WASHINGTON, Nov. 17 (UPI) -- Secretary of State Colin Powell was a major architect of the Bush administration's acceptance of a softer approach to Iraq, using U.N. weapons inspectors instead of a direct military threat, The Washington Post's Bob Woodward wrote in an excerpt from his book, "Bush at War"
Powell did not have any easy rapport with President Bush in August when the secretary of State began to solidify his views that a U.S.-led attack on Iraq could turn the Middle East into a "cauldron and thus destroy the war on terrorism," in the words of former national security adviser Brent Scowcroft.
Powell decided, Woodward wrote, "to come down very hard, state his convictions and conclusions so there would be no doubt as to where he stood."
Woodward, in the excerpt published in Sunday's editions of the Post, portrays Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and especially Vice President Dick Cheney as steadily counseling Bush to ignore the U.N. route, almost up until the final policy was enunciated in a speech before the U.N. General Assembly.
During this period and before Powell would describe his being kept off the Sunday talk shows by the White House as being "in the icebox again," Woodward wrote.
Powell was hampered in the internal battle for Bush's attention by the fact he was supposed to pretend in public that sharp differences among the presidential advisers on the Iraq issue did not exist and, Woodward wrote, by Powell's own code, that a soldier obeys.
When Bush asked Powell to travel to the Middle East for what turned out to be 10 days of futile discussions, White House national security adviser Condoleezza Rice sent warnings not to commit too much in the way of future talks and White House peace efforts upon his departure from the region, the report said, as news leaks spread in Washington that his sails were being trimmed and that he was leaning too much to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
Powell agreed to scale back his departure statement, getting Bush's thanks in the process.
But Powell's main effort to persuade Bush to use the United Nations and weapons inspectors against Iraq was still ahead of him in the first half of this year while Rumsfeld was making counter arguments directly to Bush.
In late spring Powell began requesting private time with Bush once a week and eventually Powell felt he had gained the rapport with the president he had previously lacked, according to Woodward's account.
On Aug. 5, Bush summoned Powell and Rice for what turned out to be a long meeting on Iraq where Powell drove home his arguments against a direct attack on Iraq that could, in Woodward's words, "suck the oxygen out of just about everything else the United States was doing, not only in the war on terrorism but also in all other diplomatic, defense and intelligence relationships."
"It's nice to say we can do it unilaterally," Woodward said Powell told the president, "except you can't." Bush, Woodward continued, seemed intrigued.
The president said he preferred to have an international coalition like the one he built to deal with Afghanistan. As a matter of diplomacy, Powell said he thought the president and the administration could bring most countries along.
The secretary felt the discussion became tense several times as he pressed, but in the end he believed that he had left nothing unsaid, Woodward wrote.
"That was terrific," Rice said the next day in a phone call to Powell, "and we need to do more of those." The tip-off about the potential importance of that evening was when White House Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr. also called the next day and asked Powell to come over and give him the same presentation, notes and all, Woodward's account said.
Powell made his arguments to seek support through the United Nations again in a meeting via video feed between Washington and the president in Crawford, Texas and at that point even the vice president and the secretary of defense agreed.
While on a vacation 10 days later, Powell read of Cheney's speech and a day later, a Rumsfeld speech that appeared to attack the idea of employing the U.N.'s help.
After that more news stories appeared saying Powell was contradicting Cheney, a portrayal of an administration policy against the U.N. support that Powell thought was opposite to the agreed-upon approach. Seven newspapers editorialized that Powell was being disloyal or should leave the administration.
On Sept. 2, Powell asked for another meeting with Bush at which the president reaffirmed that he was committed to go to the United Nations and ask for support on Iraq.
Finally, as the speech Bush would deliver on Iraq at the United Nations was drafted, the president decided he would include a line saying he would use the United Nations and seek a new resolution on Iraq despite continuing opposition arguments from Cheney and Rumsfeld.
Two days before the speech, however, the 21st draft did not include language asking the United Nations to do anything. At still another meeting without Bush present, Cheney and Powell argued over the language and, Woodward wrote, Powell was still not sure he had won the point.
The night before the speech Bush spoke to Powell and Rice to say he had decided he would ask for new U.N. resolutions and that he wanted to make that statement himself, in the speech text.
But when Bush, speaking the General Assembly hall, reached that portion of the speech the change in the text had not been inserted into the TelePrompTer version.
But Bush then ad-libbed the line, saying, "We will work with the U.N. Security Council for the necessary resolutions." Powell's policy victory had been accomplished.
The next day Iraq announced that it would admit new weapons inspectors, although few within the administration believed it was sincere.
The president proceeded after the U.N. speech as if he were willing to give the United Nations a chance, and his public rhetoric softened. Instead of speaking only about regime change, Bush began in his subsequent speeches to say a military option was not his first choice.
This was all a victory for Powell, Woodward wrote, but perhaps only a momentary one. The scaled-down rhetoric did mean that the president could say no to Cheney and Rumsfeld, but it did not mean a lessening of Bush's fierce determination. "As always, it was an ongoing struggle for the president's heart and mind," Woodward wrote.
On Nov. 8, the U.N. Security Council approved a new resolution, 15 to 0, ordering Iraq to admit weapons inspectors. In a Rose Garden statement, the president praised Powell "for his leadership, his good work and his determination over the past two months."