A tragicomedy of errors

In an excerpt from his new book, The Fall of the House of Bush, author Craig Unger details how Bush is, well, screwing up the world
By CRAIG UNGER  |  November 20, 2007

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This excerpt was taken from The Fall of the House of Bush by Craig Unger. Copyright © 2007 by Craig Unger. Reprinted by permission of Scribner, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc
It was not until after George W. Bush and Dick Cheney were narrowly re-elected that many Americans began to realize that the Iraq War represented a dangerous moment in American history, a turning point both in terms of America’s place on the global chessboard and, domestically, in terms of its fate as a constitutional democracy. Gradually, the horrors of the war, its related scandals, and its ramifications began to reveal themselves.

On November 7, 2004, five days after the election, it was reported that thousands of surface-to-air missiles that had once been under Saddam’s control were unaccounted for because the US-led force had not secured all the weapons depots in Iraq. The next day, US-led forces moved in to clear out Fallujah, a stronghold for Sunni insurgents, launching a ferocious 10-day battle that killed at least 1000 insurgents and left 54 Americans dead and more than 400 seriously wounded. Colonel Gary Brandl led his troops into battle with words evocative of a Holy War. “The enemy has got a face,” he said. “He’s called Satan. He’s in Fallujah and we’re going to destroy him.”

During the assault, a marine deliberately shot and killed an unarmed Iraqi civilian in a mosque, and the videotaped incident was televised across the world. In response, violence raged across Iraq. On November 9, militants kidnapped three members of interim prime minister Ayad Allawi’s family. A few days later, in the north, saboteurs set fire to four oil wells northwest of Kirkuk. Astoundingly, despite having the second largest oil reserves in the world, Iraq was forced to import oil from nearby Kuwait because of lack of refining capacity and hundreds of terrorist attacks on its facilities.

By now, repercussions from the war were also being felt throughout the entire Middle East. Iraqi authorities had already captured Saudis crossing the Saudi border into Iraq to fight the United States. In response to Fallujah, 26 prominent Saudi religious scholars urged their followers to support “jihad” against US-led forces. Militant Islamists from America’s oil-rich ally had now taken up arms against the United States.

Paradoxically, even though their policy failures were finally evident, the neocons had become empowered as never before. Just before the election, Bush had quietly dismissed Brent Scowcroft as chairman of PFIAB [the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board] — without even bothering to speak to him personally. Cheney and Bush had both known that the phenomenally popular Colin Powell was crucial to their re-election chances. But now he, too, was expendable. On November 10, eight days after the election, Powell got the phone call from White House chief of staff Andy Card. He was out.

Doing everything possible to put a good face on his resignation, Powell told reporters at a November 15 press briefing that “it has always been my intention that I would serve one term,” and that he and Bush “came to a mutual agreement that it would be appropriate to leave at this time.” But Frank Carlucci, a former secretary of defense himself during the Reagan administration, who was close to both Powell and Cheney, and who continued to think highly of Cheney, was more forthright. “Colin has been used,” he said.

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