Getting Bush Right

I Read Your Book—and I Still Have Questions
E-mail debates of newsworthy topics.
Oct. 23 2008 12:08 PM

Getting Bush Right

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Those pages are heavily underlined in my copy of Plan of Attack. To me, they suggest some kind of crystallization or point of no return in the war planning. But I think some significant evidence points to Bush making his decision to depose Saddam much earlier, in late June or early July 2002.

On July 7, Condi Rice told Richard Haass, the director of policy planning at the State Department, that the decision had already been made. Colin Powell confirmed this to Haass. On July 23, Richard Dearlove, the head of British intelligence, returned from a trip to Washington and told Tony Blair that Bush had already decided to depose Saddam. (The minutes of that briefing have come to be known as the Downing Street Memo.) In his Aug. 26 speech to the VFW, Dick Cheney laid out his case against Iraq in a way that you describe, in Plan of Attack, as "just short of a declaration of war." (For anyone interested, the argument that the decision took place in the summer of 2002 is on pages 197 to 207 of my book.) This issue has big implications. If I'm correct, it means that the back-and-forth over U.N. authorization, the argument about inspections, the congressional debate, and the public debate about whether to go to war were all largely a charade from Bush's point of view.

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So, Bob, with all due respect to your amazing reporting, you haven't yet persuaded me that we really know the when and the where of the decision, let alone the how and the why.

Jacob Weisberg is chairman and editor-in-chief of The Slate Group and author of The Bush Tragedy. Follow him on Twitter.