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Woodward's new book is critical of Rumsfeld's leadership

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NEW YORK - Bob Woodward's much-anticipated new book paints a devastating picture of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld as an arrogant, indecisive bumbler who won't take responsibility for his mistakes - or even admit any.

The book, "State of Denial," says the Bush administration is hiding the truth about the worsening violence in Iraq. Rosy official forecasts are belied by secret intelligence predicting a strengthening insurgency and increasing daily attacks next year.

A bleak accounting of mistakes and missteps before and after the Iraq invasion, the book lays much of the blame at Rumsfeld's feet.

It reveals that former White House Chief of Staff Andy Card tried hard to get President Bush to boot Rumsfeld - but was pushed out himself.

"I think he's done a fine job," Bush said of Rumsfeld.

The book says Card was bitter that he had to leave when "the man most responsible for the postwar trouble, the one who should have gone, was staying."

Rumsfeld also clashed with then-national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, whose calls he sometimes wouldn't return when she wanted to know about war planning or troop deployments. Rumsfeld told her she was not in the chain of command.

Woodward recounts in scathing tones two July interviews with Rumsfeld in which the author was left "speechless" by the defense secretary's blithe refusal to admit grim truths or take any responsibility for the carnage.

Rumsfeld rejected the notion that he might bear any direct responsibility for mistakes that cost lives, suggesting he was "two or three steps removed."

"How could he not see his role and responsibility? I could think of nothing more to say," Woodward writes.

At one point Rumsfeld dismissed a question about the rapidly rising number of monthly insurgent attacks by saying the reporting of incidents was merely improving.

And he affected not to know much about a May 24 intelligence report from the Joint Chiefs saying the violence would get much worse in 2007.

"When was this? Gosh, I don't know," Rumsfeld told Woodward. "I read so many of those intelligence reports and they are all over the lot."

Longtime Defense Department consultant Stephen Herbits blasted Rumsfeld's "counterproductive" leadership in a 2004 memo, calling him arrogant and "indecisive, contrary to popular image." He is suspicious, cautious, and avoids leaving his fingerprints on major decisions, Herbits wrote.

Then-Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Richard Myers, who chafed in Rumsfeld's endless meetings called him "that (S.O.B.)" or "that ass----."

Publisher Simon & Schuster kept a tight lid on the contents before sales begin next week, but the New York Daily News bought a copy in a bookstore.

In other revelations:

-In March, CENTCOM Commander Gen. John Abizaid went to see Rep. John Murtha, who drew the wrath of the White House by calling for a withdrawal of troops. According to Murtha, Abizaid held his thumb and forefinger a quarter-inch away from each other confided, "We're that far apart."

Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney - described as "increasingly removed from reality" - consult frequently with former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who served President Richard Nixon during Vietnam.

"Kissinger's fighting the Vietnam War again because, in his view, the problem in Vietnam was we lost our will," Woodward said.

Bush is obsessed with "score cards" and body counts, even though veteran generals know the number of enemy dead says little about who's winning. "They killed three of ours, how many did we kill of theirs?" is the type of question Bush often asks the military.

Bush's now-infamous 2003 speech aboard the aircraft carrier was originally even more triumphant. Bush was going to declare "mission accomplished," not just stand in front of a banner saying so - but Rumsfeld said he toned it down.

"I was in Baghdad and I was given a draft of that thing and I just died," he said. "They fixed the speech - but not the sign."

In an interview about the book to be broadcast Sunday on CBS' "60 Minutes," Woodward charged that the White House and Pentagon were hiding the truth by classifying attack statistics as secret.

The U.S. military reported 34 daily attacks in July, but Woodward charged that "it's getting to the point now where there are eight (hundred), 900 attacks a week. That's more than a hundred a day. That is four an hour attacking our forces."

A senior Bush administration official, who hasn't read the book, said "The President has been very frank with the country about the challenges we face in the war on terror, how ruthless, violent and determined our enemy is."

Woodward's two previous bestsellers on the Bush presidency were criticized by some for going easy on the White House.

Bush would not be interviewed for the third book, and his staff was concerned its publication would affect the midterm elections, Woodward wrote.


(c) 2006, New York Daily News. Distributed by Mclatchy-Tribune News Service.

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