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The War Within: A Secret White House History, 2006-08

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"As violence in Iraq reaches unnerving levels in 2006, a second front in the war rages at the highest levels of the Bush administration. In his fourth book on President George W. Bush, Bob Woodward takes readers deep inside the tensions, secret debates, unofficial backchannels, distrust and determination within the White House, the Pentagon, the State Department, the intel "As violence in Iraq reaches unnerving levels in 2006, a second front in the war rages at the highest levels of the Bush administration. In his fourth book on President George W. Bush, Bob Woodward takes readers deep inside the tensions, secret debates, unofficial backchannels, distrust and determination within the White House, the Pentagon, the State Department, the intelligence agencies and the U.S. military headquarters in Iraq. With unparalled initimacy and detail, this gripping account of a president at war describes a period of distress and uncertainty within the U.S. government from 2006 through mid-2008." Inside cover comments.


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"As violence in Iraq reaches unnerving levels in 2006, a second front in the war rages at the highest levels of the Bush administration. In his fourth book on President George W. Bush, Bob Woodward takes readers deep inside the tensions, secret debates, unofficial backchannels, distrust and determination within the White House, the Pentagon, the State Department, the intel "As violence in Iraq reaches unnerving levels in 2006, a second front in the war rages at the highest levels of the Bush administration. In his fourth book on President George W. Bush, Bob Woodward takes readers deep inside the tensions, secret debates, unofficial backchannels, distrust and determination within the White House, the Pentagon, the State Department, the intelligence agencies and the U.S. military headquarters in Iraq. With unparalled initimacy and detail, this gripping account of a president at war describes a period of distress and uncertainty within the U.S. government from 2006 through mid-2008." Inside cover comments.

30 review for The War Within: A Secret White House History, 2006-08

  1. 5 out of 5

    Will Byrnes

    The focus here is less on Bush per se than on the activities within the military, diplomatic and white house worlds on how to address the clear failure in Iraq. Bush seems almost a minor figure in the story told here. It is clear that contrary to the claim that he listens to his commanders, Bush listens when they are saying what he wants to hear, and if they persist in saying things he does not want to hear, or if they fail to produce the results he wants, they are soon removed. Woodward offers The focus here is less on Bush per se than on the activities within the military, diplomatic and white house worlds on how to address the clear failure in Iraq. Bush seems almost a minor figure in the story told here. It is clear that contrary to the claim that he listens to his commanders, Bush listens when they are saying what he wants to hear, and if they persist in saying things he does not want to hear, or if they fail to produce the results he wants, they are soon removed. Woodward offers a detailed view into the sundry policy reviews that were going on over the covered time period (2006-2008). It was clear that many within the military establishment realized that the Iraq war was a debacle and much effort went into examining not only what had gone wrong, but what was really going on at present and what needed to be done to achieve a successful outcome. A lot of first rate minds focused on these things, but only a small minority of their conclusions were ever presented to the president. Woodward brings us into the meetings, albeit with minimal attribution, offering eye-witness reports from those who were in attendance. Bob Woodward - image from The National Review And then there was Bush. Even when offered the benefit of professional analysis, he opted to go with his ill-informed gut, and the bellicose whisperings of Dick Cheney. While there are some items of note here, I cannot say that I learned a lot that was new. We already knew that Bush cared little for thoughtful analysis. We knew that there was dissent within the administration. Maybe we got more detail than we might have had re the politics of military succession and political maneuverings. Woodward displays some old-fashioned anti-Clinton bias when describing a meeting at which former president Clinton is asked to speak with a military committee. He enthralled the group and remained far longer than he had promised. He was clearly the best mind in the room. The topic is Iraq, and Clinton was holding forth on related concerns like Afghanistan, and how the current force commitment in Iraq has impaired our ability to address concerns there. Woodward describes him as meandering, when in fact, he is the very one who is keeping a focus on the larger picture, seeing the significance of our Iraq debacle in light of whole-world realities. One thing I learned from this book was that the gains largely attributed to the surge are in fact the result of a separate program aimed at fusing signals and human intelligence with special forces black ops to eliminate many of the insurgency leaders, (all very hush-hush—don’t say too much or you’ll endanger the program) the emergence of home-grown alliances among various groups for their mutual self-defense, and Moqtada el Sadr’s withdrawal from the field of battle. Aside from the news (and that it is news is a surprise) that the USA had been bugging Iraqi prime minister Maliki, there was little new drama here. It was cheering that there were some within the DC institutions who tried to oppose the madness and not a huge surprise that the politicals ran end-runs around the military leaders to keep from having to cope with anything like real internal differences. Still, The War Within, while interesting and a worthwhile read, is the least of Woodward’s four Bush books. Published – September 8, 2008 Review – December 2008 – Reposted with minor edits November 3, 2017

