Political Book Summaries, Reviews and Opinions

Political Book Summaries, Reviews and Opinions

Tag Archives: Afghanistan

Book Review: Plan of Attack by Bob Woodward

Plan of Attack: The Definitive Account of the Decision to Invade Iraq by Bob Woodward is the second installment of Woodward’s Bush at War series and picks up where Bush at War left off, that is after the initial entry into Afghanistan and prior to the Iraq War. Plan of Attack focuses mainly on the build up to war in Iraq after 9/11 at the Cabinet level of the Bush administration. As in Bush at War, Woodward maintains his role of a chronicler more so than an analyst. Woodward gives a good account of how events unfolded and the interactions between all the main players but never dives seriously into one aspect, such as the issue of the WMD intelligence. Read more of this post


New leaders captured in Afghanistan

We are kicking ass in Afghanistan! I still say we should leave. We already won the war. The only thing that would make this news better is if it was being done by Afghanis with us only in supporting roles. But, until the clowns in DC realize there isn’t a US military solution to “Karzai is a giant raging corrupt thieving douche bag” and bring our guys home, at least we’re kicking ass. Read more of this post

We won the wars!

Soldiers coming home

These people won! Bring them home as heroes!


I say, we won the war in Iraq and Afghanistan and as such should bring home the large bulk of soldiers we have over there. 

We killed Saddam in Iraq. Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda fled Afghanistan, leaving about 100 guys. The old governments are gone, replaced with democracies. We have huge embassies in each (read military bases) and we have economic problems at home. 

Now, that isn’t to say there a lot of stuff wrong in those countries. But those problems exist post-victory. Much like how the North won the Civil war, but the South Carolina statehouse kept waving the confederate flag. People still where the flag on their jackets and pickup trucks. It took us about a hundred years AFTER winning the civil war to get blacks some semblance of equality. Likewise in Iraq and Afghanistan, it may be close to a hundred years before there is some semblance of equality for everyone in that country (hell, in the US we’re still squeamish about letting the gays marry). 

We won WWI, but a few years later Germany was still mad and started WWII. We won WWII, but people still wear the Nazi Swastika and Jews are still locked up in a tiny bit of land surrounded by people trying to kill them. We won the Revolutionary War, but it was decades before we had civil relations with England. 

So yes, there are still Taliban guys killing their own people and there are still dumbasses killing each other for sectarian reasons. The countries are still infected with violent islamic extremism, they still have horrible governments, they’re still illiterate and they’re not likely to get better in 18 months or 18 years. Maybe in 2 generations they’ll be ready to join the international community as sensible equals. But that isn’t a problem the military can fix. That’s not a war. There isn’t a US military solution to “Karzai is a giant raging corrupt thieving douche bag” or “violent extremist islamic nut jobs think Achmed the Dead Terrorist is a good role model for little kids”. 

How can we as a nation send our families to war, and then after they win the war, pull the rug out from under them and say: 

Karzai is a douche

There isn't a US military solution to "Karzai is a giant raging corrupt thieving douche bag"


 “oh, um, yeah, I know you think you’ve done your job, but um, now you have to build a fully functioning democracy in the asshole of the world with a population that is 90% illiterate, a government that is corrupt, a legislature that legalizes rape and a people that think America is Satan. So um, good luck coming home before that 100 year mark McCain warned us about.” 

Therefore, we should:
A. Bring home the bulk of our forces
B. Leave a few thousand soldiers (5,000-10,000 tops) as special forces, trainers, air force, support, etc.
C. Have parades for the troops that have been through so much and fought so hard and won us everything a military can win.
D. Continue to give both countries monetary aid, loans, technical assistance, protection from foreign governments and internal terrorist groups, and diplomatic support whenever possible. 

“D” there is important. We won the war, we still need to win the peace. We put ourselves over there, it is our responsibility to help them. That is our responsibility, helping. It is not our responsibility to spend 1 million per soldier per year holding their country together. 

So please, please America. Let’s admit the simple truth, we won the wars. We can bring our people home and throw them the biggest parade the world has ever seen. 

Related Posts: 

We’ll have 140,000 troops in Afghanistan

“We’re going to have more troops (in Afghanistan) . . . than the Russians h

Politifact did a bit on numbers of troops in Afghanistan. Rep. Murtha says we have more than the Russians did, only if you include NATO says politifact. I know it’s an inescapable anology, but it’s also unfair. Frankly, we’re doing a much better job over there.

We aren’t sending more troops because we don’t control the country, we’re sending more to better protect the civilians. Still, its good to know how many people we got over there.

Read the story.

Republicans turn on the constitution

(6) We support victory in Iraq and Afghanistan by supporting military-recommended troop surges;

I would really like to point out how wrong and constitutionally-bad that is. Our founding fathers very specifically gave us a civilian leadership superior to our military. They did that because when the military is in charge every solution involves going to war.

By swearing to this, one would have to frosake the constitution. The government’s job isn’t to support the military’s recconmendations, the military supports the decision of the civilian elected leaders. That’s how it works. The President gives the orders, the military obeys. If it were to be the other way around, we would be living in military dictatorship. It is really horrible that supposd-conservatives would include this as a requirment.

If #6 was worded “We support escalating the number of troops in Afghanistan,” that would be good and avoid any constitutional problems. As it is now, #6 essentially says Republicans want the Commander in Chief to obey the Generals, and that’s anti-constitutional and anti-conservative.

Obama ends both wars: “We’ve Won”

The Speech President Barack Obama should have given on Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and US foreign Policy

THE PRESIDENT: Good evening. To the United States Corps of Cadets, to the men and women of our Armed Services, and to my fellow Americans: I want to speak to you tonight about our effort in Afghanistan — the nature of our commitment there, the scope of our interests, and the strategy that my administration will pursue to bring this war to a successful conclusion. It’s an extraordinary honor for me to do so here at West Point — where so many men and women have prepared to stand up for our security, and to represent what is finest about our country.

To address these important issues, it’s important to recall why America and our allies were compelled to fight a war in Afghanistan in the first place. We did not ask for this fight. On September 11, 2001, 19 men hijacked four airplanes and used them to murder nearly 3,000 people. They struck at our military and economic nerve centers. They took the lives of innocent men, women, and children without regard to their faith or race or station. Were it not for the heroic actions of passengers onboard one of those flights, they could have also struck at one of the great symbols of our democracy in Washington, and killed many more.

As we know, these men belonged to al Qaeda — a group of extremists who have distorted and defiled Islam, one of the world’s great religions, to justify the slaughter of innocents. Al Qaeda’s base of operations was in Afghanistan, where they were harbored by the Taliban — a ruthless, repressive and radical movement that seized control of that country after it was ravaged by years of Soviet occupation and civil war, and after the attention of America and our friends had turned elsewhere.

