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Book: Saudis Informed About Iraq War Decision Before Powell
VOA News
19 Apr 2004, 16:39 UTC
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A new book says Vice President Dick Cheney informed the Saudi ambassador to the United States of the president's decision to go to war in Iraq before Secretary of State Colin Powell was told of the decision.

The book, entitled Plan of Attack, was written by Washington Post assistant managing editor Bob Woodward. It says President Bush ordered military plans to be drawn up to invade Iraq just months after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, but the plans were kept secret, even from some of his own top cabinet members.

In an interview Sunday with CBS, Mr. Woodward laid out details of a meeting in January, 2003, when he says Mr. Bush told Mr. Powell he had decided to go to war, and Mr. Powell asked if the president understood the consequences. Mr. Woodward says the president had given Mr. Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld permission to inform Saudi ambassador Prince Bandar bin Sultan about his decision to invade Iraq two days earlier, and that they even showed the prince a top-secret map of the war plan.

The New York Times reports today that the book, based on interviews with 75 people, including President Bush, has given a new jolt to the White House and may aggravate long-standing tensions within Mr. Bush's cabinet.

The book describes Vice President Cheney as being fixated on a war with Iraq. It says Mr. Cheney and Mr. Powell are now barely on speaking terms because Mr. Powell believes the vice president was trying to portray ambiguous information on Iraq as fact.

On Sunday, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice denied that Mr. Powell learned of the decision to go to war after the Saudi ambassador, saying the secretary of state was privy to all the conversations and briefings with the president. She also said that the president did not make his final decision to invade Iraq until March 2003.

The likely Democratic nominee to challenge President Bush, Senator John Kerry, has seized on the book, saying it is written by a reputable writer, and that it reveals that the president even misled members of his own administration about what he was planning to do in Iraq.

The author of the book, Bob Woodward, helped to break the Watergate scandal in the 1970s that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon.