Bob Woodward is back in the news, apparently feeling the need to be relevant again. After all, forty years is a long time.
I don’t know much about Bob Woodward other than his penchant to seemingly know a lot about a lot of private stuff and then talk a lot about it. He strikes me as a sort of sober Truman Capote or a balanced William F. Buckley, Jr., a journalistic remnant from a more interesting era.
However even being in the know, so to speak, doesn’t mean you get it right.
In recent days Mr. Woodward has told us that George W. Bush didn’t lie to get us into the Iraqi War. For many that settles the issue. Bob Woodward — a lefty, perhaps! — says it is so and that’s the end of it. In truth, if anyone of any reputation had said as much it would be settled for those on the right desperate for an escape from the blame.
But what has Bob Woodward really told us? He says that Bush, rather than push the WMD angle, actually warned CIA Director George Tenet, “Don’t let anyone stretch the case on WMD.” But as luck would have it, war plans were well underway and the entire project had “momentum.” As Woodward tells us, “That war plan kept getting better and easier, and finally at the end people were saying, ‘Hey, look, it’ll only take a week or two.'”
Right. Don’t want to spoil the big event with anything like common sense or decency getting in the way. And how, exactly, is this different from not lying? Can we say that Bush therefore was telling the truth? Hardly. One should ask how we got to the point where war became fait accompli just for the sake of its own momentum.
It is all fine and good for Bush to have allegedly have tried to remove fuel from the fire, but why didn’t he douse the whole thing if it became apparent that the purported justification for the war was not proving to be true? Precisely because we proceeded with war — under the leadership of George W. Bush and his advisers — despite these questions does indeed show a president making decisions dishonestly when his propaganda machine is telling the nation otherwise. You cannot excuse George W. Bush because of what was at best half-hearted attempts to be cautious.
Ultimately the question is this: Was George W. Bush Commander-in-Chief during the build up to war and ultimately when the United States did invade Iraq? The answer is yes. How was that war justified? It was Bush’s responsibility to choose based on facts and not resign our country to war because — oh well — it is looking like things are getting along pretty well for a quick and easy invasion.
In the end, one could twist and turn and agree with Bob Woodward. George Bush didn’t lie to get us into a war with Iraq, but only if you believe that WMDs was the reason. Apparently WMD was secondary. Woodward’s “revelation” makes Bush et al appear worse, in my opinion. Bush lead us into war just because it seemed it would happen anyway, emerging from a process he started in the first place, and he had a chance to tell the TRUTH and stop it. But he didn’t. How honest and noble is that?