Well, tonight, I’d like to declare in simple words, in unambiguous words, that in fact, act, deed, and daring, the war in Afghanistan is over. The government that existed when we declared war is now dead. Thus, the war against them is over, and we are victorious. We won. So to the US soldiers here and abroad I give thanks in simple and unambiguous words. We sent you over there to win us a war. And you have. Thank you. For every American citizen who sleeps safer for your sacrifice, I thank you. For every person who wishes to live in peace free of terrorism, I thank you. For upholding the ideals of our forefathers while defending the home of your children, I thank you. For honoring your oath to the Constitution, for fighting in heat and cold, storm and fire, for fighting in the deserts, on the roads, in the streets and from the air, I say thank you for a war won and an enemy defeated.

America’s fight was not without out difficulties, we have suffered many losses and we will honor their sacrifices. We can never forgot why our brave men and women went to war, why all gave some, and some gave their all.

We went there to defeat and kill Al Queda. Al Queda is dead, defeated, and no longer operating freely in Afghanistan. We won. They lost. Now, though the war in Afghanistan was well won, the war against Al Queda isn’t yet over. The men responsible for 9/11 are now in Pakistan, and to Pakistan the might of the United States now turns. Where ever our enemies go, we will chase them. Any country that embraces our enemies will be treated as such.

The war is Iraq was waged to prevent Saddam Hussein from acquiring Weapons of Mass Destruction. He is dead. His top commanders are dead. His government and political party are dead. Now, I use the word dead with a solemn certainty that I do not want to be missed. We went to war with Iraq not to hurt or punish the Iraqi people, but because Saddam Hussein and his Government actively assisted terrorists, because we believed they were attempting to acquire Weapons of Mass Destruction and because we felt they were a threat to the region and the world. That Government is dead. Thusly, the war against them is over. We were and are victorious. The war is over, We Won.

So again, to every soldier in the US armed forces, I commend you. You have humbled and honored your nation with your duty, honor and courage. And your nation thanks you, honors your service, and thanks you for doing your duty. We sent you to war. You won.

Because both wars are over, I will have ordered our top Generals to begin bringing our troops home. These two governments are still young, and they are our allies, and as such we will assist them. Because we still have responsibilities over there, I have not ordered all our troops home. In each country we will leave a smaller presence than we have now, but still a strong force. We will leave several thousand Special Forces in each country, along with certain Air Force capabilities. It will be up to them to handle domestic violence, but they will not be alone. We will be standing beside them providing them air power and Special Force units when requested. Let me be clear, we will maintain enough troops over there to prevent the Iraqi government falling to insurgents. We will maintain enough troops to prevent Al Queda to returning to Afghanistan. They are our friends, and our commitment to their people has no timetable. Al Queda is our enemy, and in the war against them, again, there is no timetable.

So while I tonight declare an end to two wars tonight, I also declare a continuation of our War against Al Queda. This is a war that is not yet won. We have fought them in our country. We’ve fought them in Afghanistan. We’ve fought them in Iraq. Now we fight them in Pakistan. This time, Pakistan fights with us. So to the Pakistan government and people, I offer the thanks of a grateful nation. The War on Al Queda will continue as long as they exist.

We will not tire.

We will not cower.

We will not look away when the road is hard and the ground is difficult.

We will hunt you.

We will find you.

We are at war with you Al Queda, and we will fight you on that hard road, and we will fight you on difficult ground and we will kill you. And we will win this war.

America — we are passing through a time of great trial. And the message that we send in the midst of these storms must be clear: that our cause is just, our resolve unwavering. We will go forward with the confidence that right makes might, and with the commitment to forge an America that is safer, a world that is more secure, and a future that represents not the deepest of fears but the highest of hopes.

Thank you. God bless you. May God bless the United States of America.

Thank you very much. Thank you.

The start and finish are Barack’s actual words. Mine are the unquoted body of the speech.

The point is this, we won. Who exactly are we at war with? Are we at war with Afghanistan? No. The war is over, we won. We killed who we needed to. We can leave. We won. We can leave fighter jets and bombers and Apaches and Special forces and we can drop bombs from drones all day and night. But the job of creating nations is their job. There is no moral weakness in letting them do that. We can stand with them, but it is their job, not ours. This is not cut-and-run, this is winning.

Now, certain insurgents may of course claim we haven’t won. But I’m sure Southerners in bars and pubs refused to accept the North’s win in our own Civil War. If they release a video saying we haven’t won, then let our top General release a video challenging them to battle. We can pick a field on the outskirts of some city like they did in the old days. Then we offer anyone who wants a fight with us free pass to that field.

“If you think we haven’t won this war, here we are. Prove it. Remove us from this field.”

If we can openly control and command the field of battle without an opposing army lining up to face us, we’ve won. That’s how wars work. And we’ve won both wars. Let’s bring our people home and give them parades unlike anything the world has ever seen.

The Full Transcript of Obama’s Speech on Afghan and Pakistan

The Full Transcript of Obama’s Speech on Afghan and Pakistan


Eisenhower Hall Theatre
United States Military Academy at West Point
West Point, New York

THE PRESIDENT: Good evening. To the United States Corps of Cadets, to the men and women of our Armed Services, and to my fellow Americans: I want to speak to you tonight about our effort in Afghanistan — the nature of our commitment there, the scope of our interests, and the strategy that my administration will pursue to bring this war to a successful conclusion. It’s an extraordinary honor for me to do so here at West Point — where so many men and women have prepared to stand up for our security, and to represent what is finest about our country.

To address these important issues, it’s important to recall why America and our allies were compelled to fight a war in Afghanistan in the first place. We did not ask for this fight. On September 11, 2001, 19 men hijacked four airplanes and used them to murder nearly 3,000 people. They struck at our military and economic nerve centers. They took the lives of innocent men, women, and children without regard to their faith or race or station. Were it not for the heroic actions of passengers onboard one of those flights, they could have also struck at one of the great symbols of our democracy in Washington, and killed many more.

As we know, these men belonged to al Qaeda — a group of extremists who have distorted and defiled Islam, one of the world’s great religions, to justify the slaughter of innocents. Al Qaeda’s base of operations was in Afghanistan, where they were harbored by the Taliban — a ruthless, repressive and radical movement that seized control of that country after it was ravaged by years of Soviet occupation and civil war, and after the attention of America and our friends had turned elsewhere.

Just days after 9/11, Congress authorized the use of force against al Qaeda and those who harbored them — an authorization that continues to this day. The vote in the Senate was 98 to nothing. The vote in the House was 420 to 1. For the first time in its history, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization invoked Article 5 — the commitment that says an attack on one member nation is an attack on all. And the United Nations Security Council endorsed the use of all necessary steps to respond to the 9/11 attacks. America, our allies and the world were acting as one to destroy al Qaeda’s terrorist network and to protect our common security.

Under the banner of this domestic unity and international legitimacy — and only after the Taliban refused to turn over Osama bin Laden — we sent our troops into Afghanistan. Within a matter of months, al Qaeda was scattered and many of its operatives were killed. The Taliban was driven from power and pushed back on its heels. A place that had known decades of fear now had reason to hope. At a conference convened by the U.N., a provisional government was established under President Hamid Karzai. And an International Security Assistance Force was established to help bring a lasting peace to a war-torn country.

