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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Today the Weekend Reader brings you Days Of Fire: Bush And Cheney In The White House by Peter Baker, who covered the White House for The Washington Post during the Clinton and George W. Bush presidencies, and now serves as Chief White House Correspondent for The New York Times. The excerpt below details how President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney made tough decisions on the deteriorating situation in Iraq. At a point when Americans were losing faith in winning the war, Bush and Cheney had no qualms carrying out any and all actions necessary — regardless of whether a majority of  Americans agreed or not.

You can purchase the book here.

Bush understood that bailing out a Wall Street bank would not be popular, and a part of him was chagrined at that. Not Cheney. As the two of them progressed through their last year in office, their public standing had sunk so low that it had become almost like a badge of honor: what they were doing must be about principle, since it sure was not a political winner.

But there was a fine line between ignoring the fickle winds of popularity and losing the consent of the governed. Cheney skated near that line with defiance. On March 19, the fifth anniversary of the start of the Iraq War, he traveled to the region to highlight the progress of the surge. During a stop in Oman, he gave an interview to Martha Raddatz of ABC News.

“Two-thirds of Americans say it’s not worth the fighting,” she told him. “So? ” Cheney answered.

Raddatz seemed taken aback.

“So? ” she said. “You don’t care what the American people think? ”

“No,” he said, “I think you cannot be blown off course by the fluctuations in the public opinion polls.”

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The polls actually were not fluctuating; they were heading in one inexorable direction. Even with the evident success of the surge, Bush and Cheney had lost the American public on Iraq. As Cheney saw it, popular opinion should not stop them from doing what was needed  to protect  the country. “He believed that losing these wars was the worst possible outcome for the United States,” said John Hannah, his national security adviser. “He was convinced that we had to win, and you got the sense that he wouldn’t be swayed by bad polls or a lack of public support.” As Liz Cheney put it, “Everything else was less important,  and if it meant  your reputation  was damaged, that was what you had to live with.”

A few days later, the situation in Iraq took a dramatic turn. Shiite militias had fled to the port city of Basra in the southeast near the Iranian border, the hub of the country’s oil industry. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki had received reports  of women being beaten  for failing to properly cover up and even mutilated if accused of sexual indiscretions. In a brash move, Maliki ordered the Iraqi army south to take on the militias, only informing David Petraeus after the decision had been made. Petraeus was stunned at the recklessness; without any preparation, there was no way for American forces to support such an operation. “It was very, very precipitous and arguably bordering on impulsive,” Petraeus  concluded. But Maliki disregarded Petraeus’s advice, even traveling to Basra personally to oversee the operation. The American fears were well-founded; Iraqi units were ill-prepared and ran out of ammunition, fuel, and other supplies, and in some cases soldiers refused to fight fellow Shiites. Petraeus ordered Special Forces, Apache helicopters, and Predator drones to follow the prime minister and give him support, but with so little coordination “we couldn’t figure out who were the good guys and who were the bad guys.”

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Copyright 2013 The National Memo
  • Eleanore Whitaker

    Finally, the dirty laundry gets a chance to be cleaned. The mass secrecy behind Bush and Cheney’s 8 years was a disgusting commentary on too much power in a democracy by a handful of control freaks. These were men who could dish it out with gusto. But, when it came time to take responsibility for their decisions, they dumped on everyone around them as if the country was their personal landfill.

    • CherMoe

      And it still is. Cheney goes on “dumping” on the country at every possible turn. To make matters worse, he’s promoting his evil spawn and helping propel her into a position of power over the people. Dynasties like this should be squashed, not allowed to go on taking control over our country.

      • Eleanore Whitaker

        Most Americans don’t like the idea that some “operatives” are deliberately seeking total power. The problem with the southern and midwestern states and the people who live in them is that they’ve grown all too used to lack of progress and advancement AND salaries that are barely recognizable as “living wages.” What these states politicians are attempting is to impose their hardship on states that have always been at the forefront of progress. This explains clearly their battle to stop programs people want and need from going forward. They do not want medical research, hi-tech advancements or anything that might cost their states more in taxes. When I listened yesterday to a speech by OK’s Coburn, I nearly fell on the floor laughing. OK? The state that is getting more pork than any of the states they are now trying to stiff? To keep their states in pork, they have to get that funding from other states. It’s the Main Drain on the advanced states today. More of our tax dollars end up in porker states.

