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Woodward's Whitewash: 10 Days That Changed the Face of Journalism
February 12, 2002
by Richard Prasad

Bob Woodward, the legendary reporter who broke the Watergate story, has written a new series of articles in the Washington Post called 10 Days In September. Far from shedding new light on any of the troubling questions that resulted in the terror attack, it was nothing more than a puff piece, spoon-fed to Woodward and co-author Dan Balz, directly from the Bush propaganda machine of Karl Rove and Karen Hughes.

What's worse is that this series of articles comes out at a time when other journalists are questioning the Bush Administration's secrecy, not only on the war on terrorism, but also on a whole range of issues. But how could the Bush administration be so secretive if they allowed Woodward and Balz in to see the innermost workings of the Administration, just days after the attack? Very simple. The Bush Administration let Woodward see only what the administration wanted them to see.

Day 1: Sept 11: We are told by Woodward that the President's first impression of the attack was that it was pilot error, and that he later corrected himself and realized it was terrorism. Cheney hid in a bunker, and was being chastized by Republican Senator Don Nichols for doing so. Air Force One landed in Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana. Air Force One was diverted, because the plane itself was thought to be under attack.

There is nothing new revealed in this part of the story, all of this information was widely available on cable tv on the day of the attack. We do learn one thing, that Cheney's code name is "Angler" because he loves to fly fish. Boy, I sure am glad I read the Washington Post, or else I wounldn't know what the Vice President's hobbies are. Hope he changed that code word before he gave it out to the Post for the world to read.

Day 2: Sept 12: In the second of the crisis, we learn that Bush had calmed down a little. Bush is quoted as saying, "My blood was not as boiling." Why is this important information for the readers to know? Besides the fact that the President's grammar remains atrocious, why do we care about the President's state of mind? We learn that the CIA has intercepted phone conversations with known Al Queida members, again this was information that could be gained by watching the news on Sept 12. The question that hangs in the air, unanswered, is what did the CIA know BEFORE September 11th, but that question remains unanswered. True investigative reporters would seek the answer to that question.

We get a lot of editorializing by Woodward on day 2, about how Bush conducted himself differently from Clinton, and this was necessarily a good thing. He took his CIA briefings from George Tenet, CIA Director in person, and not in writing like that rube Clinton, Woodward seems to be saying. "He said grace and that impressed me." said Robert Byrd of West Virginia, of Bush. Unlike that Godless sex fiend Clinton, implies Woodward.

Day 3: September 13: By Sept 13th, we learn that, despite the threat of more possible imminent attacks on the White House, the President more than anything else is hungry. "I want a hamburger." he tells Ferdinand Garcia, his Navy steward. The President has been eating lighter lately says Woodward in the piece. Well that's interesting, but what the HELL does it have to do with September 11th? We learn that Bush and Karl Rove are moved to tears at a prayer meeting, again interesting, but not exactly a shining moment in investigative journalism. And we learn that Bush wants to get Pakistan on board as an ally, again a fact widely reported in the television news media.

The Post piece reports a rift developing between Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, and the rest of the Administration vis a vis Iraq. Wolfowitz wanted Iraq to be included in the first response by the US, while others in the administration did not. Again the articles by Woodward add nothing to what was already public knowledge. But we also learn the all important detail that Condi Rice cried at the playing of the "Star Spangled Banner" when Queen Elizabeth's band played it while Rice was watching tv. This is the height of softball journalism. Somebody get the Bush administration a tissue please? In all seriousness, repeated references to tears and weeping are only meant to elicit symathy, and is of little journalistic value

Day 4: Sept 14th: We get to hear about Bush's trip to New York to view the devastation. "Is something burning?" asks Bush Press Secretary Ari Fleischer. Considering the fact that several buildings had just imploded three days earlier, Mr. Fleischer should not at all be surprised at the smell of smoke, should he? Is this worthy of a quote in a major newspaper? Not really. We then hear about Bush''s blowhorn speech. What's the point? We watched it all on tv, if one remembers the television news was on around the clock in the days after the attack.

