500 Days by Kurt Eichenwald
For generations we will be studying the immediate aftermath of 9/11 with the same intense scrutiny that we studied the Civil War, Pearl Harbor and the Revolutionary war. There will be scholars who will agree and disagree about this decision or that decision. There are several books that have already addressed the atmosphere before 9/11 and immediately afterward. One of the best books, in my opinion, was Richard Clarke’s Against All Enemies. This book was a personal yet comprehensive account of how the United States throughout the 1990s and early in the Bush administration struggled to get a handle on the growing threat from terrorism. Whether you like Richard Clarke or not, this is not the issue. His information has stood the test of time. The second book, less popular, but no less important, is Bob Graham’s book, Intelligence Matters. Sen. Bob Graham was chairman of the Senate intelligence committee during 9/11. His book focuses more on intelligence failures or lapses. He looks for ways in which the intelligence community could have connected the dots and possibly prevented the 9/11 tragedy. Another book that I would like to put on this list is Bob Woodward’s Bush at War. The reason that I am hesitant to place this book on this list is that Bob Woodward’s work has become so politicized. Some of his work is excellent, as in Bush at War. Some of his work is more sensational and, in my opinion, designed to sell books rather than to deliver information. Jane Mayer’s book, The Dark Side, must also be placed on this list.
500 Days belongs in this same category. It is a fantastic work which looks at the first 500 days of the Bush administration. If you’re looking for a book that either praises or condemns President George W. Bush, then you need to find another book. This book, instead of heaping superficial praise on any one individual, examines specific policies and attempts to figure out who made the decision, why the decision was made and on what evidence the decision was made. If you’re looking for a definitive answer, or whether a particular decision was great or awful, those sorts of judgments are not in this book.
There are several themes developed in 500 Days. One of the most important themes is how the United States conducted the War on Terror. The War on Terror is multifaceted. It involves the military, the CIA, the FBI, the Justice Department, the State Department, the Border Patrol and the Department of the Treasury, just to name a few. This book discusses the decisions made in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 in order to try to prevent a second attack. George Tenet, director of Central Intelligence, was convinced tate 9/11 was the first in a series of attacks. The FBI and the CIA were convinced that there were sleeper cells here in the United States and abroad and that these cells were ready to act. Because of this, the Bush administration always felt that they were behind the eight ball. The Bush administration felt that they needed to catch up in order to prevent the next attack. (more…)