  2. 5 out of 5

    TheBookWarren

    An in depth look into the Bush White House, behind the scenes & all encompassing - Woodward is able to paint a vivid portrait of the machinations of the W playbook & presents all key names & factors at play without ever getting to judgemental or over politicising the facts. A genuine look at one of the most intense times of an always intense tenure, enthralling!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jack

    This is Woodward's fourth book on the Bush Presidency at war. It's also, I thought, the best. As with all of Woodward's books, the reader is left to wonder how exactly Woodward acquired all of his insider information. However, it is clear he had access to the biggest players involved in the Bush Administration's efforts in Iraq. He obviously interviewed the most important people. Any criticisms from the pro-Bush crowd can be offered if those insiders feel so inclined. The White House itself issu This is Woodward's fourth book on the Bush Presidency at war. It's also, I thought, the best. As with all of Woodward's books, the reader is left to wonder how exactly Woodward acquired all of his insider information. However, it is clear he had access to the biggest players involved in the Bush Administration's efforts in Iraq. He obviously interviewed the most important people. Any criticisms from the pro-Bush crowd can be offered if those insiders feel so inclined. The White House itself issued a rebuttal of sorts, but still it seems that the bulk of Woodward's reporting has gone unchallenged. That may well be because those who know inside stuff cannot talk about it, but that's the way it goes in a democracy that treasures civil liberties and press freedoms. Whiners need not run for office (nor should anyone try to stop anyone else from whining). We can either not have the Woodward book, or we can have it with the understanding that there are likely certain inaccuracies. I'll take the latter, hands down. Those who had their mitts in devising poorly thought-out plans will have their shot at offering other perspectives (see Feith, Bolten, etc.) This book covers the Bush Administration from early 2006 until about mid 2008. We see the President try to deal with the increasing problems that were evident in Iraq, problems that contradicted President Bush's overly optimistic public statements. We also see the efforts of those in the Pentagon, State Department, and in Iraq as they tried to come up with a strategy to address the increasing violence. As we mostly now know, the "surge" and elements often incorrectly associated with that title have reduced the violence in Iraq. What we haven't known about, and what we hope Woodward is accurate about, are the discussions, arguments, etc., that went into coming up with the surge. Fascinating stuff. People of all political persuasions can take comfort in knowing that the smartest people in the world of every ideology were hard at work on the problem and all were striving with good intentions. (Certainly, good intentions do not ensure good policy and may at times encourage foolhardy policies.) When all is said and done, Woodward offers his thoughts on President Bush's war leadership, and Woodward makes a strong case for weak war leadership. Ultimately, Bush knew things weren't going well and was lying to the American people when he claimed all was well. He should have trusted the American people at an earlier stage of the war. Perhaps the Washington clock would have had a longer run time. The President should have also been more honest with himself. Contrary to claims of the right, the media was more accurate about the state of Iraq than the President was, and it seems that the President willed himself to believe things that were simply untrue. Who paid the price for those huge mistakes? He did to a small degree: his place in history will likely be among the lower ranked of our presidents. At best, he can hope for below average. We invaded Iraq because we believed that Saddam was a threat to us, and we believed Saddam was a threat because we believed he had WMDs. We now know we were wrong, and "the Decider" bears the most blame for that mistake. It was his call, and he got it wrong. Perhaps worse is that the US plan for winning there was disgracefully off the mark in every regard. From the initial invasion until final implementation of the surge, the Bush team made mistake after mistake, and history has recorded those facts. But those who paid the ultimate price for those mistakes are our brave servicemen and women and lots of Iraqis. Personally, I don't view George W. Bush as an evil man. His intentions were pure, but pure intentions... Also, though the US effort was in disarray in 2006, and although we know who is ultimately responsible for that tragic state of affairs, perhaps the best that can be said of President Bush is that he may have been the one man who could have made the surge the reality it needed to be because of his own mistakes. Time will tell, but the time that has passed so far is not flattering to President Bush, and Woodward writes about it in captivating detail.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Lindsay

    Bob Woodward is amazing at what he does, and this book is worth a read/listen. That being said, I quit the book 2/3 the way through. I could have finished, I just didn't want to; as I listened, I just kept feeling increasingly depressed and frustrated because, well, we all know how well hubris worked out for the Greeks. As a side note, the audio book reader does a great Bush impression but otherwise sounds a lot like Jack Nicholson. Can you say 'creepy'? Bob Woodward is amazing at what he does, and this book is worth a read/listen. That being said, I quit the book 2/3 the way through. I could have finished, I just didn't want to; as I listened, I just kept feeling increasingly depressed and frustrated because, well, we all know how well hubris worked out for the Greeks. As a side note, the audio book reader does a great Bush impression but otherwise sounds a lot like Jack Nicholson. Can you say 'creepy'?