  • Jim Myers

    Bush and Cheney accomplished exactly what they set out to do.

    They managed to transfer TWO TRILLION DOLLARS from the American population to the Military-Industrial Complex, and did it in the name of Patriotism.

    Who cares if it meant outing a covert CIA operative and ruining her husbands reputation? Nothing and nobody could be allowed to stand in the way of that massive transfer of wealth.

    That, along with the “WELFARE FOR THE WEALTHY” they pushed, started the path of financial ruin for the United States, as well as the rest of the world.

    But at least the wealthy didn’t have to participate in the actual war, or the financial collapse it helped create.

    No wonder George the Second sleeps so well at night, and his trusty sidekick “DICK” Cheney doesn’t care what anyone else thinks.

    What the hell, they got everything they wanted, and even more.

    • Independent1

      And we can thank SCOTUS for allowing all this to happen by not permitting Florida to finish it’s recount of its voter fraud debacle before awarding Bush the 2000 election. It’s quite possible the recount may have given Gore the win but SCOTUS gave Bush the win even though Gore ended up with a 500,000 vote plurality in the popular vote, You can’t tell me that SCOTUS wasn’t in on all the planning that led up to the Iraq war which had to include Bush winning the 2000 election; planning for that war was made long before the 2000 election. Bush and Cheney had General Frank working out an Iraq battle plan within 2 weeks of them entering the White House. The Iraq war was not something they dreamed up when 9/11 happened. 9/11 only gave them one more excuse to attack Iraq on top of their lies and distortions about Iraq having WMDs.

      • rhallnj

        Yes, Gore would never have run up the huge deficits, having been VP in an adminstration that retired debt. The sixteen trillion or whatever of debt today is on the heads of those five sleazy Justices.

        • Nihilist

          hey stupid, gore would have had a surplus when he became prez. unlike bushy, gore and the dems would have made this country better, but no, we have koch bros propagandists posting here.

      • dpaano

        Independent1: In the book, “Broken Government” by John Dean, it clearly states that the Cheney/Bush administration was pushing our government towards an “imperial presidency.” One of the ways of doing that was to make the Supreme Court a totally conservative court. In the book, it tells how they, as a team, did MANY things that were totally against the Constitution. My question is….why did the Democrats let them get away with it? If the GOP ever gets into power again, we’re in for a major change because the Constitution means NOTHING to them….they are waiting to write their own rules, and we will have nothing to say about it. You think the Government runs the country now….you ain’t seen nothing yet!

        • Independent1

          That’s been my concern for quite some time, that the GOP will get back into power before somehow, the outright gangsters in the party are purged – if that can ever happen. I’ve seen what you’re describing coming, which is why my term for the GOP is the American Mafia. The vast majority of GOPers are nothing more than gangsters in disguise; pretend politicians whose only objective is to do whatever they can to separate 98% of Americans from their hard earned money – whether by cutting taxes so they and the wealthy can keep more money in their own pockets, or by starting wars which allow their rich buddies to defraud taxpayers of trillions by every scheme possible; or by any other scheme to keep us peons struggling to survive.

          All this makes it really imperative that Democrats and Independents turn out in droves for the 2014 and 2016 .elections to drive these gangsters out off political office

    • Nihilist

      add 10 trillion buckys to bail out the banksters. yes 10. not a word on fox or other rw propaganda.

      • dpaano

        Nihilist: Of course not….those at FOX news don’t have the brains to see what’s being done to our country by the GOP. They are as brainwashed as the people who continually vote for these people!!!

  • rhallnj

    I have the book checked out, but am finding my loathing for the two of them is holding me back.

    • Independent1

      My only concern is whether or not Baker is such a right-winger that he’s glossed over all the devious things Bush and Cheney did like possibly allowing 9/11 to happen by them refusing to let the CIA and FBI try to stop an al Qaeda attack after the CIA warned them 7 times in 3 months that they had clear cut intelligence that the attack was coming soon. Baker makes Bush sound like some kind of hero by standing up for al-Maliki in a very risky foray that could have turned out disastrous for the entire Iraq war. Once again luck was on Bush’s and al-Maliki’s side and the rebels backed off but it appears that it could easily have gone the other way and made everyone look really bad.