We are told in the Post Series that the blowhorn speech was not planned. Told by who, Mr. Woodward, the Bush administration who planted this whole series in your lap to make Bush look good? Thanks for the information, but no thanks. It is once again too self serving. We are also told that later, Colin Powell passed the President a note to ask him not to break up while talking to the American people. Why is Colin Powell passing notes to the President during cabinet meetings? Is Colin Powell in high school? Will Dick Cheney give Powell a detention for talking out of turn? Is this newsworthy? Again the answer is no.

Day 5: September 15: The Bush administration goes to Camp David to discuss their options in Afghanistan. There is disagreement between the administration on whether to go it alone or whether to build a coalition when fighting Afghanistan. The schism is well known by anyone who's observed the Bush Administration for any period of time, Powell and Condoleeza Rice on the coalition building side, and Cheney and Rumsfeld on the go it alone side. A good question to ask, at this point, was, Why was the Bush administration at Camp David less than a week after this tragedy? Couldn't they make better contingency plans in Washington? Did the American people feel abandoned by their government? Instead of asking these questions, we are told that Attorney General Ashcroft played "Old Man River" on the piano. That's really insightful.

Days 6 and 7 Sept 16 and 17th: On the 16th, President Bush made the unfortunate remark the war against Afghanistan was a 'crusade' a mistaken reference to the Crusades led by Christians against Muslims, Woodward mentions the comments in passing, not really delving into the idea that most Muslims still view the war on terrorism, rightly or wongly as a modern day Crusade, by Christians against Islam. This is a perception that only deepened with the President's Axis of Evil reference in his state of the Union Address.

On the 17th, the President signed an order that gave the CIA full reign to conduct covert operations in over 80 countries, who are suspected of harboring terrorists. The President has stated many times that most of this war would be covert, and Al Quieda suspects were in 60 countries, so this 'revelation' should shock no one.

Days 8, 9 and 10 Sept 18th-20th: On the 18th 19th and 20th, the reporting from the Post consisted of telling about the writing of the President's speech to the nation on September 20th. One memorable quote from the President in this section. "I understand the job of being President." "The job of being President involves leading the country in a long and difficult struggle."

War on terror, long and difficult, stop the presses. I can just hear Woodward asking, "Can I quote you on that Mr. President?" The speech by Bush on the 20th went well and Michael Gerson, who helped write the speech, was in tears. Surprise surprise, more tears.

Is this what passes for investigative journalism these days? Barbara Walters could have conducted these interviews. Why didn't Woodward ask the tough questions? What did the CIA know BEFORE Sept 11th? We were alledgedly paying the Northern Allience long before Sepember 11th, what did they know about Osama's plot? Why couldn't we find someone from the Northern Allinece or elsewhere to infiltrate Al Quieda? Why didn't the FBI deport some or all of the terrorists before September 11th? We know that some of these terrorists were on a watch list, why didn't the Bush Administration act on the people on that watch list? What was the Bush administration's relations like with the Taliban before Sept 11? The mind reels with questions that could have and should have been asked, but were not.

If these questions were asked, the Bush administration would have denied access to Woodward on the basis of national security. Access and the availability of information has been a major problem in the Bush administration. According to a New York Times article on February 3rd, the Administration is not only blocking information on the war, but much more. The Cheney Energy Task force is a prime example of such unnecessary secrecy. Add to this that last year John Ashcroft made the rules on the Freedom of Information Act much more restrictive, and one can see that not too many secrets willl be divulged by President Bush, whether they involve national secuity or not.

So while President Bush stonewalls on Enron, while Ashcroft makes it harder to obtain any information, we are regaled with stories of weeping and piano playing, or Presidents hungry for hamburgers, while the public hungers for information, REAL information about the days leading up to September 11th. And the biggest sin of all is that Woodward's whitewash leaves one with the mistaken impression of an insider's access to the Presidency where none exists.

Woodward's series is just fluff masquerading as iinvestigative journalism.

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