Below you will find an excerpt from the first chapter of the book 'Hubris', that sets the scene of President Bush in early-to-mid 2002, when he first began to create the reality that was 'The War On Iraq'.
It's an interesting moment in time captured by the authors, and the rest of 'Hubris' easily stands up to the challenge of following on from such an exceptional opening chapter. A great book on a terrible war.
This chapter excerpt also says a lot about President Bush's motivations for going to war on Saddam Hussein, and the easy optimism that seemed to infect the White House during those now halcyon days :
Early on the afternoon of May 1, 2002, George W. Bush slipped out of the Oval Office, grabbed a tennis racquet, and headed to the South Lawn. He had a few spare moments for one of his recreational pleasures: whacking tennis balls to his dogs, Spot and Barney.
It was a pleasant spring day in Washington and not an especially taxing one for the president. He had no pressing political worries. Having routed the Taliban regime in Afghanistan the previous fall, Bush was standing tall in the polls, with an approval rating hovering at 70 percent.
That morning, there had been his usual terrorism briefings, then meetings with congressional leaders where Bush had talked about moving forward his domestic proposals, including a measure promoting faith-based social programs.
Later in the day, the president was due to meet the vice president of China. Bush also had an unusual press interview on his schedule that afternoon. As he hit the balls and watched the dogs scamper, Bush prepared for that session with two press aides by reviewing questions he would likely be asked about one of his predecessors he admired most: Ronald Reagan.
Ever since September 11, 2001, Bush had increasingly identified with Reagan: his optimism, his firm convictions, his stark, uncompromising stand against Soviet communism. Bush had come to consider Reagan's battle against the Soviet Union a parallel of his own struggle against Islamic extremism. The Evil Empire was now the Axis of Evil-that trio of tyrannies, Iraq, Iran, and North Korea, that Bush had proclaimed the nation's foes months earlier during his first State of the Union speech.
Frank Sesno, the veteran newscaster, was due shortly at the White House to query Bush about Reagan and the parallels between his presidency and Bush's. The interview was for a History Channel special that would air upon the death of the former president, who was ninety-one years old and suffering from advanced Alzheimer's disease.
On a two-page "pre-brief" memo prepared by his staff and containing questions that might be asked, Bush had written out by hand points he wanted to emphasize. The presidential scribbles, his aides thought, were revealing-perhaps a window onto Bush's view of himself. "Optimism and strength," Bush had scrawled on top of the memo. Also, "decisive" and "faith." Next to a question about Reagan's direct, blunt style, Bush had written, "moral clarity." He had drawn an arrow next to the word "forceful." Alongside a question about the 1983 suicide bombing attack on the U.S. Marines barracks in Lebanon (which killed 241 American troops) and how a president copes with such losses, Bush had written, "There will be casualties."
On the South Lawn, Press Secretary Ari Fleischer and another member of the communications staff, a burly, irrepressible former television producer named Adam Levine, reviewed these points with Bush. Then they all moved inside and headed upstairs to the Red Room so Bush could have makeup applied for the interview.
Bush casually asked Fleischer how his day had been going and what the talk in the pressroom was. Fleischer mentioned Helen Thomas, the longtime correspondent then writing for Hearst News Service. She was a gadfly and constantly giving Fleischer a tough time about an issue much in the news: Iraq. Bush and other administration officials had been decrying Saddam Hussein, the dictator of Iraq, as a threat to the United States and the world.
To many, it sounded like war talk. The media were filled with speculation that the White House was preparing for an invasion. But Bush had steadfastly refused to state his intentions. His aides repeatedly claimed that Bush had reached no decisions. Interviewed by a British broadcaster a few weeks earlier, Bush had resorted to a Clintonesque evasion: "I have no plans to attack on my desk."
At that day's daily press briefing, Thomas had peppered Fleischer with questions about Iraq. Referring to stories in the media about secret plans for military action, she asked, "What is the president's rationale for invading Iraq?" What made Saddam different from other dictators and worth an invasion? Fleischer bantered with Thomas and pointed out that "regime change" in Iraq had been the official policy of the U.S. government since President Bill Clinton signed the Iraq Liberation Act in 1998. Thomas shot back: Did the law mandate that the United States overthrow the Iraqi government by force?
Bush, Fleischer said, "believes that the people of Iraq, as well as the region, will be more peaceful, better off without Saddam Hussein." Thomas retorted, "That's not a reason" to go to war. "Well, Helen," Fleischer replied, "if you were the president, you could have vetoed the law." The reporters chuckled, and Fleischer called on another journalist.
As Fleischer recounted this exchange for the president, Bush's mood changed, according to Levine. He grew grim and determined-steely. Out of nowhere, he unleashed a string of expletives.
"Did you tell her I don't like motherfuckers who gas their own people?" the president snapped.
"Did you tell her I don't like assholes who lie to the world?"
"Did you tell her I'm going to kick his sorry motherfucking ass all over the Mideast?"
Fleischer paused. "I told her half of that," he replied. Bush laughed, as did his aides. Still, Bush's visceral reaction was telling.
This wasn't bluster; this was real. The president had meant what he said-every word of it.
This was the Bush that Levine admired. "You know where we're going here," Levine thought.
Go Here To Read The First Chapter Of 'Hubris'