  5. 4 out of 5

    Lauren

    Completes Woodward's four-part series on the Bush Presidency. Clearly, delegating doesn't work if the team to which you delegate things does not work as a team. The lack of trust and cooperation between Rumsfeld, Chaney, Rice, Powell, and Hadley resulted in the prolongation of the Iraqi War and deflected attention from Afghanistan. For political and history junkies, a great book. Completes Woodward's four-part series on the Bush Presidency. Clearly, delegating doesn't work if the team to which you delegate things does not work as a team. The lack of trust and cooperation between Rumsfeld, Chaney, Rice, Powell, and Hadley resulted in the prolongation of the Iraqi War and deflected attention from Afghanistan. For political and history junkies, a great book.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Colleen Martin

    Bob Woodward is seriously the most boring author I've ever read. How do you take "a secret White House history," which should be fascinating considering this administration's penchant for secrecy, and make it so drab?? I got through two discs before realizing that I hadn't heard a word the reader said. Moving on to better things. Bob Woodward is seriously the most boring author I've ever read. How do you take "a secret White House history," which should be fascinating considering this administration's penchant for secrecy, and make it so drab?? I got through two discs before realizing that I hadn't heard a word the reader said. Moving on to better things.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Bernard

    The Bush at War series is a must read for anyone interested in US politics, history and the Iraq war. I actually found the four book series incredibly balanced in its assessment of the Bush White House - but this last book makes abundantly clear the level of mismanagement, obsfucation and resulting tragic loss of life that the 43rd President provided to the world. Very sad.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Quinn

    This was an awesome book. I was expecting Woodward to say things like how Bush was completely wrong like he did with Nixon in All the President's Men. But he didn't. He looked at all the facts from all the sides and gave his personal opinion. This was an awesome book. I was expecting Woodward to say things like how Bush was completely wrong like he did with Nixon in All the President's Men. But he didn't. He looked at all the facts from all the sides and gave his personal opinion.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Baden

    Awesome! Crazy! I'm really enjoying the book. We should not have gone to Iraq. I agree with the surge. Lots and lots of mistakes in the Iraq War. Wow! Awesome! Crazy! I'm really enjoying the book. We should not have gone to Iraq. I agree with the surge. Lots and lots of mistakes in the Iraq War. Wow!

  10. 5 out of 5

    Brian Eshleman

    This time Bush comes across as more engaged, actually asking questions. The pain of making decisions when there are no GOOD options is certainly comes across.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Dennis Murphy

    The War Within by Bob Woodward is damage control and a shift towards hope following the earlier State of Denial. President Bush and his administration finally woke up, and the question was what to do next. The president no longer had large amounts of political capital to spend at home, and his own leadership was thinking about accepting defeat and leaving. This book traces the darkest hours of the Bush administration's role in Iraq to the success that followed the Surge. Its an interesting tale, The War Within by Bob Woodward is damage control and a shift towards hope following the earlier State of Denial. President Bush and his administration finally woke up, and the question was what to do next. The president no longer had large amounts of political capital to spend at home, and his own leadership was thinking about accepting defeat and leaving. This book traces the darkest hours of the Bush administration's role in Iraq to the success that followed the Surge. Its an interesting tale, particularly when focusing on tensions between the old guard and the new. Arguably, as a success story, it should be perhaps the most important books of the four of the Bush at War series. At the same time, I feel like the downward spiral and the treasure trove of information provided in earlier books were more satisfying here. This feels very much like a conclusion that isn't a conclusion. We know the Bush administration will soon take hold, and we know that ISIS is lurking around the corner. There's too much hope at the end of this books, and most of it will go unrealized. 88/100

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jon Williams

    With perspective of time I was ready to read Woodward's take on the Bush Administration..... This one being his fourth book I think made me sympathetic to president Bush. I think Woodward's narrative is very forgiving even as he comes to the conclusion that Bush was a weak unsuccessful President that left the country (specifically with his war) worse than he found it. He failed to provide leadership desperately seeking one of his advisors to lead. If you are ready to go through and re-consider t With perspective of time I was ready to read Woodward's take on the Bush Administration..... This one being his fourth book I think made me sympathetic to president Bush. I think Woodward's narrative is very forgiving even as he comes to the conclusion that Bush was a weak unsuccessful President that left the country (specifically with his war) worse than he found it. He failed to provide leadership desperately seeking one of his advisors to lead. If you are ready to go through and re-consider that time period this book is definitely on the list.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Daryll

    The unwinding of the administration from within is eye opening for sure. I think the thing you can take away most from this is Bush didn't learn any lessons. His administration changed, not only the people and their roles, but also their viewpoints. Bush (and for the most part Cheney as well) were too stubborn in their ways/views to see that there was no light at the end of the tunnel in Iraq with the policies they chose. A quagmire, if you will. The unwinding of the administration from within is eye opening for sure. I think the thing you can take away most from this is Bush didn't learn any lessons. His administration changed, not only the people and their roles, but also their viewpoints. Bush (and for the most part Cheney as well) were too stubborn in their ways/views to see that there was no light at the end of the tunnel in Iraq with the policies they chose. A quagmire, if you will.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Alan

    I believe that it was General Petraeus that predicted we would need to be in Iraq for 50 years not unlike our other overseas bases in Korea, Japan, and Europe, if we want to maintain our global power. Well it's now 2017 and counting... I believe that it was General Petraeus that predicted we would need to be in Iraq for 50 years not unlike our other overseas bases in Korea, Japan, and Europe, if we want to maintain our global power. Well it's now 2017 and counting...