    • dpaano

      rhallnj: If you REALLY want to get mad and see what the GOP have been doing to our government, read “Broken Government” by John Dean. I can’t say enough about this book, but it certainly opened my eyes! I was so mad after reading it, I could barely function. John Dean says that the Bush/Cheney administration was the WORST presidency ever, even worse than Taft! I have to agree…..they did so many things that were totally against the Constitution…it wasn’t even funny! And, it’s affecting us now!

  • charleo1

    Looking back at the Bush/Cheney Administration, it’s amazingly difficult to find a
    bright spot. Bush’s initiative to fight AIDS on the African Continent, was laudable.
    But almost anywhere else one looks, it becomes hard to see how any President
    over an 8 year period, could so consistently turn everything he touched into an
    unmitigated debacle. The economy collapsed, of course. Leaving in it’s wake, the
    poor poorer, the rich richer, and the Country exponentially deeper in debt. In the realm of foreign relations, he took the almost universal outpouring of World support the U.S. enjoyed after the attacks of, 9/11. And, with the invasion of Iraq, destroyed most all of it. In the Middle east, he divided the Palestinians. Making an already extremely difficult peace deal between them, and the Israelis, at least a third harder than it was the day he took office. Bush was unable to get enough cooperation from the rest of the World, especially Russia, and China, when it came to imposing sanctions, on Iran, to drive them to the bargaining table, over their uranium enrichment program. President Obama has been able to do this, by the way. In his usual quite manner, devoid of the chest thumping, Bush was so fond of. Bush’s appointments to the High Court, have flooded our elections with horrendous amounts of corrupting cash. Making the rich, and powerful, much more so. Even, “dark money,” so called, because we have no idea who donated it, and donors are not required to tell us. George W. Bush left a much different World behind him, than the one found upon taking office. And, both the World, and the Country, are worse off, because he, and one Richard Bruce Cheney, came along.

    • Nihilist

      how about bushy stopping nih from stem cell research, that is now showing huge promise for many issues. another way this country would be way ahead, but bush legacy wars, rich give backs, not paid for, still has us in the toilet.

  • Nihilist

    bushy/ cheney/ gonzales, rice/ rummy all should have been indicted a long time ago, but like the banksters this administration has no interest in upholding law. after all these kids are messed up with ptsd, and no limbs, they recieved for nothing.

  • dtgraham

    One of the more interesting political articles that I’ve read in recent years was the Vanity Fair piece from February 2009 called “the Bush White House (an oral history).” It was a very, very, long article that was just a series of quotes from leaders, diplomats, and dignitaries from all over the world documenting their concerns and general dislike of the Bush/Cheney Whitehouse during that time.

    Of the overall consensus, one of them was the role that Colin Powell played in that Whitehouse and his indispensability to the administration. Powell was a man who was widely liked, admired and respected around the world amongst various governments, which eventually became the mirror image opposite of their feelings towards Bush and Cheney.

    Powell’s legacy became damage control for the Bush administration and it’s something that wore him down in the long run. He just started to tire of it. Powell’s top aide and chief of staff Lawrence Wilkerson reported that Powell “saved the China relationship, the transatlantic relationship and each component thereof.” Powell would literally hold the hands and put his arm around foreign ministers and leaders and have private meetings with them, as it was Powell that they would go to with their concerns. According to the article, his task became essentially cleaning the “dog shit” off the carpet in the Oval Office. He did that very well but it became all-consuming. German Foreign Minister Joshka Fischer said later that you wouldn’t even want to imagine Bush’s first term without Colin Powell. He said, it’s not something that I even want to think about.

    I’ve sometimes wondered why a person with the integrity, reputation and stature of Colin Powell would have ever associated himself with the likes of George Bush and Dick Cheney, especially given that they eventually destroyed the man.

  • Nathaniel

    Again, we have to suffer through another & still more “mia culpa’s”, about what ‘they’ didn’t know, how ‘mistaken’ they were, or how they failed to ‘anticipate’ outcomes. This sounds so much like the last Bush. This sounds so like Reagan. This also sounds like Nixon. There seems a pattern here that tells voters more than what they prefer to know – especially considering Sen. Robert Byrd (among many other ignored Democrats & Independents at the time) demanded we think this (war) thing through a bit more clearly before acting hastily. For those who suffered most – those who lost jobs & homes & children & livelyhoods – this is torture, being confronted by people who, we were warned as late as October, 2000, would do this very thing, in all of its tragic monstrousness. None of this we can take back now. But there is a future where we can redeem errors of the past. The question is, do we possess the courage to be that honest w/even ourselves, individually, or as a nation? ~