One of the more troubling subplots running through "State of Denial" involves Prince Bandar, the long-time Saudi ambassador to the United States. By Woodward's account, when then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush decided to run for president, his worried father enlisted Bandar, an old family friend, to tutor the son on foreign policy. When Bandar arrived in Austin, the younger Bush blithely observed that while he had lots of ideas about domestic policies he didn't have a clue about foreign affairs. The Saudi took him under his wing, but he proved a trying pupil, who addressed his mentor as "asshole" and "smart aleck." (Perhaps this is how hereditary princelings affectionately address each other?) At one point, the younger Bush peevishly demanded to know why he needed "to care about North Korea." Bandar pointed out that, if he became president, he would have 35,000 American troops sitting on the DMZ.
[...] During a meeting in the Oval Office, according to Woodward, Bush personally thanked Bandar because the Saudis had flooded the world oil market and kept prices down in the run-up to the 2004 general election.
You don't have to be Michael Moore to find all this unsettling. Equally disquieting, Woodward's source for all this has to be Bandar or one of his intimates, acting at the Saudi's behest. What that suggests is that, after decades of arduously cultivating the Bush family, one of the shrewdest operators on the world stage has written off George W. Bush.
I wish they could have written him out.
"State of Denial" is best read in tandem with Joan Didion's assessment of Cheney in the current issue of the New York Review of Books. With that as background, one conclusion that suggests itself is that - from the beginning - Iraq really has been about Vietnam. Cheney and Rumsfeld have been the Iraq war's principle advocates and architects. As Woodward now reveals, they've even introduced Henry Kissinger back into the equation, and he now is Bush's most frequent nongovernmental advisor on foreign policy. Cheney and Rumsfeld were bright young men headed for the top during the Nixon and Ford administrations, both of whom thought of themselves, as others did, as future presidents. Though the disaster in Southeast Asia hardly ruined them, a certain stigma has attached itself ever since.
For them, the Iraq war, the whole wrenching debate over domestic spying, the detainees and unitary executive power is all about Vietnam. Cheney, Rumsfeld and Kissinger all have been convinced for decades that the country drew all the wrong historical and governmental conclusions from Vietnam. The Reagan era intervention in Central America was a first attempt to overturn those conclusions, but it foundered on the arms-for-hostages scandal. Once George W. Bush - for a set of Freudian family issues too tedious to belabor - put himself in their clutches, he became the instrument of a Cheney/Rumsfeld/Kissinger attempt to abolish 30 years of history and their enduring resentment that their youthful exercise of power ended in failure, death and disaster.
So, here we are again.
No shit. And fixin' to lose another war that never should have been started. At least Vietnam had some justification in the beginning. Another clusterfuck that another generation of Americans will be dealing with for the rest of their lives. Maybe a lot longer than that. Iraq is a lot more of a criminal mistake than Vietnam was, and affects a lot more of the world.
Thanks, Rummy and The Dick. You sure made up for Vietnam. Thanks a pile. Bastards.