Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Woodward Strikes Again

Washington Post Associate Editor Bob Woodward was interviewed by CBS Sixty-Minutes reporter Scott Pelley the other evening concerning Woodward's claim of a split between President Bush and his generals – at least the biggies at the Pentagon – about the troop-surge that began in January 2007. Not coincidentally, Woodward's latest book (his fourth, The War Within) about the Bush administration is coming out also not coincidentally at this particular juncture of the quadrennial election circus while Obama and Biden are trying desperately to join McCain hip-to-thigh with Bush. The book is published by CBS-owned Simon & Schuster, and Bush has no more venomous enemy than CBS…so, wink, wink, nudge, nudge.

One never knows about Woodward with respect to what's true and false, especially considering his claim that he actually visited former CIA chief William Casey virtually during Casey's last hours. Those around Casey at the time claimed this meeting never happened, and the inclination is that Woodward made it up. Also, all the stuff about "Deep Throat" vis-à-vis the Watergate thing might have never actually happened, either, notwithstanding the "appearance" of the alleged "Deep Throat," who was to remain nameless until after his death, when Woodward, Bernstein, and Post onetime head honcho Bradley would tell all. After the Janet Baker scam at the paper some years ago, anything could be possible.

Doubtlessly, Woodward, apparently like many other Washington insiders, has/had his sources for this new book, at least allegedly. This is from the interview: "'You've obtained a number of documents, classified secret that the president was receiving in this period of time. What was the president hearing about what was going on in Iraq?' Pelley asked." Woodward did not say, "No," and then went on to tell about a "top secret special compartmented information report." Neither Woodward nor any other reporter should have access to secret information, so the reader of the book is invited to exercise his judgment about Woodward's veracity. If he did gain access to such information, both he and the provider should be brought up on some sort of charge.

Without question, every official in Washington, especially the president, has enemies, so it's conceivable that one such could have spilled his tortured guts to Woodward out of nothing more than spite, especially if he has lost a position or failed to gain one he coveted or been proven wrong in a decision. It's ominous that secret information could be disseminated so cavalierly, but actually not surprising, given the egos that inhabit Washington, and few egos, if any, could be larger than that of many generals.

The main thrust of the interview was not that the surge is working. Indeed, it was admitted that the plan has worked, as well as the plan that recently culminated in the turning over of the security of Anbar Province to the Iraqi police force. The main thrust, not surprisingly, was that President Bush has lied, since he has always insisted that he depended on the information from his generals for carrying out troop commitments and strategies. The point Woodward makes is that President Bush's "troop surge" plan came directly from the White House, no thanks to the Pentagon and all the generals who work there. In fact, according to Woodward, they hated the idea.

Woodward also noted that Bush acted upon the advice of General David Petraeus with respect to strategy and "cleaned house" with respect to commanders. In doing this, Woodward obviously contradicted the notion that Bush was lying about listening to his generals. Bush was still listening to his generals, but to a new set of generals who had new ideas about how to win in Iraq. In this area, McCain profits by his association with the surge, since he had been demanding that more troops be sent to Iraq and that losing would be very perfidy. Significantly, Obama finds it almost impossible to admit that things are much better, leaving the impression that to cut and run would not be all that bad.

From the interview: "But beyond all of that, Woodward reports, for the first time, that there is a secret behind the success of the surge: a sophisticated and lethal special operations program. … 'Yeah,' Woodward said. 'If you were an al Qaeda leader or part of the insurgency in Iraq, or one of these renegade militias, and you knew about what they were able to do, you'd get your ass outta town'."

Woodward made it plain that he knew the details of this secret weapon but would not divulge anything since to do so would compromise the operation, which seems to be a highly sophisticated surveillance and assassination tool. Pelley seemed to think he should, anyway. Egad! Woodward claimed it was as much a landmark advancement as the role of the tank and airplane in other wars. One can be greatly encouraged if he's right, but one also wonders if he feels safe in making it known that he has the answers. How would he feel if he were kidnapped and made to undergo water-boarding…like spilling the beans, for instance?

Hopefully, Woodward is not Dan Rather all over again. Time will tell.

And so it goes.

Jim Clark

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