Then, in early 2003, the decision was made to wage a second war, in Iraq. The wrenching debate over the Iraq war is well-known and need not be repeated here. It’s enough to say that for the next six years, the Iraq war drew the dominant share of our troops, our resources, our diplomacy, and our national attention — and that the decision to go into Iraq caused substantial rifts between America and much of the world.

Today, after extraordinary costs, we are bringing the Iraq war to a responsible end. We will remove our combat brigades from Iraq by the end of next summer, and all of our troops by the end of 2011. That we are doing so is a testament to the character of the men and women in uniform. (Applause.) Thanks to their courage, grit and perseverance, we have given Iraqis a chance to shape their future, and we are successfully leaving Iraq to its people.

But while we’ve achieved hard-earned milestones in Iraq, the situation in Afghanistan has deteriorated. After escaping across the border into Pakistan in 2001 and 2002, al Qaeda’s leadership established a safe haven there. Although a legitimate government was elected by the Afghan people, it’s been hampered by corruption, the drug trade, an under-developed economy, and insufficient security forces.

Over the last several years, the Taliban has maintained common cause with al Qaeda, as they both seek an overthrow of the Afghan government. Gradually, the Taliban has begun to control additional swaths of territory in Afghanistan, while engaging in increasingly brazen and devastating attacks of terrorism against the Pakistani people.

Now, throughout this period, our troop levels in Afghanistan remained a fraction of what they were in Iraq. When I took office, we had just over 32,000 Americans serving in Afghanistan, compared to 160,000 in Iraq at the peak of the war. Commanders in Afghanistan repeatedly asked for support to deal with the reemergence of the Taliban, but these reinforcements did not arrive. And that’s why, shortly after taking office, I approved a longstanding request for more troops. After consultations with our allies, I then announced a strategy recognizing the fundamental connection between our war effort in Afghanistan and the extremist safe havens in Pakistan. I set a goal that was narrowly defined as disrupting, dismantling, and defeating al Qaeda and its extremist allies, and pledged to better coordinate our military and civilian efforts.

Since then, we’ve made progress on some important objectives. High-ranking al Qaeda and Taliban leaders have been killed, and we’ve stepped up the pressure on al Qaeda worldwide. In Pakistan, that nation’s army has gone on its largest offensive in years. In Afghanistan, we and our allies prevented the Taliban from stopping a presidential election, and — although it was marred by fraud — that election produced a government that is consistent with Afghanistan’s laws and constitution.

Yet huge challenges remain. Afghanistan is not lost, but for several years it has moved backwards. There’s no imminent threat of the government being overthrown, but the Taliban has gained momentum. Al Qaeda has not reemerged in Afghanistan in the same numbers as before 9/11, but they retain their safe havens along the border. And our forces lack the full support they need to effectively train and partner with Afghan security forces and better secure the population. Our new commander in Afghanistan — General McChrystal — has reported that the security situation is more serious than he anticipated. In short: The status quo is not sustainable.

As cadets, you volunteered for service during this time of danger. Some of you fought in Afghanistan. Some of you will deploy there. As your Commander-in-Chief, I owe you a mission that is clearly defined, and worthy of your service. And that’s why, after the Afghan voting was completed, I insisted on a thorough review of our strategy. Now, let me be clear: There has never been an option before me that called for troop deployments before 2010, so there has been no delay or denial of resources necessary for the conduct of the war during this review period. Instead, the review has allowed me to ask the hard questions, and to explore all the different options, along with my national security team, our military and civilian leadership in Afghanistan, and our key partners. And given the stakes involved, I owed the American people — and our troops — no less.

This review is now complete. And as Commander-in-Chief, I have determined that it is in our vital national interest to send an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan. After 18 months, our troops will begin to come home. These are the resources that we need to seize the initiative, while building the Afghan capacity that can allow for a responsible transition of our forces out of Afghanistan.

I do not make this decision lightly. I opposed the war in Iraq precisely because I believe that we must exercise restraint in the use of military force, and always consider the long-term consequences of our actions. We have been at war now for eight years, at enormous cost in lives and resources. Years of debate over Iraq and terrorism have left our unity on national security issues in tatters, and created a highly polarized and partisan backdrop for this effort. And having just experienced the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, the American people are understandably focused on rebuilding our economy and putting people to work here at home.

Most of all, I know that this decision asks even more of you — a military that, along with your families, has already borne the heaviest of all burdens. As President, I have signed a letter of condolence to the family of each American who gives their life in these wars. I have read the letters from the parents and spouses of those who deployed. I visited our courageous wounded warriors at Walter Reed. I’ve traveled to Dover to meet the flag-draped caskets of 18 Americans returning home to their final resting place. I see firsthand the terrible wages of war. If I did not think that the security of the United States and the safety of the American people were at stake in Afghanistan, I would gladly order every single one of our troops home tomorrow.

So, no, I do not make this decision lightly. I make this decision because I am convinced that our security is at stake in Afghanistan and Pakistan. This is the epicenter of violent extremism practiced by al Qaeda. It is from here that we were attacked on 9/11, and it is from here that new attacks are being plotted as I speak. This is no idle danger; no hypothetical threat. In the last few months alone, we have apprehended extremists within our borders who were sent here from the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan to commit new acts of terror. And this danger will only grow if the region slides backwards, and al Qaeda can operate with impunity. We must keep the pressure on al Qaeda, and to do that, we must increase the stability and capacity of our partners in the region.

Of course, this burden is not ours alone to bear. This is not just America’s war. Since 9/11, al Qaeda’s safe havens have been the source of attacks against London and Amman and Bali. The people and governments of both Afghanistan and Pakistan are endangered. And the stakes are even higher within a nuclear-armed Pakistan, because we know that al Qaeda and other extremists seek nuclear weapons, and we have every reason to believe that they would use them.

These facts compel us to act along with our friends and allies. Our overarching goal remains the same: to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and to prevent its capacity to threaten America and our allies in the future.

To meet that goal, we will pursue the following objectives within Afghanistan. We must deny al Qaeda a safe haven. We must reverse the Taliban’s momentum and deny it the ability to overthrow the government. And we must strengthen the capacity of Afghanistan’s security forces and government so that they can take lead responsibility for Afghanistan’s future.

We will meet these objectives in three ways. First, we will pursue a military strategy that will break the Taliban’s momentum and increase Afghanistan’s capacity over the next 18 months.

The 30,000 additional troops that I’m announcing tonight will deploy in the first part of 2010 — the fastest possible pace — so that they can target the insurgency and secure key population centers. They’ll increase our ability to train competent Afghan security forces, and to partner with them so that more Afghans can get into the fight. And they will help create the conditions for the United States to transfer responsibility to the Afghans.

