Bloomberg News – Review of The Bush Agenda

By Edward Nawotka, Bloomberg News
May 22nd, 2006

With its inimitable mix of murderous mismanagement and high-falutin’ rhetoric, the Bush White House is a boon to publishers. Here are the highlights so far:

“The Assassins’ Gate: America in Iraq” by George Packer (Farrar, Straus & Giroux). Packer, a self-described liberal hawk, was initially in favor of invading Iraq to oust Saddam Hussein. His award-winning book is a visceral chronicle of his four trips to Iraq for the New Yorker magazine and his growing dismay as he witnesses neocon mismanagement, incompetence and ignorance at home and abroad.

“Cobra II: The Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq” by Michael R. Gordon and Bernard E. Trainor (Pantheon). Gordon, a correspondent for the New York Times, and Trainor, a retired Marine Corps lieutenant general, had face-to- face access to General Tommy Franks, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and others during the planning and execution of the war. They demonstrate how the administration’s overconfidence undermined the mission from the very start.

“Night Draws Near: Iraq’s People in the Shadow of America’s War” by Anthony Shadid (Henry Holt). Shadid, an Arabic-speaking Lebanese American, captures the elusive man-in- the-Iraqi-street perspective of the invasion. He offers wrenching profiles of everyday Iraqis from families cowering in bombed-out apartments to raw, terrified police recruits.

Common Hatred

“In the Belly of the Green Bird: The Triumph of the Martyrs in Iraq” by Nir Rosen (Free Press). Another Arabic- speaking journalist, Rosen considers the war from the point of view of the violent Sunni and Shia insurgents as they fight for control of the country. Rosen discovers the one thing these ancient enemies have in common is a hatred of the American occupation.

“The End of Iraq: How American Incompetence Created a War Without End” by Peter W. Galbraith (Simon & Schuster). The former U.S. ambassador to Croatia knows something about civil war. As the title makes clear, he’s expecting Kurds, Shia and Sunnis to pull the place apart. It’s our moral obligation to stop them, he thinks, but if we can’t, then we need to find a way to give each group its own autonomy. (To be published in July).

“My Year in Iraq: The Struggle to Build a Future of Hope” by L. Paul Bremer III (Simon & Schuster). Following the fall of Saddam Hussein in April 2003, Bremer became the U.S. administrator of Iraq for 13 months. It was his shortsighted decision to disband the Iraqi army (and create marauding bands of malcontents). Still, given his thankless task of filling the power vacuum, one finishes what amounts to his diary feeling a degree of sympathy.

Woodward Trio

“Plan of Attack” and “Bush at War” by Bob Woodward (Simon & Schuster). Of all the reporters squeezing into the notoriously impenetrable Bush White House, Woodward may have the best access. These two books dissected Bush’s leadership throughout the planning and execution of the Iraq invasion. A third as yet untitled book, to be published this September, covers the occupation thus far, and Bush’s struggle to deal with an increasingly unsupportive American public.

“Rebel-in-Chief: Inside the Bold and Controversial Presidency of George W. Bush” by Fred Barnes (Crown). This hagiographical assessment from an editor of the Weekly Standard and Fox News host co-opts the language of critics and argues that Bush’s faith-based, agenda-driven politics has made him an “insurgent force” in business-as-usual D.C.

Constant Whine

“Lapdogs: How the Press Rolled Over for Bush” by Eric Boehlert (Free Press). Despite the administration’s obvious disdain for the press and its near constant whine about bias, Boehlert says the mainstream media have repeatedly gone “soft” on Bush, failing to push stories that would damage the White House’s reputation, such as the missing WMDs in Iraq and NSA wiretapping scandal.

“Strategery: How George W. Bush Is Defeating Terrorists, Outwitting Democrats, and Confounding the Mainstream Media” by Bill Sammon (Regnery). The unironically titled book is unabashedly pro-W, and gives him a high five for being an effective politician and commander-in-chief.

“Impostor: How George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy” by Bruce R. Bartlett (Doubleday). The former Reagan White House staffer attacks Bush II for short- term political opportunism that has led to “finger in the wind” economic leadership. Never mind the tremendous financial cost of the war, he’s bankrupted the Republican Party of its political capital.

“American Ally: Tony Blair and the War on Terror” by Con Coughlin (Ecco). Bush isn’t the only leader suffering from low poll numbers. This inside-Downing-Street account of Tony Blair’s political career tries to answer the question of why Blair risked his political clout with the British people to support Bush’s unpopular war in Iraq.

Candid Pictures

“This Is Our War: Servicemen’s Photographs of Life in Iraq” by Devin Friedman (Artisan). This arresting collection of 256 photos snapped by soldiers fighting in Iraq is as moving as any memoir. Originally published by GQ magazine, the shots include candid pictures of military action, day-to-day drudgery and moments of poignancy.

“The Bush Agenda: Invading the World, One Economy at a Time” by Antonia Juhasz (Regan Books). Juhasz examines the role of multinational companies, such as Bechtel Group Inc., Lockheed Martin Corp., and Halliburton Co., in influencing U.S. foreign policy over the last 25 years and their role in the invasion, occupation and rebuilding of Iraq.

Phone Tapping

“State of War: The Secret History of the C.I.A. and the Bush Administration” by James Risen (Free Press). Not only does Risen reveal the Bush administration has been tapping our phones, he also suggests the president authorized the use of torture in interrogating terrorism suspects and the C.I.A. may have inadvertently given Iran plans for a nuclear weapon.

“America at the Crossroads: Democracy, Power and the Neoconservative Legacy” by Francis Fukuyama (Yale University). The author of the influential 1992 book “The End of History and the Last Man,” says the neoconservative urge to spread democracy through “preventative warfare” has become a “benevolent hegemony” and may have gone too far.

“Preemption: A Knife That Cuts Both Ways” by Alan M. Dershowitz (Norton). The Harvard law professor also weighs in on why a foreign policy based on “shoot first, ask questions later” is doing more harm than good, emphasizing that it contrasts with the policy of deterrence that won the Cold War and has troubling ramifications for civil liberties.

“American Theocracy: The Peril and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil, and Borrowed Money in the 21st Century” by Kevin Phillips (Viking). This former Republican strategist argues that the United States under the Bush administration shares four unenviable traits with every other now defunct world power throughout history: militant religion, resource problems, ballooning debt and globe-spanning ambition.

“A Heckuva Job: More of the Bush Administration in Rhyme” by Calvin Trillin (Random House). A send-up of our leading men. Here’s an example taken from ” Summary of Remarks by George W. Bush and Dick Cheney on the Third Anniversary of the Invasion of Iraq”: “Our strategy for peace there/Is really working well/It’s just that all the killing/Can make that hard to tell.”

Edward Nawotka is a critic for Bloomberg news. Any opinions expressed are his own.

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