Woodward eyes Obama

Woodward’s new book titled ‘Obama’s Wars’, due to be published this week, portrays Obama’s administration as indecisive and reveals how his senior advisers have been failing to reconcile with the Afghan policy for the last 20 months, though some Woodward critics termed the revelations ‘nothing new’, writes Maswood Alam Khan

DURING his re-election campaign in 1972, Richard Nixon, the 37th president of the United States, was behind a number of political ‘dirty tricks’ through break-in to the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee in a Washington office building called Watergate.

Bob Woodward, an investigative reporter working in The Washington Post, was part of a team which did much of the original reporting on the Watergate scandal that led to the eventual resignation of President Nixon in 1974.

From that time on Woodward has made his name as a sterling journalist and his comments draw attention of the White House staff. Woodward’s books based on his journalistic works dug deep into administrations of several American presidents. Most of Woodward’s analyses, though greeted with initial criticism, ultimately proved to be accurate. Woodward is deemed a power for keeping the government honest.

This time Bob Woodward has cast his eyes on Barak Obama’s administration as it is divided over the Afghan war. Woodward’s new book titled ‘Obama’s Wars’, due to be published this week, portrays Obama’s administration as indecisive and reveals how his senior advisers have been failing to reconcile with the Afghan policy for the last 20 months, though some Woodward critics termed the revelations ‘nothing new’.

It is true that America with its troops deployed in Afghanistan is in a quagmire and President Obama must be feeling the heat of the casualties his troops are suffering and should devise an exit strategy to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan as soon as possible.

Identifying the target readers and understanding their intellectual and philosophical needs is a matter of paramount importance to improve sales of books and build a trusting relationship between buyers and sellers. Bob Woodward and the publisher of his book must have borne in their minds the possible readers who would enjoy reading follies of the present administration in the White House. ‘Obama’s Wars’ may be a bestseller because there are millions who would love to grab the book in their quest for fault-finding in Obama, especially a multitude of Americans who did not really like to see Obama as their president.

Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, the duo who authored ‘All the President’s Men’, the book about the Watergate scandal, were perhaps instrumental in transforming news reporters into celebrities after their book was turned into a movie in 1976 with Robert Redford starring as Woodward and Dustin Hoffman as Bernstein. The book and the movie inspired a wave of interest in investigative journalism among young men and women around the world.

The popularity Bob Woodward had earned for his works on Watergate scandal also earned him a lot of unexpected bonuses and bonanzas that he would not otherwise have received for his subsequent works as a journalist or as an author of a number of books. ‘Once a famous author, always a famous author’ is an idiom that suits many famous authors who perhaps wrote only one masterpiece and subsequently churned out books bearing not much of cerebral activities.

Not in all instances words of Bob Woodward were journalistically prophetic; many of his analyses were ludicrous. Woodward wholeheartedly believed what George Bush believed about Saddam Hussein’s possession of Iraqi WMDs prior to the war. Once during an appearance on Larry King Live in CNN, Woodward was asked by a telephone caller ‘Suppose we go to war and go into Iraq and there are no weapons of mass destruction’, he responded ‘I think the chance of that happening is almost zero.’

What is however disquieting is a number of excerpts of the book that have already been leaked to the media: US special envoy Richard Holbrooke saying on US policy: ‘It can’t work’; a hint of future conflicts over the declared timetable for a US withdrawal; General David Petraeus, the top US soldier in Afghanistan, believing the military could ‘get more time on the clock’ apparently hinting at July 2011, a timeframe when President Obama would insist on beginning US withdrawal from Afghanistan; and intelligence suggesting Afghan President Hamid Karzai being diagnosed with manic depression.

However cloudy and uncertain the book forecasts about the future of Obama administration and the war in Afghanistan, President Obama, many of us believe, would remain steadfast in his determination to reduce bloodshed in Afghanistan as far and as soon as possible as was manifested in his taking many risks for peace while taking his stand on war. On October 2, 2002, eight days before the US House would vote to authorise the invasion of Iraq, while delivering a speech at Chicago’s Federal Plaza, Obama put his political career on the line by opposing going to war in Iraq. He opposed the Iraq invasion at a time when the idea of war with Iraq, though deeply unpopular today, was very popular in 2002.

maswood@hotmail.com

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