The Olive Tree
The historic Watergate conversation October 7, 2007 with Secretary William S.
Cohen and journalist Bob Woodward took to an inevitable turn to the present when
an audience member raised the topic of the war in Iraq. Woodward’s opportunity
for a complete reply came about four hours later on the same stage.
The 2007 William S. Cohen Lecture, delivered that evening by Woodward after introductions by UMaine President Robert Kennedy and Secretary Cohen, was entitled “State of Denial: The Inside Story on the War in Iraq.” Presented by The William S. Cohen Center for International Policy and Commerce the event was the sixth in the series that began with Cohen in 1998 and has included Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Senator John Glenn, Prime Minster of Canada Brian Mulroney, and Dan Rather. Based on the research for his three-part “Bush At War” book series, Woodward’s remarks outlined his conclusions about the Bush administration’s public disclosure policy regarding the war in Iraq.
“You need to understand the idealistic pillar in him to understand why for four and a half years he was not willing to really alter course in that war which in many ways could not have been going much worse . . . Bush and key members of the administration, in public, were in a state of denial while they were getting classified reports regularly showing that the violence was increasing and the war was getting out of control.”
Relating his recent research to the experience of Watergate and Iran-Contra, Woodward asserted that, among all the problems in our society, “the thing I think we have to worry about most is secret government. Secret government is what will do this democracy in.”
Woodward asked the audience during the question and answer period, “How many people here have made a personal sacrifice because of the war in Iraq, Afghanistan or the war on terror?” Three or four people raised their hands. Woodward used this response to make the point, “We are not a nation at war; we’re a military at war.” In his follow-up, Secretary Cohen concurred, and he called for the presidential candidates to layout a plan to spread the obligation among the citizens. He argued for a program of national service in which “everybody must do something—join the military, join the Peace Corps, commit to Americorp—to do something on behalf of this country to say we’re all in this together, because we haven’t been in this together.”
The events of the day were co-sponsored by Bangor Daily News, WLBZ 2, WCSH 6, the Gannett Foundation, the Alan Miller Fund for Excellence in Communication and Journalism, The Honors College, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, William S. Cohen Papers, and the William S. Cohen Center for International Policy and Commerce. Streaming video and transcripts of both the Watergate and State of Denial events are available online at www.library.umaine.edu/cohen/woodward/woodward.htm and Fogler Library’s Media Resource Center has copies of the videos available for loan on DVD.
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