Because this is an international effort, I’ve asked that our commitment be joined by contributions from our allies. Some have already provided additional troops, and we’re confident that there will be further contributions in the days and weeks ahead. Our friends have fought and bled and died alongside us in Afghanistan. And now, we must come together to end this war successfully. For what’s at stake is not simply a test of NATO’s credibility — what’s at stake is the security of our allies, and the common security of the world.

But taken together, these additional American and international troops will allow us to accelerate handing over responsibility to Afghan forces, and allow us to begin the transfer of our forces out of Afghanistan in July of 2011. Just as we have done in Iraq, we will execute this transition responsibly, taking into account conditions on the ground. We’ll continue to advise and assist Afghanistan’s security forces to ensure that they can succeed over the long haul. But it will be clear to the Afghan government — and, more importantly, to the Afghan people — that they will ultimately be responsible for their own country.

Second, we will work with our partners, the United Nations, and the Afghan people to pursue a more effective civilian strategy, so that the government can take advantage of improved security.

This effort must be based on performance. The days of providing a blank check are over. President Karzai’s inauguration speech sent the right message about moving in a new direction. And going forward, we will be clear about what we expect from those who receive our assistance. We’ll support Afghan ministries, governors, and local leaders that combat corruption and deliver for the people. We expect those who are ineffective or corrupt to be held accountable. And we will also focus our assistance in areas — such as agriculture — that can make an immediate impact in the lives of the Afghan people.

The people of Afghanistan have endured violence for decades. They’ve been confronted with occupation — by the Soviet Union, and then by foreign al Qaeda fighters who used Afghan land for their own purposes. So tonight, I want the Afghan people to understand — America seeks an end to this era of war and suffering. We have no interest in occupying your country. We will support efforts by the Afghan government to open the door to those Taliban who abandon violence and respect the human rights of their fellow citizens. And we will seek a partnership with Afghanistan grounded in mutual respect — to isolate those who destroy; to strengthen those who build; to hasten the day when our troops will leave; and to forge a lasting friendship in which America is your partner, and never your patron.

Third, we will act with the full recognition that our success in Afghanistan is inextricably linked to our partnership with Pakistan.

We’re in Afghanistan to prevent a cancer from once again spreading through that country. But this same cancer has also taken root in the border region of Pakistan. That’s why we need a strategy that works on both sides of the border.

In the past, there have been those in Pakistan who’ve argued that the struggle against extremism is not their fight, and that Pakistan is better off doing little or seeking accommodation with those who use violence. But in recent years, as innocents have been killed from Karachi to Islamabad, it has become clear that it is the Pakistani people who are the most endangered by extremism. Public opinion has turned. The Pakistani army has waged an offensive in Swat and South Waziristan. And there is no doubt that the United States and Pakistan share a common enemy.

In the past, we too often defined our relationship with Pakistan narrowly. Those days are over. Moving forward, we are committed to a partnership with Pakistan that is built on a foundation of mutual interest, mutual respect, and mutual trust. We will strengthen Pakistan’s capacity to target those groups that threaten our countries, and have made it clear that we cannot tolerate a safe haven for terrorists whose location is known and whose intentions are clear. America is also providing substantial resources to support Pakistan’s democracy and development. We are the largest international supporter for those Pakistanis displaced by the fighting. And going forward, the Pakistan people must know America will remain a strong supporter of Pakistan’s security and prosperity long after the guns have fallen silent, so that the great potential of its people can be unleashed.

These are the three core elements of our strategy: a military effort to create the conditions for a transition; a civilian surge that reinforces positive action; and an effective partnership with Pakistan.

I recognize there are a range of concerns about our approach. So let me briefly address a few of the more prominent arguments that I’ve heard, and which I take very seriously.

First, there are those who suggest that Afghanistan is another Vietnam. They argue that it cannot be stabilized, and we’re better off cutting our losses and rapidly withdrawing. I believe this argument depends on a false reading of history. Unlike Vietnam, we are joined by a broad coalition of 43 nations that recognizes the legitimacy of our action. Unlike Vietnam, we are not facing a broad-based popular insurgency. And most importantly, unlike Vietnam, the American people were viciously attacked from Afghanistan, and remain a target for those same extremists who are plotting along its border. To abandon this area now — and to rely only on efforts against al Qaeda from a distance — would significantly hamper our ability to keep the pressure on al Qaeda, and create an unacceptable risk of additional attacks on our homeland and our allies.

Second, there are those who acknowledge that we can’t leave Afghanistan in its current state, but suggest that we go forward with the troops that we already have. But this would simply maintain a status quo in which we muddle through, and permit a slow deterioration of conditions there. It would ultimately prove more costly and prolong our stay in Afghanistan, because we would never be able to generate the conditions needed to train Afghan security forces and give them the space to take over.

Finally, there are those who oppose identifying a time frame for our transition to Afghan responsibility. Indeed, some call for a more dramatic and open-ended escalation of our war effort — one that would commit us to a nation-building project of up to a decade. I reject this course because it sets goals that are beyond what can be achieved at a reasonable cost, and what we need to achieve to secure our interests. Furthermore, the absence of a time frame for transition would deny us any sense of urgency in working with the Afghan government. It must be clear that Afghans will have to take responsibility for their security, and that America has no interest in fighting an endless war in Afghanistan.

As President, I refuse to set goals that go beyond our responsibility, our means, or our interests. And I must weigh all of the challenges that our nation faces. I don’t have the luxury of committing to just one. Indeed, I’m mindful of the words of President Eisenhower, who — in discussing our national security — said, “Each proposal must be weighed in the light of a broader consideration: the need to maintain balance in and among national programs.”

Over the past several years, we have lost that balance. We’ve failed to appreciate the connection between our national security and our economy. In the wake of an economic crisis, too many of our neighbors and friends are out of work and struggle to pay the bills. Too many Americans are worried about the future facing our children. Meanwhile, competition within the global economy has grown more fierce. So we can’t simply afford to ignore the price of these wars.

All told, by the time I took office the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan approached a trillion dollars. Going forward, I am committed to addressing these costs openly and honestly. Our new approach in Afghanistan is likely to cost us roughly $30 billion for the military this year, and I’ll work closely with Congress to address these costs as we work to bring down our deficit.

But as we end the war in Iraq and transition to Afghan responsibility, we must rebuild our strength here at home. Our prosperity provides a foundation for our power. It pays for our military. It underwrites our diplomacy. It taps the potential of our people, and allows investment in new industry. And it will allow us to compete in this century as successfully as we did in the last. That’s why our troop commitment in Afghanistan cannot be open-ended — because the nation that I’m most interested in building is our own.

Now, let me be clear: None of this will be easy. The struggle against violent extremism will not be finished quickly, and it extends well beyond Afghanistan and Pakistan. It will be an enduring test of our free society, and our leadership in the world. And unlike the great power conflicts and clear lines of division that defined the 20th century, our effort will involve disorderly regions, failed states, diffuse enemies.

