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Killing the Cranes: A Reporter's Journey through Three Decades of War in Afghanistan Hardcover – August 3, 2011


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Chelsea Green Publishing; 1 edition (August 3, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1603583424
  • ISBN-13: 978-1603583428
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 1.4 x 6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #659,299 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"Ed Girardet has accumulated more experience in Afghanistan than almost anyone else in the press corps, and the result is a truly remarkable book about a completely misunderstood country. Killing the Cranes may well be the most gripping and thorough account ever written about our numerous missteps and lost opportunities-it reads like a great novel but informs like the best kind of magazine journalism. Both his writing and reporting are absolutely superb."--Sebastian Junger, author of War



"Edward Girardet's knowledge of Afghanistan, both its many problems and its many attractions, is profound. He writes with great authority and grace, and his love for the country comes through on every page of this fascinating, important, and thoughtful book."--Peter Bergen, author of The Longest War: The Enduring Conflict between America and Al-Qaeda



"Drawing on more than three decades of personal travels to Afghanistan, Edward Girardet offers a ruminating set of reflections on the history of the region and its diverse groups. He captures the dynamism, the pride, and the potential of the people living in Afghanistan. He also examines the limitations of military interventions and the possibilities for policies more deeply connected to rural communities. Girardet's book is a must-read for anyone seeking a deeper understanding of contemporary Afghanistan."--Jeremi Suri, author of Liberty's Surest Guardian: American Nation-Building from Washington to Obama



"Edward Girardet has a unique story to tell... He has been a consistent and keen observer of political events. He has come to know all the major characters... His is a very personal tale as well as being one of great historical importance."--Ahmed Rashid, author of Taliban, Jihad, and Descent into Chaos



"Edward Girardet puts all of his thirty years' experience to use in this vivid, enlightening, humane, yet alarming book. Few other observers have had the determination to cover Afghan events from before the Soviet invasion to the preparations for American withdrawal. Girardet describes that whole saga, points out why and whether things could have gone differently, and explains the realistic prospects ahead. This is a life's-work testimony in the best sense."--James Fallows, author of Blind into Baghdad and Postcards from Tomorrow Square



"Part travelogue, part memoir, part political analysis, Girardet has produced a fine work of reportage. . . .Killing the Cranes provides unparalleled insights into the immense challenges presented by the war in Afghanistan, and the reasons, he predicts, for a denouement that is likely to resemble those of other failed engagements by foreign powers."--Mark Schapiro, author of Exposed and senior correspondent, Center for Investigative Reporting



"After reading Killing the Cranes, I felt like I had spent three decades in Afghanistan at Girardet's side. This is the most thorough and knowledgeable book on Afghanistan I have come across, and his conclusions about what has gone wrong and what can be done about it are unassailable."--Howard Dean, former Chair of the Democratic National Committee and Vermont governor; author of Howard Dean's Prescription for Real Healthcare Reform



Library Journal-
Girardet (Afghanistan: The Soviet War) has spent more than three decades as a war correspondent covering conflicts around the world, frequently in Afghanistan, starting with the Soviet invasion in 1979. Having lived on the ground reporting alongside the mujahideen, he offers a sobering perspective. These guerrilla fighters, with U.S. financial aid, ousted the Soviet-backed regime in 1992. They in turn were ousted by the Taliban. During his frequent trips inside Afghanistan, in many cases entering illegally at great personal risk, Girardet was nearly killed (when mistaken for Salman Rushdie) and had a number of personal encounters with al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden pre-9/11, unaware of the identity of the "tall Arab man" who was developing a hatred of the United States. VERDICT: With his vast experience inside Afghanistan during different conflicts, Girardet presents strong evidence that foreign powers from the British to the Soviets to the Americans have all made the same mistakes by attempting to impose their own political models and values on a nation that does not fit into any Western mold. While this conclusion is hardly new, Girardet's excellent work should be of particular interest to historians, foreign policy buffs, political scientists, and military personnel.



ForeWord Reviews-
Few people are likely as well qualified as Girardet to tell the tragic story of Afghanistan since the 1979 Soviet invasion. The American author has been a foreign correspondent for The Christian Science Monitor, U.S. News and World Report, and the MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour and is the author of Afghanistan: The Soviet War. Girardet began covering Afghanistan just before the Soviet attack, and the American’s compassion for Afghanis, who, in his experience, would share their meager food and few possessions with strangers, resonates throughout. Girardet skillfully blends tales of bravery and tragedy with authoritative investigations of the history and culture of Afghanistan. This book is an excellent personal account of a nation in turmoil that offers insight into its history, its people, and its future. Serious readers of current politics will find this important work instructive and rewarding. Despite the great challenges Girardet identifies, he remains cautiously optimistic that Afghanistan could yet become stable—if foreign nations would stop encroaching and if Afghanis were truly free to decide their own fate—a land that would again be home to ‘migrating cranes.’



