Bob Woodward

‘s The War Within: A Secret White House History 2006-2008 is like reading raw transcripts of documents and interviews from a sensational murder trial: you know what happens, and you know who the victim and the perpetrator are. But to read their actual words is chilling. It’s the In Cold Blood of national security journalism.

Woodward gives us some juicy tidbits: that the United States spied on Iraqi Prime Minister

Nuri al-Maliki

, that a supersecret high-tech assassination program killed large numbers of militants beginning in May 2006 and so on. But the core of Woodward’s book is an account of how

George W. Bush


Dick Cheney


John McCain

, a rogue general named

Jack Keane

and a team of strategists at the American Enterprise Institute, all coordinated by the sycophantic, Bush-worshiping National Security Adviser

Stephen Hadley

, rode roughshod over the entire Washington establishment to prolong the war in Iraq by launching the “surge” in January 2007. Consider this: had they not done so, today, two years later, the war would largely be over.

In 2006, Woodward makes clear, the overwhelming consensus, among the public and in Washington, was for ending the war and starting the drawdown of US forces. That was the belief of Gen.

George Casey

, the US commander in Iraq; Gen.

John Abizaid

, the Centcom commander; and nearly all of the uniformed military. It was the view of the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group, the State Department and members of Congress on both sides of the aisle. In 487 pages, Woodward details how all of them were steamrollered.

The picture of Bush that emerges is not a flattering one. He is portrayed as a man convinced of his utter righteousness. “Not one doubt,” he says. And: “We’re killin’ ’em. We’re killin’ ’em all.” Yet at the same time, Bush is blissfully detached, relying on Hadley for everything. His decision to order the surge, made late in 2006, was a tough one, Bush told Woodward. “Now, this is a period of time where I’ve got, I don’t know how many, holiday receptions.”   ROBERT DREYFUSS


Before most journalists had arrived in St. Paul for the Republican National Convention, a crackdown on independent media was already under way. The weekend before the RNC, police carried out a series of “pre-emptive” raids, ostensibly designed to prevent violent protests. Among the targets was a home occupied by members of

I-Witness Video

, a New York-based collective that monitors police activity for abuse and that proved instrumental in documenting unlawful arrests during the 2004 RNC.

Democracy Now!

staffers had just landed in Minneapolis Saturday afternoon when they heard that one of their producers,

Elizabeth Press

, was in the I-Witness house, which was being surrounded by armed police officers. When they arrived, they found Press and seven others handcuffed in the backyard.

The group was soon released, but the raids set the tone for four days of unlawful arrests of media staff. On Monday, DN! host

Amy Goodman

was arrested along with producers

Sharif Abdel Kouddous


Nicole Salazar

, both of whom were bloodied and detained while covering a protest. Other arrests included an AP photographer and a freelancer for the New York Post (who pleaded that his was a “Republican paper,” to no avail). Kouddous was arrested again, with cameraman

Rick Rowley

, three days later. All told, at least twenty-one journalists were arrested; Goodman was charged with obstruction, while Kouddous and Salazar face felony riot charges.

If police seemed to be operating like an unaccountable brute squad, it’s partly because they were. In a “first-of-its-kind agreement,” according to the Associated Press, the GOP host committee purchased insurance covering up to $10 million in damages and “unlimited legal costs” for police accused of “brutality” and “violating civil rights.” When asked by Goodman how media could expect to function in such an atmosphere, St. Paul police chief

John Harrington

suggested, “By embedding reporters in our mobile field force.” Democracy Now!, which has long prided itself on being unembedded, is calling for all charges to be dropped; visit for more information.   LILIANA SEGURA


Republicans stake much on the claim that Alaska Governor

Sarah Palin

, their vice presidential pick, has executive experience superior to that of

Barack Obama


Joe Biden

and, though they neglect to mention it,

John McCain

. But GOPers have yet to thank the former Nation editor who helped them establish that claim. Central to the argument is the notion that even though Palin has been governor a scant twenty-two months, Alaska’s top job is uniquely muscular. As Alaska’s sole independently elected constitutional officer, the governor appoints and removes officials, like the attorney general, who in most other states are elected. As such, observed constitutional scholar

John Hellenthal

fifty years ago, Alaska’s governor can be “held wholly responsible for the conduct of state administration.”

Why is the governorship so powerful? Because

Ernest Gruening

, an editor at The Nation from 1920 to 1923, had served a frustrating thirteen years, from 1939 to 1953, as Alaska’s weak territorial governor. Gruening, a determined anti-imperialist who as Alaska senator in 1964 cast one of two votes against the Gulf of Tonkin resolution, urged delegates to the prestatehood constitutional convention to write a document that would forever end the state’s “colonial servitude” to Washington. A strong governor, delegates determined, could realize Gruening’s vision of Alaska as “a great northern and western citadel of the American idea.” With her GOP convention dismissals of the rule of law and civil liberties, not to mention her casual militarism, Palin falls well short of Gruening’s standard. But she might at least acknowledge the gift Gruening and his fellow Constitution drafters gave her: the strong governorship she says has prepared her for the vice presidency.   JOHN NICHOLS


The McCain campaign claims that Obama would raise taxes on Americans, a particularly egregious and easily exposed fib. According to the

Tax Policy Center

, Obama’s plan would cut taxes for 80 percent of households and raise taxes for only about 10 percent of them–folks who make more than $227,000 a year. At that exact income, the hike would be $12.