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No Good Men Among the Living: America, the Taliban, and the War through Afghan Eyes Hardcover – April 29, 2014
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“Gopal's book is essential reading for anyone concerned about how America got Afghanistan so wrong. It is a devastating, well-honed prosecution detailing how our government bungled the initial salvo in the so-called war on terror, ignored attempts by top Taliban leaders to surrender, trusted the wrong people and backed a feckless and corrupt Afghan regime. . . . It is ultimately the most compelling account I've read of how Afghans themselves see the war.” ―The New York Times Book Review
“Astonishing stories. . . Such investigative reporting is very rare in Afghanistan, where foreign journalists have been targets since 2001. Gopal pursued his stories into the most active centers of the insurgency. He learned Dari and -- more difficult -- Pushtu. He won the trust of insurgent leaders. But his real genius lies in binding all these sources together and combining them with thousands of hours of interviews. . . . All this allows him to bring life to figures who have hitherto been caricatures.” ―The New York Review of Books
“A brilliant analysis of our military's dysfunction and a startlingly clear account of the consequences” ―Mother Jones
“Extraordinary . . . Brilliantly written . . . Gopal’s method of going deep into the lives of several Talibs, warlords, and ordinary Afghans―he includes an exhilarating portrait of one Afghan woman―demonstrates how different the Americans’ ‘mistakes’ feel when the dead, injured, and traumatized people have been amply humanized.” ―Bookforum
“With a plethora of policy-oriented works on Afghanistan having appeared in recent years, Anand Gopal wisely chooses to tell the war's story from the personal perspective of three characters. . . . Gopal displays a keen understanding of the levers of power in Afghan society and their sometimes devastating effect on individuals trying to make their way in the world.” ―Los Angeles Times
“Refreshingly complex and thought-provoking. . . Often reading like an adventure novel, No Good Men Among the Living is certain to appeal to Afghan-ophiles and casual readers alike. . . . Gopal offers a unique perspective, an essential examination of policy, and a rock-solid narrative that ensures this will be one of the few books people still read years from now when they want to understand America's war in Afghanistan.” ―The Christian Science Monitor
“The level of craftsmanship in this book is often awe-inspiring. . . . Provides unique insights into America's intervention in Afghanistan and makes important contributions to our understanding of the conflict there.” ―Foreign Policy
“Compelling. . .Gopal's chronology of how America's deadly incompetence and the predatory graft of Afghan authorities drove many Afghans to despair or rebellion is the product of sustained and impressive shoe-leather reporting. This is a valuable book.” ―Maclean’s
“Haunting . . . Presents a stirring critique of American forces who commanded overwhelming firepower, but lacked the situational knowledge to achieve their objectives . . . Gopal reveals the fragility of the tenuous connection between intention and destiny in a war-torn land.” ―Publishers Weekly
“Gopal puts the present Afghanistan in perspective . . . He presents his analysis of Afghanistan through three individuals: Mullah Cable, a Taliban commander; Jan Muhammad, a member of the U.S.-backed Afghan government; and Heela, a village housewife. His portraits of these three and their tumultuous lives are rich in detail, as are his descriptions of their stark and war-ravaged land.” ―Kirkus Reviews
“Original and stimulating . . . Policymakers and informed readers will benefit immensely from this illuminating book” ―Library Journal
“A brilliant, incisive work of storytelling and analysis. Of all the recent books on Afghanistan, this one stands out like a bright shining light, revealing the truth of the war from the ground up. Breathtaking and magnificent, this is a must read.” ―Ahmed Rashid, author of Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia
“If you read one book on Afghanistan today, make it this one. No Good Men Among the Living is a masterfully told narrative of how, after 9/11, the Americans defeated the Taliban only to revive them. An admirable achievement.” ―Jon Lee Anderson, author of The Fall of Baghdad and The Lion’s Grave
“Anand Gopal, known for his extraordinarily brave firsthand accounts of the Taliban, now tells the story of the Afghan war through stories of the Afghans themselves―whose voices have been notably absent from almost all coverage of the conflict. With its deep reporting and excellent writing, No Good Men Among the Living is destined to became a classic of war reportage.” ―Peter Bergen, author of Manhunt: The Ten-Year Search for Bin Laden from 9/11 to Abbottabad
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Top Customer Reviews
