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The Man Who Pushed America to War: The Extraordinary Life, Adventures, and Obsessions of Ahmad Chalabi Hardcover – March 4, 2008

4.8 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Intellect, charm, and lust for revenge against Saddam Hussein made Chalabi irresistible to political operatives, neoconservatives, and reporters. Chalabi blamed Saddam Hussein for the1958 exile of his family and the toppling of their banking empire, despite ample evidence that fraudulent insider deals were behind the collapse. Chalabi maneuvered himself onto the payroll of several agencies, including the CIA. The U.S. eventually invested $59 million over 11 years to promote Chalabi’s political agenda and to support his Iraqi National Congress (INC). Reporter Roston pored through legal documents and interviewed a multitude of political figures in the U.S. and the Middle East to detail Chalabi’s incredible machinations. Cultivating the romantic image of a freedom fighter, Chalabi attracted the support of American neocons and was the architect of legislation that helped his cause. INC funds paid accusers, unearthing stories of mobile weapons-of-mass-destruction labs and accusations by Saddam’s mistress that the dictator was connected to Osama bin Laden. Many of those who spoke to Roston were chastened by the turn of events in Iraq, marveling at Chalabi’s abilities to manipulate. But Roston likens Chalabi more to Puck than to Iago in this amazing look at the con man, or hero, who changed the course of Iraqi and American history. --Vanessa Bush

Review

"Another tenpenny nail in the Bush administration's coffin, insofar as the historical record is concerned." -- Kirkus

"Roston pored through legal documents and interviewed a multitude of political figures in the U.S. and the Middle East to detail Chalabi's incredible machinations...[An] amazing look at the con man, or hero, who changed the course of Iraqi and American history." -- Booklist, starred review

"During the next presidential election, voters should have to show proof they have read Aram Roston's fascinating book before being allowed into the booths so we never get into a war like this again." -- James Bamford, bestselling author of Body of Secrets and A Pretext for War
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Nation Books; First Edition, 1st Printing edition (March 4, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1568583532
  • ISBN-13: 978-1568583532
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.3 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,777,533 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author


Aram Roston is an Emmy winning journalist and author who covers national security, crime and corruption, in addition to more enjoyable matters. He's been breaking major stories for more than 15 years. He has worked as an investigative producer at NBC News, a correspondent at CNN and a police reporter in New York City, and has reported from around the world, including assignments in Iraq, Colombia, Liberia and Afghanistan. He's the author of the acclaimed investigative biography of Ahmad Chalabi, THE MAN WHO PUSHED AMERICA TO WAR: THE EXTRAORDINARY LIFE, ADVENTURES AND OBSESSIONS OF AHMAD CHALABI (Nation Books 2008.) He has written for GQ, Mother Jones, The Nation, The London Observer, the New Statesman and other publications.

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Brilliant! Aram Roston provides an excellent investigative, well researched, intelligent profile of Ahmad Chalabi and the US war in Iraq.

The Man Who Pushed America to War is essential reading for those in the foreign policy, intelligence and defense communities. In the future, The Man Who Pushed America to War will be mandatory reading for all students of history, US foreign policy decision making during the Bush administration and especially, anyone trying understand what the US was doing in Iraq and why.

Roston reveals a masterpiece of grand manipulations by this entire cast of characters who brought the US to war in Iraq. In addition, Roston reveals a sensitivity and appreciation for the historical complexities of life in the Middle East and in Iraq. As a result - Roston captures the adventurous, free-wheeling tragic comedy of US involvement with Chalabi and the eventual war in Iraq.

With more investigative reports like Roston's, hopefully good intelligence on all parties seeking war would either prevent unnecessary wars or at least allow an educated hard decision. Roston's The Man Who Pushed America to War is a valuable contribution to the historical review of Chalabi and the US war in Iraq.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Ahmad Chalabi is certainly one of the more fascinating characters to emerge from the complex story of the U.S. involvement with Iraq. Even his detractors acknowledge his intelligence and disarming charm. He emerges from this book as an extremely clever operator who has very fuzzy ethical standards and a talent for manipulation. His entire family appears to have had a tradition of shady dealings and dubious financial activities. Yet it is hard for the reader not to admire the resilience and ability to work the system of this MIT trained Professor of Mathematics turned international entrepreneur cum Iraqi patriot.

