WASHINGTON (AFP) — Former top US central banker Alan Greenspan abandons his trademark reserve Monday, in a new book which takes swipes at the White House for everything from its motives for invading Iraq to its unbridled spending.
The most explosive charge in Greenspan's memoir, "The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World," is that the George W. Bush administration was driven to overthrow Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein in a large part by a lust for Iraq's oil.
"I'm saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows -- the Iraq war is largely about oil," he wrote in reported excerpts of the book, which hits bookstore shelves Monday.
Greenspan, who during his tenure as chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank had been famous for his tight-lipped stoicism, also accuses President George W. Bush of abandoning Republican principles on the economy.
His memoir appears 18 months after he left the Fed following a career that spanned 1987 to 2006, with the US economy at a crossroads, and ahead of a critical central bank meeting under the chairmanship of his successor, Ben Bernanke.
The man dubbed "The Oracle" tells his own tale of nearly two decades at the helm of one of the world's most powerful financial institutions, and includes surprising swipes at the Bush administration.
Greenspan, a lifelong Republican, writes that he advised the White House to veto some bills to curb "out-of-control" spending while the Republicans controlled Congress.
According to The Wall Street Journal, he says that Bush's failure to do so "was a major mistake."
Republicans in Congress, he writes, "swapped principle for power. They ended up with neither."
"They deserved to lose" in the 2006 elections when the Democrats retook control of Congress, he adds.
The White House on Monday confessed to being "a bit surprised" by Greenspan's critique.
"I think that the president was a bit surprised by some of the criticism in the book, for example regarding tax cuts," said spokeswoman Dana Perino, who hastened to point out a subsequent newspaper interview by Greenspan in which he softens his critique.
A speech by the 81-year-old Greenspan is said to command more than 100,000 dollars, and Greenspan reportedly earned an 8.5 million dollar advance from Penguin Press for the book.
In the bombshell memoir, he puts his own spin on the events surrounding the 1987 stock market crash, the bursting of the Internet bubble and the 2001 recession coinciding with the September 11 terror strikes.
In a blog on the online bookstore Amazon.com, Greenspan says he will share details of his childhood in New York, his years as a jazz musician and his friendship with US presidents.
"After years of talking 'Fedspeak' in carefully calibrated congressional testimony, I could finally use my own voice," Green says with uncharacteristic verve.
"I tackled the personal part first, but then started unraveling the detective story about the economy," Greenspan adds in his blog. "What did all the economic shifts we began to detect in the late '90s mean?"
His memoirs are due out just as the institution he led for so many years holds its most anticipated meeting in years.
On Tuesday, investors around the world will be closely watching the Fed for some sign that might help counter the effects of a US mortgage crisis that has rattled markets and led to a credit squeeze.
Greenspan is increasingly being blamed by some for the crisis. By keeping interest rates so low for so long, some argue, he helped foster the real estate bubble behind much of the current woes.
The former Fed chief defended himself in an interview with CBS television, portions of which were released Thursday.
"They are mistaken," Greenspan said of his critics. "It was our job to unfreeze the American banking system if we wanted the economy to function. This required that we keep rates modestly low."
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