  15. 4 out of 5

    Michael Duane Robbins

    The members of Bush's war cabinet didn't know their asses from a hole in a ground, let alone how to manage 'regime change'. The Iraq war is a study in chaos-management, most of it self-inflicted. I just want everybody to remember this as our current Tweeter-in-Chief assembles his own war cabinet. The members of Bush's war cabinet didn't know their asses from a hole in a ground, let alone how to manage 'regime change'. The Iraq war is a study in chaos-management, most of it self-inflicted. I just want everybody to remember this as our current Tweeter-in-Chief assembles his own war cabinet.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Sydney

    As with the other Woodward insights to the White House, there is always so much going on behind the scenes. It is good to be able to see the thought processes that got us to where we are. Hopefully knowing how we got here can help get us out.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Druss

    Interesting behind the scenes of the Bush war in Iraq

  18. 5 out of 5

    Matthew

    Excellent reporting on the Bush Whitehouse's lack of coherence on strategic planning as they struggled to deal with the Iraq war. Excellent reporting on the Bush Whitehouse's lack of coherence on strategic planning as they struggled to deal with the Iraq war.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Joe Conley

    Solid.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Ian Lee

    3.5 stars. Interesting background about the discussions going on about the Iraq war from 2006-2008.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Doug Mitchell

    Some of you who share my advanced years may remember the television game show “Let’s Make a Deal”. For those of you with fewer or no wrinkles, “Let’s Make a Deal” was a show where contestants got to choose between mystery items hidden behind three doors. One prize was great, one was pretty good, and the other was, well, not really a prize at all. Often the eager contestant would trade up, hoping for the ultimate prize until he or she was out of options. At that point, contestant, host (Monty Hall Some of you who share my advanced years may remember the television game show “Let’s Make a Deal”. For those of you with fewer or no wrinkles, “Let’s Make a Deal” was a show where contestants got to choose between mystery items hidden behind three doors. One prize was great, one was pretty good, and the other was, well, not really a prize at all. Often the eager contestant would trade up, hoping for the ultimate prize until he or she was out of options. At that point, contestant, host (Monty Hall) and audience all knew that the game was not going to end well for the contestant. “The War Within”, Bob Woodward’s fourth book on the Bush administration and the war in Iraq, concludes with this sentence: “When the next president steps into the Oval Office on January 20, 2009, and surveys what he has inherited, I suspect he will be sobered by all that has been left behind.” Doors number one and two look pretty attractiv e in retrospect, but those options have been “left behind”, and President-elect Barack Obama now enters the world stage with few good options. Without question, Woodward’s series of Iraq war books represents an important historic record of this critical moment in history. His access to classified documents and to the history-makers themselves is perhaps unprecedented in our time. Washington lore has it that an invitation to Woodward’s home for dinner and conversation is almost impossible for anyone to refuse, so significant is the author’s place in the history of investigatory journalism and the social strata of the nation’s capital. The significance of these connections is evident in “The War Within”, in my view the most important book of this series. Documents classified as SECRET/NODIS are quoted at length, as are conversations on secure video link with the president and internal working sessions among America’s top military brass in th e room known as the “tank”. The compilation of this original research by Woodward and his team of assistants provides important insight into the decisions of 2006-2008 as the war appeared to be slipping away and the administration came to its decision to implement a troop surge. The writing is good, the story is strong, and Woodward does a very good job of explaining the region and its conflicts. In fact, I strongly recommend “The War Within” to anyone interested in getting a useful understanding of the geopolitics of Iraq. Woodward spends a lot of time on Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and the sectarian conflicts of the country. In so doing, we get a better understanding about why earlier efforts by General George Casey and others were doomed to failure from the start. The obvious implication of Woodward’s emphasis on the internal realities of Iraq is that the Bush administration should have done the same thing; namely, focus more on the realitie s on the ground in Iraq and less on the ideological goals of the United States government. Interestingly, I found myself gaining both respect and sympathy for President Bush as I read “The War Within”. We see through Woodward’s lens a president with more conviction than he is often given credit for. We see, too, a senior staff and cabinet almost unbelievably disconnected from the realities of the conflict and amazingly dysfunctional in their interaction with each other and the president. There are lessons here, important ones. As we prepare to inaugurate our 44th president, we should be mindful of the question one of the more insightful generals asked and continues to ask, “How is this going to end?” Because, unlike in “Let’s Make a Deal”, there is no consolation prize.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Ben

