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Last Updated: Sunday, 8 October 2006, 10:55 GMT 11:55 UK
Iraq war exposed
On Sunday 08 October, Andrew Marr interviewed Bob Woodward, Watergate reporter.

Please note "BBC Sunday AM" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used.

Bob Woodward
Bob Woodward, Watergate reporter

ANDREW MARR: One of President Bush's closest advisors declared recently that his presidency will be judged by three things - Iraq, Iraq and Iraq.

The veteran American journalist Bob Woodward of Watergate fame has spent over two years interviewing most of the top officials in the Bush Administration and his conclusion about their handling of the war is damning.

Bob Woodward joined me a little earlier from our Washington studio and I asked him if he believed that President Bush had actually lied to his fellow Americans about the situation in Iraq.

BOB WOODWARD: What I say is he has not told the truth about what Iraq has become, that for the last three and a half years there have been secret intelligence reports and warnings within the White House and the military establishment that it has not been going well in Iraq, and the public declarations had been the opposite.

There will be a secret report saying things are going to get worse now, and in 2007 and the President then goes out and says, hey look, the terrorists are in retreat, when in fact it's the opposite.

ANDREW MARR: You paint a picture of a deeply dysfunctional White House. Is it true that at one point Condoleezza Rice and Donald Rumsfeld weren't even talking to each other?

BOB WOODWARD: That's quite correct, and - it's - Rumsfeld would not return her phone calls and certain issues at certain times and I report this in the book and Secretary Rice said, oh no that's not true, and then Andy Card, the White House Chief of Staff who got involved and had to intervene, confirmed this in interviews this week here in the United States, so again it's the pattern - deny, deny, deny - when there is a reality out there.

Card went so far as to say not only did it happen but their type A personalities like Rumsfeld, emotions get involved in these things. Now of course anyone who knows about government or any institution would realise of course that's the case. But they want to put a gloss and a coating of optimism around all of this and that goes right to the heart of the war and I have secret charts in the book and reports that show it's become a nightmare.

ANDREW MARR: Do you think that Tony Blair had any real influence on the way the war was conducted?

BOB WOODWARD: Sure. But I, again, by and large it was President Bush. I mean, he, Bush decided to go to war and he told some of his top advisors two months before the war started, I reported that in the last book, they denied that, but the President himself is on record in the interviews with me and again this is the pattern of denial, saying that he for instance told Colin Powell he'd decided on war, this is January 13th 2003.

ANDREW MARR: And presumably at that stage Tony Blair would also have known what was going to happen?

BOB WOODWARD: Yes, that's correct. This is several months before the war and then Bush and the White House have taken the position, oh he didn't decide until the last minute.

Now, there he is in his own words telling me that he told the Secretary of State it was war, in fact he told Colin Powell time to put your war uniform on.

ANDREW MARR: OK, from the President's point of view, just how badly do you think the war's going now?

BOB WOODWARD: When you look at the aggregate numbers, that's what's alarming, the level of violence reaches a point where there's an attack every 15 minutes in Iraq. And then you see the public declarations of "we've turned a corner and people are in retreat, and we're going to win this war" - well how?

ANDREW MARR: You discovered that Tony Blair and George Bush had a row over the sharing of military intelligence. Just say, tell us a little bit about that.

BOB WOODWARD: British intelligence would feed something to the United States that they had picked up, and then there was this all source intelligence report that the United States would put out, and that it would be secret and that there's an acronym called no foreign - no foreigners are supposed to see it.

Well, technically that includes Great Britain, Australians and so forth. So they were not allowed access, not only to this intelligence information but incredibly to the classified no foreign operations in maintenance manuals of some of the aircraft that, our American aircraft, that British pilots were flying.

ANDREW MARR: And you believe that Tony Blair raised this with George Bush himself?

BOB WOODWARD: Yeah, he raised it, because it's absurd. I mean how can you ask somebody to go fly an aeroplane where they can't look at the operations and the maintenance manual - that's out of some sort of dark comedy.

ANDREW MARR: Finally, you say that President Bush is in a state of denial about the war. Why do you think that is?

BOB WOODWARD: With 147,000 American troops over there, he has to be optimistic about it. He feels now, my view, this is my view alone, having done this reporting on presidents for three and a half decades. The President is strong when he's truthful. Strong when he's the voice of realism.

This is a critical war but the homeland in the United States is not immediately threatened. He can be truthful, he can come out and say, look, turned out to be much worse than I thought, in fact we are in a pickle and I'm going to get the political opposition in here and we're going to figure out how we get out of this pickle. And I, quite frankly I think his poll ratings would soar. People like straight talk. They don't like being fooled.

ANDREW MARR: Bob Woodward, thank you very much indeed for joining us.

BOB WOODWARD: Thank you.


NB: this transcript was typed from a recording and not copied from an original script.

Because of the possibility of mis-hearing and the difficulty, in some cases, of identifying individual speakers, the BBC cannot vouch for its accuracy

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