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White House Launches New Attack on Woodward Book

September 13, 2008
Washington Post

The White House yesterday launched a formal attack on a new book that criticizes President Bush's handling of the Iraq war, arguing that author Bob Woodward's opinions are not supported by his own reporting.

"The War Within: A Secret White House History, 2006-2008" depicts an administration riven by dissension over Iraq war strategy in 2006 and says Bush privately believed U.S. efforts were failing even while declaring publicly that the war was being won.

In a lengthy statement issued last night, White House press secretary Dana Perino said that "a thorough and careful reading of the book leads us to conclude that Woodward's prologue and epilogue are not supported by his own reporting in the body of the manuscript."

The statement focuses its criticism on Woodward's depiction of the military establishment as being marginalized in the debate over troop levels in Iraq, and his assertion that Bush "maintained an odd detachment" from the management of the war.

"In fact, President Bush was engaged with his war cabinet in the process leading up to the decision to surge troops in Iraq," the White House statement says, listing a series of quotes and meetings cited in the book. The citations include meetings between Bush and national security adviser Stephen J. Hadley, and a quote from Bush: "I will be making the decisions, and the goal is radical action to achieve victory."

The White House also faults Woodward's assertion that Bush "rarely leveled with the public" and "rarely was the voice of realism on the Iraq war." The statement again cites Bush quotations: "I know many Americans are not satisfied with the situation in Iraq," he said in October 2006. "I'm not satisfied, either."

The White House statement does not include another, widely noted quote from the same news conference: "Absolutely, we're winning," the president said at the time.

Yesterday's release was the second statement in a week from the White House criticizing Woodward. On Sept. 5, Hadley said Bush "acknowledged the violence in his public statements and discussed what we were doing about it" at the time.

Woodward, a Washington Post associate editor, could not be reached for comment last night.

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