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Former White House aide slams Bush over Iraq

Latest update : 2008-05-29

In a book to be published next week, a former White House aide blasts President George Bush and the White House over the war in Iraq and the Katrina disaster. Scott McClellan says Bush was not "open" on Iraq and sold the war with "propaganda."

US President George W. Bush's former chief spokesman sharply assailed the White House and the media over the Iraq war in book excerpts published Wednesday, five months before the November elections.
   
Bush was not "open and forthright on Iraq," failed to plan for the post-invasion period, and sold the war with "propaganda" that reporters should have challenged more aggressively, Scott McClellan says in a brutal memoir.
   
"History appears poised to confirm what most Americans today have decided: that the decision to invade Iraq was a serious strategic blunder," McClellan writes, according to snippets quoted in the New York Times.
   
"No-one, including me, can know with absolute certainty how the war will be viewed decades from now when we can more fully understand its impact. What I do know is that war should only be waged when necessary, and the Iraq war was not necessary," he says.
   
In his 341-page account, titled "What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception," McClellan also denounces the response to Hurricane Katrina and the outing of a covert CIA agent by top Bush aides.
   
McClellan, a Texas native from a political family, went to work for Bush when the future president was the state's governor, was a spokesman for Bush's 2000 campaign, served as chief White House deputy press secretary from January 2001 to July 2003, when he became the president's lead spokesman.
   
He resigned -- or was pushed out -- in April 2006 and left a month later, his credibility battered amid the scandal over the leak that Iraq war critic Joseph Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame Wilson, was a covert CIA agent.
   
McClellan accuses former top White House political strategist Karl Rove and I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, once a top aide to Vice President Dick Cheney, of misleading him into publicly denying they played any role in the revelation.
   
Bush was also deceived, "but the top White House officials who knew the truth -- including Rove, Libby, and possibly Vice President Cheney -- allowed me, even encouraged me, to repeat a lie," says McClellan.
   
The usually cheerful former spokesman is equally savage regarding the White House's early "state of denial" in the face of the devastation from Katrina and the botched government response to the killer storm and its aftermath.
   
"The perception of this catastrophe was made worse by previous decisions President Bush had made, including, first and foremost, the failure to be open and forthright on Iraq and rushing to war with inadequate planning and preparation for its aftermath," he writes.
   
McClellan, 40, did not respond to a request for an interview after excerpts of the book first appeared in the Internet magazine Politico.com.
   
Current White House spokeswoman Dana Perino charged in a statement that McClellan had revealed himself as a "disgruntled" former White House staffer and added "It is sad -- this is not the Scott we knew."
   
And former colleagues also circled the wagons in response to published accounts from the memoir, which is due to go on sale early next week.
   
Rove and former Bush homeland security adviser Frances Townsend charged in separate yet strikingly similar television interviews that McClellan had raised no objections to strategies he now assails and was not present at key meetings to shape those policies.
   
"I think his view is limited and  some of this may be misunderstanding on his part of what he saw and heard," Townsend told CNN.
   
McClellan does not hold himself up as a hero -- the Times quotes him as writing "I fell far short of living up to the kind of public servant I wanted to be" -- but denounces the media as "complicit enablers" of the Iraq war.
   
"I still like and admire President Bush," he says.
   
"But he and his advisers confused the propaganda campaign with the high level of candor and honesty so fundamentally needed to build and then sustain public support during a time of war," he says.
 

Date created : 2008-05-28

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