Bob Woodward’s fourth book on President George Bush and his war on Iraq is subtitled ‘A Secret White House History 2006-2008.’ His earlier three books are: Bush at War(2002),Plan of Attack(2004, ) and State of Denial(2006). He has been coming out with a book every two years. The author’s virtually unique forte is that he gets a lot of access to decision makers at various levels who share with him their thoughts and papers. Bush gave him in all 11 hours of interview for the four books.
As an account of the ‘war’ within the Bush Administration over Iraq policy it is brilliant. Bush has always claimed that he is a ‘gut player, not a text-book player.’ He decided to go to war on his own ‘instincts’, without consulting his advisors as to the wisdom of the course of action he wanted to pursue. He handed over the responsibility to run Iraq to Defence Secretary Rumsfeld and only when the situation in Iraq had deteriorated beyond a point he could conceal did he start using the decision making mechanism at the disposal of the President.
The author has a three pages and half long cast of characters starting with George Bush ending with Saddam Hussein. Most of them are known to the general public. The most important exception is General Jack Keane who retired as Vice-Chief of the Army in 2003. The key role played by Keane is not generally known. It was Keane who caused the appointment of Petraeus as Commander, Multinational Corps in Iraq, to succeed Casey. Bush was looking for a successor to Casey who, in the President’s view, was a failure. Petreaus was like ‘a little brother to Keane.’ One Sunday morning in September 1991, Petraeus and Keane were standing together watching an infantry squad practice assaulting a bunker with live grades and ammunition. A soldier fell and accidentally squeezed the trigger on his rifle and a bullet hit Petraeus on his chest and he was rushed to hospital. As Keane and the doctor were having some small talk, Petraeus screamed, ‘Stop wasting time. Open my chest this very minute if you have need to.’ The operation lasted five hours. Petraeus recovered and in days wanted to leave the hospital. He pulled tubes out of his arm, hopped out of bed and started doing push-ups. Later, Petraeus would tease Keane that he took the bullet for him. In any case, that incident sealed a bond between them.