So as a result, America will have to show our strength in the way that we end wars and prevent conflict — not just how we wage wars. We’ll have to be nimble and precise in our use of military power. Where al Qaeda and its allies attempt to establish a foothold — whether in Somalia or Yemen or elsewhere — they must be confronted by growing pressure and strong partnerships.

And we can’t count on military might alone. We have to invest in our homeland security, because we can’t capture or kill every violent extremist abroad. We have to improve and better coordinate our intelligence, so that we stay one step ahead of shadowy networks.

We will have to take away the tools of mass destruction. And that’s why I’ve made it a central pillar of my foreign policy to secure loose nuclear materials from terrorists, to stop the spread of nuclear weapons, and to pursue the goal of a world without them — because every nation must understand that true security will never come from an endless race for ever more destructive weapons; true security will come for those who reject them.

We’ll have to use diplomacy, because no one nation can meet the challenges of an interconnected world acting alone. I’ve spent this year renewing our alliances and forging new partnerships. And we have forged a new beginning between America and the Muslim world — one that recognizes our mutual interest in breaking a cycle of conflict, and that promises a future in which those who kill innocents are isolated by those who stand up for peace and prosperity and human dignity.

And finally, we must draw on the strength of our values — for the challenges that we face may have changed, but the things that we believe in must not. That’s why we must promote our values by living them at home — which is why I have prohibited torture and will close the prison at Guantanamo Bay. And we must make it clear to every man, woman and child around the world who lives under the dark cloud of tyranny that America will speak out on behalf of their human rights, and tend to the light of freedom and justice and opportunity and respect for the dignity of all peoples. That is who we are. That is the source, the moral source, of America’s authority.

Since the days of Franklin Roosevelt, and the service and sacrifice of our grandparents and great-grandparents, our country has borne a special burden in global affairs. We have spilled American blood in many countries on multiple continents. We have spent our revenue to help others rebuild from rubble and develop their own economies. We have joined with others to develop an architecture of institutions — from the United Nations to NATO to the World Bank — that provide for the common security and prosperity of human beings.

We have not always been thanked for these efforts, and we have at times made mistakes. But more than any other nation, the United States of America has underwritten global security for over six decades — a time that, for all its problems, has seen walls come down, and markets open, and billions lifted from poverty, unparalleled scientific progress and advancing frontiers of human liberty.

For unlike the great powers of old, we have not sought world domination. Our union was founded in resistance to oppression. We do not seek to occupy other nations. We will not claim another nation’s resources or target other peoples because their faith or ethnicity is different from ours. What we have fought for — what we continue to fight for — is a better future for our children and grandchildren. And we believe that their lives will be better if other peoples’ children and grandchildren can live in freedom and access opportunity. (Applause.)

As a country, we’re not as young — and perhaps not as innocent — as we were when Roosevelt was President. Yet we are still heirs to a noble struggle for freedom. And now we must summon all of our might and moral suasion to meet the challenges of a new age.

In the end, our security and leadership does not come solely from the strength of our arms. It derives from our people — from the workers and businesses who will rebuild our economy; from the entrepreneurs and researchers who will pioneer new industries; from the teachers that will educate our children, and the service of those who work in our communities at home; from the diplomats and Peace Corps volunteers who spread hope abroad; and from the men and women in uniform who are part of an unbroken line of sacrifice that has made government of the people, by the people, and for the people a reality on this Earth. (Applause.)
This vast and diverse citizenry will not always agree on every issue — nor should we. But I also know that we, as a country, cannot sustain our leadership, nor navigate the momentous challenges of our time, if we allow ourselves to be split asunder by the same rancor and cynicism and partisanship that has in recent times poisoned our national discourse.

It’s easy to forget that when this war began, we were united — bound together by the fresh memory of a horrific attack, and by the determination to defend our homeland and the values we hold dear. I refuse to accept the notion that we cannot summon that unity again. (Applause.) I believe with every fiber of my being that we — as Americans — can still come together behind a common purpose. For our values are not simply words written into parchment — they are a creed that calls us together, and that has carried us through the darkest of storms as one nation, as one people.

America — we are passing through a time of great trial. And the message that we send in the midst of these storms must be clear: that our cause is just, our resolve unwavering. We will go forward with the confidence that right makes might, and with the commitment to forge an America that is safer, a world that is more secure, and a future that represents not the deepest of fears but the highest of hopes. (Applause.)

Thank you. God bless you. May God bless the United States of America. (Applause.) Thank you very much. Thank you. (Applause.)

What he should have said….

The Greatest Story Ever Sold: Reviews

The Great Story Ever Sold

The Decline and Fall of TRUTH, from 9/11 to Katrina

By: Frank Rich

Chapters 1 and 2

Chapters 3 and 4

Chapters 5 and 6

Chapters 7 and 8

Chapters 9 and 10


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Brief Summary:

The Bush Administration were experts at message control, media manipulation and stagecraft. They used those skills to control public opinion so well that they came to believe their own lies, that they could create their own realities based on how they controlled the message. They sold the war in Iraq to Americans by controlling the message so well that the American people never really was given a choice of supporting the war. Their stagecraft though finally came to a crash as the actual-realties on the ground in Iraq and Katrina finally bore witness to their lies.

Would I recommend the book?

Yes. I liked it very much. This is an older book now, but I wanted to put the summary up because I thought it was underrated when it came out and the message it tells is one that has to be told. The Bush Administration wasn’t evil. They were just inept and governance, skilled at story telling, and focused on issues and goals the American people didn’t agree with or understand. The real villain in the book isn’t Bush, he’s the MacGuffin. The villain is the Media that so willingly let themselves be controlled and manipulated and turned into cheerleaders. The villain is the stagecraft that allowed ineptitude to prosper, let message become more important that substance, and let the American people become so horrible misinformed they allowed their government to attack a country that hadn’t attacked us, and then get stuck there.

The good?

The absolutely best part of the book isn’t actually part of the book per se, it’s in the back of the book, a parallel time-line comparing what was known privately and what was said publicly. Page 246 for example has on the left side of the paper the time when George Tenet privately telling Bush that the State and Energy Department and the CIA all had serious doubts about the aluminum tube story-line. On the Right side of the paper, publicly, at the same time, Bush gave a radio address using the Aluminum tube story to sell America on the necessity of war.

The public/private side by side comparison is damning in the least. Frightening too. There can be no doubt that the people making the decision for war knew what they were doing, the only people misled about Saddam’s WMDs were the American people.

The Ugly?

The Author uses a huge litany of examples through out the book to make his points. Now, the he uses these examples well, but sometimes the examples start taking on a life of their own. Perhaps it is just the nature of the beast, covering six years of mistakes from Bush is probably tough to do succinctly, but I often felt the chapters were just broken lists of mistakes lies and misleading statements. I suppose the point was to show the breadth of lies and deceit, but at the same time it made the narrative messy.


