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Chasing Ghosts: Failures and Facades in Iraq: A Soldier's Perspective Paperback – May 1, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

An Operation Iraqi Freedom vet and founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), Rieckhoff recounts his journey from National Guard lieutenant to disillusioned patriot in this disappointing combat memoir-cum-polemic. Rieckhoff admits that he thought the reasons for invading Iraq were "bullshit," but volunteered to go anyway. His experiences in Iraq—patrolling the chaotic streets of Baghdad in the months after its occupation—only confirmed his initial judgment that the invasion "was one of the greatest foreign policy mistakes in our nation's history." Rieckhoff is anything but humble. An Amherst grad (as he often interjects), he finds his recruiter repellant—a "slick, fat... Sergeant [who] smelled like a dirty ashtray"— but enlists anyway. President Bush is "arrogant" and "a bully," and Coalition Provisional Authority head Paul Bremer is "ignorant and out-of-touch." Rieckhoff is bipartisan in his contempt: when the Kerry campaign ignores his advice, he dismisses the Democratic presidential candidate as "a calculating and coached politician." Finally, he and a "small band of pissed-off visionaries" founded their own organization, Operation Truth, to get out the word. In the end, Rieckhoff has a story to tell, but he undermines his credibility with his arrogance and petty offside remarks. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Lieutenant Rieckhoff and his 38-man infantry platoon spent 10 months in one of the most volatile areas of Baghdad, trying to maintain order, protect civilians, track down insurgents, and protect themselves from snipers and bombers. It quickly became clear that the American mission in Iraq had vague strategy, flawed tactics, and overchallenged, underequipped soldiers. Rieckhoff made it back alive, determined to tell the truth about what was happening and demand accountability from elected officials. Although Rieckhoff does not emphasize it, it comes through clearly that Iraq War veterans are held in declining respect, evidenced by the problems they have getting help with war-related injuries, especially psychological ones. Iraq has been a rich man's war and a poor man's fight, with the Iraqi people barely visible in the American media. Moreover, Rieckhoff's experiences showed him that censorship and bias abound even in these days of "on-the-spot" reporting, distorting what anyone following the war through the general media can learn. A most commendable eyewitness report on Iraq. Frieda Murray
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: NAL; Reprint edition (May 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0451221214
  • ISBN-13: 978-0451221216
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (166 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,356,692 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Paul Rieckhoff is a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom and the Executive Director and Founder of IAVA (Iraq & Afghanistan Veterans of America), the country's first and largest Iraq Veterans group. He is nationally-recognized authority on the Iraq war and is also the author of the critically acclaimed book, Chasing Ghosts.

Rieckhoff created IAVA in June 2004 along with a couple of other Veterans, a handful of volunteers, and massive amounts of credit-card debt. The group attracted thousands Iraq War Veterans and more than 60,000 grassroots supporters across America, including family members of the troops presently in combat.

IAVA not only shed light on the challenges facing our Troops, but in late 2004 directly contributed to solving some of the most urgent problems. From investigating HUMVEE armor shortages to lobbying for expanded access to health care for Reservists and Guardsmen, IAVA pushed for real solutions to real problems.

Rieckhoff, 30, enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserves on September 15, 1998 and completed Basic Combat Training and Advanced Individual Training at Fort McClellan, Alabama. Rieckhoff then served in the U.S. Army Reserves, as a Specialist with the 812th Military Police Company.

Rieckhoff left Wall Street on September 8, 2001 with plans to travel and complete additional military schooling. Those plans would change dramatically. On the morning of September 11, Rieckhoff was at his apartment on 24th Street in Manhattan when the first plane hit the World Trade Center. He saw the smoke from his rooftop, and immediately joined scores of volunteers serving in the rescue effort at Ground Zero. His unit was formally activated later that evening and he stayed on for an additional two weeks.

In February, 2002, Rieckhoff began Infantry Officers Basic Course at Fort Benning, Georgia. He graduated in June of 2002 and immediately volunteered for active duty and a place in the pending war in Iraq.

In January, 2003, Rieckhoff got the call to go to Iraq. Two days later, he was on a plane to join the 3rd Infantry Division at Fort Stewart, Georgia. Rieckhoff was then assigned as Platoon Leader for 3rd Platoon, B Company, 3/124th INF (Air Assault) FLNG.

The unit was attached to 1st Brigade, 3ID and spent approximately 10 months conducting combat operations in Iraq, centered in the Adamiyah section of Baghdad on the Eastern bank of the Tigris River. Third Platoon conducted over 1,000 dismounted and mounted combat patrols. The 3/124th INF was the first reserve component unit in the Army to be awarded the Combat Infantryman Badge since the Korean War. All thirty-eight of the men in Rieckhoff's platoon returned home alive.

