The strain of war


I admit I never read USA Today which supposedly is a newspaper. One of the first things I learned when I came to the US was that you refer to it as “McPaper”. However, today, I came across an article from USA Today which is so absurd and ridiculous that I have to give excerpts here:

Strain of Iraq war showing on Bush, those who know him say He’s said to be ‘burdened,’ tense, angry at media, second-guessers

By Judy Keen

WASHINGTON — The public face of President Bush at war is composed and controlled. On TV and in newspaper photos, he is sturdy and assured, usually surrounded by military personnel. But those choreographed glimpses of Bush’s commander-in-chief persona don’t tell the whole story. Behind the scenes, aides and friends say, the president’s role is more complicated and his style more emotional.

People who know Bush well say the strain of war is palpable. He rarely jokes with staffers these days and occasionally startles them with sarcastic putdowns. He’s being hard on himself; he gave up sweets just before the war began. He’s frustrated when armchair generals or members of his own team express doubts about U.S. military strategy. […]

Friends say the conflict is consuming Bush’s days and weighing heavily on him. ”He’s got that steely-eyed look, but he is burdened,” says a friend who has spent time with the president since the war began. ”You can see it in his eyes and hear it in his voice. I worry about him.”

Bush is juggling a lot more than projecting the image of a confident commander in chief. He’s a prosecutor who quizzes military officials about their backup plans when things go awry on the battlefield. He’s a critic who sees himself as the aggrieved victim of the news media and second-guessers. He’s a cheerleader who encourages others not to lose faith in the war plan. He’s a supervisor who manages the competing views and egos of top advisers.

The president reads newspapers first thing in the morning, flipping through some of them while he’s still in the White House residence instead of waiting for clippings assembled by aides. Through the day, he regularly watches war coverage on the nearest TV, which is in the private dining room next to the Oval Office. He knows when heavy bombardments of Baghdad are scheduled and sometimes tunes in to see them. […]

News coverage of the war often irritates him. He’s infuriated by reporters and retired generals who publicly question the tactics of the war plan. Bush let senior Pentagon officials know that he was peeved when Lt. Gen. William Wallace, the Army’s senior ground commander in Iraq, said last week that guerrilla fighting, Iraqi resistance and sandstorms have made a longer war more likely. But Bush has told aides that he wants to hear all the news from the front — good and bad. [..]

Bush believes he was called by God to lead the nation at this time, says Commerce Secretary Don Evans, a close friend who talks with Bush every day. His history degree from Yale makes him mindful of the importance of the moment. He knows he’s making ”history-changing decisions,” Evans says. But Bush doesn’t keep a diary or other personal record of the events that will form his legacy. Aides take notes, but there’s no stenographer in most meetings, nor are they videotaped or recorded.

It’s widely assumed that one reason Bush wants to rid the world of Saddam Hussein is to complete the mission his father, former president George Bush, began in 1991. The senior Bush led a coalition to eject Iraqi troops that had invaded Kuwait, but knowing that the U.N.- backed alliance was formed solely to liberate the country, he decided against going on to Baghdad to remove Saddam from power. People who know both men say this war isn’t about vengeance. ”It’s not personal,” one Bush aide says.

Rather, the president’s passion is motivated by his loathing for Saddam’s brutality, aides say. He talks often about his revulsion for Saddam’s use of torture, rape and executions. He is convinced that the Iraqi leader is literally insane and would gladly give terrorists weapons to use to launch another attack on the United States.

The thought of another assault on the United States horrifies Bush. Aides say he believes history and heaven will judge him by his ability to prevent one. […]

In the first days of the conflict, the president’s aides said he was leaving the details of war planning to his generals. Then, fearing that he might seem too uninvolved, they began describing him as interested in all the specifics.

That’s how the White House message has shifted, but the bottom line is that Bush is an active manager and defender of the war plan. He and Rumsfeld spread out maps of the war zone in their meetings. Bush wants to know where U.S. troops are, where they’re headed, what weapons are being used and how the enemy is faring. He rebukes and then bucks up aides who question the tactics, pace or human costs of the war. […]

Bush is not an expert on military tactics, but he’s getting an education from Rumsfeld and Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who was an Air Force combat pilot in Vietnam.

In briefings, Rumsfeld says, Bush ”will frequently say ‘Excuse me’ and then bore in on something: ‘What about this? What about that? If this occurs, what would be the approach you take?’ … In probing, he also pushes, pushes people to think about things that he does not know whether or not they have thought through.”

Rumsfeld says Bush was equally involved in the planning before the first missiles fell on Baghdad. Because he knew what was coming, Rumsfeld says, the president was prepared for complications, mistakes and losses. ”There is nothing that has surprised him that I know of,” Rumsfeld says. […]

On March 17, before he delivered a 48-hour ultimatum to Saddam, Bush summoned congressional leaders to the White House. They expected a detailed briefing, but the president told them he was notifying them only because he was legally required to do so and then left the room. They were taken aback, and some were annoyed. […]

Bush copes with anxiety as he always has. He prays and exercises. Evans says his friend has a placid acceptance of challenges that comes from his Christian faith.

”He knows that we’re all here to serve a calling greater than self,” Evans says. ”That’s what he’s committed his life to do. He understands that he is the one person in the country, in this case really the one person in the world, who has a responsibility to protect and defend freedom.” […]

Bush has imposed an almost military discipline on himself. Even though he’s as lean as he was in college, he decided just before the war that he was unhappy with his running times, which were slowing from his preferred pace of 7.5 minutes or less per mile.

So Bush gave up his one indulgence: sweets. It worked; he’s losing weight and improving his time.

When Bush doesn’t find time to run three or four miles a day, he still works out. He uses an elliptical trainer, lifts weights and stretches. Exercising regularly, he says, gives him time to think, improves his energy and helps him sleep.

He also carves out time for family and friends. He still goes to bed by 10 p.m. and has asked his wife, Laura, to stay close to home. His daughter Barbara and his college friend Roland Betts, a New York business executive, also were with him at Camp David the first weekend of the war. He talks several times a week with his father and mother. He still tells a joke or teases an aide occasionally.

The president’s friends and family fret about him, but advisers say the pressure doesn’t seem to be getting to him. ”He’s not one of those people who blows with the wind,” Rumsfeld says. ”He has a very good inner gyroscope, a stabilizer that keeps him centered.”