Bob Woodward’s Plan of Attack

The book comes out Monday, but some claims and excerpts are coming out early:

“Let’s get started on this,” Bush recalled telling Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on Nov. 21, 2001, according to “Plan of Attack” by Washington Post assistant managing editor Bob Woodward, a Post account of the book says. “And get (Army General) Tommy Franks looking at what it would take to protect America by removing Saddam Hussein if we have to.”

The account and excerpts from the book, published in an early version of the Post’s Sunday edition, support testimony by former White House counter-terrorism adviser Richard Clarke that the Bush administration was focused more on Iraq than the al- Qaeda terrorists blamed for the attacks.


The Woodward book, which will go on sale Monday, says Secretary of State Colin Powell opposed the war and warned Bush that if he sent U.S. troops to Iraq “you’re going to be owning this place.”

The relationship between war-proponent Vice President Dick Cheney and Powell, who believed Cheney was trying to establish a connection between Iraq and al-Qaeda, became so strained that they are barely on speaking terms, according to the book. White House communications director Dan Bartlett described Powell’s agreement to make the U.S. case against Hussein at the United Nations in February 2003 as “the Powell buy-in,” the book says.

I don’t know exactly know what Powell meant by “owning this place,” but my guess is that he meant that if Iraq goes to Hell in a handbasket (as Powell apparantly thought it would) then the blame would rest with Bush. Here’s Bush’s explanation, so far:

“I can’t remember exact dates that far back,” Bush told reporters yesterday after talks at the White House with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, his chief Iraq ally. “But I do know that it was Afghanistan that was on my mind. And I didn’t really start focusing on Iraq until later on.”

I do give Bush some credit for at least not saying “it was a map of Afghanistan that was rolled out on the table [after 9/11].”

And a reminder about Bob Woodward: he wrote the sycophantic hagiography, Bush at War, so I’m not sure what to make of a book by him that is reportedly strongly critical (in terms of detail if not tone) of Bush. Perhaps Woodward was caught up in a patriotic fervor when he wrote Bush at War, but that’s more of an explanation than an excuse. On the plus side, I suppose that the access he got from writing that puff-piece is partially responsible for the material in his new book.

Here’s a fun game you can play over the next week. Watch for the inevitable posts, Op/Eds, reviews, and TV punditry from right wingers claiming that Woodward is a deranged leftist with a vendetta against the President, Republicans, and the American Way of Life. Then go to Google or Lexis and find the same person commenting glowingly about Woodward’s 2002 book. For example, here’s a snippet from Amazon customer rnjbond’s review of Bush at War at

It’s a timely book to read, as well, because it directly contradicts the books of both Paul O’Neil and Richard Clarke. Bush truly was in charge and made decisions for himself, and truly was focused on Al Qaeda prior to 9/11.

rnjbond gives two stars to Howard Dean’s Winning Back America, O’Neill’s The Price of Loyalty, Franken’s Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them, and Peter Hart’s The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel’s Bill O’Reilly. He did, however, love Rich Lowry’s Legacy: Paying the Price for the Clinton Years (in fairness to rnjbond, he gave Colmes‘ book 5 stars too.) You get half credit for finding contrasting quotes by liberals who hated Woodward in 2002 but love him now.