I give the Book an A. It covers a great deal of terrain and does an excellent job of showing just how disconnected the truth was to the message coming out of the White House. It chronicles in horrifying detail the path that took America from fantasizing about war to being stuck in an unnecessary one.

From the New York Times:

As a former theater critic, Frank Rich has the perfect credentials for writing an account of the Bush administration, which has done so much to blur the lines between politics and show business. Not that this is a unique phenomenon; think of Silvio Berlusconi, the media mogul and master of political fictions, or Ronald Reagan, who often appeared to be genuinely confused about the difference between real life and the movies. Show business has always been an essential part of ruling people, and so is the use of fiction, especially when going to war. What would Hitler have been without his vicious fantasies fed to a hungry public through grand spectacles, radio and film? Closer to home, in 1964, to justify American intervention in Vietnam, Lyndon B. Johnson used news of an attack in the Gulf of Tonkin that never took place. What is fascinating about the era of George W. Bush, however, is that the spinmeisters, fake news reporters, photo-op creators, disinformation experts, intelligence manipulators, fictional heroes and public relations men posing as commentators operate in a world where virtual reality has already threatened to eclipse empirical investigation. 



From the The Washington Post

Throughout George W. Bush’s presidency, no columnist has been more perceptive than Frank Rich of the New York Times. A longtime film and drama critic, Rich, for the past decade, has used his insights into performance and stagecraft to explain a political culture increasingly dominated by simulation and spectacle.



From The Huffington Post

The Kirkus review for NYT columnist Frank Rich’s “The Greatest Story Ever Sold: The Decline and Fall of Truth from 9/11 to Katrina” was released this afternoon, praising Rich for his “savaging sermon” on the “White House’s greatest hits, from the 2001 defense of gas-guzzling as essential to the American way of life to “Heckuva job, Brownie” to the ongoing morass of Iraq.” The Kirkus reviewer seems to be in agreement with Rich on the spinning of it’s own administration’s missteps: “In an effort to disguise that track record, the Republicans have exercised single-minded control of the grand narrative of the last five years, at least in part because they have exercised quasi-totalitarian control over the news media.”


From Frank Rich (author)

When America was attacked on 9/11, its citizens almost unanimously rallied behind its new, untested president as he went to war. What they didn’t know at the time was that the Bush administration’s highest priority would not be to vanquish Al Qaeda but to consolidate its own power at any cost. It was a mission that could only be accomplished by a propaganda presidency in which reality was steadily replaced by a scenario of the White House’s own invention—and such was that scenario’s devious brilliance that it fashioned a second war against an enemy who did not attack America on 9/11, intimidated the Democrats into incoherence and impotence, and turned a presidential election into an irrelevant referendum on macho imagery, Vietnam and “moral values.”


The Greatest Story Ever Sold: Summary (Chapters 7-8)

The Great Story Ever Sold

The Decline and Fall of TRUTH, from 9/11 to Katrina

By: Frank Rich

Chapters 1 and 2

Chapters 3 and 4

Chapters 5 and 6

Chapters 7 and 8

Chapters 9 and 10


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Part Two

Chapter Seven: Slam Dunk

“In the 23 months I was there, I never saw anything that I would categorize as evidence of weapons of mass destruction,” Paul O’Neill The Greatest Story Ever Sold, Page 113

“The White House’s prohibition on photo’s of flag-draped coffins from Iraq, it seemed, did not extend to the politically useful pictures of casualties from 9/11.” – Regarding such pictures in campaign commercials. The Greatest Story Ever Sold, Page 119

“Such protests raised a question: If the country was so firmly in support of the war, as Bush loyalists claimed, by what logic would photographs of its selfless soldiers, either of their faces or of their flag-draped coffins, undermine public support?” The Greatest Story Ever Sold, Page 127

Thirteen after leaving his job in the administration, Paul O’Neill, with Ron Suskind, wrote a book attacking the administration. According to O’Neill, the administration was focused on deposing Saddam from the very first National Security meeting and were just looking for a way. Shortly after Richard Clark, Bush’s counterterrorism czar released a book supporting O’Neill and providing more damning evidence towards an Administration that had dropped the ball. Most of the facts revealed by the two were already known, but they did what facts couldn’t, they put a human face to the facts. The Administration tried to write them off and sent agents to attack their message, but none worked.

Over the next several months bad news continued to pile up; dead Americans hanging from a bridge, Abu Ghraib, Pat Tillman’s brave death fighting insurgents. The Media began turning to the families of the dead for ratings. Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, Rush Limbaugh and others did their best to the defend the Administration, but pictures of American’s fake-raping Iraqi’s needed no commentary.

The election year was coming up, and the Administration fought back hard against the bad stories. They blamed Liberals and Democrats for the Jersey Girls wanting a 9/11 Commission, though the head of the group had voted for Bush. They accused cowardly journalists in Iraq of not leaving their hotels to see the good things occurring in Iraq, though 34 journalists had already died doing just that. They blamed the mounting deaths of Americans on thugs and terrorists. They twisted and lied about the death of Pat Tillman, they lied about the President’s actions on 9/11, they exaggerated Iraqi police forces, and they downplayed or ignored the crimes committed in Abu Ghraib. The American people were slowly turning against the war in Iraq.

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This chapter was hard to summarize due to the breadth of information covered, and I hope I did it justice. Frank Rich goes through more than a dozen events highlighting both the bad news coming out of Iraq or former Bush insiders, and the Administration’s attempts to silence that news. Going through it it’s hard not to get a pessimistic view of the entire timeline.

The important point though, I think, is that even as all the bad news was coming out, the Administration was more concerned with fixing the message than fixing the mess. Highlighted by a poignant Karl Rove quote a year after the Mission Accomplished banner, he said he wished the banner hadn’t been there. But the banner wasn’t a problem it was just a symptom of a problem, it was a visible reminder of a disconnect between facts on the ground and the information spoon fed to the media. Karl Rove wasn’t wishing the Iraq war was done better, he was wishing it was sold better. And that was the problem with the Administration through out this whole period. Even as things kept getting worse and worse, rather than rushing to attack the problems, they rushed to attack the whistleblowers.


Part Two

Chapter Eight: Reporting for Duty

“As the Press would report, many of the Swift Boat vets’ charges were easily debunked.” The Greatest Story Ever Sold, Page 139

“Having brought up Vietnam in the backdrop of this incipient quagmire, Kerry then choked. It turned out he had almost nothing to say about the subject” The Greatest Story Ever Sold, Page 148

“The Republican right, for its part, saw an opening to use the ‘values’ mandate as a means to shove its own values down people’s throats.” The Greatest Story Ever Sold, Page 151

The Republicans were looking for someone they could easily make out to be weak on defense and a 70’s radical, instead they got John Kerry, who could do play the role of soldier far better than George Bush. John Kerry had won multiple awards during the Vietnam war including the bronze star for valor in rescuing an overboard crewmate. Yet, for all his attempts, his campaigns skills at stagecraft were unprepared for the Swift Boats Vets for Truth, and for all the loaded weapons the White House had given him, his fumbling speeches and gaffes made him an easy target for ridicule.

