President Bush on Thursday pounded a table and heaped criticism on a new book that contends Gen. Colin Powell sought to dissuade him from going to war against Iraq.
"Nobody's going to drive a wedge between him and me," Bush said heatedly when asked about "The Commanders," a new book by investigative journalist Bob Woodward of Watergate fame.Bush said he had not read the book, but declared that passages "called to my attention" were untrue. He derided its "unnamed sources" and quotes "put in the mouth of somebody when they weren't there."
When asked about the book's contention that Powell had favored a strategy of containment after Iraq invaded Kuwait, Bush declined to answer directly, saying, "Let history record that. I'm one that doesn't believe in trying to point out differences."
He called Powell a "superb commander and a great chairman of the Joint Chiefs."
The 398-page book by the assistant managing editor of The Washington Post describes the Bush administration arriving at military decisions, both in the December 1989 invasion of Panama and the gulf war against Iraq.
On Panama, it says the Bush administration was searching for any provocation to oust Gen. Manuel Antonio Noriega, who was captured and brought to the United States to face drug-trafficking charges after the U.S. attack in December 1989.
Woodward says he interviewed more than 400 people, mostly on "deep background," for his book, which quotes private conversations among Bush and his war counselors as well as the thoughts of Powell, Defense Secretary Dick Cheney, National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft and others. Bush was not interviewed.
The book depicts Powell as "stunned" at Bush's pronouncement three days after Iraq's invasion of Kuwait that "this will not stand, this aggression against Kuwait."
"The chairman could not understand why the president had laid down this new marker, changing radically the definition of success," the book said. "Reversing an invasion was probably the most difficult military task imaginable, and Powell, the No. 1 military man, had been given no opportunity to offer his assessment."
The book says Powell told Admiral William J. Crowe, his predecessor, in a Nov. 27 meeting at the Pentagon that "I've been for a containment strategy, but it hasn't been selling around here or over there" - meaning the White House.