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Sobering revelations and insider backbiting in Bob Woodward's 'Obama's Wars'

September 27, 2010 |  2:53 pm


Bob Woodward, who has made a career out of getting decision-makers to open up about some of the most important political issues of our times, is back on bookshelves with "Obama's Wars," about U.S. military actions in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Tim Rutten writes that the book includes details of White House "name-calling and backbiting" and has "sobering revelations aplenty."

According to Woodward, at the last National Security Council he convened before leaving office, Bush decided to suppress a report on the Afghan situation he'd commissioned from his "war czar," Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute. That review concluded the United States had no coordinated strategy in Afghanistan, that we were neither losing nor winning the war there, that the local government was hopelessly corrupt and that the far greater strategic threat to American security was in Pakistan.

Woodward gives a grim account of the secretive visit Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) made to Islamabad and Kabul on Obama's behalf early in his term. They confronted Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari over his intelligence agency's ties to the Taliban and the impunity with which Al Qaeda operates in his country and came away without much confidence in his ability to remedy matters. Things were worse in Kabul, where there was an angry confrontation with President Hamid Karzai — who, according to U.S. intelligence, is a manic-depressive subject to wild mood swings despite medication over his government's corruption and general ineffectuality.

Read the complete review here.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Photographed from outside the Oval Office, Barack Obama addresses the nation on Aug. 31. Credit: Brendan Smialowski / Getty Images