Bob Woodward, State of Denial: Bush at War, Part III, Simon and Schuster, 2006, $30.

 

Reviewed by Pete Creighton

 

Just how did we get into this terrible mess in Iraq? If you really want to know the painful truth, here it is, all 491 pages. It reads almost like a well-written novel, so skillful is author–reporter Bob Woodward.

State of Denial is the theme title, the sad story of leaders in far-off Iraq not telling President Bush the bad news of how the initial amazing military success of his war was soon showing ominous problems.

Readers will find out just how three major mistakes led to the disaster we have today. You know them: Instead of using Iraq’s 500,000 or so army to help reconstruct a damaged country, as once planned, we dismissed them as being “Saddam’s” army. That put a hoard of trained military men out on the street with no income to feed their families. Almost as bad, we fired all the civil administrators who may have worked more out of fear than loyalty to Saddam. Thirdly, our troops — and there were not enough of them — watched as looters seized anything of value or destroyed buildings out of revenge against Saddam. Generators were depleted, limiting electricity, as the temperature rose. Most of all, some citizens complained there was no security, as the police were left untrusted and unpaid.

The book puts much blame for Iraq’s failure on Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfeld and then on his appointee, Ambassador Paul Bremer. A third tragic figure is retired General Jay Garner, who was appointed to lead the post-combat phase of Iraq, and had the right plans — but was replaced with Bremer. The latter was the hard-liner who was favored by Vice President Cheney, Pentagon advisor Paul Wolfowitz, and others, and had no experience of righting a wronged and sorry country.

Well, neither did President Bush, who, if told the hard truths, may have avoided some of the disaster.

There have been several excellent books (by brave authors) who have gone underground in Iraq to tell us what was really going on during the 2003–2005 years. Author Woodward tells us so well what was going on underground in Washington “leadership” — in a deteriorating occupation by self-appointed occupiers.

Now we are at a bewildering junction. And it’s scary. The invasion added fuel to Arab hatred of Americans. Their radical forces are found in about half the world, and growing.

A Democratic President and Congress may be left with this dilemma. The world will be relieved to see them replace our neo-conservative rude interlude in world history.

 

This book is available at the Galesburg Public Library.