After staking his entire Presidential campaign on his past military service, and having most of that chipped away by the Swift Boat Vets, Kerry did himself in by having nothing to say on the Iraq war. While the President and his men set about scaring America into making a safe choice, Kerry hid from his anti-war past and offered no specific alternatives to the Iraq war.

Despite being a horrible candidate, and going against an entrenched Administration able and willing to manipulate the terror warnings for political gains, Kerry held George Bush to 51%. This somehow became a “mandate,” an election determined by so-called ‘value-voters.’ The Media knew a sexy story when they heard it, and they went with it. When voters were given a list of specific reasons for their vote, and a final unspecific “value issues” reason (abortion? Gay rights? Helping the poor?) the majority selected matters connected to national security, but since no single matter of national security was singled out as much as the broad umbrella of “values”, that was the story. And it’s a narrative that threatens to doom political discourse for years.

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This chapter reads a little whiney. The author starts off making the case that Kerry was a good candidate, and any cursory look at the guy would show he’s a great politician. Fought in a war he volunteered for, volunteered to go to the front lines and was awarded multiple awards. Came home and began a political career by saying the Vietnam war was wrong, a point that most people would agree with today. He then spent many years in political office, requiring him to run and win many campaigns. Then he slams him for not responding and having enough to say on the war. Now, he might well be right to a point, but Monday-morning quarter backers can normally make a point or two too.

The parts that read a bit more informative are where he talks about John Ashcroft using his podium to scare Americans for political gain. Since then, he’s written a book admitting that he was under political pressure to do just that. Complaining about the fact that Kerry was a bad candidate and lost a campaign, whether true or not, really doesn’t fit in well with the rest of the book.

We are at war people, should you pay for it?

We are at war. I know it doesn’t feel like we’re at war, but we are. Should we, as Americans, spread the sacrifice? If we are sending sons, daughters, brothers and sisters to war, should we all help them carry their burden? Or is the very question a partisan ploy, a political game to twist debate?

Right now, Democrats are thinking about a tax surcharge to raise funds for the Afghanistan war, and the Republicans are trying to figure out where they stand on this. If you are going to increase spending, then it makes sense we need to either cut funds from something else or raise more funds through taxation, otherwise we’re lettering our children die for us and making our grandchildren pay for it.

Now it’s very possible, definite even, that some Democrats in congress will use this as a bat to beat the American electorate into not wanting to increase troop levels, which is sick. I think Democrats are well within their rights to try to explain the cost of war. Any suggestion of hiding the costs of war, be they life, limb or cash, is an act of a tyrant government hiding it’s actions from its people. If we can’t see the true cost of the wars we fight, how do we know they’re worth fighting? What I think is sick is the fact the Republican is right, the American people don’t mind unnamed soldiers they’ve never met dying for a war they don’t understand, but they will care about having to pay for a war they don’t understand. That’s a very sad commentary on us as a people, that Democrats think the financial cost will be a stronger motivating force than the thousands killed and the (tens of? hundreds of?) thousands of maimed, and that the Republicans agree. I agree too. If we set a national sales tax to perfectly cover all our wars, that will have a huge affect motivating the anti-war sentiment.

For more, read here.

The Greatest Story Ever Sold: Summary (Chapters 5-6)

The Great Story Ever Sold

The Decline and Fall of TRUTH, from 9/11 to Katrina

By: Frank Rich

Chapters 1 and 2

Chapters 3 and 4

Chapters 5 and 6

Chapters 7 and 8

Chapters 9 and 10


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PART ONE Chapter Five: Mission Accomplished

“Fox notwithstanding, some bad news had to seep out as the operation wore on.” The Greatest Story Ever Sold, Page 80“In all this, Jessica Lynch herself, unable to speak, was reduced to a mere pawn an innocent bystander.” The Greatest Story Ever Told, Page 82

“This was fantastic theatre.” The Greatest Story Ever Sold, Page 89

In order to control the message and product of the Iraq war, the Pentagon “embedded” 500 journalists into the ranks of the armed forces, so they would get a grunts-eye-view of the action. TV networks, fearful of the sensibilities of their viewers sanitized the stories and footage to hide the death and blood. Objective journalism took a backseat to cheerleading. The same skills the Bush Administration used to sell the war were on display to sell their preferred story line, an easy war won without sacrifice or error.“Shock and Awe” was attached as a title card to broadcasts and became shockinaw to their viewers. For all the fireworks and matrix-esque fireworks, what wasn’t seen was the actual result of war. Shells were fired, but never landed. The enemy just disappeared as if by magic. Al Jazeera and BBC didn’t turn away, and through them our Networks started, bit by bit, to pay a little attention, and for the first time, viewers could smell American blood. Of the 1,710 war stories leading up to the fall of Baghdad, only 13.5% included any shots of the dead or wounded.

The unresolved Afghan war was completely forgotten as Networks competed in pandering to the Bush Administration. There was no ambiguity at Fox News where they criticized others for being “weenies” for dwelling on casualties. Bad news, friendly firings, dead civilians, dead Americans, and a captured 19-year-old girl cast a gloom over the Iraq war, something had to be done. Private Jessica Lynch’s capture was turned into propaganda, a female Rambo fighting to the Death. All of which turned out to be false. Newsweek interviewed the commander of the Landstuhl hospital where Lynch had been evacuated to for treatment, who said she’d been neither stabbed nor shot, to which Newseek immediately contradicted in the following line. The Administration had cast its story, created its legend, and the Media obeyed.

A group of Iraqis toppled the statue of Saddam Hussein, and the war was over, with Fox News and CNN each dropping coverage by about 75%. No one questioned where the Iraqi citizens had come from, or why they’d conviently picked a statue directly across the street from the hotel the Media were staying. After the toppling of the statue, Iraqis looted their own nation to the surprise of an Administration who had come to believe their own story.

A good story needs a good ending, and George Bush provided it. The USS Lincoln on her way home was delayed a day, an advance team arrived several days in advance. A banner was hung, a jet was repainted and renamed Navy One. George Bush flew in dramatically, wearing more flight gear than Tom Cruise. He went below deck and changed, reappearing three hours later for a speech at the Hollywood named magic hour of dusk. There he declared the end of major combat missions and the Media cheered. Behind him and over his head like a halo, a banner declared Mission Accomplished.

PART TWO: Buyers Remorse


PART TWO Chapter Six: “We Found the Weapons of Mass Destruction.”

