There was a scene in which Bandar was informing Bush about the impressions of "the Arab minds." (p. 46). And this advocate of "democracy" and "liberty"--Bush that is--telling Prince Bandar that "Let me make one thing clear up front: nothing should ever break the relationship between us."(p. 76). No matter how many violations of human rights are perpetrated by House of Saud. On p. 80 there was a reference to a casual conversation between Bush and Bandar in which the former initiates casually the notorious rendition policy: "If we get somebody and we can't get them to cooperate, we'll hand them over to you." And then you read about the special secret group that Wolfowitz at the Pentagon formed to advise the US government "well into the Afghanistan bombing campaign." The elite group included such luminaries as Bernard Lewis (he probably regaled them with his numerological predications), Fareed Zakaria, Fouad Ajami, James Q. Wilson, Reuel Marc Gerecht, etc. You get the idea. If those were advising the government on the Middle East and Islam, you know what to expect. They produced a secret document, says Woodward, which had the "insights" that you read in Friedman's columns (I wonder why he was not included), the bunk about the civil war within Islam. They basically urged the government to go to war against Iraq, concluding that such a war is "inevitable." (p. 84). In the Iraq war (as it was being planned, Bush saw a "public relations opportunity" (p. 107) in the Arab world. You learn that Gen. Abizaid was picked for his command position because he knew "the Arab mind so well." (p. 116). And then the US government got busy: a search was under way. Rumsfeld issued orders: "[f]ind Iraq's Hamid Karzai." (p. 131). Bandar then advised Bush and Rice to retain Saddam's intelligence service: "Look, their intel service was the most efficient."(p. 163) On p. 167, you learn that when US officials (in preparation for the war) talked about Iraqis, they meant Iraqi exiles; and when they talked about Iraqi exiles, they meant Ahmad Chalabi. On p. 187, you learn that the White House lied when it claimed that it had nothing to do with the Mission Accomplished sign; in fact, it was in the original speech by Bush, but Rumsfeld removed it on time. Bremer, upon assuming his responsibilities in Baghdad bragged: "I am the Iraqi government for now."(p. 199). If this is not "liberation" what is? The US officials thought that Shaykh Qazwini is "a leading cleric" (p. 222). They never heard of Sistani until the war. And Cheney was so involved in the search for WMDs that he would send location tips: he "seemed to have a conviction that something had gone to Lebanon's Bekaa Valley".(p. 238) In a meeting with Bush, he asked: "Do we have the communications strategy to be able to run with AlJazeera"? Bush asked. We have a network. We're using it," someone said. "We should--Do we have the communications network?" Bush asked. "Yes," someone said again. "We have our network, and we're also trying to use AlJazeera and Al Arabiya to the extent we can." Later, you learn that the top US official in Iraq, Bremer, "did not try to hide his disdain for the Iraqis. "Those people couldn't organize a parade, let alone run the country," he told Wolfowitz.(p. 249) On p. 255, you read George Tenet bragging: "We created the Jordanian intelligence service and now we own it." In 2004, Prince Bandar promised Bush that Saudi Arabia is committed to "reform" but he asked that the US "ease on continuous rhetoric on this issue in order for the Saudi individual not to think that we are doing this because of pressure from the United States."(p. 287) You read this book and it confirms my theory (one of them anyway), that Lakhdar Ibrahimi is a cheap tool of US foreign policy. He does what he is told. No question asked. They order him to go to Iraq, and he goes. He had reservations but when Bush asked him, he was out of the door. How much I disrespect you, Akhdar Ibrahimi: an Arab nationalist in Arabic, and a neo-conservative in English, and pro-Chirac in French. A man for all leaders. He stands for nothing, really. On Allawi, Woodward says: "So the new leader of Iraq was to be a CIA man who was skeptical of democracy and had little influence with Sistani and the clerics, who held most the power."(p. 313) After one battle between US troops and gunmen on the Syrian border, Bush inquired excitedly: "How many did we kill"?(p. 319) In Oct. 2004, Allawi asked Bush for a private jet because he was embarrassed flying in US Air Force planes.(p 333). How patriotic of him. Also in 2004, King `Abdullah of Saudi Arabia "sent Bush a prayer, which the president told Bandar he used. "This is the most precious thing I ever got," the president said." (p. 335) In the last "election" in Iraq, the British took care of "helping" Allawi to avoid any embarrassing involvement by the Americans (p. 371). You read about Henry Kissinger's advise to the White House: he talked about war and Muslims. "We need to humiliate them", he told a White House official (p. 408). The account on p. 447 of Bush's letter to Sistani is false: Sistani refused to accept Bush's letter to him. Rice told the Iraqi "prime minister" Ja`fari: "Time to step aside."(p. 458). Puppets. Mere puppets those Iraqi leaders are. A British advisor to the current "prime minister" Maliki asked him "if he would like help writing his inaugural address."(p. 466). This is not a "state of denial". It is nausea.

Source :
  • Angry Arab News Service

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