Monday, June 02, 2008

A look at two "Washington insider" books

From Tale of Two Books, by Frank J. Gaffney, Jr. (, June 2, 2008), which compares What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington’s Culture of Deception by Scott McClellan, and War and Decision: Inside the Pentagon at the Dawn of the War on Terrorism by Doug Feith:

A man who was not present at the wartime councils that led up to the invasion of Iraq is entitled to his views – irrespective of how they differ from those he held at the time. It is, however, altogether another matter to regard McClellan’s current depiction of the subject of the Iraq war as somehow illuminating of what went on “inside the Bush White House,” let alone as dispositive concerning whether the President deliberately misled the American people on the timing and content of his decision to launch the invasion.

The irony is that, even as she erred in this respect, Ms. Noonan recognized what really is needed: “more serious books, like Doug Feith’s.” Readers of this column will recall that Mr. Feith, the former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy and another friend and colleague, has written War and Decision: Inside the Pentagon at the Dawn of the War on Terrorism. It is the definitive account of the considerations and deliberations that led to the liberation of Iraq and other actions taken in the wake of and in response to the September 11 attacks. An objective reader will see the case for war was thoughtfully arrived at and persuasively made, not “a fatal misstep” or “strategic blunder.”

The difference between the two ostensibly “insider” accounts could not be more stark. Where McClellan was not a participant in the decision-making he finds so objectionable, Feith was. Where McClellan fails to document any of his pronouncements, Feith documents all of his – including, notably, via a website devoted to making declassified papers and other decision-related materials readily accessible to historians and interested citizens.


It is not as though Mr. Feith has been uncritical of the Bush administration. War and Decision lets the chips fall where they may, including with respect to errors made by the author himself...

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