Of course, with all the stories,
jocularity, buddy-buddy talk, bluster and confidence in the Oval Office,
Garner had left out the headline.
He had not mentioned the problems he saw, or even hinted at them.
He did not tell Bush about the three tragic mistakes he believed that
Bremer, supported by Rumsfeld, had made—de-Baathification, disbanding the
army and dumping the Iraqi governing group.
Instead, he had said Bremer was great and had painted a portrait of an
Iraq where a Shiite cleric envisioned an Iraq governed on the principles of
Jesus Christ and joining the union as the 51st state.
On top of that, he told Bush that everyone on the Iraqi street loved
him. Once again the aura of the
presidency had shut out the most important news—the bad news.
It was only one example of a visitor
to the Oval Office not telling the president the whole story or the truth.
Likewise, in these moments where Bush had someone from the field there
in the chair beside him, he did not press, did not try to open the door
himself and ask what the visitor had seen and thought.
The whole atmosphere too often resembled a royal court, with Cheney and
Rice in attendance, some upbeat stories, exaggerated good news, and a good
time had by all.
It was 100 percent public grovel, and
Tenet was privately furious. He
had the CIA search all its records to see what had been passed in writing to
the White House. The CIA found
two memos sent to the White House just before the October 2002 Cincinnati
speech voicing doubts about the intelligence that Iraq was trying to buy
uranium in Africa.
Kay left the meeting almost shocked at
Bush’s lack of inquisitiveness.
Kay had a Ph.D. and had taught at high levels, and he was used to being
asked challenging, aggressive questions.
A lot of the trauma in getting a graduate degree was surviving the
environment of doubt, skepticism and challenge.
“He trusted me more than I trusted
me,” Kay later recalled. “If the
positions had been reversed, and this is primarily personality, I think, I
would have probed. I would have
asked. I would have said, ’What
have you done? What haven’t you
done? Why haven’t you done it?’
You know, ‘Are you getting the support out of DOD?’
The soft spots. Didn’t do it.”
The principals meetings or NSC
meetings with Powel and Rumsfeld were not as coarse but had the same surreal
quality, rarely airing the real issues.
Blackwill, a veteran of the Kissinger style, was astonished.
Rumsfeld made his presentation looking at the president, while
Powell looked straight ahead.
Then Powell would make his to the president with Rumsfeld looking straight
They did not even comment on each other’s statements or views.
So Bush never had the benefit of a serious, substantive discussion
between his principal advisers.
And the president, whose legs often jiggled under the table, did not force a
David Kay’s people developed a solid
explanation for why Saddam’s regime had been so bent on acquiring 60,000
aluminum tubes. Powell had told
the U.N. the tubes were for centrifuge system to be used in Saddam’s nuclear
weapons program. The evidence
now showed that the tubes were meant for conventional artillery shells, just
as the Iraqis had maintained before the war.
The propellant for the rockets was produced by an Iraqi company run by
a close friend of Saddam’s son Qusay.
The propellant was lousy, but nobody in the Iraqi military had the clout to
tell a friend of Qusay’s to improve his product or lose the contract.
So the artillery scientists came up with a work-around:
tighten the specifications on the aluminum tubes, making them smaller
and lighter so that the weak propellant would still work.