    After reading this book I have no new insights about Woodward's method. Reading this book was similar to reading the previous three "Bush at War" books. Woodward's prowess as a reporter is unmatched even verging on the level of espionage. How did he get to see so many secret documents and be privy to so many secret conversations? I mean as a political reader I love hearing it but I do wonder about whether this helped people that we didn't want to be helped. That's a whole debate in itself and I' After reading this book I have no new insights about Woodward's method. Reading this book was similar to reading the previous three "Bush at War" books. Woodward's prowess as a reporter is unmatched even verging on the level of espionage. How did he get to see so many secret documents and be privy to so many secret conversations? I mean as a political reader I love hearing it but I do wonder about whether this helped people that we didn't want to be helped. That's a whole debate in itself and I'll stay out of it here. Like I said before in my review of "State of Denial" I feel like Woodward never needs to make a cogent argument or present an alternative. He just needs to be vaguely critical sometimes in unnerving ways. Maybe my least favorite part of the book is when Woodward asks Bush about prayer. Despite his careful neutrality, its sort of sandwiched between some criticisms of Bush and Woodward relates it implicitly to Bush's "bravado" and "overconfidence" two of Woodward's favorite lines about Bush's faults. Of course, this is not new but that doesn't make it welcome. While on the subject of vague criticisms that don't stand up to the light, Woodward's treatment of National Security Advisor (ANSA) Steven Hadley is a prime offender. In "State of Denial" Woodward obliquely criticizes Condoleeza Rice over and over for being a neutral broker as the ANSA. Then, when Hadley does some good solid work we hear about how Bush was capitulating his role as Commander in Chief and Hadley was duped or something. What do you want Woodward? A neutral or activist ANSA? We also get some tsk tsks about working through the back channel of Gen. Keane to support Petraeus when Woodward spent THE ENTIRE BOOK in "State of Denial" talking about how the bureaucracy doesn't work in the Pentagon. HADLEY MADE IT WORK. That took skill, nerve, and confidence. Bush and Hadley made an excellent team, or at least I think so. Overall, Bush did pretty much everything Woodward ever obliquely hinted that he should. He recognized that things weren't going well in Iraq, he did a major overhaul, mulled the options over and picked a good strategy. Maybe he didn't do it fast enough for Woodward but he did it and he did it well. If Woodward would have been reporting about Lincoln in the Civil War I'm sure he would have been frustrated too. Lincoln was notorious for working slowly and not firing people that probably needed firing and maybe even prosecution (see: Chase, Salmon P.; and basically EVERY Union General-in-Chief until Grant). He kept his head, allowed things to develop and made good decisions with public support. Now, of course Bush is not Lincoln. He definitely could have learned a thing or two from Lincoln's political skills. And of course the Iraq war was a preemptive one and there were not weapons of mass destruction so the Iraq war is not the Civil War. But, both Bush and Lincoln kept their heads and made good solid decisions in the face of doubt and criticism from all sides. Of course the Iraq war will continue to be debated by historians for decades and I'm not disrespecting those who had doubts about the war. We should always doubt war. Whenever lives are at risk we should never be cavalier especially the lives of the good men and women in the service of the United States. But, we should also not be consumed by doubt and let it weaken us which I think Woodward among others does.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Online-University of-the-Left

    Woodward Book Suggests U.S. Hand in Death Squads By Tom Hayden The Nation Bob Woodward’s final book on the Bush years in Iraq, The War Within, reports that “TOP SECRET” American targeting and assassination operations were “very possibly” the biggest factor in reducing violence in 2006-07, even more than the so-called troop surge itself. He writes that the “groundbreaking” operations were carried out as Special Access Programs [SAP] or under the Special Compartmentalized Information [SCI] effort. Wo Woodward Book Suggests U.S. Hand in Death Squads By Tom Hayden The Nation Bob Woodward’s final book on the Bush years in Iraq, The War Within, reports that “TOP SECRET” American targeting and assassination operations were “very possibly” the biggest factor in reducing violence in 2006-07, even more than the so-called troop surge itself. He writes that the “groundbreaking” operations were carried out as Special Access Programs [SAP] or under the Special Compartmentalized Information [SCI] effort. Woodward and his editors consider this strategy of summary executions of “key individuals in extremist groups” so ultra-sensitive that they chose not to reveal “the state secrets that have been so beneficial to Iraq.” “Because disclosing the details of such operations could compromise their ongoing use, I have chosen not to include more here.” The programs were considered “awesome” by President Bush and were effective enough to give “orgasms” to the top intelligence adviser to Gen. David Petraeus, Derek Harvey. As he has in the past, Woodward chooses to keep significant and explosive news a secret out of deference to the Pentagon and White House. The media is no longer independent, but part of the national security apparatus. [The New York Times, for example, held the story on FISA/domestic wiretapping for one year]. Thus far no mainstream media writer has sought to uncover the whole story, and why it was withheld since being launched in May 2006. No member of Congress has raised a question either. Most Members, however well-intentioned, know little about counterinsurgency doctrine, the actual role of counter-terrorism units, and the vast gulags that already hold some 100,000 Iraqis and Afghans in detention without charges or lawyers. Woodward will be on line Wednesday to answer questions at 1 pm EST. Go to the Washington Post website, search for Bob Woodward, and click at Book World Wide. Some immediate questions: since the Iraqis on the receiving end presumably know about these tactics, why keep them secret from the American public, Congress and media? how are the operations consistent with US constitutional law and international human rights standards? Are they joint US-Iraqi operations, or only US operations? Are those targeted for execution carrying out any military action at the time, or do their names only have to appear on target lists? Did the target lists come from Iraqi informants or official sources, and how were they verified? Why were the targets killed instead of being detained? How many targeted individuals were killed or made to disappear Who in the Administration, Congress and upper-echelons of the media has known, and for how long? This is the essence of a dirty war, and could well be the updated “global Phoenix program” recommended by Petraeus adviser David Kilkullen in 2004. The shame is the utter silence with which the news is being met. Many Americans still don’t know “why they hate us”, but operations like these have a way of triggering sudden retaliatory events like 9/11.# TOM HAYDEN is the author of Ending the War in Iraq [2007] and Writing for a Democratic Society: the Tom Hayden Reader [2008].

