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Book Says Top Aide Urged Bush to Fire Rumsfeld

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, President Bush, then-chief of staff Andrew H. Card Jr. and then-national security adviser Condoleezza Rice in 2001; a new book says Card called for Rumsfeld's firing in 2004 and in 2005.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, President Bush, then-chief of staff Andrew H. Card Jr. and then-national security adviser Condoleezza Rice in 2001; a new book says Card called for Rumsfeld's firing in 2004 and in 2005. (By Rich Lipski -- The Washington Post)

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By William Hamilton
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, September 30, 2006

Former White House chief of staff Andrew H. Card Jr. on two occasions tried and failed to persuade President Bush to fire Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, according to a new book by Bob Woodward that depicts senior officials of the Bush administration as unable to face the consequences of their policy in Iraq.

Card made his first attempt after Bush was reelected in November 2004, arguing that the administration needed a fresh start and recommending that Bush replace Rumsfeld with former secretary of state James A. Baker III. Woodward writes that Bush considered the move but was persuaded by Vice President Cheney and Karl Rove, his chief political adviser, that it would be seen as an expression of doubt about the course of the war and would expose Bush to criticism.

Card tried again around Thanksgiving 2005, this time with the support of first lady Laura Bush, who, according to Woodward, felt that Rumsfeld's overbearing manner was damaging to her husband. Bush refused for a second time, and Card left the administration in March, convinced that Iraq would be compared to Vietnam and that history would record that no senior administration officials had raised their voices in opposition to the conduct of the war.

The book is the third that Woodward, an assistant managing editor at The Washington Post, has written on the Bush administration since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The first two were attacked by critics of the administration as depicting the president in a heroic light. But the new book's title, "State of Denial," conveys the different picture that Woodward paints of the administration since the invasion of Iraq in March 2003. Excerpts of the book will be published in the Sunday and Monday editions of The Post.

Woodward writes that there has been a vast difference between what the White House and the Pentagon knew about the situation in Iraq and what they have been saying publicly. In memos, reports and internal debates, administration officials have voiced their concerns about the conduct of the war, even while Bush and Cabinet members such as Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice have insisted that the war was going well.

In May, Woodward writes, the intelligence division of the Joint Chiefs of Staff circulated a secret intelligence estimate predicting that violence in Iraq will not only continue for the rest of this year but also increase in 2007.

"Insurgents and terrorists retain the resources and capabilities to sustain and even increase current level of violence through the next year," said the report, which was distributed to the White House, the State Department and intelligence agencies.

The report presented a similarly bleak assessment of oil production, electricity generation and the political situation in Iraq.

"Threats of Shia ascendancy could harden and expand Shia militant opposition and increase calls for coalition withdrawal," the report said.

Several Warnings on Iraq

Woodward writes that Rice and Rumsfeld have been warned repeatedly about the deteriorating situation in Iraq.

Returning from his assignment as the first head of the Iraq postwar planning office, retired Lt. Gen. Jay Garner told Rumsfeld on June 18, 2003, that the United States made "three terrible mistakes" in Iraq.

The first two, he said, were the orders his successor, L. Paul Bremer, had given banning members of the Baath Party from government jobs and disbanding the Iraqi military. The third was Bremer's dismissal of an interim Iraqi leadership group that had been eager to help the United States administer the country in the short term.

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