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Bob Woodward says Bush misleading world on Ir -

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Bob Woodward says Bush misleading world on Iraq

Reporter: Kerry O'Brien

KERRY O'BRIEN: Even though President Bush identified North Korea as part of an axis of evil, the
truth is that for most of the Bush presidency his central focus has been on Iraq and the more that
conflict has soured, the more the insurgency has grown and the casualties with it, the more it has
come to dominate his time. Well, President Bush's headache on Iraq has been wound up to a full-on
migraine thanks to the latest book by perhaps America's most respected and most impactive
journalist, Bob Woodward, of Watergate fame. In Washington, no journalist gets access like Woodward
and, with the scalp of one president, Richard Nixon, already on his belt, he's turned his focus in
devastating fashion on George W Bush. In his third, extremely well documented book on the Bush
presidency, Woodward says in stark terms that George W and his most senior officials have
deliberately misled Americans and the world on Iraq, claiming that they've turned the corner in the
conflict when their own intelligence says it's getting worse. The book is called A State of Denial
and I spoke with Bob Woodward from our Washington studio earlier today.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Bob Woodward, can you explain, for a start, exactly what you mean by A State of
Denial that the Bush Administration is in a state of denial on Iraq?

BOB WOODWARD: For three-and-a-half years since the invasion there have been secret reports and
private meetings that show immense problems in the whole theory and strategy, and then the level of
violence has been much greater than they've been acknowledging in public, unfortunately. At the
same time, there are these secret reports. It's up to the point where there's an attack against
American coalition or Iraqi authorities about every 15 minutes. An incredible level of violence,
4,500 attacks a month. And they have concealed this and at the same time they are making public
pronouncements that say we've turned the corner, or the terrorists are in retreat.

KERRY O'BRIEN: You recount in your book a conversation between then Secretary of State Colin Powell
and his deputy Richard Armitage, and Armitage says to Powell about Bush and Vice President Cheney,
"Don't they have any moments of doubt?" And Powell says, "Bush and Cheney don't dare express any
such reservations. " Is that the state of denial you're talking about?

BOB WOODWARD: Well, I think that's only part of it. My sense is, in this situation, that if he told
the truth, if he said, "Look, we undertook this monumental task, it turned out to be a lot worse
and here is the plan," people would accept that. People don't like the spin and the word dance and
the kind of high school debating about words and playing games. They want straight talk and
unfortunately they have not been getting it.

KERRY O'BRIEN: In that same conversation between Armitage and Powell, Armitage asks about Bush,
"Has he thought this through?" Well, if the answer to that question was no, and it's certainly the
implication of the question, then surely, coming from Colin Powell, that's a devastating critique
of the President and those around him?

BOB WOODWARD: And, of course, now of Powell and his deputy Richard Armitage are gone, because they
were the ones who raised doubts from the beginning about the war. Before the war began, Powell told
President Bush that they needed to very carefully consider the consequences of war and said, if you
break Iraq, you will own that. Turned out to be absolutely right. We broke it and we now own it.

KERRY O'BRIEN: So if there is a state of denial in the White House, how has that affected critical

BOB WOODWARD: Well, if you can't tell yourself what the facts are, if you can't deal with the
reality, it's very difficult to come up with a strategy. And, as the book points out, they really
don't have a strategy. They debated last year this strategy of clear, hold and build, meaning they
would clear areas in Iraq, hold them, the American military would, and then try to rebuild some
sort of government or electrical power plants or hook up sewer lines or whatever the populace
needed. The President - Condi Rice enunciated that, when the President was going to say it in a
speech, Rumsfeld called the Chief of Staff in the White House, Andy Card, and said, "Take it out,
take it out. " But the President went ahead saying, "That's the strategy," as recently as three
months ago. I interviewed Rumsfeld and recounted this and he confirmed he asked that it be taken
out because, "That's not what we're doing". Now, this is the Secretary of Defence plainly refuting
what the President says the strategy is. They talk about a strategy for victory. Well, as we know,
victory is a goal, it's not a strategy. It doesn't tell you how to get there. I don't think they
know how to get there.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Your picture of Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is an unflattering one, an
arrogant micro-manager who won't brook argument and won't listen to those who don't agree with him.
If that picture is true, how has that affected the course of events in Iraq?

