Google News 30/9/2006
Bush's men snarled like wild animals
Book slams Rummy, Colin & others
in bitter fighting over war
BY CORKY SIEMASZKO
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
In "State of Denial," Bob Woodward describes a White House riven by rivalries where the President's closest advisers were at one another's throats - nearly literally in one instance - over how to wage war in Iraq.
There were "surreal" meetings where Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and former Secretary of State Colin Powell refused to look at each other while making their presentations to a fidgety President, Woodward writes.
Powell and Rumsfeld were like "bulls" who "staked out their ground, almost snorting defiantly, hoofs pawing the table, daring a challenge that never came," Woodward wrote. "And the President, whose legs often jiggled under the table, did not force a discussion."
Rumsfeld comes under harsh criticism in Woodward's autopsy of the Bush administration's war cabinet.
The defense secretary made some powerful enemies, including First Lady Laura Bush, who lobbied to have him fired because she believed his overbearing manner was damaging her husband's presidency.
Rumsfeld also infuriated another powerful woman - then-national security adviser Condoleezza Rice - by not returning her phone calls. So she complained to the boss.
Bush advised Rice to be "playful" with the stubborn Rumsfeld in an effort to get along. And he cajoled Rumsfeld, telling him: "I know you won't talk to Condi. But you got to talk to her."
The bad blood between Powell and Rumsfeld spilled over to their underlings. At one point, former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage "barked" at Rumsfeld's man, ex-Pentagon policy chief Douglas Feith.
"It was almost as if Armitage wanted to reach across the table and snap Feith's neck like a twig," Woodward wrote. "Armitage's knuckles even turned white."
Powell and Armitage were convinced the White House viewed the State Department as "appeasers," Woodward wrote.
"Their idea of diplomacy," Armitage said, is to say, "Look, f----r, you do what we want."
Vice President Cheney also disdained diplomacy. But when he found himself on the outs after Bush was reelected in 2004, he complained to Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan, "Who do they think they are? I was reelected, too."
Retired Lt. Gen. Jay Garner, who briefly ran Iraq after dictator Saddam Hussein was ousted, said the White House "resembled a royal court" presided over by a President who was not told bad news and did not want to know what really was happening in Iraq.
"Bush did not press," Woodward wrote. "He did not try to open the door himself and ask what the visitor had seen and thought."
What Bush got from his advisers, according to Woodward, were "some upbeat stories, exaggerated good news and a good time had by all."
Woodward makes other shocking revelations:
Eager for accurate information out of Iraq, Rice dispatched her deputy, Frank Miller, to Baghdad. But when Miller came across smiling Iraqi kids, he didn't realize "that in Iraq the thumbs-up sign was the equivalent of the American middle finger salute."
Over dinner in Baghdad, Lt. Gen. Richard Sanchez complained to Miller that the billions Congress authorized for Iraq's reconstruction were slow in coming. "Prove to me that Iraq is the No. 1 priority because I don't see it from here," he reportedly said.
Just before Gen. Peter Pace was named chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, a close friend warned him, "You should not be the parrot of the secretary's shoulder." But Pace has "zero doubts" about the war and apparently still believes that Saddam was behind the 9/11 attacks.