Tips, questions, and suggestions
Sign up for emails
Daily Column
US Papers Sun: More White House Secrets
Bombing in Tal Afar: Iraqi refugees: Help for returning veterans
By DANIEL W. SMITH 09/07/2008 01:50 AM ET
Not a huge day of Iraq coverage, but compelling reading all around. Woodward's "White House Follies" are at the head of the news for the third day in a row. Plus, a bomb in Northwestern Iraq kills 6 and wounds at least 50, more Cholera reported in Iraq, Iraqi refugees returning from Egypt, and a program back home that assists U.S. veterans.

“The War Within” Continues
This week, there has been a lot of news about Bob Woodward's new book "The War Within: A Secret White House History, 2006-2008.", and it goes on, as more of the book becomes available. The Washington Post has been talking this one up as big as possible (perhaps something to do with the fact that Woodward is an associate editor there). Today in the Post, we hear from Woodward himself. First, with a piece about the controversy sparked by his own claims, in “The War Within”, that the U.S. government has been spying on Iraqi leaders. Woodward says...
Gathering intelligence on known or suspected enemies made perfect sense. But spying on friends and allies -- particularly a young democracy the United States had vowed to help -- though not unprecedented, raised all kinds of questions. Several senior officials asked: What was there to gain? And was it worth the risk? Although intelligence agencies love to deliver the inside goods, it was not clear how useful the information has been to President Bush. Just as Gen. David H. Petraeus said it is not possible for the United States to kill its way to victory, it probably was not possible to spy its way to political stability there -- the ultimate goal.
Next, in the four-part series of writing drawn from “The War Within”, entitled “Doubt, Distrust, Delay: The Inside Story of How Bush's Team Dealt With Its Failing Iraq Strategy”, and the front page is dominated by it. For the book, Woodward interviewed more than 150 people, including President Bush and his national security team, senior deputies and key players responsible for intelligence, diplomatic and military operations in the Iraq war. Other officials with firsthand knowledge of meetings, documents and events -- employed at various levels of the White House, the departments of Defense and State and the intelligence community -- also served as primary sources. Today’s installment tells the story of a president who encouraged optimistic news from those briefing him on the war in Iraq, even as the violence spiraled out of control in 2006. To base his opinion of how things in the war were going, the president seemed most interested in just hearing numbers of enemy body-counts. Friction between members of the military and the State Dept. are highlighted.
Once, when he (General George W. Casey) had called the number of civilian personnel who had volunteered to serve in Iraq "paltry," Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had chided him. General, she had said, you're out of line. On another occasion, in late 2005, he butted heads with Rice after her testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in which she offered a succinct description of the U.S. military strategy in Iraq -- "clear, hold and build: to clear areas from insurgent control, to hold them securely and then build durable Iraqi institutions." "What the hell is that?" Casey asked his boss at U.S. Central Command, Gen. John P. Abizaid. "I don't know," Abizaid said. "Did you agree to that?" "No, I didn't agree to that." When Rice next came to Iraq, Casey asked for a private meeting with her and U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad. "Excuse me, ma'am, what's 'clear, hold, build'?" Rice looked a little surprised. "George, that's your strategy." "Ma'am, if it's my strategy, don't you think someone should have had the courtesy to talk to me about it before you went public with it?" "Oh," she said. "Well, we told Gen. Odierno," who served as the liaison between the military and the State Department. "Look, ma'am," Casey said, "as hard as I've worked to support the State Department in this thing, the fact that that went forward without anybody talking to me, I consider a foul."
Much more infighting is covered, and whatever you might think of the Bush administration, the military leaders involved, or Woodward himself, it certainly makes for some interesting reading. The series of excerpts will run in the Post through Wednesday.