  24. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    I have a headache so anyone reading this will be (mercifully) spared my normal dissertation. Also, I finished the book over a week ago and have moved on with my life. "The War Within" is typical Woodward. People like me with a connection to Washington DC always run out and buy his latest, against our better judgment, because it is always the “it” book. We just can’t help ourselves, it’s like the new bag for DC types. Woodward has a reputation as the best sourced reporter in America, and his books I have a headache so anyone reading this will be (mercifully) spared my normal dissertation. Also, I finished the book over a week ago and have moved on with my life. "The War Within" is typical Woodward. People like me with a connection to Washington DC always run out and buy his latest, against our better judgment, because it is always the “it” book. We just can’t help ourselves, it’s like the new bag for DC types. Woodward has a reputation as the best sourced reporter in America, and his books seem written less to narrarate historical events than to demonstrate how good his sources are. (The review for this book can essentially be applied to any Woodward book.) One can never be sure how much his choppy, even pathologically uneven prose are the result of poor writing skills, or the fact that the book is ultimately written to showcase the knowledge he has of super-secret meetings. One imagines Woodward gleefully imaging the people who wouldn’t talk to him reading his book with dismay, astonished and amazed that he somehow knew what was said in that meeting no one was supposed to know about. So it is that quotes appear seemingly without purpose, except they do serve Woodward’s purpose: show what he knows. It is not enough for him to recite bits and pieces of dialogue from high-level meetings….he also has the uncanny ability to read the thoughts of the people in those meetings – in particular those who dared to not talk to him. Less amusing is his sad attempt in a few paragraphs to pivot from what is essentially a recitation of the minutes from classified meetings to analysis. Without notable experience in Iraq or any recognizable military or international expertise, Woodward attempts to describe in soundbite form how the Surge working wasn’t really about the Surge after all. After taking grief from the media glitterati for seeming to praise Bush in an earlier work, Woodward has since been at pains to slam Bush whenever possible, and the one decision Bush made with respect to Iraq that history will undoubtedly redeem – the Surge – had to be undermined. Thankfully, Woodward’s silly exercise in amateur military analysis has the one attribute of being brief, so the reader is briskly returned to the drollery of what was said in meeting after meeting. “We have to do something,” “What should we do?”, “Have another meeting”…. blah blah blah. Then Woodward: “But nothing was done.” Thanks for that. Woodward’s books are sometimes called history’s first draft. If so, it is a very rough draft indeed. Not the kind of book that gets read twice, this is disposable nonfiction, like a straight to video movie, these books should go straight to paperback. He is undoubtedly writing a book about the campaign as we speak. Can’t wait to hear bits and pieces of what David Plouffe and Mark Salter said each and every day for two years, though their nefariousness will surely be indirectly proportional to how accessible they were to Bob Woodward. Turns out you weren't spared one of my dissertations, just any attempt at coherence on my part.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jesse

