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Arrows of the Night: Ahmad Chalabi's Long Journey to Triumph in Iraq Hardcover – December 6, 2011

4.5 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


Praise for Arrows of the Night

"This is the most thorough telling of the story of Ahmad Chalabi... Arrows of the Night is a first-rate case study of both Middle Eastern émigré politics and the American way of dealing with the Middle East."
     —Foreign Affairs

Arrows of the Night is the best book on the Iraq War, bar none. Bonin has written the authoritative account of how one man, along with a handful of well-meaning but naïve confederates, conned the greatest power on earth into a war it will rue for years. I read it in a sitting, and it answered every question I had about this folly. It is a must-read for the historian and anyone with the slightest interest in politics.”
     —Robert Baer, author of See No Evil and The Company We Keep

“People ask me, ‘Why was there an Iraq War?’ Now I can tell them: read Arrows of the Night. It’s the best-researched, most readable narrative about how a small group of people caused the United States to fight a war that was unnecessary, and, worse, counterproductive. Most Americans do not know who Ahmad Chalabi is, but this is the story of how every American has paid a price for Chalabi’s successful manipulation of our government.”
     —Richard A. Clarke, author of Against All Enemies

“In Arrows of the Night, Richard Bonin has provided a stunning portrayal of Ahmad Chalabi that, for the first time, brings him to life and places him in his proper historical context. Bonin, one of our best reporters in Washington, provides a fascinating account of Chalabi’s secretive ties to the neoconservatives in the Bush administration, and shows us that Chalabi and the neoconservatives were engaged in an elaborate dance, using each other to justify war.”
     —James Risen, author of State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration

“A marvelous read about a tragic and deceitful relationship.”
     —James Bamford, author of The Shadow Factory, Body of Secrets, and The Puzzle Palace

About the Author

RICHARD BONIN is a producer at 60 Minutes, working with Lesley Stahl, and has won five Emmys for his work. He lives in Washington, D.C.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday (December 6, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385524730
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385524735
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,724,546 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Just as you cannot separate the dancer from the dance, you cannot separate significant historical figures from their enveloping history. Such is one lesson from ARROWS OF THE NIGHT, which explores the biography of Ahmad Chalabi who coaxed the United States into a war of choice in Iraq by "cloudseeding" public and private debates "in the steadfast belief that eventually the circumstances of history [would] combine to produce the outcome of [his] choosing".

Richard Bonin provides exhaustive primary and secondary research, deftly and meticulously acknowledging the nuanced ambiguity of the historical record. He breathes life into Chalabi who mirrors the infantile amoral brilliance of the Monkey King in classical Chinese literature. The title has a poetic quality, originating from Shia "prayers and execrations [at night] sent up to heaven by the oppressed and the innocent" and "returned like arrows directed at your enemies". Bonin effortlessly makes fascinating references to Shakespeare, CIA secure telephone units, 18th century Russian Potemkin villages, the ancient Roman patrician Cincinnatus, Che Guevara and the 1941 Lend-Lease Act. Though he provides an abundance of fascinating details, vignettes and side trips, he never loses sight of the historical context or the larger narrative arc.

This book rivals Kinzer's ALL THE SHAH'S MEN or Wright's THE LOOMING TOWER as an accessible, original and significant contribution to understanding the modern history of the Islamic world and its interactions with the American government. You'll enjoy the VIP pass to the backstage of the CIA, DOD, White House and State Department.
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Format: Hardcover
Clearly the previous reviewer's ties to Chalabi present a conflict of interest. Amazon should remove his two-star review.

I read ARROWS OF THE NIGHT and loved it. It is perhaps the most instructive book I've found on why the US went to war in Iraq--including the one I wrote and the many I've read.

I recommend this book to everyone, unless of course, they're a close associate of Chalabi. (See the comments on Nibras Kazimi's review)
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The author of this book, Richard Bonin, is an investigative reporter. As such, he uses this background to bring this man out of the shadows in this biography. A man who, unfortunately, has been very little written about per se (as opposed to being just mentioned in the press). Mr. Bonin's key to this biography was the unprecedented access he had to Dr. Chalabi. This access took the form of 60 hours of interview time that Dr. Chalabi had granted to Mr. Bonin. It should be stressed that this access was not bought by Mr. Bonin at the cost of providing a positive picture of the man (as Bob Woodward has paid for his access to players in the early part of the Bush Jr.'s administration on the early parts of the Gulf War II). Mr. Bonin was able to use this access very well, along with a lot of serious independent investigative journalism, to provide an interesting and seemingly accurate picture of the man.

The reader learns that Ahmad Chalabi came from a wealthy politically connected family. This provided him, as a child, servants and a material setting that was quite spectacular. The reader also learns, surprisingly and very importantly, that he was a Shiite as opposed to a Sunni (i.e., a member of the politically repressed majority as opposed to the minority with the political power). The reader learns how the military coup that placed the Bathist Party into power ended up forcing his family into exile in England and caused them to lose much of their wealth. Not that they were poor. Chalabi's father had squired quite a bit of his wealth away in London, where they lived an upper income lifestyle. Chalabi was sent to an "elite" public school ("public" in the terminology the English, which is the exact opposite of what it would mean to an American).
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
For a first effort this book is monumental. It reads like a gripping spy thriller but educates the way non fiction and biographies should. Bonin clearly has a talent for telling a story but he brings a professional journalist's (in his case as a veteran producer with 60 minutes) ability to present the full story without bias. Despite the serious treatment he keeps the reader engrossed. I look forward to Bonin's next book.
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Format: Hardcover
I listened to the audio version and it served its purpose of keeping me awake while driving and informing me at the same time :-) The last part about Chalabi's shady to treasonous activities after he returned to Iraq had many places where it wasn't clear how reliable Bonin's unnamed sources were, and perhaps that couldn't be helped. Chalabi seems to have lost all his American neocon friends by the time the book was finished in late 2010 with the possible exception of Richard Perle. Perle was quoted at the end as saying that Chalabi would have been even more important if 911 hadn't happened. The loopy and false reasoning he gives is that before 911 Chalabi was the only one pushing for invading Iraq while after 911 lots of others joined in.

It is pretty hard to come away from this book without the impression that protecting Israel from its perceived biggest enemy in the Arab world was the rationale behind the Americans who aided Chalabi in getting the US to attack Iraq. How else can it be explained that practically all of them, with the exception of Muslim Zalmay Khalilzad, were Jewish? Stephen Solarz was an early congressional mentor and had Chalabi at his house for Passover where they likened Saddam Hussein to one of the Egyptian plagues. Doug Feith, Harold Rhode, Richard Perle, and Paul Wolfowitz of Bush's Defense Department met early with Chalabi and plotted with him to get Bush to drop his opposition to nation building. Scooter Libby and John P Hannah of the Vice President Cheney's office kept the latter aboard.

The book ends with Chalabi in his "Yellow Zone" fortress in Baghdad, much richer from his dealings in oil and other areas after his return to Iraq from exile and perhaps plotting another attempt at assuming leadership of the country. And you know, against my better judgment, I am sort of rooting for the old rogue to do it. What he would do might hammer the coffin shut on the American neocon movement.
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