We've had plenty of those. We weren't told the Taliban was willing to turn bin Laden over to a neutral nation to stand trial. We weren't told the Taliban was a reluctant tolerator of al Qaeda, and a completely distinct group. We weren't told the 911 attacks had also been planned in Germany and Maryland and various other places not marked for bombing. We weren't told that most of the people who would die in Afghanistan, many more than died on 911, not only didn't support 911 but never heard of it. We weren't told our government would kill large numbers of civilians, imprison people without trial, hang people by their feet and whip them until they were dead. We weren't told how this illegal war would advance the acceptability of illegal wars or how it would make the United States hated in much of the world. We weren't given the background of how the U.S. interfered in Afghanistan and provoked a Soviet invasion and armed resistance to the Soviets and left the people to the tender mercies of that armed resistance once the Soviets left. We weren't told that Tony Blair wanted Afghanistan first before he'd get the UK to help destroy Iraq. We certainly weren't told that bin Laden had been an ally of the U.S. government, that the 911 hijackers were mostly Saudi, or that there might be anything at all amiss with the government of Saudi Arabia. And nobody mentioned the trillions of dollars we'd waste or the civil liberties we'd have to lose at home or the severe damage that would be inflicted on the natural environment. Even birds don't go to Afghanistan anymore.
OK. That's all sort of par-for-the-course, war-marketing bulls---. People who pay attention know all of that.Read more ›
Gopal has obviously done his homework, researching these wars in depth, but more than that, he has spent hundreds of hours on the ground in Afghanistan just talking with the people there, including three in particular, a warlord, a Taliban commander, and a woman, Heela, widowed by the war and left to fend for herself and her children in a region where women have no rights or standing.
Perhaps the most shocking revelation comes early on in the book, when we learn that this whole war might not have happened at all if the U.S. had simply accepted Afghanistan's offer to bring Osama bin Laden to justice themselves. But no, the U.S. demanded his extradition for a U.S. trial and there was no middle ground.Read more ›
The greatest strength of the book centers around two of its central characters, a local Taliban commander and an Afghan woman. While Gopal does not hesitate to show the Taliban's brutality, he also shows its humanity. The story of the commander lays bare many assumptions western readers surely harbor about the Taliban and its motivations. Similarly, the story of the Afghan woman and her rise in the political scene provides sharp insights into the world of Afghan women. It will surprise and inform many western readers accustomed to thinking of Afghan women only as helpless creatures trapped "behind the veil."
Near the middle of the book, Gopal indulges in an important discussion of politics. Although, it's based on in-depth reporting and fascinating anecdotes it can feel like a distraction from the main narrative. I was grateful for his insights, but it was also the only section where I found myself able to put the book down. Even if readers may find themselves wishing for a faster return to the main narratives, they're certain to find these parts valuable and worthwhile.
Gopal's book is certain to endure and be one of the few books people read decades from now to understand what happened in Afghanistan after 9/11.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This book was a very insightful explanation of how good intentions fueled by ambition and adrenaline can go terribly wrong. Read morePublished 21 days ago by Geoff
Probably the best book out their about recent Afghan history. Gopal is not Afghan and it is always problematic when outsiders profit off of marginalized people, but at least he... Read morePublished 1 month ago by gtambo
It's a great eye-opener on an "unknown" and likely gravely misunderstood world.Published 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
A very sad commentary of the AW from the perspective of the Afghan people. Very readable book which puts a real face on our less then credible actions in this poor country. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Dave VanDenburgh
Indians have rare talent to go deep into human souls. Gopal is not an exemption. His book opens up souls of suffering afghans, and in general souls of people under cruel... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Antal Halmos
Extraordinary. Thoroughly researched, deftly told story of the initial phases of the Afghanistan intervention.Published 3 months ago by Amazon Customer
This book will add to any frustration you have with US/NATO policy in Afghanistan, but it is a great read and very well written. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Robert F.