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Bob Woodward: Thanks for the Memories


(Image via Salon.)

Gee, that Bob Woodward fellow knows a lot of interesting stuff. Like things that, had he reported them earlier, might have stopped a war, or changed an election.

Woodward's latest late disclosure consists of statements by the late President Gerald Ford that Ford strongly disagreed with Bush about going to war with Iraq. The "scoop" is in today's Washington Post.

Former president Gerald R. Ford said in an embargoed interview in July 2004 that the Iraq war was not justified. "I don't think I would have gone to war," he said a little more than a year after President Bush launched the invasion advocated and carried out by prominent veterans of Ford's own administration.

In a four-hour conversation at his house in Beaver Creek, Colo., Ford "very strongly" disagreed with the current president's justifications for invading Iraq and said he would have pushed alternatives, such as sanctions, much more vigorously. In the tape-recorded interview, Ford was critical not only of Bush but also of Vice President Cheney — Ford's White House chief of staff — and then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, who served as Ford's chief of staff and then his Pentagon chief.

"Rumsfeld and Cheney and the president made a big mistake in justifying going into the war in Iraq. They put the emphasis on weapons of mass destruction," Ford said. "And now, I've never publicly said I thought they made a mistake, but I felt very strongly it was an error in how they should justify what they were going to do." . . .

"Well, I can understand the theory of wanting to free people," Ford said, referring to Bush's assertion that the United States has a "duty to free people." But the former president said he was skeptical "whether you can detach that from the obligation number one, of what's in our national interest." He added: "And I just don't think we should go hellfire damnation around the globe freeing people, unless it is directly related to our own national security."

Of course, it's not uncommon or unethical for reporters to interview famous people about sensitive matters on the condition that the information will not be disclosed until much later, like after the person's death. I'm okay with that.

But when a reporter is in possession of information that is vital to the country, that might change whether we go to war or whom we elect for president, and the only reason for withholding the information is to protect the person interviewed from embarrassing his own party — well, there must be some other principle that applies, don'tcha think? And doesn't a reporter then have an obligation to work his butt off to obtain permission or find some ethical way to report what he knows when we need to know it? Just askin, cause this is getting to be a habit, and it’s . . . uh, annoying.

Thanks to Christy for the great pics this a.m.

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John has been writing for Firedoglake since 2006 or so, on whatever interests him. He has a law degree, worked as legal counsel and energy policy adviser for a state energy agency for 20 years and then as a consultant on electricity systems and markets. He's now retired, living in Massachusetts.

You can follow John on twitter: @JohnChandley