Asked by the nation’s premier investigative reporter if he had sought his dad’s advice before invading Iraq, President Bush replied that his earthly father would have been the wrong father to petition. “There’s a higher Father that I appeal to.”
The 41st president of the United States was hardly the only worthy whose opinion Bush the son failed to solicit. According to Bob Woodward’s new book, “Plan of Attack,” Bush wanted to invade and that was that. He didn’t much discuss the war or its possible aftermath with anybody, with one exception: the holy ghost, Dick Cheney.
Bob Woodward’s shoe-leather reporting is as thorough as when he and Carl Bernstein broke the Watergate scandal 30 years ago. And Woodward’s 75-odd interviews with members of this administration’s inner sanctums, Bush included, nail down the most notable fact of this presidency – it’s a top-down affair. President Bush doesn’t readily consult or even take directions from his Cabinet, much less from his neoconservative minions.
In Woodward’s words, “Bush is in charge. Bush is all over it.”
Described as Woodward’s “most powerful and persuasive book in years,” Democrats and Republicans are touting it on their respective websites. Cleaving to facts as it does, the Woodward volume is an antidote to the conspiracy kooks’ logically lame fulminations, that this was a war by a Jewish neocon cabal for the benefit – and at the behest – of Israel.
Those who saw “Jewish machinations” – where there were only officials who happened to be Jewish – accused these Jews of taking Americans to war to “build [a] greater Zion” in the Middle East. In the wonderfully apposite words of Canadian commentator Rex Murphy: “Some of those who most see themselves as critics of the Israeli side of this conflict … seem to think they have some extra warrant or righteousness in how far they can go to express their detestation of Israel’s policies, its government, and then by extension of Jews.” These critics tarred as traitors Jewish neoconservatives in and around the administration for a policy directed by the commander in chief with unidirectional, God-inspired gusto.
Indeed, “Just five days after Sept. 11, the president [my emphasis] indicated to National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice that he was determined to do something about Saddam Hussein.” On Nov. 21, 2001, the man who characterized his war as “the story of the 21st Century,” demanded an invasion plan from Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. “Get on it,” the president commanded. Gen. Tommy Franks was then given carte blanche to develop such a strategy, for which the president, unbeknownst to Congress, siphoned $700 million from a supplemental appropriation for the Afghan War.
Woodward’s Gulf War II cast of characters is even better than the Watergate lineup. These include:
- The squabbling exiles. Contra the conspiracy-mongers, it was not the Israelis, but the leader of the Iraqi National Congress, Ahmed Chalabi, and other defectors who fed the administration fabricated information about weapons of mass destruction.
- The “Rock Stars,” members of an Iraqi-based Muslim sect hired by the CIA to help topple Saddam.
- Two Kurdish groups with whom recruitment agreements were signed.
- Codename “Saul,” Woodward’s latest “Deep Throat,” a CIA secret agent who urged invasion. “Saul” is Cuban (in case you anticipated an Israeli from the Shin Bet).
Bush’s handiwork was all over this last initiative as well. On Feb. 16, 2002, he signed a “Top Secret intelligence order” granting authority to the CIA and the military to commence covert operations in Iraq.
Dec. 21, 2002, saw CIA Director George Tenet and his deputy John McLaughlin summoned to the Oval Office to screen a slideshow of Iraq’s alleged WMD. George Bush was wholly unimpressed by this “rough cut”: “Nice try, but that isn’t gonna sell Joe Public.” Never a marionette, the president made it clear that Tenet must deliver on his promised intelligence “slam dunk.”
Puppet masters were nowhere apparent when, in January 2003, Bush told no one but Rice and Rumsfeld he had made up his mind: It’s war. Almost as an afterthought, Rice reminded him to apprise Colin Powell. But another dignitary perused the top secret war plans first. No, the blueprints were not shown to Ariel Sharon. Marked explicitly “Nonforn” (not to be viewed by any foreign national), the plans were shared with … Saudi Arabia. Prince Bandar, a frequent Oval Office pop-in, signed off on the order of battle before Powell and sealed the deal with a pledge to keep down oil prices before the November 2004 elections.
After Powell was finally briefed – a 12-minute meeting! – he warned Bush: “You know, you’re going to be owning this place [Iraq].” To his credit, Bush has always “owned” the war. He helped Woodward document his will to war with unsparing detail.
“Plan of Attack” proves Iraq was Bush’s attack and Bush’s plan. After Woodward, only the tinfoil-hat crowd can blame the Jews for it.