Midwest Book Review-
Killing the Cranes represents some thirty years of the author's reporting from war-torn Afghanistan, and provides a powerful assessment of not only events but what went wrong and what can be done about them today. He experienced the heart of the country's most dangerous conflicts and terrain, witnessing its major battles and meeting those who helped shape its future. Killing the Cranes is a vivid history and a powerful recommendation for military and general history holdings alike.



Kirkus Reviews-
From longtime journalist and producer Girardet (Afghanistan: The Soviet War, 1986, etc.), an insightful personal account of Afghanistan and its people from 1979 to the present.

 The author's career began with the Christian Science Monitor before the days when correspondents were embedded with the troops. Girardet chronicles the countless crimes that still demand redress, many of which predate those of the Soviet invasion, the Saudi- and Pakistani-funded religious war of the 1990s and bin Laden's al-Qaeda. The author is concerned that corruption, criminality and religious fundamentalism have undermined the country's potential, especially since the 1990s. With a long-view perspective, Girardet puts forward a view of a culture based on generosity and openness, a culture which he thinks has been wronged by misguided association with the fighting qualities of guerrillas and terrorists. Afghans have resisted every foreign invasion they have faced, and the author thinks this one will be no different.

 Girardet's unique perspective will be both helpful and thought-provoking for readers seeking to understand what might be involved in an eventual peace settlement and independence.



Publishers Weekly-
European-based journalist Girardet (Afghanistan: The Soviet War) shares his personal story of the Russian occupation of Afghanistan and offers disturbing parallels to America's involvement. His first trip as a journalist was just months before the Soviet invasion, and he was smitten with the beauty of the countryside with its ‘sprawling sea of twenty-thousand-foot-high snowcapped peaks.’ He returned often over the following decade, accompanying the mujahideen on missions and documenting the plight of the people. His exploits included a tense confrontation with Osama bin Laden, and he eventually landed on a ‘hit list... vilified as ‘the enemy of Islam.'’ He returned when America invaded, and concludes that ‘all I see is a replay of history.’ His comparisons of the invasions expose a superpower hubris where ‘first the Soviets, and now the West attempted to impose a political and cultural future... that was not consistent with traditional Afghan culture and beliefs.’ Girardet admits to having ‘romanticized Afghanistan because of its harsh beauty and poetic embrace,’ but still offers a sobering assessment.

About the Author

Edward Girardet is a journalist, writer, and producer who has reported widely from humanitarian and conflict zones in Africa, Asia, and elsewhere since the late 1970s. As a foreign correspondent for The Christian Science Monitor, US News and World Report, and The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour based in Paris, he first began covering Afghanistan several months prior to the Soviet invasion in 1979. He has worked on numerous television current affairs and documentary segments on subjects ranging from the war in Angola to lost tribes in Western New Guinea and environmental issues in Africa for major European and North American broadcasters. Girardet is a founding director of the Institute for Media and Global Governance in Geneva, Switzerland. He is also editor of Crosslines Essential Media Ltd (UK).

Girardet has written widely for major publications such as National Geographic Magazine, The Christian Science Monitor, International Herald Tribune, Financial Times, and other media on humanitarian, media, and conflict issues. In addition to Killing the Cranes, he has also written and edited several books, notably Afghanistan-The Soviet War (1985); Somalia, Rwanda and Beyond (1996); Populations in Danger (1996); and The Crosslines Essential Field Guide to Afghanistan(1998, 2004 and 2006). Girardet lives with his family in Cessy, France, near the Swiss border with Geneva.

More About the Author

Edward Girardet is a journalist, writer and producer who has reported from numerous humanitarian and conflict zones in Africa, Asia and elsewhere since the late 1970s. As a foreign correspondent for The Christian Science Monitor, US News and World Report, and The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour based in Paris, he first began covering Afghanistan several months prior to the Soviet invasion in 1979. He has worked on numerous television current affairs and documentary segments on subjects ranging from the war in Angola to lost tribes in Western New Guinea and environmental issues in Africa for major European and North American broadcasters. Girardet is afounding director of the Institute for Media and Global Governance in Geneva, Switzerland. He is also editor of Crosslines Essential Media Ltd (UK).

Girardet has written widely for major publications such as National Geographic Magazine, The Christian Science Monitor, International Herald Tribune, Financial Times and other media on humanitarian, media and conflict issues. He has also written and edited several books, notably Afghanistan - The Soviet War (1985), Somalia, Rwanda and Beyond (1996), Populations in Danger (1996), and The CROSSLINES Essential Field Guide to Afghanistan (1998, 2004 and 2006). Girardet lives with his family in Cessy, France near the Swiss border with Geneva.

