Monday, March 20, 2006

Commander in Chief

I ordinarily don't read Bob Woodward's books. Whatever relevant virtues he may possess, I've always found him to be a rather shitty, unimaginative writer whose publishers seem content to staple together his interview notes and call it a day. Regardless, I recently found a copy of Plan of Attack for 25 cents at a local used book store. It being spring break, and with the third anniversary of the Iraq invasion coming up, I thought a little trashy, relevant reading might be in order as I squandered another potentially gainful week of my life. It was a quick skim, and I realized about halfway through that reading Plan of Attack is kind of like listening to an old Backstreet Boys album -- I don't particularly appreciate the music, and I never went out of my way to familiarize myself with the oeuvre, but when someone pops in the CD, fuck if I haven't heard every track somewhere.

So sure enough, as I plowed through Woodward's endless stream of five-word sentences, there was Tommy Franks calling Douglas Feith the "fucking stupidest guy on the face of the earth"; there was Colin Powell stewing over the pre-war intelligence before his UN presentation; there was Rumsfeld, discarding the entire "Future of Iraq" project that might have spared the US a good bit of post-occupation agony -- the book is larded with this sort of familiar stuff. But every now and then Woodward disclosed something I hadn't already heard elsewhere, like this pre-9-11 anecdote:
President-elect Bush asked some practical questions about how things worked, but he did not offer or hint at his desires.

The JCS staff had placed a peppermint at each place. Bush unwrapped his an popped it into his mouth. Later he eyed [William] Cohen's mint and flashed a pantomime query, Do you want that? Cohen signaled no, so Bush reached over and took it. Near the end of the hour-and-a-quarter briefing, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Army General Henry 'Hugh' Shelton, noticed Bush eying his mint, so he passed it over.