Bob Woodward and the White House's State of Denial

Posted on October 2, 2006

Bob Woodward dropped a bombshell on Washington, D.C. with his new book, State of Denial (Simon and Schuster), which is a blistering expose of the Bush administraton and the lies it has told to the American public. In an excerpt from State of Denial, Bob Woodward discusses the disaster that is the Iraq occupation. This excerpt deals with General Jay Garner who was put in charge of the occupation before Paul Bremer. Bremer was the one who disbanded the Iraqi army and issued the order that no Baathist could hold office in a post-Saddam Iraq. Those decisions turned out to be disastrous.

Garner came back to the U.S. in June and basically hid out for a couple of weeks, not wanting to see anyone at the Pentagon or talk about his experience in Iraq. Finally, on June 18, 2003, alone with Rumsfeld around the small table in the secretary's office, Garner felt he had an obligation to state the depths of his concerns.

"We've made three tragic decisions," Garner said. "Really?" Rumsfeld said. "Three terrible mistakes," Garner said. He cited the extent of the de-Baathification, getting rid of the army, and summarily dumping the Iraqi leadership group. Disbanding the military had been the biggest mistake. Now there were hundreds of thousands of disorganized, unemployed, armed Iraqis running around. Garner made his final point: "There's still time to rectify this. There's still time to turn it around."

Rumsfeld looked at Garner for a moment with his take-no-prisoners gaze. "Well," he said, "I don't think there is anything we can do, because we are where we are." Rumsfeld and Garner went to the White House to see Bush. It was Garner's second time with the president. "Mr. President, let me tell you a couple of stories," Garner said. Describing meetings with Iraqis, Garner painted a positive picture. "I'd get ready to leave," Garner said, "and this is true-as I leave they're all thumbs-up and they'd say, 'God bless Mr. George Bush and Mr. Tony Blair. Thank you for taking away Saddam Hussein.' That was in 70 meetings. That always was the final response."

"Oh, that's good," Bush said. On the way out, Bush slapped Garner on the back. "Hey Jay, you want to do Iran?" "Sir, the boys and I talked about that and we want to hold out for Cuba. We think the rum and the cigars are a little better � The women are prettier." Bush laughed. "You got it. You got Cuba." Of course with all the stories, jocularity, buddy-buddy talk, bluster and confidence in the Oval Office, Garner had left out the headline. He had not mentioned the problems he saw, or even hinted at them. He did not tell Bush about the three tragic mistakes. Once again the aura of the presidency had shut out the most important news -- the bad news.

The rest of the book is just as devastating for the Bush Administration. Woodward alleges that in the summer of 2001, CIA director George Tenet and J. Cofer Black (the CIA's counterterrorism chief) met with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and begged her to take action on an imminent terrorist attack. Clearly Woodward's sources for these conversations was Tenet and Black, both of whom have refused comment about Woodward's new book. In that meeting, Rice was told about an imminent al-Qaeda attack on U.S. soil, but she ignored the urgings of Tenet and Black. Rice is now saying she doesn't recall such a meeting. Said meeting was never disclosed to the 9/11 Commission, whose members are furious about the omission which could potentially be criminal in nature.

So, who's telling the truth here? Dr. Rice or Tenet and Black? And why did none of the three bother telling the 9/11 Commission about this meeting when they all testified under oath?

One thing is for sure: the fallout from Woodward's new book is just beginning.

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