A reader's guide to Bob Woodward's State of Denial.

How to read juicy books.
Oct. 4 2006 11:59 PM

Woodward and You

A reader's guide to State of Denial.

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If They'd Only Listened to Col. Steve Peterson

Pages 121-22: During the planning for the Iraq war, Army officer Peterson questioned the conventional wisdom about how Saddam might react. A logical strategy for Saddam might be to run and hide and use the Baathist cell structure to develop an insurgent army that would have weapons and explosives for a prolonged fight until the Americans grew exhausted and lost their political will. 

Mission Accomplished

Page 186: Bush administration officials have tried to distance themselves from the "Mission Accomplished" banner hung on the USS Lincoln the day that the president landed on the aircraft carrier. It was the sailors who put up the banner, say aides, suggesting they would never have thought to be so boastful, knowing of the tough slog ahead. Secretary Rumsfeld unwinds that spin, telling Woodward that the phrase was actually in Bush's speech until Rumsfeld took it out.

Bush the Clueless

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Page 237: David Kay, the chief U.S. weapons inspector, visited the Oval Office to brief the president about the lack of WMD and was "shocked at Bush's lack of inquisitiveness."

Page 221: Jay Garner visited the Oval Office after he began his tour leading the post-conflict reconstruction in Iraq. The president cracked jokes about ass-kissing in Washington to show he knew how the game was played but never applied his insight to the topic of how things were going in Iraq.

Page 260: By October 2003, Woodward writes: "There is little or no evidence that [Bush] engaged in much substantive policy debate at this point in the war cabinet meetings. His role was to express confidence and enthusiasm."

Page 266: In an NSC meeting in October 2003, Bush and Rumsfeld resisted using the word "insurgency" to explain the resistance in Iraq. Rumsfeld got highly semantic with the CIA briefer who used the term. Bush continued to cheerlead and warned that he didn't "want to read in The New York Times that we are facing an insurgency … I don't think we're there yet." That shocked Deputy Secretary of State Armitage, who Woodward explains thought "the giant problem now was the president's state of mind. … Bush was in denial about Iraq."

Bush Is Inquisitive and Sharp

Page 246: Here the George Bush action figure of the first two Woodward books is back. After the bombing of U.N. headquarters in Baghdad in August 2003, the president met with his National Security Council and posed round after round of engaged questions. The president admitted something about the enemy that it would take him a long time to say in public—they were clever. "This is a thinking enemy that changes, and as he changes, we need to change," he said. "And attacking the U.N. mission was a change. Now, what has he told us, this enemy?"