Bergen is evenhanded but ferocious in reviewing the failures of the Bush administration, noting that in the wake of the worst security failure in American history, no one was fired, no one resigned and no one took responsibility. It’s widely understood that the White House ceded the moral high ground by embracing torture and secret prisons, but Bergen highlights how flatly unprofessional these actions were: seasoned interrogators were shunted aside in favor of eager amateurs who thought the facts could be physically wrung from detainees.I am not surprised by the condemnation of Rice, as her job was to coordinate American foreign policy and provide the President with informed assessments of the options, which she clearly did not do. Given that Ricks wrote a book called Fiasco about the Iraq war, I would think that he would expect criticism of the person who was supposed to be coordinating the decision-making of that Fiasco.
Colin Powell comes off as a chump who should have resigned in November 2001, when he learned about the administration’s new policy on detainees from a news broadcast on television, and long before he delivered one of the most misleading speeches in American history, his rallying cry for war at the United Nations. Dick Cheney appears less a brooding presence and more a red-faced buffoon, which may well be how history comes to regard him. I was surprised, however, at how badly Condoleezza Rice appears in this historical record. Bergen makes it clear that she was at best misleading about the actions of the administration.
So, on this side of things, the book may only provide more details about that which we already know. Given that Bergen is one of the experts on Al-Qaeda, that would be the part of the book that would provide the most new information. The US side would provide details that will undoubtedly just reinforce my anger at the Bush Administration. After all, this is how Ricks concludes his review:
“The Longest War” is one of the most important accounts on the subject to appear in years. But be warned: You will read it and weep.UPDATED: I had an email conversation with Tom Ricks this morning, and his surprise was not so much that Condi Rice did stuff that should be criticized, just that she is rarely called out.