Yes, Sun Hill has been doing without me for a month now, but on my return it was almost as if nothing had happened, except that Smithy is in jail…
KERRY O’BRIEN: You recount in your book a conversation between then Secretary of State Colin Powell and his deputy Richard Armitage, and Armitage says to Powell about Bush and Vice President Cheney, “Don’t they have any moments of doubt?” And Powell says, “Bush and Cheney don’t dare express any such reservations.” Is that the state of denial you’re talking about?
BOB WOODWARD: Well, I think that’s only part of it. My sense is, in this situation, that if he told the truth, if he said, “Look, we undertook this monumental task, it turned out to be a lot worse and here is the plan,” people would accept that. People don’t like the spin and the word dance and the kind of high school debating about words and playing games. They want straight talk and unfortunately they have not been getting it.
KERRY O’BRIEN: In that same conversation between Armitage and Powell, Armitage asks about Bush, “Has he thought this through?” Well, if the answer to that question was no, and it’s certainly the implication of the question, then surely, coming from Colin Powell, that’s a devastating critique of the President and those around him?
BOB WOODWARD: And, of course, now of Powell and his deputy Richard Armitage are gone, because they were the ones who raised doubts from the beginning about the war. Before the war began, Powell told President Bush that they needed to very carefully consider the consequences of war and said, if you break Iraq, you will own that. Turned out to be absolutely right. We broke it and we now own it.
KERRY O’BRIEN: So if there is a state of denial in the White House, how has that affected critical policy-making?
BOB WOODWARD: Well, if you can’t tell yourself what the facts are, if you can’t deal with the reality, it’s very difficult to come up with a strategy. And, as the book points out, they really don’t have a strategy. They debated last year this strategy of clear, hold and build, meaning they would clear areas in Iraq, hold them, the American military would, and then try to rebuild some sort of government or electrical power plants or hook up sewer lines or whatever the populace needed. The President – Condi Rice enunciated that, when the President was going to say it in a speech, Rumsfeld called the Chief of Staff in the White House, Andy Card, and said, “Take it out, take it out.” But the President went ahead saying, “That’s the strategy,” as recently as three months ago. I interviewed Rumsfeld and recounted this and he confirmed he asked that it be taken out because, “That’s not what we’re doing”. Now, this is the Secretary of Defence plainly refuting what the President says the strategy is. They talk about a strategy for victory. Well, as we know, victory is a goal, it’s not a strategy. It doesn’t tell you how to get there. I don’t think they know how to get there.
KERRY O’BRIEN: Your picture of Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is an unflattering one, an arrogant micro-manager who won’t brook argument and won’t listen to those who don’t agree with him. If that picture is true, how has that affected the course of events in Iraq?
BOB WOODWARD: Well, it is true and what it has done, it bleached out, it eliminated independent, strong military advice from the generals and the admirals. He got people who were inclined, who would give their opinion and then he would say no, and then that would end it. War is too important to stop arguing about what you’re doing. You have to always have a running argument. If you look at the histories of World War II, or any war, there is always an argument. What Rumsfeld did is eliminate the argument, so it’s kind of his view dominates and that’s led to part of the trouble we’re in now.
Do read the rest.
Tonight I will give The IT Crowd a go; it looks like fun.