The Bush administration is concealing the level of violence against U.S. troops in Iraq and the situation there is growing worse despite White House and Pentagon claims of progress, journalist Bob Woodward said in advance of a new book.
Insurgent attacks against U.S.-led forces in Iraq occurred, on average, every 15 minutes, Woodward said in a CBS "60 Minutes" interview taped for broadcast on Sunday.
"It’s getting to the point now where there are eight, 900 attacks a week. That’s more than a hundred a day. That is four an hour attacking our forces," Woodward said in excerpts of the interview released on Thursday before the release of his book on the administration, called "State of Denial."
"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,’" Woodward added.
Parts of a National Intelligence Estimate that President George W. Bush ordered released this week showed an upsurge in Islamic militancy, while a new U.N. report said the Iraq war was providing al Qaeda with a training center and fresh recruits.
A senior administration official saw little new in Woodward’s charges "except that Bob believes he has a lot of making up to do since the Washington establishment criticized him for being too soft in his first two books (on the Bush administration)."
"We’ve seen this movie before, and we shouldn’t be surprised of another critical book about the Bush administration 40 days before an election," said the official.
Bush’s Republican Party faces a strong challenge from Democrats as it seeks to retain control of Congress in the November 7 elections. The unpopular war in Iraq is a major issue in the campaign.
The official added there was nothing revealing in Woodward’s account of the daily attack numbers. "You print them all the time."
Woodward said Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney often met with Henry Kissinger as an adviser. Kissinger was President Richard Nixon’s national security adviser and then secretary of state during the Vietnam War.
The reporting of Woodward and fellow Washington Post reporter Carl Bernstein played an important role in exposing the Watergate scandal that forced Nixon to resign in 1974.
According to Woodward, Bush was absolutely certain he was on the right course on Iraq. The writer said that when Bush invited key Republicans to the White House to discuss Iraq, the president told them, ‘I will not withdraw even if Laura and Barney are the only ones supporting me,’" referring to his wife and Scottish terrier.
© Reuters 2006. All Rights Reserved.