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Thursday, July 08, 2004

BOOK: Plan of Attack 

I just finished reading "Plan of Attack" by Bob Woodward over the long weekend. The book made some interesting points, but in the end didn't really change my view of what happened in the lead up to the Iraqi war.

The most interesting chapters in the book were dedicated to the covert operations in Northern Iraq that were going on months before the war started. Some of the revelations about how they started a camp there and recruited intelligence help from within the Iraqi government were actually quite good. And, how they responded to intelligence about Saddam's whereabouts to try a early strike to get him. It was like reading some Tom Clancy novels (only better because it had real-world events as background).

As for describing the war planning, Bob did a good job of describing the timeline, but it was kind of dry and slow-paced. And, there really weren't any major revelations. It basically described that the folks in the administration believed the intelligence they received from the CIA and UK and may have embellished the risk of weapons. However, congress reviewed some of that material and came to the same conclusion when they voted to give the president power to use force in Iraq. The fact that the war planning had been going on for over a year before the actual start wasn't surprising. I would hope that something of that magnitude was planned out well (and it may be that this had already been reported in other venues, so it lost the surprise factor for me).

The one interesting point was that Dick Cheney was really the one with his mind set on attacking Iraq. President Bush actually went back and forth between war and diplomacy several times before making up his mind.

Of course all of this needs to be taken with a grain of salt because Bob Woodward was given access to documents and people that the administration wanted him to have. It wasn't clear from the book how much external research he did in addition to that.