that in January 2003, more than two months before
the United States invaded Iraq, the Detroit Free
Press had published a front-page story asserting:
That President George W. Bush and Vice President
Dick Cheney had already committed the country
to war, and that the White House's public efforts
to seek a diplomatic solution in Iraq were phony.
That the White House had diverted hundreds of
millions of dollars appropriated to protect Americans
from terrorism to the secret war effort against
That the president had decided to go to war without
asking Secretary of State Colin Powell what he
thought of the idea, and that Cheney and Defense
Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had briefed the Saudi
ambassador to the United States about America's
war plans before anyone thought to tell Powell.
you imagine the uproar, the allegations of libel
that would have been heaped on the Free Press'
to quibble about
Woodward makes all of these assertions in "Plan
of Attack," his new book about the months leading
up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
has the White House turned purple with indignation?
Has it embarked on a systematic campaign of character
assassination, as it did earlier this year when
former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill and former
counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke published
their own tell-all books?
president, cultivating his reputation as a fellow
far too busy to read anything longer than a box
score, says through his press secretary that he
has not seen Woodward's book.
the other senior Bush administration officials
Woodward interviewed clearly have, and the consensus
among them appears to be that their inquisitor
has done them proud.
are quibbles about this fact or that characterization.
National security adviser Condoleezza Rice, who
specializes in putting a decorous face on her
male colleagues' private towel-snapping, insists
that Powell was kept in the loop on Iraq and denies
Woodward's assertion that the Cheney-Powell relationship
was one of mutual loathing. Powell, for his part,
insists that he was far from being the dissenting
dupe depicted in "Plan of Attack."
with Woodward's overarching theses -- that the
decision to invade Iraq grew out of religious
conviction rather than strategic necessity, and
that American diplomatic efforts to avert war
were largely a charade -- there has been remarkably
of epic proportion
Mafiosi marveling at the authenticity of the latest
"Sopranos" episode, the president's true believers
have gazed into Woodward's mirror and taken perverse
pride at what they see reflected there.
they less than candid with the public, the Congress,
their own secretary of state? Did their disingenuous
diplomacy amount, at times, to outright duplicity?
Did they exceed their constitutional authority?
the president's men (and women) shrug, what if
we did? Even a nervous Nellie like Powell must
have smiled when he read the part where Cheney
told the Saudi ambassador (two months before the
invasion, no less) that Saddam was "toast."
Woodward's account -- and the administration's
reaction to it -- beggars the word. No, this is
hubris -- the mythic sort on which great empires
are smashed and great alliances sundered.
Posted: April 26, 2004