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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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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Metropolitan Books (April 29, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805091793
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805091793
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.4 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #33,847 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


A New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice

“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

“A brilliant analysis of our military’s dysfunction and a startlingly clear account of the consequences.”
—Mother Jones

“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

“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

“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

About the Author

Anand Gopal has served as an Afghanistan correspondent for The Wall Street Journal and The Christian Science Monitor, and has reported on the Middle East and South Asia for Harper’s, The Nation, The New Republic, Foreign Policy, and other publications. Gopal is a fellow at the New America Foundation.

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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A fascinating insight into the response to the 911 attacks.
Phil Studenberg
The blunder of the U.S. occupation's de-Baathification policy in Iraq has been widely discussed.
David Swanson
This is a must read for anyone interested in contemporary Afghanistan and how wars go belly up.
Benjamin Gilmour

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

35 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Timothy J. Bazzett on April 29, 2014
Format: Hardcover
For the last dozen years or more U.S. consumers of the news have been force fed the American version, or "our side" of what has been happening in Afghanistan since the first American troops landed there at the end of 2001. Now, with Anand Gopal's book, NO GOOD MEN AMONG THE LIVING, we are given a look at this long so-called `war against terror' through Afghan eyes. Gopal, a respected American journalist who has also done stories from Egypt, Syria and other mid-East hot spots, made several trips into Afghanistan over the past five years, conducting numerous interviews with various warlords, tribal chieftains, Taliban leaders, and ordinary citizens, all in an attempt to understand - what? Well, I suppose trying to figure out what in the hell was going on in this country torn apart by wars for over thirty years now - ten years of occupation and war with the Soviet military, then a bloody civil war, followed by a harsh Taliban rule, and now, the American war against the Taliban and the elusive Al Quaeda.

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.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By David Swanson on May 10, 2014
Format: Hardcover
This goes deeper than the usual war lies.

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.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Kelly Cameron on May 4, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I have worked in Afghanistan off and on for 10 years. This is a great book about the mistakes we have made and, in one case, a story of hope. It provides deep insights into the lives of people who have lived this war and deserves to be widely read.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By William Meyers on June 22, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
What great men call politics is, at ground level, about people's lives. Much of the war in Afghanistan is explained by the stories in the book. It helps to have reminders about the history before 9/11. It helps to know that the Taliban leadership offered to expel Osama to a neutral country, but that the Bush regime demanded unconditional surrender. It helps to know that after their defeat, most of the Taliban leadership tried to work with the new government led by Karzai.

But the terrible beauty of this book is in the individual stories, that are as fascinating and (usually) as easy to read as any novel. A wayward boy whose family was modern, forced after the murders of his family members to join a militia to survive. A woman who went from a modern, educated existence in Kabul to confined to the indoors of her husband's home in a remote village. Stories told by survivors, who say their friends and family killed by the communists or CIA-backed warlords or the Taliban or the final combination of the new warlords with the U.S. Special Ops guys.

The book is very readable, but of course it punctures the American myths most Americans believe in, so the people who need to reed it won't read it. Certainly George W. Bush & crew, and Barack Obama & crew, won't read it at repent their mistakes.

The book's weakness is the flip side of its strength. Because the stories are anecdotal, one could simply choose to believe they are non-representative, just a few bad luck stories from the chaos of war. But it you believe that, how do you explain the revival of the Taliban? If America & its partners ruled Afghanistan well, why would people be willing to rejoing the Taliban, given their personal experiences with life under that regime?
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