A reader's guide to Bob Woodward's The War Within.

How to read juicy books.
Sept. 10 2008 4:19 PM

I'm the Decider—Aren't I?

Juicy bits from Bob Woodward's latest book on George W. Bush.

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Spying on Maliki

Page 382: U.S. intelligence agencies didn't trust Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, so they spied on him. "We know everything he says," one source told Woodward. A second source explained that Maliki suspected this surveillance and took countermeasures. Woodward writes: "In some specific cases … human sources had given senior U.S. officials a heads-up on positions, plans, maneuvers and secret actions of the prime minister, members of his staff and others in the Iraqi government."

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Bush's Managerial Style

Page 5: Casey and Gen. John Abizaid, the head of U.S. Central Command, would watch Bush's body language to figure out what he was thinking. "What do you think?" Casey would ask. "Did we get through today?" "Oh, no, I don't think so. … I think the body language was bad on that one," Abizaid would reply.

Page 7: Bush kept his generals on their toes. Shortly after Katrina, Bush told Casey and his staff via video conference, "Guys, you're doing a heck of a job." He added, "But then, I said the same thing to Brownie." Then the screen went blank.

Page 407: Bush would often become impatient and bully his colleagues. Once, when Condoleezza Rice raised a State Department budget issue at a meeting, Bush snapped: "Now's not the time and place for you to be advocating the interests of your building. I told you, I don't want to hear about that." And he'd often push his advisers to cut short their presentations: "Speed it up. This isn't my first rodeo."

Page 319: Bush described himself as "a contemplative person" but "not a brooder." He also bragged that he made up his mind about the troop surge during the busy holiday meet-and-greet season. "This was a very, for me, a very all-consuming decision. Now, this is a period of time [the winter of 2006] where I've got, I don't know how many, holiday receptions. I mean, it'd be interesting for you to know. We probably shook hands with 9,000 people when they came through."

Why Violence Is Down

Pages 380-381: Woodward argues that "at least three other factors were as, or even more, important than the surge" in quelling sectarian violence. First, U.S. intelligence agencies launched a series of operations enabling them to "locate, target and kill key individuals in extremist groups such as al Qaeda." Derek Harvey, an intelligence expert, said that the operations were so effective they gave him "orgasms," but Woodward can't go into detail because these missions are still top-secret. Second, the U.S. military started working with tribal leaders to build local security forces and set up armed neighborhood watch groups to patrol their communities. Third, as is well-known, Muqtada Sadr told his Mahdi Army to suspend operations.

No Love for the Maverick

Page 318: John McCain was pressing for more troops as far back as 2003, but in interviews with Woodward, Bush refused to give the senator credit for his foresight. Woodward asked, "Do you wish you'd listened to him earlier?" Bush replied: "The question really is, should you have put more troops in earlier? Whether it's listening to McCain or listening to anybody else. And history is just going to have to judge."

Page 344: After visiting Iraq in early April 2007, McCain said at a press conference that "[t]hings are getting better in Iraq, and I am pleased with the progress that has been made." Behind closed doors, however, he made clear that he wasn't optimistic. He told Condoleezza Rice, "We may be about to lose the second war in my lifetime."

Juliet Lapidos is a staff editor at the New York Times.

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