“’The president had moved on. And I think, frankly, much of the country has moved on, as well.’ – Ari Fleischer” The Greatest Story Ever Sold, Page 100“Maybe Saddam’s WMDs were nowhere to be found, but conventional weapons were killing Americans at an alarming rate.” The Greatest Story Ever Sold, Page 101

“The Administration practiced ’fatith-based intelligence’ by ’cherry-picking’ his departments intelligence to suit its case for war.” The Greatest Story Ever Sold, Page 105

“ Troops were allowed to appear in ‘the filter‘ if they were alive and on script, but were discouraged from mouthing off… and hidden away entirely if they had the ill grace to be killed or injured.” The Greatest Story Ever Sold, Page 108

To anyone paying attention to the just declared American victory, there was a discomfort able hangover remaining, no Weapons of Mass Destruction had been found. When confronted by a polish Reporter, Bush identified two mobile facilities and claimed “We found the weapons of mass destruction.” Only a few days later that claim was subtly changed to “facilities capable” of producing WMD, a distinction that weighed heavily on his mind.Over the next several weeks and months news began to come up as it was reported that key pieces of pre-war evidence presented by the administration had been long disproven. The claims of African uranium had been deemed “unequivocally wrong” many months before making it into the State of the Union. The CIA expressed that Iraq-Al Qaeda ties were “highly suspect” well before Bush tied them together at a speech in Cincinnati. The Administration attempted, in vain, to deny knowing the information was bad. After that, starting with Bush and going all the way down to administration-friendly reporters, expectations were subtly downgraded down to the point that key administration officials claimed that “I’m not concerned about [WMD’s]”. When that didn’t work they attacked the messenger, the ambassador that had outspokenly declared the Nigerian Uranium wrong and revealed his wife’s secret job as at the CIA, followed by attacking a reporter who interviewed unhappy soldiers.

With so much bad news, the Government went on a good news tour, that subsequently included forged identical letter placed in the editorials of several newspapers around the country. The good news that Administration was trying to force feed the media wasn’t being accepted. After controlling the Media for so long to such good effect, the Administration was floundering to regain control of the message, for every story, line and speech released by the Administration of success, the American people was beginning to realize that the evidence for war had been cherry picked, there was no plan for success, and things were getting worse, not better in Iraq.

The President sat down for an interview with Dianne Sawyer, and she pushed him harder than any reporter had yet done. Pushing hard on pre-war intelligence and the difference between “weapons” and the “possibility” he could eventually “acquire” one, Bush replied “So, what’s the difference?”

The Greatest Story Ever Sold: Summary (Chapters 3-4)

The Great Story Ever Sold

The Decline and Fall of TRUTH, from 9/11 to Katrina

By: Frank Rich

Chapters 1 and 2

Chapters 3 and 4

Chapters 5 and 6

Chapters 7 and 8

Chapters 9 and 10


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PART ONE Chapter Three: “I don’t think anyone could have predicted…”

“Bush was either suffering from memory loss or outright lying.” The Greatest Story Ever Told, Page 43

“Bush was either suffering from memory loss or outright lying.” The Greatest Story Ever Sold, Page 43

“Bush had never run a successful business…. The inexperience showed. The Greatest Story Ever Sold, Page 51

George Bush had been sold to America as the first CEO President, and the American people had been Sold no one could have predicted the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Over the next several months the Bush Administration had to run the gauntlet of corporate corruption cases and congressional investigations concerning pre-9/11 intelligence.

In the first State of the Union since his speech to the joint session of Congress on the eve of war with Afghanistan the only part of the speech to be remembered by the next morning would eventually come to be called the Bush Doctrine, preemptive war against “regimes that sponsor terror” and branding Iraq, Iran, and North Korea as the “axis of evil.” Forgotten in the speech was public enemy number one, Osama bin Laden.

The news of bin Laden’s escape from Tora Bora was only the first of several embarrassing 9/11 revelations. CBS broke the news that the president, while on vacation, had been warned by the intelligence community bin Laden was trying to hijack planes. An FBI agent had also sent a Memo asking for muslim flight students to be investigated. Condoleeze Rice was sent in to argue that no one could have predicted that anyone hijack a plane, ignoring the memos to the contrary. The revelations of pre-9/11 failures kept coming. As more attention was paid to these stories, John Ashcroft and Dick Cheney began accelerating the pile up of terror alerts.

Two weeks before his inauguration Bush invited a bevy of CEOs to Texas to showcase his, and his soon-to-be administrations business acumens. Bush surrounded himself with former CEOs. Rather than channeling the successful corporate environments of companies like GM, they implored the cooked-book, smoke and mirror tactics of Enron and Tyco. The White House put together an economic forum of Bush-donators to help the staggering economy, when critics complained the White House added enthusiasts for his fiscal policies. The managerial policies of Bush’s inner circle continued to abound, with John Ashcroft boasting of a 13-month investigation leading to the arrest of 12 people for prostitution, a boast that did nothing to inspire confidence in his ability to arrest terrorists.

The mid-term elections were coming up, Karl Rove came up with a strategy for winning despite all the bad news coming in waves, summed up in the first three words: “Focus on the war.”


PART ONE Chapter Four: “Don’t introduce new products in August”

“Bush: ‘If we tried to do too many things, two things for example… the lack of focus would have been a huge risk.’ The follow-up question that was not to be found in Bush at War was simple enough: If it was a huge risk to split our focus between Saddam and AlQueda then, why wasn’t it now? ” The Greatest Story Ever Sold, Page 67

“The unofficial motto of the 9/11 anniversary may have been ‘Never forget,’ but the war on Al Queda was already fading from memory as the world was invited to test-drive the new war in Iraq.” The Greatest Story Ever Sold, Page 60

“To question Bush on anything more substantive was an invitation to have one‘s patriotism besmirched.” The Greatest Story Ever Sold, Page 62

“The Washington press corps was more than willing to buy fictions if instructed to do so by the puppeteer.” The Greatest Story Ever Sold, Page 69

The White House was so good at managing the media it began bragging about its skills. They took the accepted political Skillman ship of political visuals and turned it into an art. They understood that was next to the head is as important as the head itself. In that backdrop of masterful message control came the selling of the war in Iraq.

The initial, and subliminal, release of the new product occurred only two months after 9/11 when Bush said Iraq would be held accountable for harboring weapons of mass destruction. Not till the fall of 2002 though did the full weight of Bush Administration roll out the new war. Cheney, Rice, and Powell all played their roles carefully marrying Iraq to Al Queda.

Even as the evidence of weapons of mass destruction was unraveling, the Administration continued to sell the evidence as fact. When a corner piece of the evidence proved to be a forgery, it took 5 days for any of the Washington Press Corps to ask a question. The Bush Administration kept saying no decision was made, war had been long planned. It was thought a failure to go to war after what the president said would lead to a collapse of confidence. Yet as more and more of the war evidence fell apart, the Washington Journalists continued to toe the line.

Bush’s supposed opponents, the Democrats, managed to turn a midterm election with a crumbling economy, one war on the backburner and on the eve of another into the election about nothing. Without journalists or Democrats to challenge the Bush Administration, they continued to repeat long-discredited claims for several years. Colin Powell put the final touches on the products in his speech before the UN General Assembly, and the Bush Administration hade their sale.