The Salon blurb: In his devastating new book, Ron Suskind shows how 9/11 allowed George W. Bush and his shadowy courtier, Dick Cheney, to “create whatever reality was convenient.”
An excerpt: (free with a day pass)
June 23, 2006 | If there are any observers who still deny that the Bush administration is the most secretive, vengeful, reality-averse, manipulative and arrogant government in U.S. history, they will have a lot of fast talking to do after reading Ron Suskind’s new book, “The One Percent Doctrine.” A meticulous work of reporting, based on interviews with nearly 100 well-placed sources, many of them members of the U.S. intelligence community, Suskind’s book paints perhaps the most intimate and damning portrait yet of the Bush team.
At this point, one could forgive readers for asking, “How many more damning portraits of the Bush administration do we need?” From yellowcake to Joe Wilson to Abu Ghraib, the list of Bush scandals and outrages is endless, but nothing ever seems to happen. As the journalist Mark Danner has pointed out, the problem is not lack of information: The problem is that Americans can’t, or won’t, acknowledge what that information means.
But despite the Bush administration’s apparent imperviousness to reality, the publication of “The One Percent Doctrine” is an important event. Even if we have to wait decades for historians to pass judgment on the Bush administration, it is vital that the record on which that judgment is made be compiled. And “The One Percent Doctrine,” along with Richard Clarke’s “Against All Enemies,” George Packer’s “The Assassins’ Gate,” Suskind’s earlier “The Price of Loyalty” and a few others, will be one of the key documents on which that devastating judgment will be based.
“The Price of Loyalty” focused on former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill and what he observed during his unhappy tenure with the Bushites — the mania for loyalty, the true-believer ideology, the aversion to any truth that blocked their righteous plans. O’Neill was the book’s protagonist and hero — an outspoken maverick who refused to toe the Bush party line, and was fired for his disloyalty.
“The One Percent Doctrine” also has a central figure, but a far more problematic one: former CIA director George Tenet. Suskind paints as sympathetic a portrait of Tenet as any fair-minded journalist is likely to; indeed, in the end, he’s a little too sympathetic to him. Referring to the tension between the CIA’s role as an objective gatherer of information and the “fierce undertow toward war in Iraq,” Suskind writes, “The dilemma of Tenet’s role was diabolical.” Just why rejecting the distortions and lies demanded by Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld in their push to make a case for war constituted a “diabolical dilemma” for Tenet, rather than just being part of his job, is never explained, beyond the fact that he was a loyalist — a breed for which Suskind typically has little patience. But Suskind does not conceal the fact that Tenet ultimately failed to prevent the White House and the Pentagon from corrupting and misusing intelligence. And in the end, most readers will probably feel that they have a clear enough impression of Tenet’s strengths and weaknesses that they will forgive Suskind’s somewhat sentimental tilt toward him as the courtesy due a key source.
As in “The Price of Loyalty,” Suskind’s great achievement here is to reveal how the Bush administration short-circuited and ultimately corrupted the way America’s government is supposed to work. Actual coups d’état are lurid and violent and attract attention. As Suskind reveals, Cheney, Bush, Rumsfeld, Rice and Rove pulled off a much more sophisticated job: a bureaucratic coup d’état. Without firing a shot, they silenced critics, squelched unwanted facts, and created their own false but salable reality. As a result, they were able to launch a war justified by lies and driven by nothing more than Bush’s ignorant whim. It is, truly, the heist of the century.