    Despite my own liberal bias, Woodward shows the individuals involved in managing the Iraq war as reasonably competent and even insightful when on their own. The trouble comes that they, the White House staff, the President, and the commanders in the field, could never seem to converge on a cohesive idea of how to come out of the conflict with a stable, free Iraq that could serve as an ally in the region. This trouble and the tensions and indecision in Washington about how to manage the situation Despite my own liberal bias, Woodward shows the individuals involved in managing the Iraq war as reasonably competent and even insightful when on their own. The trouble comes that they, the White House staff, the President, and the commanders in the field, could never seem to converge on a cohesive idea of how to come out of the conflict with a stable, free Iraq that could serve as an ally in the region. This trouble and the tensions and indecision in Washington about how to manage the situation make for a long and somewhat interesting political journal. Woodward's book offers amazing access to the key players in Washington from 2006-2008, but it suffers two great flaws. The first is that it's simply boring. There's a pattern to the first two thirds of the book: President gives his version of clear leadership ("We need to win."), advisors disagree about what that means, military commanders fail to identify an effective strategy, President seems out of touch, civilian advisors worry that we're on the wrong course, tension builds, no policies are changed. The first time this is described it's actually pretty fascinating, but this cycle is repeated something like 10,000 times with slowly rotating names and titles adding confusion rather than variety. The second flaw is that Woodward views counterinsurgency as a solved problem (just protect the populace effectively and they eventually turn on the insurgents). Despite my lack of sympathy for the Bush government, I can't imagine that it was actually that clear when making the moment-to-moment decisions about what to do. He views the "surge" strategy as something that was known and understood well before it was launched, but I really think he's letting his own hindsight blind him some about the uncertainties of the situation. I gave the book three stars because two seemed harsh for this detailed of a report. However, I wouldn't crack this one open unless you're really, really interested in a behind-the-scenes political retrospective from this period.

  26. 5 out of 5

    David

    Bob Woodward’s The War Within: A Secret White House History 2006–2008 is an intimate tour of the sausage factory that ground out the “surge” strategy for Iraq. The process is grotesque, as are the inevitable excretions being tended to now by the Obama administration. This book is surely a portrait of madness, but of two different orders. The first, Woodward is acutely aware of. It is a institutional madness. Woodward maps out the dysfunctional and damaged pathways through the executive branch dec Bob Woodward’s The War Within: A Secret White House History 2006–2008 is an intimate tour of the sausage factory that ground out the “surge” strategy for Iraq. The process is grotesque, as are the inevitable excretions being tended to now by the Obama administration. This book is surely a portrait of madness, but of two different orders. The first, Woodward is acutely aware of. It is a institutional madness. Woodward maps out the dysfunctional and damaged pathways through the executive branch decision making infrastructure, in which Bush and his national security adviser, Stephen Hadley, act as a kind of bureaucratic id asserting its will through back channels and feed-back loops. The State Department plays a reluctant conscious, hesitant but ultimately thorough in its acquiescence. Finally, the Defense Department operates as the swollen and rug-burned sex organ. The “surge”, I am pretty sure, is a strategy lifted straight from an Enzyte commercial. Woodward documents the interplay between these agencies and their major players. It is a story of incompetence, reluctance, willful ignorance, suppression, distortion, ego, omission, and plain old thuggery. Although Woodward thoroughly and convincingly treats this kind of madness, he seems to be supportive of the overall enterprise. Woodward’s voice is unmistakeably American. When he writes about the “groundbreaking” TOP SECRET covert operations initiated in May 2006, he notes DIA intelligence expert and adviser to David Petraeus had “orgasms” due to the effectiveness of these operations. Woodward adds “once again, it was American innovation that provided an edge.” I got the sense Woodward typed this page with one hand. Woodward shows us that the current system is broken, but under the unsupported assumption that it is something that can or should be fixed. This is second order of madness; it consumes Woodward and his book. (From http://ideologicalcriminal.ballistich...)

  27. 5 out of 5

    Sydney

    I began this book prepared to be skeptical of Woodward's perspective and coverage, I ended with increased respect for the author and dismay about this Administration's mismanagement of all aspects of the war and the President's unwavering trust in Rumsfeld until buried beneath an avalanche of military and Iraqi deaths and the detritus of an escalating civil war. Loyalty trumped competence. For a man who trusts his instincts unequivocally, Bush seems to have allowed the rosy reports of American t I began this book prepared to be skeptical of Woodward's perspective and coverage, I ended with increased respect for the author and dismay about this Administration's mismanagement of all aspects of the war and the President's unwavering trust in Rumsfeld until buried beneath an avalanche of military and Iraqi deaths and the detritus of an escalating civil war. Loyalty trumped competence. For a man who trusts his instincts unequivocally, Bush seems to have allowed the rosy reports of American troops' success by underlings to undermine his Neanderthal sense that he needed to be prosecuting the war differenlty. He misunderstood or failed to appreciate the complexity of this war and its sectarian participants. In one telling line from the book, Bush is quoted as wondering why the Iraqis were not grateful for what America had done for them. The simplicity of the question and the light it shone on his obtuseness sent a shiver down my spine. Cabinet members who gleaned how badly things were going opted to be marginalized by their own lack of courage and willingness to challenge Bush. What all of the participants seem to have forgotten was that they should have used truth and facts as True North. History would acquit them for having tried to serve America above Bush. The book details Bush's embrace of the surge. While I would love to think of it as a strategic and heroic measure; it wasn't. There was no other option that would not have forced him to say it was an ill-conceived endeavor from the start. While history may ultimately redeem the Bush Presidency as effective, principled, and visionary, in my opinion, this book confirmed that its day-to-day decision-making, operations and staffing were disastrous.