BOB WOODWARD: Well, it is true and what it has done, it bleached out, it eliminated independent,
strong military advice from the generals and the admirals. He got people who were inclined, who
would give their opinion and then he would say no, and then that would end it. War is too important
to stop arguing about what you're doing. You have to always have a running argument. If you look at
the histories of World War II, or any war, there is always an argument. What Rumsfeld did is
eliminate the argument, so it's kind of his view dominates and that's led to part of the trouble
we're in now.

KERRY O'BRIEN: How clearly do you think you've demonstrated in the book that there is a
dysfunctional discourse amongst some of the most senior players around the White House the
President, Condi Rice and Donald Rumsfeld?

BOB WOODWARD: Well, it points he would not return her phone calls. The President had to kind of
tease Rumsfeld about it and say, "You have to return Condi's phone calls". Now, when this came out
in the book, Rice denied it and then Andy Card, again, with some guts stepped up and said, "No,
those quotes are accurate" . That's what's happening. Dysfunctional means that it can't do
anything, obviously they can do something, but they have got such serious problems in this war, it
makes you weep for the 147,000 US men and women who are over there.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Not to mention the Iraqis?

BOB WOODWARD: Yes, I agree. Look at what the country somebody who came back recently said to me,
"It's like a 'Mad Max' movie, the Mel Gibson movies of total chaos, that's what it is now. "

KERRY O'BRIEN: Well, you quote the White House Chief of Staff, Andy Card, as advising the President
on at least three occasions to sack Donald Rumsfeld. Why did the President not take that advice?

BOB WOODWARD: It's in the book. Essentially, he said Rumsfeld had not been insubordinate, he'd been
trying hard, it was a difficult war. I think there was an assessment, if they got rid of Rumsfeld
then they would be acknowledging the truth of how badly things are going.

KERRY O'BRIEN: How much a distraction has Iraq been from other critical issues like North Korea's
and Iran's nuclear ambitions?

BOB WOODWARD: Well, it's consumed this administration. Look, we are fighting a war that has only
gotten worse. The strategy was, we would stand down, bring troops home when the Iraqi military and
police stood up. Well, there are 300,000 now and we've been increasing, and the violence goes up.
Look, the alternative title for this book was 'Crisis' and the real alternative title was
'Nightmare' that's what it has become.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Nobody has studied President Bush closer than you. So after three books, thousands
of hours of interviews, thousands of documents scanned, what is the core picture that emerges for
you of this President?

BOB WOODWARD: Oh, that's a great question. He's an idealist. When I interviewed him for the second
book he said, "We have a duty to free people, to liberate people. " I said, "A lot of people are
going to think that's dangerously paternalistic." He said, "No, you don't understand it. It's a
duty" and then he and the Australian Prime Minister John Howard and Tony Blair, the British Prime
Minister, have a zeal to liberate people. I think that idealism, that sense of ending tyranny is
genuine and part of the centre of George Bush. At the same time, in this war the optimism and the
happy talk has created an atmosphere in which they can't really or don't really look at what the
truth is, and you can have all that happy talk in the world, but when people are being killed at
this rate, when there's this violence at this level - in my newspaper, the Washington Post,
yesterday we had a big story about last month, 766 American servicemen and women wounded. 766
probably half of those are so serious they cannot be returned to duty. The second highest level at
which people have been wounded in this war.

KERRY O'BRIEN: You've reported on seven presidents, starting from Richard Nixon. How do you think
history will judge George W Bush?

BOB WOODWARD: Obviously, I don't know. When I interviewed him for the second book the last question
was exactly that, "How do you think history will view your Iraq war?" He kind of shrugged in the
Oval Office and put his hands out and said, "We won't know, we'll all be dead. " I'd give the same

KERRY O'BRIEN: Bob Woodward, thanks for talking with us.

BOB WOODWARD: Thank you very much.