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I Is for Infidel: From Holy War to Holy Terror: 18 Years Inside Afghanistan Hardcover – Illustrated, September 6, 2005

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 186 pages
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs (September 6, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1586483129
  • ISBN-13: 978-1586483128
  • Product Dimensions: 9.8 x 6.4 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #258,665 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Drawing upon Gannon's years of experience as an AP correspondent in Afghanistan, this contemporary history of the country is strongest when it focuses on the ins and outs of reporting. Particularly compelling is her account of being the only Western journalist allowed into Kabul after 9/11. Less gripping, but still sound, is her "big picture" overview of the Taliban regime, from its origins as a humble vigilante force assembled to stop post-Soviet corruption to its eventual overthrow in 2001. Gannon takes the United Nations to task for refusing to confront the Taliban on women's rights, thereby abetting its repressive edicts, and argues that Osama bin Laden orchestrated the destruction of Afghanistan's ancient Buddhist temples in order to turn the country into a safe zone for himself. But Gannon also has little respect for the current mujahedeen leaders, underlining their reputation as "mass murderers" while noting their possible links to bin Laden. Some readers might wish that Gannon had tied together the various strands of her analysis more neatly, but her firsthand knowledge of the region ultimately gives her interpretation of its recent history strong legitimacy.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


"...Gannon offers a concise and bracing account of Afghanistan from a post-Sept. 11 perspectiveher passion for her subject is obvious" -- The San Francisco Chronicle, 9/11/05

"Her closely observed chronicle of Afghanistan's descent...and its attempts to rebound, is full of vivid incident and astute analysis" -- The Wall Street Journal, 9/14/05

PPParticularly compelling account her firsthand knowledge of the region gives her interpretation of its recent history strong legitimacy. -- Publishers Weekly, July 18, 2005

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Customer Reviews

Ms. Gannon's writing is so poor, something one does not expect from a seasoned journalist.
John W. Chuckman
Her eighteen years covering Afghanistan as a journalist gives us so much information to comprehend the diverse factors leading up to the current situation.
Edward Rockett
I ordered the book to get a hands on explanation of who, what and why are our loved ones are there.
Jackie Hbach

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Mike Levin on October 27, 2005
Format: Hardcover
In Kathy Gannon's Afghanistan, mistakes can get you killed. She probably made a few during nearly two decades in the country reporting for Associated Press on three regimes of repressive government. Yet there's an obvious savvyness revealed in I is for Infidel that explains why she's not only alive but remains the journalist other journalists seek out when they want to write about this volatile nexus of Asia.

Gannon has written a break-neck account of the violence, corruption and plain stupidity that has often defined Afghanistan since Soviet occupation. She takes no sides (unless you consider civilians caught in war a side) and is just as likely to point out the tragically blinkered view of American government as the obvious cruelty of the Taliban. Her criticisms and revelations make you wonder how she can feel safe in our War-On-Terrorism world.

The book is as compelling a read as there is on who the major players were in a geopolitical game that continues to use Afghanistan and its people as virtual colonials. It's almost too much to take in at once. Yet Gannon's access and insight provide treasures for anyone interested in this place and time.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Friederike Knabe VINE VOICE on January 3, 2006
Format: Hardcover
The Taliban have been a hot topic for about a decade now. Googling "Taliban regime" shows 2,666,000 references and 5260 pages in Google books alone. Studies, investigations and personal accounts of living under the regime abound. Yet, very few outsiders could report from within the country during that period. Kathy Gannon, a veteran Canadian correspondent with AP in the region since 1986, was the only western journalist allowed to stay during the whole time. Her long-term and close association with Afghans of different political and religious persuasions have given her unique insights into the society that are conveyed in this lively and personal account.

Gannon debated with leaders and moderate members of the Taliban movement, with commanders of the Northern Alliance as well as Pakistanis, intimately involved in recent events. Her analyses and conclusions don't make for comfortable reading, yet they are essential to appreciating the complexities and dangers of the political developments in the region. For example, she exposes the naïveté and short sightedness of western governments. Rather than building on their influence, she contends, they abandoned the Afghani people several times. Once the Soviet Army had withdrawn, the US and its allies left warlords and mujahedeen commanders in control. Many Afghans saw their new regime as a reign of lawlessness and arbitrary terror. When the Taliban fought back, many Afghans initially welcomed them as protectors. Yet, the West, Gannon claims, ignored the moderate Taliban, who were eventually overwhelmed by the movement's fundamentalists. There were strong indications that bin Laden and Al Qaeda commanders consistently influenced the Taliban leadership also towards its role in a global jihad.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Dennis Littrell HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 2, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I came away from reading this book more dismayed with the Bush administration's response to 9/11 than ever. If Kathy Gannon has got it right, and she certainly has the credentials: AP correspondent in Pakistan and Afghanistan from 1986 to 2005; recipient of the International Women's Media Foundation Courage in Journalism award; and an Edward R. Murrow fellowship--if Gannon has got it right, the US basically fired enough rockets and dropped enough bombs in Afghanistan to chase the Taliban into the hills; and then instead of relying on US Special Forces to get the job done, the Bush administration let the warlords take over.

Actually it was worse than that. Gannon reports on several incidents where the US military allowed the Northern Alliance warlords to direct US rockets and bombs at personal enemies or people allied with rival warlords. They told the Americans these people were Taliban, and got them mowed down.

Well, war is hell, you say. What Gannon argues is that the US only made a half-hearted effort to get Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda, leaving most of the work to the Northern Alliance of murderous warlords (Reagan's old Cold War "freedom fighters") whose main desire was to retake their territory from the Taliban and return to business as usual. Which they have.

From Gannon's tone and from the evidence she presents, the warlords are in some ways worse than the Taliban. Be that as it may, and both are pretty horrible, the fact remains that we killed a lot of people in Afghanistan but really did not do anything substantial in ending the terrorist threat. The main reason for that, according to my reading of Gannon, is that the Bush administration found no way to get to the real source of Al Qaeda terrorism which just moved inside Pakistan.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Timothy M on November 18, 2007
Format: Paperback
While the book is well-written and easily read, the analysis leaves a lot to be desired. Not citing her sources, getting information second hand (sometimes even more distant), and with an inability to answer questions of substance, this book tended to be more frustrating than rewarding. Uninformed readers may get the impression that the Taliban is a group of innocent village folk led astray by sinister Pakistanis and Arab jihadists, more educated readers will know it's a lot more complex.

What's worse, Ms. Gannon's failure to give a full picture of many of the stories she covers, and her habit of criticizing actors, parties and institutions for both doing an action and not doing the same action makes the book extremely frustrating.

She repeats consistently through the narrative the evils of the Northern Alliance (rightly so) and condemns them for their connections with Al-Qaeda. And yet, she fails to stress that the leader of the Northern Alliance was in fact assassinated by two Al-Qaeda suicide bombers and that the Arab jihadists had thrown their lot in with the Pashtun Taliban and not the Tajik/Uzbek Northern Alliance.

Personal details of individual cases in Afghanistan are always needed and thus this book adds to our understanding of what it means to live in a country savaged by war for over thirty years. Unfortunately, her analysis gives us nothing more than hear-says and unanswered and undocumented to boot, narrative on a country in desperate need of stability.
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