Customer Reviews

Girardet's story about how he met a young Osama Bin Laden who later threatened to kill him is worth buying the book for.
LeMilicien
For anyone looking for an in-depth understanding of the history and current situation in Afghanistan, I believe this book will provide that and more.
John O'Neill
This is a very good book, written by Edward Girardet, who spent three decades as a journalist covering the war in Afghanistan.
S. Robbins

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By The Lazy Book Reviewer on August 28, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The author has delivered within the pages of this book a must read for anyone even vaguely interested in the recent history of Afghanistan, it's people, and the issues facing this breath taking country. Edward Girardet has been reporting from within Afghanistan since the 70's and bring a unique insight to this country and some of its key players. As well he has a thorough understanding of the history and political background which has made Afghanistan such a unique country. From his writing you can sense his frustration in the West to comprehend and understand the ways of the country and it's people. This book is sure to become a classic on Afghanistan it left me with a sense of understanding I have yet had from any other book on this subject.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By John P. Jones III TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 5, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Edward Girardet does not say it, so it is "pure speculation" on my part, but surely he must be in a category of one, in terms of his knowledge and experience in Afghanistan. After completing his formal education he indicates that he desired to find his own "Vietnam," and commence his real education. His first trip as a reporter into Afghanistan occurred BEFORE the Soviet invasion of 1979, over 30 years ago. And like Tim Page, a war photographer and reporter, and a "recidivist" in regards to Vietnam, Girardet also stayed with the story, and made it his life. In a more perfect world his knowledge would merit a 2-hour, uninterrupted, one-on-one with President Obama, before making the European circuit. In this less than perfect world, he won't get it, but his perspective is now available to all of us.

Girardet draws the reader in with his depiction of the murder of the 10 members of the International Assistance Mission, an NGO, including two "old Afghan hands" who had been delivering medical care in remote regions for decades. When they were killed, they were on another mission, without armed protection, hiking between rural villages. Their killing was deliberate; no doubt it was viewed as so much "collateral damage" in a wider war, with higher objectives. In the first chapter he relates his attempts to once again interview Ahmed Shah Massoud, who was the leader of the United Front (Girardet points out that in the West it is generally known as the "Northern Alliance" due to the efforts of the ISI, the Pakistani intelligence service, to discredit what they were not readily able to influence). Unable to see him due to his uncertain schedule, Girardet left the area on September 06, 2011, only three days before Massoud was assassinated by suicide bombers posing as reporters.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By charles2cool on September 17, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A book to read.
As a former international worker and having worked two years in the extraordinary country that is Afghanistan, I feel that the author's personalized reporting of his journeys in Afghanistan and Pakistan NWFP for the last 30 years (from before the Soviet invasion to today) provides very insightful observations of Afghanistan's struggles, the outside interferences and internal power struggles. Girardet provides very interesting insights on the approach and role of the USA (and CIA, islamist jihaddists/wahhabites during this period. It well describes the roles and actions of various "warlords",that of the coalition forces since 2001, as well as those of international organizations and NGOs.
By reading the book, one can pierce into Afghan traditions and begin to understand the reasons for the shift from the great hospitality that Afghans traditionally displayed towards guests (I can vouch for that) to the recent cultural change brought about by the outside influences of both islamist jihadists and the civilo-military approach of coalition forces for the last 10 years, as well as corruption and drug related activities benefitting a whole range of actors.
Girardet provides a sense of what Afghanistan is, in all its contradictions, and what Afghans are, as a diverse people with long traditions.
The conclusion is neither rosy nor optimistic, but realistic and sobering: it is a tough road ahead.

For a longer term historical view (150 years), one could read Charles Miller's "Khyber" and note that, whether under the British, the Soviets or the Coalition forces, meddlers into Afghanistan have always been resisted.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Timothy J. Bazzett on August 30, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Journalist Edward Girardet's KILLING THE CRANES will probably not be a popular book in the corridors of power in Washington, D.C. There are too many career politicians and professional war-mongers who will feel threatened by what Girardet has to say.

After more than thirty years of reporting on the nearly-continuous wars that have torn Afghanistan apart, Girardet has developed a deep respect and even affection for its proud people. He has no personal political agenda to promote here, other than a fervent wish for an end to the wars that have left the country's economy in ruins and millions of people uprooted and destitute.

I read Girardet's earlier book, AFGHANISTAN: THE SOVIET WAR, over twenty years ago, and was most impressed with his encyclopedic knowledge of Afghanistan as a country, as well as the overview that book offered of the various warlords and rival mujahideen factions who were at the time resisting the Soviet occupation forces. Girardet, a reporter who has trekked over the mountains between Pakistan and Afghanistan countless times, built on those experiences and the contacts he made then and in the years since to write KILLING THE CRANES. I would like to call the current book the 'culmination' of his years of experience in the Afghan wars, but, given the fact that the country is currently still being 'occupied' by the U.S.-led coalition of forces, or ISAF (laughingly referred to by those who live there as "I Saw Americans Fighting), there is no way of knowing how much longer the wars will continue. (And I say this despite the current 2014 deadline for withdrawal, which I will believe when it happens.)

When I read a book like KtC, I tend to turn down page corners to mark passages I want to remember or cite.
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