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Noted US Journalist Says President Bush in 'State of Denial' Over Iraq


One of America's best-known investigative reporters says the Bush administration has made tragic mistakes in the war in Iraq, and is blind to the grim reality of Iraq's worsening situation. Journalist and author Bob Woodward appeared on U.S. television Sunday following the release of his new book: "State of Denial: Bush at War, Part III". Administration officials are strongly contesting many of the book's assertions.

Rarely does a book cause such a stir in the highest levels of the U.S. government. Yet the release of Bob Woodward's latest chronicle has provoked a flurry of White House activity, from strongly-worded press releases to television appearances by senior officials to refute the book's key contentions.

The White House appeared determined to tell its version of events in Iraq ahead of a primetime television interview with Woodward that aired late Sunday on the CBS Network program 60 Minutes.

In the exclusive interview, Woodward accuses President Bush of a "failure to tell the truth" about mounting violence and an overall deterioration of conditions in Iraq.

Woodward says the administration predicted a reduction in bloodshed in Iraq over the next year - days after U.S. intelligence experts concluded that an escalation in violence is likely in 2007. He describes an administration in disarray over basic goals in Iraq, with some officials publicly stating that the U.S. strategy is to clear areas of insurgents and build lasting democratic institutions, while others believe such activities must be spearheaded by Iraqis themselves.

Woodward also alleges that some White House officials led a campaign to oust Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, but President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney have kept him on the job.

Woodward says he spent two years researching his book, interviewing more than 200 current and former Bush administration officials, and others with ties to the White House.

Woodward's portrayal of an administration beset with in-fighting and detached from reality is strongly contested by the president's top aides. Appearing on CNN's Late Edition program, White House counselor Dan Bartlett said it is simply not true that Mr. Bush has failed to acknowledge the difficulties and challenges of the mission in Iraq.

"Throughout many of the president's public speeches, he has been very blunt with the American people about the difficulty of this war," said Dan Bartlett. "He has been very blunt about the challenges we face. Last year and early this year the president gave a series of speeches where he was talking about how we had made some mistakes, how we changed the way we were training Iraqi security forces, for example. In this book, I must say I am puzzled that he has come to the conclusion of this title, this central thesis, because I do not think the evidence in this book backs it up."

Bartlett added that President Bush has always relied on the advice and assessments of U.S. generals serving in Iraq in formulating strategies.

Bob Woodward achieved fame in the 1970s as a reporter for the Washington Post newspaper, where he continues to serve as a writer and editor. Teaming up with fellow-reporter Carl Bernstein, Woodward uncovered and reported many of the facts surrounding the Watergate scandal that ultimately led to former President Richard Nixon's resignation in 1974. His first book, which chronicled the Watergate saga, All the President's Men, became a best-seller and was eventually made into a Hollywood movie.

Since then, Woodward has enjoyed unparalleled access to American leaders, including Mr. Bush, whom Woodward interviewed for two previous books on the president's execution of the war on terrorism. However, the president declined to be interviewed for State of Denial.

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