Michiko Kakutani writes about the book for the New York Times, and gives it mixed reviews (making sure that we know the Times has been reporting on the topic, too, not just folks from the Post). It is less of a review than another sum-up of what is to be found in the book, with plenty of quotes.
“After ordering the invasion,” Mr. Woodward goes on, “the president spent three years in denial and then delegated a strategy review to his national security adviser. Bush was intolerant of confrontations and in-depth debate. There was no deadline, no hurry. The president was engaged in the war rhetorically but maintained an odd detachment from its management. He never got a full handle on it, and over these years of war, too often he failed to lead.”...But while Mr. Bush talked to Mr. Woodward for this book, he turns out to be a somewhat marginal figure in what is largely a chronicle of internal administration arguments about the war and the debate over last year’s troop surge, which became a rare success in the American war effort. For that matter, this volume contains less compelling news than Mr. Woodward’s earlier Bush books and makes for considerably less gripping reading. Mr. Woodward’s assertion that the Bush administration conducted surveillance on Prime Minister Nouri Kamal al-Maliki of Iraq is dealt with in a couple paragraphs. And his argument that groundbreaking techniques — to “locate, target and kill key individuals in extremist groups” — were as important as the surge in stemming violence lacks force; they are described in highly opaque terms because, he says, “disclosing the details of such operations could compromise their ongoing use.” Much of “The War Within” simply ratifies the picture that has already emerged from newspaper and magazine articles and dozens of books by journalists and former administration insiders. It’s a picture of an administration riven by internal conflicts (between the Pentagon and State Department, between defense department civilians and the uniformed military, between hard-line neoconservatives and more pragmatic realists), an administration in which the advice of experts was frequently ignored or dismissed, traditional policy-making channels were routinely circumvented, policy often took a backseat to electoral politics, accountability was repeatedly evaded, and few advisers dared speak truth to power.
From Baghdad
Erica Goode of the New York Times reports that a car bomb exploded near shops and cafes in the northwestern city of Tal Afar late Saturday morning, killing at least six people and wounding at least 50 others, at least 19 of them critically. According to witnesses, the bomb was set off at a market in the Wihda district of the city, as people ran to the scene of a car accident. In a statement, American military officials said that five were killed and 53 were wounded.
Tal Afar, the capital of Nineveh Province, is split among Turkmens, Sunni and Shiites and was once a place of almost relentless violence. American military officials in Tal Afar say, however, that bombings and other mayhem have markedly declined in recent months, though the level of violence has picked up slightly since the start of Ramadan this month. In July, a car bombing in a street market in Tal Afar killed at least 20, including nine children. Khisro Goran, Nineveh’s deputy governor, blamed the Sunni insurgent group Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia for the attack. “Their only aim is to kill as much as they can of Shiites to inflame a new circle of sectarian violence,” Mr. Goran said, adding that all the victims of the bombing were Shiite.
Goode concludes her story with a few other items of news. First, Staffan de Mistura, the United Nations special representative to Iraq, traveled to the holy city of Najaf for a rare meeting with Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq’s most influential Shiite religious leader. Mr. de Mistura said that the meeting was about issues that have blocked passage of a provincial election law by Iraq’s Parliament. Also on Saturday, Iraqi government health officials said that they have received reports of seven cases of cholera in Baghdad, including one death. Cholera is also suspected in the deaths of three Iraqis in a hospital near Hilla. Dr. Ihsan Jaffar, the general director of public health for the Health Ministry, said that the cases are still under investigation.

For the Washington Post, Ellen Knickmeyer reports from Cairo about many Iraqi refugees who moved to Egypt to flee violence in Iraq are returning home, not always because they want to. The Iraqi government has, of late, touted security improvements in its call for refugees to come home. For those returning from Eqypt, free airfare is even available. Fear of returning to Iraq remains, but often for them, there is no other choice. When they do return, they often find that the situation they are returning to is less than desirable. Knickmeyer writes about an Iraqi refugee named Jenan Adnan Abdel-Jabbar, and the worries she faces about going back to Iraq.
Abdel-Jabbar said she and her husband had received weekly e-mails from their two married daughters in Iraq's Diyala province, urging them, "Come home!" But for Abdel-Jabbar and all of half a dozen other returning refugee families interviewed, fear of returning remained strong, overridden by only one factor. Two or more years of living abroad as refugees had exhausted their savings -- and their options. "Of course we are afraid," Abdel-Jabbar said in her apartment four days before the family's departure. "But we are at the end of our rope." Wearing a black head scarf, with her copper-colored hair peeping out, she leaned against a bare wall stacked with suitcases. The family, which had owned a prosperous dairy back in Diyala, had sold all its other furnishings. The family arrived in Egypt with $30,000 in life savings in the summer of 2006, a month after al-Qaeda in Iraq fighters had come to husband Qais Shihab Ahmed at the dairy, demanding a $40,000 payoff to keep the fighters from burning his business and killing his children.
Military Matters
Also in the Post, Keith B. Richburg reports on a program which aids veterans entering a very different world than that of deployment, the corporate world. It is about a group called American Corporate Partners, which pairs returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan with mentors from the corporate world, to assist them in many ways, including acclimation to the extreme change in lifestyle. It begins by describing the situation of Ed Pulido, who joined the Army at 18 and spent 19 years in uniform.
He lost his left leg four years after being wounded by a roadside bomb in Baqubah, Iraq. And when he was discharged in 2005, with a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart, he decided to the devote the rest of his life to work with a foundation helping the families of veterans who have been wounded or killed. That's where Sidney E. Goodfriend came in. Goodfriend spent 25 years as a banker on Wall Street, mostly at Merrill Lynch. But, he said, he had made enough money, he was looking for a career change, and he wanted to make a contribution through public service. With his own money, and using his Wall Street connections, Goodfriend, 48, founded the company. ...The mentors pledge to spend four hours each month for a year meeting with their assigned veteran, and the meetings could take most any form: lunch, a fishing trip, a golf outing. "These folks come back, and in their first year, they don't know anybody, and they especially don't know anybody in the corporate sector," Goodfriend said. "There is no way for them to transition easily into corporate America." ...Pulido, who lives in Oklahoma City, said he will be driving once a month to Dallas to meet with his mentor, from Frito-Lay, a division of PepsiCo. "The transition from military to civilian, it's a very hard transition if you don't have the skills and the education," Pulido said by telephone. "I'm going to be driving down to Dallas to be part of that program because I think it's important for my future."
Goodfriend is working closely with the Army Reserve. "ACP is not a 'jobs' program for men and women leaving the military," said Lt. Gen. Jack Stultz, chief of the Reserve, in an e-mail statement. The program, he said, "aims to strengthen the relationship between employers of America's leading corporations and those who have served our country, often at great sacrifice."

Christian Science Monitor, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, no Sunday Editions.

Wounded Warrior Project