Bob Woodward's book on Iraq is parochial and bloated. For a real indictment of the failure to keep the peace, Americans should turn to Patrick Cockburnby Denis MacShane / December 16, 2006 / Leave a comment
The Occupation: War and Resistance in Iraq by Patrick Cockburn (Verso, £15.99) State of Denial: Bush at War, Part III by Bob Woodward (Simon and Schuster, £18.99)
Bob Woodward’s third book on the Bush presidency’s handling of overseas military intervention since 11th September 2001—a longer period than the second world war—is in the American tradition that all that matters happens in a square mile around the White House. Nothing and no one counts unless it is said and done in English, preferably over dinner in Woodward’s Georgetown mansion.
Woodward never leaves the Beltway. Instead he pours into his book almost everything dictated to him by his interviewees. He finds space for junior officers who write haikus about the failure to keep the peace, but he does not appear ever to have been in the middle east, or Europe, or to have talked to any of the politicians who were faced with the terrible decision of how to deal with Saddam Hussein. No foreign source is cited, there is no selection of material, and as minor characters wander in and out of Woodward’s chapters, the book at times reads like a transcript of a Waraholics Anonymous session—with everyone beating their breast about how wrong they got things.
Woodward has fallen victim to the great lie of 2006: that there was a big lie in 2002 on weapons of mass destruction. That was not how it appeared to Robin Cook, who as foreign secretary regaled the Commons with horrific tales of Saddam’s hidden caches of lethal weapons. That was not how it appeared to every European leader in 2002, who said repeatedly that Saddam and WMD were a major problem. Those who opposed intervention—like Gerhard Schröder, who offered Jacques Chirac a secret deal on the EU common agricultural policy in exchange for French support—did not deny the existence of WMD; they simply argued that a full-scale invasion would make matters worse. As Europe minister I patrolled Europe’s capitals, and even as concern mounted over the Bush approach, no one questioned Saddam’s WMD ambitions. It was, after all, only the presence of 250,000 US and British troops camped on Iraq’s borders that allowed Hans Blix and his team into Iraq late in 2002. And even he could not tell the world that Iraq was WMD-free. Hence the Bush-Blair dilemma. Should they keep a Normandy-style invasion force permanently on standby in the region? Or…