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BOOK REVIEW: Plan of Attack (2004)

PUBLISHED IN THE POST


The chain of events set in motion by events of 9/11 led USA to War and have been extensively documented by the press; Bob Woodward, a reporter of the Washington Post has been at the helm of this Crusade (not to be confused with ‘the’ Crusades) with his trilogy of ‘Bush At War’, relentless in his pursuit of the truth.

Post ‘State of Denial’, (the authors most recent offering) Woodward had unique access to Presidential views and thus, his 9th book, ‘Plan of Attack’ presents an insider look at the Principals, Presidents and the British Prime Ministers level of involvement and degree of commitment for a War Plan that threatened to alienate the United States from many of its allies and nearly cost Blair his Premiership. All the same, the President made the tough call, followed by a reluctant Powell, optimistic Cheney, steadfast to the end Blair and an ostensibly well prepared military.

‘Plan of Attack’ is the second book of the recent Woodward trilogy. This impressive piece of investigative journalism neatly touches upon the infallibility of CIA, puts forth the mounting evidence which portrayed Iraq as a potentially seething mass of insurgency; in short, the makings of a political nightmare. However, this particular version of events is no where as critical as ‘State of Denial-2006’ which is why President Bush actually looked forward to this one.

Though the longevity of this War is now a cause for major concern of the World in general and Americans in particular, the book demonstrates the extent of the Presidential resolve for it then, the consequences of which, “he was fully prepared to live with” and the process whereby the administration managed to deaden the increasingly noisy trombones of War by donning a convincing mantle of peace. The countdown commenced on November 2001, redirected the course of the ‘War on Terror’ from the suspected Al Qaeda sanctuary Afghanistan toward confirmed dictator, (and suspected WMD) territory Iraq. Here, the primary challenge continued to be planning an effective attack, and a secondary one , convincing Congress, the American people and the World at large while banking on failure of the United Nation process in Iraq, which then would provide the perfect cover for the stated mission of ‘regime change’ and justify the proposed incursion.

As the Top Secret planning was underway behind closed doors, the intensity of speculation continued to deepen outside. Rumsfelds list of worst case scenarios expanded from 15 to 29 “to prepare so things go right” even as the Presidents official stance remained that, “there were no war plans on the desk”. With the certainty of a military action forming the basis for recruiting and sustaining the local intelligence force by CIA operatives, the very talk of a peaceful resolution could potentially jeopardize the nature of these intelligence missions . Interestingly, while skepticism about WMD stockpiles ran deep within the administration, the Vice President Cheney, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and CIA Director Tenet never doubted this questionable piece of intelligence Shrouded in secrecy, the planning gained momentum and Secretary of State Powell was tasked with an unenviable job of rallying the world sympathy to support for a War he privately cautioned against.

This book recreates the 16 months of planning that went into this invasion with impressive detail. Over 75 sources helped Woodward document all phases of getting the military into an operational readiness status, the time it took for coercive diplomacy to prevail over the United Nations and events that unfolded after the marching orders finally arrived. The outcome is an authoritative, absorbing and remarkably detailed account of the groundwork for this War and the aftermath thereafter, till the year 2004.

The War is still on and ‘Plan of Attack’-2004 along with ‘State of Denial’-2006 will bring its readers up to date with the progress, failure and progressing failure of Iraq.

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