  28. 5 out of 5

    John

    Borrowed this as an audio book for my trips to the Boston suburbs for tutoring, and I really liked it as an audio book. I read the book published immediately before this, "State of Denial," and now I kinda wish I had listened to it instead. Boyd Gaines is the actor who reads it, and he does a fantastic job. He has a nicely subtle way with voices and impressions, his Bush is excellent, his Rumsfeld is really good too. He doesn't overdo them, but he modulates his voice just enough to make the impr Borrowed this as an audio book for my trips to the Boston suburbs for tutoring, and I really liked it as an audio book. I read the book published immediately before this, "State of Denial," and now I kinda wish I had listened to it instead. Boyd Gaines is the actor who reads it, and he does a fantastic job. He has a nicely subtle way with voices and impressions, his Bush is excellent, his Rumsfeld is really good too. He doesn't overdo them, but he modulates his voice just enough to make the impression come across. Gaines really has his work cut out for him with a book like this, as it is pretty much constant dialogue, interviews and memories of meetings and parts of speeches. In order to appreciate this as an audio book, I did need to accept the fact that my mind would wander at times. Probably part of the reason I could still enjoy it was that everything in this book happened relatively recently, so it wasn't all that difficult to figure out what was going on once I snapped back to paying attention. I do enjoy Woodward's books on the Bush presidency. Probably because they confirm my preconceived notion that Bush and his administration didn't know what they were doing and were constantly screwing up. Ironically, I think experiencing these books increases my sympathy with the Bush administration though. All the interviews remind one that these are real people, who really believed that they were doing the right thing and that history would vindicate them. It's so easy to treat Bush like this villain who only wanted to lie us into a war, and that really isn't fair. I think he did what he honestly thought were the right things to do. He just didn't do them very well, and I disagree about them being the right things.

  29. 4 out of 5

    James

    I've read the earlier Woodward books on the Bush administration, and this one is quite similar. It is disjointed, uneven, often uninteresting, but it nonetheless documents an oral history of what people in the administration were thinking during a particular sequence of months in the first six years after 9/11. If his reporting holds up to historical scrutiny, it will provide future historians a great deal of information about this presidency. I have all kinds of questions about the journalism h I've read the earlier Woodward books on the Bush administration, and this one is quite similar. It is disjointed, uneven, often uninteresting, but it nonetheless documents an oral history of what people in the administration were thinking during a particular sequence of months in the first six years after 9/11. If his reporting holds up to historical scrutiny, it will provide future historians a great deal of information about this presidency. I have all kinds of questions about the journalism here, about how he garnered the information he reports seemingly verbatim, about why people would talk to him when it was often not in their self-interest to do so, about what the talkers were getting out of the interview, etc. The limited value of the book for me, and of all these books, is that it confirms much of what I already suspected about Bush: he was a poor leader; he was deeply insecure about his qualifications for the job; he was often irrational; he hardly knew himself, and what he did know he sought to compensate for; that if he swore that something was true about his personality it was almost always the case that the opposite was true (or that it was true in the most oblique sense). He was, in a sense, the ambitious but inept prince who could never even approach the competent royalty of an otherwise mediocre father. He set goals for himself that were ludicrous to anyone who knew him. To quote another great American killer, Dirty Harry, "a man's got to know his limits." Unfortunately, George W. Bush never did. Nor did so many other people in the Bush White House.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Ian

    Sometimes you read a book that shocks you, makes you ashamed at how little you knew about something important in the world around you. This book had that effect on me. It's too bad that more Americans won't have read this by the time they vote in November. I don't think it will change anyone from one party to another. Some Republicans have reviewed this on Amazon saying "read this if you like to read lies". I don't find this book particularly anti-war, nor do I find it particularly pro-war. It so Sometimes you read a book that shocks you, makes you ashamed at how little you knew about something important in the world around you. This book had that effect on me. It's too bad that more Americans won't have read this by the time they vote in November. I don't think it will change anyone from one party to another. Some Republicans have reviewed this on Amazon saying "read this if you like to read lies". I don't find this book particularly anti-war, nor do I find it particularly pro-war. It sometimes portrays the Republicans as a little foolish, and it sometimes portrays the Democrats as a little naive, but both of those criticisms are often true of the parties. This book won't tell you anything about why the war was started. It's not a conspiracy theory book. It's only interested in what steps have been taken to make the war a success in the last three or four years. On that note, this book made a lot of things more clear to me: Whenever someone says "we must succeed" in a speech, I used to think they were just blowing rhetoric around, but the Iraq War, whether it's won or lost, is going to have a huge impact on average Americans and how they relate to the rest of the world. It's also going to make a huge impact on how the rest of the world views us. We invaded a country, yes. Did we fix it before we left? Or did we break it and run? You really need to read this book before you can pretend to have an opinion.

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