Bob Woodward

"Plan of Attack"

(Reviewed by Jana L. Perskie SEP 16, 2004)

Bob Woodward's latest book, Plan of Attack offers not only an intimate glimpse into the Bush White House, known for its secrecy and closed door policy, it gives the reader a window into the administration's discussions, plans, and decision making process to launch a preemptive strike into Saddam Hussein's Iraq and enter a war of choice. Based on more than three and a half hours of exclusive interviews with President Bush, interviews with 75 key participants, as well as access to memos, transcripts of phone calls on secure lines, even Power Point presentations from military computers, Plan of Attack documents the history of the 16 critical months which led up to this controversial war. Woodward's authoritative narrative examines its causes and consequences.

The book begins with a private meeting between Bush and Donald Rumsfeld, on Nov. 21, 2001, shortly after the September 11th attack. Bush asks Rumsfeld for a war plan for Iraq, presumedly to search for and destroy weapons of mass destruction, get rid of Saddam Hussein, and to move that country toward democratization. President Bush also requests that Secretary Rumsfeld do this with utmost secrecy because a leak could trigger "enormous international angst and domestic speculation." This task was assigned a little over a month after the war in Afghanistan was launched. The remainder of Plan of Attack is the mostly clandestine effort to bring that plan to fruition. The principals involved are quoted extensively and the details are well documented. Insightful and intimate portraits emerge of President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Colin Powell, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, CIA Director George Tenet, and General Tommy Franks, among others.

One of the observations that most struck me is that, according to Woodward and the documentation, momentous, defining decisions made by the president do not appear to have been thoroughly examined or discussed. Pros and cons were not weighed. And the war seems preordained. Even before Bush was inaugurated, Vice President Cheney decided that "topic A" of the new president's first national security briefing should be Iraq.

Mr. Woodward, an assistant managing editor of The Washington Post, and author of several best-selling books, has told the administration's story faithfully. He presents a non-biased chronicle of the road to war. Facts, along with anecdotal information, are presented as they were recorded or observed. Woodward doesn't add to or detract from this gripping account, that reads like a suspense thriller, by inserting op-edish comments or drawing conclusions. He leaves that job to the reader - one of the few books I have ever read which does so. Mr. Woodward has presented us with an invaluable historical document. Information like this is usually not released until years after the end of an administration. For this reason alone, it is a serious and very important piece of writing. Highly recommended!

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About the Author:

Bob WoodwardBob Woodward was born in 1943 in Geneva, Illinois. He is a graduate of Yale University. He served in the United States Navy as a communications officer, He began his newspaper career with Montgomery County, Maryland's Sentinel and joined The Washington Post in 1971. In 1981 he became managing editor for investigations.

He and colleague Carl Bernstein were assigned to investigate the June 17, 1972 burglary of the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee at Washington, D.C. office building called Watergate. Their work led to uncovering a large number of political "dirty tricks" used by Nixon to ensure his re-election. In 1973, they won the Pulitzer Prize for this reporting, and their book about the scandal, All the President's Men was a best-seller that was later turned into a movie.

Woodward is one of the best-known journalists in the United States and is one of the few authors to have had ten of his books remain number one on The New York Times Best Seller list for several months.

Bob Woodward is currently the assistant managing editor of The Washington Post. He lives in Washington, D.C. with his wife, Elsa Walsh, a writer for the New Yorker. He has two daughters, Tali and Diana.

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