Thursday, November 08, 2007

Taking Heat

One book about the Bush administration that didn't get much press was Ari Fleischer's "Taking Heat", kind of ironic since he was Bush's first press secretary.

One of reasons for this stealthiness was the lack of any juicy morsels about Joe Wilson or Val Plame, or dirt on other White House staffers or the prez himself. Or maybe it was because the book largely focused on the back and forth between himself and the White House press corps (Helen Thomas) along with some not-so-flattering comments about media bias in general, not exactly the recipe for flowery praise from those very same people. But there were a few surprises.

It's been a tenet of conventional wisdom that Bush held an apparent lack of understanding of the sectarian divisions in Iraq and the middle east. Fleischer recounts a meeting Bush held before the invasion with some Iraqi dissidents living in the states, beginning on page 298:
"The Sunni-Shiite conflict is top-down driven," one of Bush's guests said, implying that, without Saddam playing one group against the other, the prospects for internal peace were not as daunting as they seemed.
This is interesting for several reasons, one, that Bush knew about the possible sectarian problems before going in, and two, that Saddam used the groups against each other to his own benefit just as his minions did by attacking the Golden Mosque of Sammara in 2006, an attack carried out by Abu Musab al Zarqawi under the banner of al Qaeda in Mesopotamia. There's probably a lot we don't know about al Qaeda yet.

Finally, Fleischer points to the day Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel visited the White House (February 27, 2003) before combat operations began. Wiesel told Bush,
..if the allies had intervened in 1938, World War II and the Holocaust could have been avoided.
Few networks covered that event, yet Peace Prize winner Nelson Mandela's comments a month earlier got plenty of press. Little wonder.

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