Plan of Attack is the definitive account of how and why President George W. Bush, his war council, and allies launched a preemptive attack to topple Saddam Hussein and occupy Iraq. Bob Woodward's latest landmark account of Washington decision making provides an original, authoritative narrative of behind-the-scenes maneuvering over two years, examining the causes and consequences of the most controversial war since Vietnam.
Based on interviews with 75 key participants and more than three and a half hours of exclusive interviews with President Bush, Plan of Attack is part presidential history charting the decisions made during 16 critical months; part military history revealing precise details and the evolution of the Top Secret war planning under the restricted codeword Polo Step; and part a harrowing spy story as the CIA dispatches a covert paramilitary team into northern Iraq six months before the start of the war. This team recruited 87 Iraqi spies designated with the cryptonym DB/ROCKSTARS, one of whom turned over the personnel files of all 6,000 men in Saddam Hussein's personal security organization.
What emerges are astonishingly intimate portraits: President Bush in war cabinet meetings in the White House Situation Room and the Oval Office, and in private conversation; Dick Cheney, the focused and driven vice president; Colin Powell, the conflicted and cautious secretary of state; Donald Rumsfeld, the controlling war technocrat; George Tenet, the activist CIA director; Tommy Franks, the profane and demanding general; Condoleezza Rice, the ever-present referee and national security adviser; Karl Rove, the hands-on political strategist; other key members of the White House staff and congressional leadership; and foreign leaders ranging from British Prime Minister Blair to Russian President Putin.
Plan of Attack provides new details on the intelligence assessments of Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction and the planning for the war's aftermath.
- New York Times Notable Books of the Year
Based on exhaustive research and remarkable access to the White House, including two sessions with President Bush and more than 75 interviews with administration officials, veteran Washington Post assistant managing editor Woodward delivers an engrossing blow-by-blow of the run-up to war in Iraq. In November 2001, just months after September 11, Woodward reports, Bush pulled aside defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld and asked him to secretly begin updating war plans for Iraq. Sixteen months later, in March 2003, after an intense war-planning effort, a tense political fight at home and a carefully crafted "if-you-don't-we-will" diplomatic strategy with the U.N., the American invasion began. Woodward has penned a forceful, often disturbing narrative that captures the deep personality and policy clashes within the Bush administration. Bush, along with Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, Karl Rove and Paul Wolfowitz, are portrayed as believing in a sweeping mission to export democracy and to have America be viewed as strong and willing to walk the walk. They are counterbalanced by Colin Powell, who emerges here as a reluctant warrior, a pragmatic voice--eventually muted--cautioning the president against a rush to war. The most stunning aspect of the story, however, is the glaring intelligence failure of George Tenet's CIA, from bad WMD information to what Woodward reports as the outright manipulation of questionable intelligence to make the case for war. With this book, Woodward, the author of an astonishing nine number-one bestsellers, has delivered his most important and impressive work in years. Ultimately, this first-class work of contemporary history will be remembered for shedding needed light on the Iraq War, whatever its final outcome.
Copyright Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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Simon & Schuster
December 31, 2003
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Excerpt from Plan of Attack by Bob Woodward
In early January 2001, before George W. Bush was inaugurated, Vice President-elect Dick Cheney passed a message to the outgoing secretary of defense, William S. Cohen, a moderate Republican who served in the Democratic Clinton administration.
"We really need to get the president-elect briefed up on some things," Cheney said, adding that he wanted a serious "discussion about Iraq and different options." The president-elect should not be given the routine, canned, round-the-world tour normally given incoming presidents. Topic A should be Iraq. Cheney had been secretary of defense during George H. W. Bush's presidency, which included the 1991 Gulf War, and he harbored a deep sense of unfinished business about Iraq. In addition, Iraq was the only country the United States regularly, if intermittently, bombed these days.
The U.S. military had been engaged in a frustrating low-grade, undeclared war with Iraq since the Gulf War when Bush's father and a United Nations-backed coalition had ousted Saddam Hussein and his army from Kuwait after they had invaded that country. The United States enforced two designated no-fly zones, meaning the Iraqis could fly neither planes nor helicopters in these areas, which comprised about 60 percent of the country. Cheney wanted to make sure Bush understood the military and other issues in this potential tinderbox.
Another element was the standing policy inherited from the Clinton administration. Though not widely understood, the baseline policy was clearly "regime change." A 1998 law passed by Congress and signed by President Bill Clinton authorized up to $97 million in military assistance to Iraqi opposition forces "to remove the regime headed by Saddam Hussein" and "promote the emergence of a democratic government."
On Wednesday morning, January 10, ten days before the inauguration, Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice and the designated secretary of state, Colin L. Powell, went to the Pentagon to meet with Cohen. Afterward, Bush and his team went downstairs to the Tank, the secure domain and meeting room for the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Bush sauntered in like Cool Hand Luke, flapping his arms slightly, cocky but seeming also ill at ease.
Two generals briefed them on the state of the no-fly zone enforcement. Operation Northern Watch enforced the no-fly zone in the northernmost 10 percent of Iraq to protect the minority Kurds. Some 50 U.S. and United Kingdom aircraft had patrolled the restricted airspace on 164 days of the previous year. In nearly every mission they had been fired on or threatened by the Iraqi air defense system, including surface-to-air missiles (SAMs). U.S. aircraft had fired back or dropped hundreds of missiles and bombs on the Iraqis, mostly at antiaircraft artillery.