So I finished Bob Woodward's State of Denial a couple days ago. Time to sum up. The book did change certain views I have on the Iraq War. But more importantly, it affixed blame for the Iraq fiasco on the shoulders of three individuals, Rumsfeld, Feith, and Bush himself. Though there are many people who took a lot of blame for poor decisions, it is clear what Woodward himself thinks. And the title itself applies unquestionably to those three in particular.
So where does that leave Darth Cheney. Well...not explicitly anywhere. Woodward makes a couple of references to him, and his power--but since the Man of Darkness lives behind shut doors, no light is ever cast on him. He does not interview. And when he does, he only interviews on shows that ask him softball questions, or won't or can't hold him down when he squirms. The man is iron hard, and his rhetorical skills, though often blunt, run rings around the idiots that interview him. All of this makes him extremely hard to pin down. It is clear, however, that Rumsfeld and Feith are HIS MEN. Rumsfeld is no subordinate to the Cheneymonster, but he was proposed by him. Feith, certainly a toadie, was under direct control. Wolfowitz...again, here Woodward really leaves a gap. Paul Wolfowitz really ought to have his feet held to the fire. He's a Cheney Man through and through--and you just don't see his handprints where they rightfully ought to be.
Regardless, I was hardcore anti-War before I read the book. I am no longer as certain. The case for going in was, and remains ridiculous. But the case for leaving...is no longer as clean cut. My gf believes in the "you break it you bought it" school. And I might be coming around. The fact is, I think Iraq is bankrupting the U.S.. I think this will be made abundantly clear in the coming recession. When the government reaches into its coffers to bail out the banks, and finds nothing...well then it might be a total collapse. Right now, I'm just waiting to hear for JP Morgan to post losses. Then the Fed will have to fork over 30bn and then things will start falling fast. I'm getting far afield. There are many great reasons to leave--but are they responsible reasons? The potential for wholesale slaughter is potentially very high if the U.S. leaves. Woodward makes that pretty clear. This is even now more true since Moqtada Al-Sadr's militia seems more powerful then the Iraqi government. The second we pull out, the government, already corrupt, will either collapse, or elect the man PM. Depending on how nuts he is, you could see mass religious killings of the entire sect. Worse, it is abundantly clear now that Iran is funding the insurgency in some part. Woodward talks about IED's and how they are becoming increasingly complex. Made with materials that aren't household--and can puncture through the armor of an Abrams tank. The interesting thing is that this actually constitutes an act of war. And there seems to be a lot of evidence for this--not just WMD sort of evidence, but real evidence. Why would the neo-cons not want to go to war with Iraq? They do--but the administration absolutely can't. Which leads me to my next point.
The big surprise for me was that the liberal cry of "occupation" actually was wrong. Rumsfeld himself never wanted to occupy the country! Completely the contrary, if he could have gotten the U.S. out two days later he would have. He's famous for saying, it's "time to take the training wheels off." He said this repeatedly, by which he meant, time for them to pedal on their own. The problem with Rumsfeld isn't that he wanted an occupation, but that he never planned for one. All of his work, and all of his measures were aimed at a speedy exit. Which, of course, was why it failed so dramatically.
The other thing that jumps out at me, and I've commented on this before, is that the management was and remains so staggeringly bad. Every couple of months, an exasperated Rice would send someone over to Iraq, almost always someone new, someone "fresh" to give her an accurate assessment of what was going on. They always came back with the same information. No electricity, no security, no communication between the branches of the military and the civilians who ran the American agency which ran the country. All the time the same information, and they'd hold meetings with everyone. Bush, Cheney, Rice, Hadley, Wolfowitz. Even Gingrich! And still--nothing ever got done. Nothing ever changed. Still nothing has changed! To me it smacks of the Business school ethic of outside consultants. They charge an arm and a leg, make a lot of grandiose promises, and mostly they annoy and complicate procedures for their trouble.
All in all, I need to read a lot more on the subject. Some questions:
1) What happened after? State of Denial leaves off while Rumsfeld was still in office. What has happened in James Baker's watch?
2) What about the torture? Woodward barely mentions it. Maybe he didn't have a problem with it, I don't know, but it hardly figures at all in the book. Who knew? When? What did they do then? What are they doing now? How many people have been prosecuted? Who hasn't?
3) The military. A lot of this book talks about the relationship between Rumsfeld and the military. I'd like to know what was the overal state of the military before the invasion, including moral, recruitment, and finances, and what is it like now?
4) The pentagon. Woodward talks a lot about Rumsfeld and the Pentagon. Rumsfeld was reforming it. Well it's pretty clear that he was a shitty manager. What did he do? Can it be undone? Should it be undone? This is the administration of loose ends. Where are they, and who will tie them up?
5) Cheney...at some point, we have to know about the man. History demands it. I'm sure he has deleted his correspondence, but there have to be records out there. Even if it's ten years from now--we need to know. Woodward makes one comment that alludes to him toward the last fifty pages of the book that is particularly illuminating. He asked Rumsfeld what role Cheney had (I'm paraphrasing here) and Rumsfeld replied, "Oh, minimal, its not like he ever tried to upstage the president or back him into a corner." Woodward wonders...what kind of VP could even conceivably back the Chief Executive into a corner? It begs the question--you don't need to rule with an iron fist to not be in control. For that matter, the neocons all say that Cheney backed off in the second term. What does that mean? Is it true?
6) Feith. Someone needs to document the immense failures of the guy that General Franks called a fucking idot. Someone has, rather. I just need to read it.