Thursday, January 18, 2007

State of Denial, by Bob Woodward

The only real bummer about this book is that Bob Woodward did not get to interview Bush after 2003. State of Denial uses interviews from 2001, 2002, and 2003, using it to cover events up to 2006. There are, however, more recent, up to date interviews with other key figures, most notably Donald Rumsfeld.

What I like most about Woodward’s books on the Bush administration is their blandness. Just about every last droplet of information is included, which give his books a kind of surreal feel, juxtaposing the mundane against the extraordinary. Like, you don’t expect to hear about Bush’s fondness for fart jokes.

The only other Woodward book I’ve read out of this so-called trilogy is Plan of Attack. In that book I sensed criticisms of Bush’s administration and handling of the war bubbling underneath. In this volume the criticisms are far more pronounced.

Like, there is a description of Bush’s visiting Brooke Army Medical Center in Texas. There he encounters a soldier who had 99 percent of his body burnt, leaving the president speechless. After this, Bush spoke to a group of reporters. From the book:

‘He had a minor gash on his forehead from clearing trees on his ranch, and he inappropriately drew attention to his wound. "As you can probably see, I have injured myself, not here at the hospital but in combat with a cedar. I eventually won. The cedar gave me a little bit of a scratch." A military doctor asked if he needed first aid, Bush said, "I was able to avoid any major surgical operations here."’

Not long after this, the president was informed that the soldier he had visited had died.

Bush strikes me as a na├»ve president, a boy-emperor. His absolute and unwavering belief that God gives his blessing for everything he does, most notably his decision to go to war, seems a child-like fantasy to me. More alarmingly, he even swaps prayers with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince – the next in line to run the country.

For the amount of detail and interview material alone, this book is an amazing document of all the top players in the Iraq war, and how they went about going to war. If all the interviews are true and accurate, it surely will be read in years to come as a primary source for students of this terrible conflict.

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