Bob Woodward’s ‘Obama’s Wars’: Of felony and ignorance

Last evening I finished reading Bob Woodward’s new book Obama’s Wars, (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2010). Woodward’s book is very similar to the first of his trilogy on the Bush administration’s reaction to 9/11, Bush at War, (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2002). Each books underscores the utter sameness and ignorance of Democrats and Republicans in regard to the war being waged on the United States by increasing numbers of Islamist fighters at home and abroad. Read Woodward’s Bush and Obama books and two things become immediately obvious.

1.) For any person not in the bipartisan U.S. political elite — a caste which includes not only politicians, but court historians like Woodward and the U.S. military’s general officer corps — publication of either Obama’s Wars or Bush at War, would result in multiple felony indictments for publicizing highly classified national intelligence reporting, collection methods, and programs. But so far above the law are Woodward, his publisher, the Republican and Democratic politicians who eagerly lined up to spill the beans to Woodward, and the generals who leak secrets, play politics artfully, but cannot win a war, that none of them have any fear or moral qualms about revealing information that benefits not only the Islamists we are fighting but such nation-states as China, Iran, North Korea, and Russia.

Woodward blithely describes the senior Obama officials who gave him copies of secret documents; spent multiple hours allowing their classified divulging to be tape-recorded; and provided him with “National Security Council meeting notes, personal notes, memos, chronologies, letters, PowerPoint slides, e-mails, government cables, calendars, transcripts, diaries, and maps.” (p. xii) Having digested this illegally disclosed material, Woodward then arranged — as he did with Bush — to conduct a long interview with Obama in order to check his facts. On clear display in Woodward’s books on Obama and Bush is the limitless contempt the bipartisan U.S. political elite has for the law and security of America.

2.) The spice added to Woodward’s Obama book by disclosing highly classified data is desperately needed because — as in the Bush book — discussions among the president, his advisers, Democratic and Republican leaders, and the military never, ever rises above the banal. Indeed, the characters who populate Woodward’s Obama and Bush books can only be described as exceedingly well-educated men and women who are perfectly ignorant of the problem they are addressing. In the Obama book, for example, the following items can be found:

“His [General Petraeus’s] primary insight was that the U.S. could not kill its way out of the war.” (p.15)

Why, then, were we driven from Iraq and are being driven from Afghanistan because the enemy is killing our troops?

“But he [Afghan President Karzai] had been diagnosed as a manic-depressive, according to intelligence. Karzai was on medication and had severe mood swings.” (p. 65)

Why, then, are the American people being told that Karzai is a leader who is steady and reliable enough to build a “new” Afghanistan and so justifies the price America is paying in lives and money?

“Do you understand [asked Secretary of State Clinton] what the alternative would be if we don’t stick to this [waging the Afghan]? she asked. The gains for women will evaporate and the UN would be driven out” [p.102]

So, our soldiers and Marines are dying and being crippled in Afghanistan so Mrs. Muhammad can vote and abort, and so the UN can continue wasting U.S. taxpayer money?

“We are not [,said Defense Secretary Gates,] going to defeat the Taliban.” (p. 220)

Then why in the world did we send 30,000 more troops to fight a war our military chief, and his president, claim we cannot win?

“The president [Obama] wanted to move the Pakistanis to bring some semblance of law and order to the ungoverned tribal areas….” (p.285)

Why, at this late date, doesn’t the president know that the disaster in and threat from Pakistan’s tribal area is the direct result of what he and Bush asked Islamabad to do; that is, to send the Pakistan army into the region, which caused a civil war? Why doesn’t Obama know that the equation for Pakistan — as it is for the United States — is: More intervention equals more war?

These are just a few of the tens of examples of the rampant ignorance manifested by the leading actors-felons in Woodward’s Obama’s Wars. If you do not have time to read the whole book and look for them, but are sure that I am mistaken, just look up ten items in Woodward’s index that are unquestionably pertinent to understanding the Afghan problem:

  1. Islam;
  2. Afghan tribalism: nature and impact;
  3. jihad;
  4. Afghan minorities: diversity, animosities, and conflict;
  5. Afghan history: uniting impact of and unrelenting war on foreign occupiers;
  6. Pashtun tribes: history of their political dominance and hatred of Afghan minorities;
  7. Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states: continuing aid to the Taliban and al-Qaeda;
  8. Pakistan: Islamist Afghanistan key to national security;
  9. Afghan Islam: ever more Arab-like since 1979;
  10. Prophet Muhammad: Muslims’ duty to drive infidel invaders off Muslim land.

Oops! I just looked and found that none of these terms is in the index. I guess neither Woodward nor those he interviewed realized they did not have a clue about what they were discussing.

Author: Michael F. Scheuer

Michael F. Scheuer worked at the CIA as an intelligence officer for 22 years. He was the first chief of its Osama bin Laden unit, and helped create its rendition program, which he ran for 40 months. He is an American blogger, historian, foreign policy critic, and political analyst.