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Departures Podcast with Robert Draper, author of ‘To Start a War: How the Bush Administration Took America into Iraq’

The chaotic withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan and rapid fall of Kabul to the Taliban brought back in sharp focus the misguided policies of the George W. Bush administration that led the US into the War on Terror.

In “To Start a War: How the Bush Administration Took America into Iraq,” Robert Draper, a writer at large for the New York Times Magazine and the author of several books tells the story of the Bush Administration’s misguided invasion of Iraq in 2003. Draper delves into the relationships between the President, his key advisors, and the US intelligence community while painting a vivid picture of the misguided decision-making process that led to groupthink and a colossal intelligence failure.

The popular narrative on the invasion of Iraq points to the politicization of intelligence on the question of Iraq’s possession of weapons of mass destruction. Draper’s book delves into this question, revealing in intimate detail the intense pressure piled onto the agency by Vice President Dick Cheney and his chief of staff Lewis Libby.

While Draper tells the story of the invasion of Iraq with remarkable impartiality and fair-mindedness, he also presents an especially unflattering portrayal of CIA Director George Tenet and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Draper reveals, for instance, that the Defense Secretary was privy to authoritative intelligence in September 2002 – a full seven months before the invasion of Iraq was launched – that it was highly unlikely that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction. “Rumsfeld was uniquely in possession of an argument not to go to war, and he sat on it,” Draper concludes.

The United States continues to suffer from the consequences of the decisions made in the wake of the attacks of September 11, 2001. Draper’s book should serve as a warning and a guide about the dangers of executive decision making gone wrong and the disastrous consequences that can result.