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500 Days: Secrets and Lies in the Terror Wars Audible – Unabridged

4.1 out of 5 stars 178 customer reviews

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By Wulfstan TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 11, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Which is both good and bad (but mostly good). Kurt Eichenwald's (you know him as the former NYT reporter and author of "The Informant") new book here is no snooze fest. The story is riveting, fast paced and a real page-turner. Eichenwald's writing comes alive, and honestly at times you forget you are reading a well-researched scholarly history of that period, and think you are reading Grisham.

We have a cast of thousands here, but of course GWB and Tony Blair get top billing. However, their errors and missteps are spotlighted here as well as their other policy decisions. Odd terms like "Enemy Combatant" are penned so that "extraordinary rendition" can be carried out.

This book has it all- secrets, spies, military tribunals, torture, waterboarding, anthrax, bombings, and of course Gitmo.

Many secrets are revealed, the backstory is fascinating. Did you know that while Blair was telling Bush that the UK would support the invasion of Iran, the UK top legal advisor was telling Blair that the attack was illegal?

Sometimes a bit dark and disturbing, but it's all the truth.
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Format: Hardcover
As I decided if I could possibly read through this book, without the actual Nightmares of 9/11, maybe this chilling read won't affect me as bad as the Tragic day itself. I was wrong, of course most of us would suffer the horrifying flashbacks of a dark legacy that will forever haunt this country. Putting aside what we all experienced in our personal loss, sadness and fear, I began to read through the pages, which reads like a suspenseful thriller that's composed of extensive research. Bestselling author, Kurt Eichenwald delivers a comprehensive, chilling account of the first 500 days after 9/11. He reveals all the horror of the 18 months that changed America forever in gripping details of terrorist strategy, decisions that were made, and shocking information on investigations and conflict. In addition, he reports on wire tapping, the CIA, training camps and disturbing torture chambers. The author also includes historic events that took place in a world of secrets and lies. This is a compelling, comprehensive page-turner of inspection, deception and terror that will make us think, long after this book is closed. Thrilling, breathtaking, and Heartfelt from the beginning to the end!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I can now say I've read all of Kurt Eichenwald's books. I think he's among the best writers of business scandal/white collar crime non-fiction ever; "Conspiracy of Fools" was mind-bogglingly good, and "The Informant" and "Serpent on the Rock" were also terrific. So I was excited and curious to see him branch out into another area of non-fiction.

As the title of my review indicates, I have mixed feelings. I still think Eichenwald is among the best non-fiction writers we have, and he brings to this "story" his incredible ability to move a narrative forward - even when we know how it ends. However, I think he tried to cover too much in this story - the reactions to and after 9/11, the plans to invade Iraq, the early stages of the war on terror and, of course, the use of "aggressive" interrogation techniques (AKA torture) by the US. As a result, the book keeps jumping from one topic to another, and while it's a relentlessly good read, I found myself having a form of culture shock every time we moved topics. It's not a huge criticism, but it's "there."

There were times when I found the book frustrating due to Eichenwald's depiction of some people; he certainly paints Dick Cheney, John Yoo and David Addington, among others, as princes of darkness for pursuing the US's disregard of international law and the right of the Bush administration to do whatever it wanted to do in the cause of the war on terror, and yet in his Epilogue, Eichenwald goes soft on Yoo and Addington and tries to put their views in a more sympathetic context. And while his depiction of Cheney is consistently bleak, he seems somewhat sympathetic to President Bush - something I can't bring myself to do.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a very unusual book in what it achieves. First, what it is not. If you are interested in this topic and have read some of the prominent earlier books, you may find nothing new of significance (I didn't). And if you are looking for an introduction, there is probably too much that is silently skipped.

What it does very well is to create a strong gut feeling for the many failings of the US response, due to incompetence, arrogance, carelessness, ideology that rejected evidence,... The book is written in the style of a thriller, popping back and forth between story lines. I found it a very fast-paced read that constantly drew me forward. Even if you are familiar with the events, you are still likely to find the book very readable because of its organization and approach. However, the problem with this approach is seen in the description of the response to the anthrax attack: It is abbreviated far past the point of losing its essential character. Plus, it was so peripheral that I can't see how it belongs in this book.

A big limitation of the fast-paced style is that it precludes analysis and insights into why something happened. For example, an extended analysis of the misconceptions about the "Manchester Manual" is consigned to the "Notes and Sources" appendix (pp 545-552). Advice: Read it -- it is a critical part of the story. One of my biggest frustrations with the accounts -- this and others -- is that I haven't seen a remotely satisfying explanation of why the CIA didn't have qualified, experienced interrogators as part of its normal course-of-business. Or why the military did not use experienced interrogators from the Reserves -- predominantly from civilian law enforcement -- despite the Reserves being explicitly structured to preserve and provide that capability.
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10 Comments 36 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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