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Woodward: It's Clear From His New Book, Cheney Didn't Learn From Iraq

Former Vice President Dick Cheney. (Feb. 10, 2011, file photo.)
Alex Brandon
Former Vice President Dick Cheney. (Feb. 10, 2011, file photo.)

We've been keeping up with reaction to former Vice President Dick Cheney's new memoir, In My Time. In it, the vice president has made some extraordinary claims, including that he was in charge during Sept. 11 and saying that he still supports water boarding as way to get detainees to talk.

Bob Woodward, the Washington Post editor, who wrote three books on the George W. Bush administration, has weighed in on Cheney's memoir in an Op-Ed piece published in Sunday's Washington Post.

Woodward zeroes in on Cheney's insistence that the administration bomb a nuclear reactor discovered in Syria in 2007.

What Woodward argues is that a key lesson from Sept. 11 decade — and especially the run-up to the war in Iraq — is that intelligence should be "rigorously" tested, and the fact that Cheney wanted to bomb a reactor when intelligence officers were telling them they had "low confidence" that it was part of a weapons program means Cheney "has not fully absorbed that lesson."

Bush decided not to bomb the reactor and Woodward writes that in his own memoir he discussed the episode:

"Mike [Hayden]'s report clarified my decision," Bush wrote, adding that he called then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who wanted the United States to destroy the reactor. Bush says he told Olmert, "I cannot justify an attack on a sovereign nation unless my intelligence agencies stand up and say it's a weapons program."

Bush didn't reveal, however, that his vice president wanted a military strike in the face of "low confidence" intelligence that the reactor was part of a nuclear weapons program. Cheney said he wanted the United States to commit an act of war to send a message, demonstrate seriousness and enhance credibility — a frightening prospect given the doubts.

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Eyder Peralta
Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.
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