- Hardcover: 480 pages
- Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; First Edition edition (October 15, 2005)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0374299633
- ISBN-13: 978-0374299637
- Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.4 x 1.6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 153 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,035,403 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
The Assassins' Gate: America in Iraq Hardcover – September 22, 2005
The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
Customers who bought this item also bought
What other items do customers buy after viewing this item?
As the death toll mounts in the Iraq War, Americans are agonizing over how the mess started and what to do now. George Packer, a staff writer at The New Yorker, joins the debate with his thoughtful book The Assassins' Gate. Packer describes himself as an ambivalent pro-war liberal "who supported a war [in Iraq] by about the same margin that the voting public had supported Al Gore." He never believed the argument that Iraq should be invaded because of weapons of mass destruction. Instead, he saw the war as a way to get rid of Saddam Hussein and build democracy in Iraq, in the vein of the U.S. interventions in Haiti and Bosnia.
How did such lofty aims get so derailed? How did the U.S. get stuck in a quagmire in the Middle East? Packer traces the roots of the war back to a historic shift in U.S. policy that President Bush made immediately after 9/11. No longer would the U.S. be hamstrung by multilateralism or working through the UN. It would act unilaterally around the world--forging temporary coalitions with other nations where suitable--and defend its status as the sole superpower. But when it came to Iraq, even Bush administration officials were deeply divided. Packer takes readers inside the vicious bureaucratic warfare between the Pentagon and State Department that turned U.S. policy on Iraq into an incoherent mess. We see the consequences in the second half of The Assassins' Gate, which takes the reader to Iraq after the bombs have stopped dropping. Packer writes vividly about how the country deteriorated into chaos, with U.S. authorities in Iraq operating in crisis mode. The book fails to capture much of the debate about the war among Iraqis themselves--instead relying mostly on the views of one prominent Iraqi exile--but it is an insightful contribution to the debate about the decisions--and blunders--behind the war. --Alex Roslin
From Publishers Weekly
[Signature]Reviewed by Christopher HitchensIt is extremely uncommon for any reporter to read another's work and to find that he altogether recognizes the scene being described. Reading George Packer's book, I found not only that I was remembering things I had forgotten, but also that I was finding things that I ought to have noticed myself. His book rests on three main pillars: analysis of the intellectual origins of the Iraq war, summary of the political argument that preceded and then led to it, and firsthand description of the consequences on the ground. In each capacity, Packer shows himself once more to be the best chronicler, apart perhaps from John Burns of the New York Times, that the conflict has produced. (I say "once more" because some of this material has already appeared in the New Yorker.)A very strong opening section traces the ideas, and the ideologists, of the push for regime change in Iraq. Packer is evidently not a neoconservative, but he provides an admirably fair and lucid account of those who are. There is one extraordinary lacuna in his tale—he manages to summarize the long debate between the "realists" and the "neocons" without mentioning Henry Kissinger—but otherwise he makes an impressively intelligent guide. Of value in itself is the ribbonlike presence, through the narrative, of the impressive exile Iraqi dissident Kanan Makiya, upon whom Packer hones many of his own ideas. (I should confess that I myself make an appearance at this stage and, to my frustration, can find nothing to quarrel with.)The argument within the administration was not quite so intellectual, but Packer takes us through it with insight and verve, giving an excellent account in particular of the way in which Vice President Cheney swung from the "realist" to the "neocon" side. And then the scene shifts to Iraq itself. Packer has a genuine instinct for what the Iraqi people have endured and are enduring, and writes with admirable empathy. His own opinions are neither suppressed nor intrusive: he clearly welcomes the end of Saddam while having serious doubts about the wisdom of the war, and he continually tests himself against experience. The surreal atmosphere of Paul Bremer's brief period of palace rule is very well caught, but the outstanding chapter recounts a visit to the northern city of Kirkuk and literally "walks" us through the mesh of tribal, ethnic and religious rivalry. The Iraq debate has long needed someone who is both tough-minded enough, and sufficiently sensitive, to register all its complexities. In George Packer's work, this need is answered. (Oct. 15)Christopher Hitchens is a columnist for Vanity Fair. His book Thomas Jefferson: Author of America (HarperCollins) was published last week.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Browse award-winning titles. See more
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
The title of the book is based on a gate in Baghdad, named by American troops as "The Assassins' Gate." It represented one entry point into the Green Zone, with people lining up there to seek jobs or protest or whatever.
The book discusses the run up to the war, including the roles of people such as Richard Perle, Douglas Feith, Paul Wolfowitz, the Vice President, and so on. The story includes the role of exiles. Among the more well known, of course, is Ahmad Chalabi. The book also introduces us to another important exile who made the case for invasion--Kanan Makiya.
Packer discusses, among other issues, planning for war. He concludes in a lugubrious assessment (page 147): "Like the President. Cheney maintained an almost mystical confidence in American military power and an utter incuriosity about the details of its human consequences." Postwar planning? As Packer summarizes the view of the Administration (page 147): ". . .there was no need to worry." Perhaps the song, "Don't worry, be happy" best describes this heinous lack of thinking things through.
The narrative proceeds by exploring how the invasion became an occupation. One line tends to capture the descending trajectory after the invasion (Page 295): "By the end [of the attempted suppression of Muqtada al-Sadr], much of what the occupation had been trying to achieve in Iraq lay in ruins." Then, the insurgencies (in the plural) began, again not anticipated by the American leaders. The fact that insurgency (page 298) "caught the U. S. military by surprise" is a scandal. Many had projected that insurgency was inevitable. That the United States had not planned thoroughly for this is almost criminal negligence.
The unwillingness of the Administration to consider views counter to their own, in Packer's view, is a symptom of a very dangerous problem in decision-making--"groupthink." Here, people tend to agree with one another and not critically examine issues. He defines it as (page 319) "the uniform mind set that takes hold of any hermetic, hierarchical institution with strong leaders and a sense of common mission, where bad news is unwelcome and no one wants to be the one to ask the truly unsettling questions."
In the end, Packer concludes that (page 448) "those in positions of highest responsibility showed a carelessness about human life that amounted to criminal negligence."
This book, then, is one among a number of well researched and reported volumes that must make us question the competence of the American government and its leadership. It will be interesting to see how the history books judge this adventure in Iraq.
The book ends on somewhat of a negative note in early 2005 with an Afterword covering the start of the 2007 surge. I would be interested in Mr. Packer's assessment of the current situation in Iraq, which he would probably characterize as a limited success.
I loved his other book The Unwinding, equally as well, for a comprehensive report on what is happening to American society in the 21st century.
This trio managed to make the world a very dangerous place for generations to come