President Bush's former chief of staff, Andy Card, said the Bush presidency will be judged by three things: "Iraq, Iraq, Iraq." Bob Woodward, of Watergate fame, has just completed his third book on the Bush presidency, "State of Denial."
Woodward spent more than two years, interviewed more than 200 people including most of the top officials in the administration and came to a damning conclusion. He tells Mike Wallace that for the last three years the White house has not been honest with the American public.
"It is the oldest story in the coverage of government: the failure to tell the truth," Woodward charges.
Asked to explain what he means that the Bush administration has not told the truth about Iraq, Woodward says, "I think probably the prominent, most prominent example is the level of violence."
Not just the growing sectarian violence — Sunnis against Shias that gets reported every day — but attacks on U.S., Iraqi and allied forces. Woodward says that's the most important measure of violence in Iraq, and he unearthed a graph, classified secret, that shows those attacks have increased dramatically over the last three years.
"Getting to the point now where there are eight, 900 attacks a week," he says. "That's more than 100 a day—that is four an hour. Attacking our forces."
Woodward says the government had kept this trend secret for years before finally declassifying the graph just three weeks ago. And Woodward accuses President Bush and the Pentagon of making false claims of progress in Iraq – claims, contradicted by facts that are being kept secret.
For example, Woodward says an intelligence report classified secret from the Joint Chiefs of Staff concluded in large print that "THE SUNNI ARAB INSURGENCY IS GAINING STRENGTH AND INCREASING CAPACITY, DESPITE POLITICAL PROGRESS."
And "INSURGENTS RETAIN THE CAPABILITIES TO…INCREASE THE LEVEL OF VIOLENCE THROUGH NEXT YEAR."
But just two days later a public defense department report said just the opposite. "Violent action, will begin to wane in early 2007," the report said.
What does Woodward make of that?
"The truth is that the assessment by intelligence experts is that next year, 2007, is going to get worse and, in public, you have the president and you have the Pentagon [saying], 'Oh, no, things are going to get better,'" he tells Wallace. "Now there's public, and then there's private. But what did they do with the private? They stamp it secret. No one is supposed to know," says Woodward.
"Why is that secret? The insurgents know what they're doing. They know the level of violence and how effective they are. Who doesn't know? The American public," he adds.
"President Bush says over and over as Iraqi forces stand up, U.S. forces will stand down. The number of Iraqis in uniform today I understand is up to 300,000?" Wallace asks.
"They've stood up from essentially zero to 300,000. This is the military and the police," Woodward replies.
"But, U.S. forces are not standing down. The attacks keep coming," Wallace remarks.
"They've stood up and up and up and we haven't stood down, and it's worse," Woodward replies.