Rieckhoff was honored in November by Esquire magazine as one of "America's Best and Brightest for 2004" and was interviewed Tom Brokaw on The NBC Nightly News. His recent appearances include:, ABC's This Week With George Stephanopoulos, CNN's Paula Zahn Now, NewsNight with Aaron Brown, Anderson Cooper 360, Fox's Hannity and Colmes, CBS 60 Minutes II, MSNBC's Hardball.

Rieckhoff has also had opinion pieces printed by AlterNet, Knight-Ridder and the International Herald Tribune and has been featured in The New York Times, Washington Post, L.A. Times, Army Times, Wall Street Journal, Reuters, New York Daily News, Newsday and A.P.

Rieckhoff was released from active duty on March, 2004 and now serves in the New York National Guard. He is a staunch political independent and IAVA is tied to no political party or candidate. He is a graduate of Amherst College and lives in New York City.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Adam S. Meents on February 15, 2007
Format: Hardcover
For four years I had privileged access to classified military information as an Operation Specialist in the United States Navy. Not long after I obtained a security clearance, I came to the sobering revelation that once my tour was over I would be mainly dependent on the same old convoluted media coverage the rest of us are accustomed to.

My enlistment ended four years before we invaded Iraq. Therefore, I had a hard time painting in my mind what was really happening in Iraq. I did not want to assume the media was painting a complete picture -- they never did when I served.

At last Paul Rieckhoff's strikling articulate memoir "Chasing Ghosts" hit the shelves and provided that breath of fresh air (reality) I had been feverishly waiting for.

Paul does an excellent job of presenting the good, the bad, and the ugly of his ten month experience as a Second Lieutenant in the National Guard in Baghdad. The lead up to be Paul's deployment, and the fight on the homefront after his tour had ended is equally intriguing.

I am not a big fan of telling people what they "should" or "ought" to do or read. But if you have not experienced Iraq first hand, you really should read this book to at least get some perspective the media will not offer. Perception rules over reality too much in our society. We need some fresh perspective to help ensure our fallen troops and innocent Iraqis have not died in vain.

Paul Rieckhoff has fought very hard and very bravely to not only protect us, but also to enlighten us. "Chasing Ghosts" offers us the inspiration we need to fuel the support necessary to make a difference. I highly recommend this book.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Sean DeCoursey on May 15, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Reading this book was a really wierd experience for me. I deployed to Iraq with B Co, 2/124 INF out of Sanford, FL. It was almost like reading a story about my own life that someone else wrote and lived.

We didn't see much of 3rd Bat after we left Stewart, but overall the experiences were remarkably similar in the trends, if not the details. One Catch-22 absurdity that wasn't mentioned in the book is that before we came home, we had been extended so many times that the one year ID cards we were issued at the start of the deployment for a "worst case scenario" all expired so every soldier in the Brigade had to get issued new military IDs - in Iraq.

If anything, the book glosses over the gross incompetence and complete disconnet most higher level leaders were operating under. Like the LTC who told one of our Squad Leaders to put his kids in foster care after the guy's wife had nervous breakdown upon hearing the news of our third tour extension. Or the number of translators we lost because we weren't allowed to go into the towns and protect them. The new to Iraq active duty units that didn't want to hear anything the "Nasty Guard" had to say about the territory and towns they were about to patrol through - a week later 2ID had about a dozen Strykers in the graveyard. My personal favorite was the armor Colonel from 4ID I met at Landstuhl who I had to explain to that no, the war wasn't over just because the President said so.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to get more involved than the standard for this war, which so far seems to be "I bought a magnetic yellow bumber sticker!" As someone who was in a lot of the same places at the same times, I didn't find a single thing in it that didn't ring true.
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57 of 69 people found the following review helpful By Thomas Duff HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 2, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Like many Americans, I've been less-than-pleased with how the Iraqi war has played out. The reasons for going into action were likely fabricated, and now we find ourselves trapped in a morass with no easy way out. After reading Chasing Ghosts : A Soldier's Fight for America from Baghdad to Washington by Paul Rieckhoff, I'm more convinced than ever that our political leadership has completely failed both Iraq *and* America.

Rieckhoff was a National Guardsman who signed up knowing that he'd likely see action in the Middle East. He was committed to the cause and was ready to help the Iraqi people realize their freedom under a democracy. What happened was far different. He and 38 other ill-trained soldiers were put in charge of protecting a hot zone that included a hospital where they had set up base. Grossly understaffed with faulty equipment, they ended up doing the best they could with what they had, risking their lives on a daily basis. The leadership in command there seemed to be completely out of touch with the reality of the war in the streets, and the politicians at home were presenting a view of the Iraqi situation that was diametrically opposite of what the troops were facing. After having their tours extended numerous times with little warning, he finally made it home after nearly a year of service in the heart of Baghdad. His view and outlook on life upon his return had totally changed, and he decided that he had to be a voice to speak out for the servicemen and women who were on the front lines of a war that was only getting worse. He offered his services to both presidential candidates during the 2004 election, but no one wanted to confront those issues head on.
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