October 7th, 2008 5:33 pm | by JOHN MINERVINI News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, CLEAN UP

TOME RAIDER: The Way of the World


During one of his frequent leisure trips to Vermont, the reviewer happened to be introduced to WSJ reporter Ron Suskind. At the time, the two men could only guess at their good fortune. The one, an established and well-respected journalist, the other, a Pulitzer-prize winning author. What will come of this storied meeting of minds? Join us in coming weeks for a once-in-a-generation sit-down between Minervini and Suskind. (Click here to join the Tome Raider mailing list.)

    Six-word summary: Life After Bush: America's Second Chance

Reading about the treasonous antics of the Bush administration is like sitting for a root canal: it's onerous but necessary. That's why it's so important to find the right dentist. To that end, allow me to recommend Ron Suskind. His new book on the foreign policy bloopers, the absurd recriminations and the downright lies of the Cheney crowd is an exercise in adept political endodonture, and with any luck, he'll help us scoop out the pulp-filled cavities at the center of our government.

The Cheney Crowd are Cavities!

Suskind's The Way of the World (Harper, 398 pages, $27.95) is a massive achievement. More than a litany of official misdeeds, it offers a candid assessment of the dangers of nuclear terrorism and a compelling vision for the future of US foreign policy, all couched in a high-minded discussion of founding principles. It's the kind of book that—in your darker moments—you thought the country had become too wanton to produce.

I mean, really. Having invaded Iraq under false pretenses, having supported obliging military dictatorships while preaching democracy abroad, having illegally detained and tortured hundreds of innocent men in an off-shore prison, having stomped on the Constitution and having lied to its own citizens, can the US speak any longer of spreading democracy, being an honest broker or holding the moral high ground?

The answer, of course, is yes. Although, as a nation, we've fallen short of our own high ideals, we've never lost sight of them. And, continues Suskind, if we ever intend to reclaim the moral high ground, now is the time to start talking about it.

Inevitably, the juiciest parts of The Way tend to be its amazing disclosures about the Machiavellian maneuvers of the Bush administration. Some of these are familiar, like the time top Cheney aide Scooter Libby outed the undercover spouse (CIA's Valerie Plame) of a vocal administration critic (retired US diplomat Joseph Wilson).

But others are brand new. Did you know, for instance, that in the months leading up to the Iraq War, the Oval Office received reliable intelligence from two sources within the Iraqi government (foreign minister Naji Sabri, intelligence chief Tahir Jalil Habbush) that Saddam Hussein had no WMD? That the Cheney crowd ignored or distorted both reports, in favor of a war that was, by that time, a foregone conclusion? In the second case, the White House actually forged a letter from Habbush to Saddam Hussein stating that 9/11 mastermind Mohammed Atta had trained for his mission in Iraq. Check out the following paragraph, one of the book's most searing:

"The White House first ignored the Iraqi intelligence chief's accurate disclosure that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq—intelligence they received in plenty of time to stop an invasion. They secretly resettled him in Jordan, paid him $5 million—which one could argue was hush money—and then used his captive status to help deceive the world about one of the era's most crushing truths: that America had gone to war under false pretenses" (373).

In the mouth of another journalist, such assertions would be shouted down, but Suskind's ironclad reportage will silence even the staunchest Bush supporters. Still, retelling The Way as a presidential gag reel makes it sound like a rancorous book: a retrospective, flag-burning blame-game. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Suskind, a Pulitzer Prize-winning WSJ reporter, is one of our great patriots. He believes in the promise of the United States, inherent in founding principles like inclusion, self-invention, due process, philanthropy and transparency. Even more, he believes in the ability of the United States to lead the nations of the world as they enter a dangerous era of potential nuclear terrorism.
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