As Roston himself acknowledges, Chalabi did not "push" America into Operation Iraqi Freedom. But it does appear that with the help of conservative scholar Bernard Lewis Chalabi became deeply involved with the American Enterprise Institute and developed a following within the neo-conservative wing of the current administration, to include even Vice President Cheney. Of this group, Richard Perle appears the most steadfast Chalabi loyalist. One of the group, David Wurmser, even wrote a book, "Tyranny's Ally" that was apparently quite influential among some circles that promoted Chalabi as an Iraqi nationalist who was friendly to the U.S., and its Near East interests. And it is no secret that the neo-conservative wing definitely was in favor of a second war with Iraq.

In the period prior to Operation Iraqi Freedom (the second U.S.-Iraqi War), Chalabi and the organizations he created were funded by, CIA, State Department, and finally DIA. Each eventually stopped funding when accounting `irregularities `surfaced in the activities that he undertook for these government entities. Chalabi definitely appears to be allergic to normal government auditing procedures.
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Format: Hardcover
As a member of the Intelligence Community, I have been following the public discussion of the Iraq WMD debacle for years with keen interest. I remember using some of the Iraqi National Congress reports in a paper that I wrote while attending graduate school, and I now realize that the "facts" I had relied on were fictions.

This is why I was eager to read this book, but when I got it in the mail and looked on the back for who had endorsed it, my heart sank. That's because the two endorsers featured there are Seymour Hersh and James Bamford. Given Seymour Hersh's own problems with using tainted sources for his various articles and books, it was not encouraging to see him extolling the virtues of this book. James Bamford's endorsement was even more disturbing because it was so over the top.

So I thought I was going to be reading a leftist screed (it is ironic that some of the books attacking the decision to go into Iraq for getting it wrong on Iraq are sometimes just as blinkered as the reasoning and "intelligence" that got use there).

But I was pleasantly surprised at the tone of the book. It was not over the top like Bamford's endorsement, and it was not laden with questionable "sources" like Hersh employs. Rather I would characterized the tone as one of mixed wonder at Chalabi's success, chagrin at his negative impact on US interests, and mild amusement at it all as well.

For me, the best parts of the book are the ones dealing with the financial shenanigans that --correctly in my view-- got Chalabi a criminal conviction for financial crimes in Jordan. What he was up to in the --for him-- bleak years in the 1990s was also quite interesting as was the discussion of his success in manipulating key US opinion makers, pundits, and journalists.
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Format: Hardcover
Roston does a great job of explaining Chalabi, who has a life of many facets, none of which is simple. The formative event is this 13 year old's response to the family's loss in the 1958 revolution in Iraq.

I was surpised that the "Dr." is a PhD in math from the University of Chicago. This is the only straightforward achievement on his resume. Once he left the field of mathematics to become a banker the convoluted tale of intrigue begins.

Roston explains problems with the Chalabi family's Petra Bank in a way that every reader can understand. The legal wake of the Petra fiasco trails him but never catches him. Roston presents, in a clear chronology how Chalabi went from the bank loss (or was it?) to an international political career.

Despite Chalabi's criminal status he's able to charm the neo-cons in the US. They buy his line that Saddam must be overthrown and that with an invasion of 2000 troops, the problem will be feeding the defecting Iraqi army. The book details how neocons provided him access resulting in various government agencies giving him funds. Eventually his US taxpayer funded advocacy created a congressional resolution making the overthrow of Saddam official US policy. This led to war for the US and wealth for the Chalabi family.

The book raises so many unanswerable questions. What was it about the neo-cons that made them susceptible to Chalabi's message? Who, really, is the omnipresent Francis Brooke, who with his wife and kids live with Chalabi? Why was Chalabi's criminal status never presented by the US media? Why were WMD stories not fact checked? Does Chalabi really stumble into his political career? Does he do it for the money? Does he do it for revenge on the Baathists? Does he do it for his Shiite identity? Or does he do it because he can?

The story of Chalabi is surely not over, but a book like this helps to put some light on who he is.
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