I had been trying to avoid the slew of Bush/Iraq books that have been flooding the market, but broke down and bought this on my last trip to the States, and found it a surprisingly quick read, despite Woodward’s dry, stenographic style. The Watergate scribe is famously non-judgmental, and therefore I believe somewhat irresponsible. Nuanced or blunt, authors should take a stance, shouldn’t they?
Some passages jump out nonetheless, like this account of a conversation with Bush about the President’s meetings with Colin Powell, excerpt from page 152:
Andy Card called Powell and asked him to come over and go through the whole case, notes and all.
Powell felt he had hit a home run. But he was also not sure that the president had fully taken aboard the meaning, the consequences of going to war. Sixteen months later in the office where Powell had made his case, I asked the president about Powell’s argument that military solution would mean he would own Iraq.
“He sure did,” Bush replied. “He did say that.”
“And my reaction to that is, is that my job is to secure America,” the president said…
I sat there somewhat nonplussed as the president discussed the issues of freedom and security, which were very much besides the points Powell had made….
“That’s his job,” Bush answered, “to be tactical. My job is to be strategic. Basically what he was saying was, was that if in fact Saddam is toppled by military [invasion], we better have a strong understanding about what it’s going to take to rebuild Iraq.”
That was certainly true, and it was part of Powell’s message, but as I listened I glimpsed what Powell had apparently seen — uncertainty that the president fully grasped the potential consequences…