Recently, George Bush complained that many folks thought he couldn’t read, much less write a book. It seems some of his critics may have been right on the latter point…
When Crown Publishing inked a deal with George W. Bush for his memoirs, the publisher knew it wasn’t getting Faulkner. But the book, at least, promises “gripping, never-before-heard detail” about the former president’s key decisions, offering to bring readers “aboard Air Force One on 9/11, in the hours after America’s most devastating attack since Pearl Harbor; at the head of the table in the Situation Room in the moments before launching the war in Iraq,” and other undisclosed and weighty locations.
Crown also got a mash-up of worn-out anecdotes from previously published memoirs written by his subordinates, from which Bush lifts quotes word for word, passing them off as his own recollections. He took equal license in lifting from nonfiction books about his presidency or newspaper or magazine articles from the time. Far from shedding light on how the president approached the crucial “decision points” of his presidency, the clip jobs illuminate something shallower and less surprising about Bush’s character: He’s too lazy to write his own memoir.
1. From Decision Points, p. 205: “When Karzai arrived in Kabul for his inauguration on December 22 – 102 days after 9/11 – several Northern Alliance leaders and their bodyguards greeted him at an airport. As Karzai walked across the tarmac alone, a stunned Tajik warlord asked where all his men were. Karzai, responded, ‘Why, General, you are my men. All of you who are Afghans are my men.’”
From Ahmed Rashid’s The Mess in Afghanistan, quoted in The New York Times Review of Books: “At the airport to receive [Karzai] was the warlord General Mohammad Fahim, a Tajik from the Panjshir Valley …. As the two men shook hands on the tarmac, Fahim looked confused. ‘Where are your men?’ he asked. Karzai turned to him in his disarmingly gentle manner of speaking. ‘Why General,’ he replied, “you are my men—all of you are Afghans and are my men…’” Bush was not at Karzai’s Innauguration.
2. From Decision Points, p. 267: “Several months later, four men came to see me at the White House. They were members of the Delta Team that had captured Saddam. They told me the story of the hunt…’My name is Saddam Hussein,’ the man said. ‘I am the president of Iraq and I want to negotiate.’ ‘Regards from President Bush,’ the soldier replied.”
BBC, Dec. 15, 2003: “How Saddam Hussein was captured”: “[Saddam] put up no resistance although armed with a pistol. ‘My name is Saddam Hussein. I am the president of Iraq and I want to negotiate,’ he told the US troops in English, according to Major Bryan Reed, operations officer for the 1st Brigade, 4th Infantry Division. ‘Regards from President Bush,’ US special forces replied, Major Reed recounted.
“A Time magazine story later questioned whether the story was accurate. “Legends of the Fall,” Dec. 29, 2003: “A U.S. intelligence official, meanwhile, casts doubt on another widely reported tale: that a U.S. soldier hailed the nemesis of two Commanders in Chief named George Bush by saying: ‘Regards from President Bush.’ This person says some officials suspect the story is ‘apocryphal.’”
So did the soldiers tell Bush that story or did he lift it from the BBC?
3. From Decision Points, p. 199: ”At a National Security Council meeting the next morning, I said, ‘just want to make sure that all of us did agree to this plan, right?’ I went around the table and asked every member of the room. They agreed….I could sense the relief in the room.”
From Bob Woodward’s Bush At War, p. 261: “The next morning, Bush arrived at the White House Situation Room for the NSC meeting…’I just want to make sure that all of us did agree to this plan, right?’ [Bush] said. He looked around the table from face to face….Each affirmed allegiance to the plan and strategy. …Hadley thought the tension suddenly drained from the room.
“From Bob Woodward’s The War Within, p. 430: ”At the next day’s meeting, Bush said, ‘I just want to make sure that all of us did agree to this plan, right?’ He went around the table asking everyone to affirm allegiance to the plan.”
4. From Decision Points, p 234-5: Tommy told the national security team that he was working to apply the same concept of a light footprint to Iraq… “If we have multiple, highly skilled Special Operations forces identifying targets for precision-guided munitions, we will need fewer conventional grounds forces,” he said. “That’s an important lesson learned from Afghanistan.” I had a lot of concerns. … I asked the team to keep working on the plan. “We should remain optimistic that diplomacy and international pressure will succeed in disarming the regime,” I said at the end of the meeting. “But we cannot allow weapons of mass destruction to fall into the hands of terrorists. I will not allow that to happen.”
From General Tommy Franks American Soldier, p. 350: “For example, if we have multiple, highly skilled Special Operations forces identifying targets for precision-guided munitions, we will need fewer conventional ground forces. That’s an important lesson learned from Afghanistan.” President Bush’s questions continued throughout the briefing…. Before the VTC ended, President Bush addressed us all. “We should remain optimistic that diplomacy and international pressure will succeed in disarming the regime.” … (p. 355-6) The President paused. “Protecting the security of the United States is my responsibility,” he continued. “But we cannot allow weapons of mass destruction to fall into the hands of terrorists.” He shook his head. “I will not allow that to happen.” (emphasis in the original text)
5. From Decision Points, p, 223: I asked each man two questions. Do you have everything you need to win? And are you comfortable with the strategy? Each commander answered affirmatively. Tommy spoke last. “Mr. President,” the commanding general said, “this force is ready.” I turned to Don Rumsfeld. “Mr. Secretary,” I said, “for the peace of the world and the benefit and freedom of the Iraqi people, I hereby give the order to execute Operation Iraqi Freedom. May God bless the troops.” Tommy snapped a salute. “Mr. President,” he said, “May God bless America.”
From General Tommy Franks, American Soldier, p. xvi-xvii: “Mr. President, this force is ready. D-Day H-Hour is 2100 hours tonight Iraqi time, 1800 Greenwich mean, 1300 East Coast time.” President Bush nodded toward the Natioanl Security Council, then turned toward me. “All right. For the sake of peace in the world and security for our country and the rest of the free world …” He paused as we listened intently, “And for the freedom of the Iraqi people, as of this moment I will give Secretary Rumsfeld the order necessary to execute Operation Iraqi Freedom.” “Tommy,” the president added, his voice firm, “May God bless our troops.” … “Mr. President,” I answered. “May God bless America.” I saluted, and the Commander-in-Chief returned the salute.