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The Assassins' Gate: America in Iraq Paperback – September 19, 2006
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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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
What gives Mr. Packer considerable credibility in writing this book is that he supported the invasion and ouster of Saddam Hussein. He has no ideological ax to grind, and lays out the history and philosophy of the key players in the government who pressed for this action dispassionately. Only the "true believers" could take exception to the facts as presented here, although I think he understates the objectives and influence of the "Project for the New American Century", or PNAC, political group. To the reviewer who claims that Packer's Iraqis all seem to be negative, I can only answer that he definitely gives equal time to those who have an optimistic outlook for their country.
But even attributing the most benevolent (if naive) motivations to all concerned in the rush to war, there is no covering up the antipathy (to put it mildly) of those same players to the concept of any sort of post-war planning. And therein lies the primary thesis of the book. In fact, the war itself really isn't covered except in passing. There simply WAS no plan. Iraq would be liberated, and that was what was important. Any thought given to contingencies was considered disloyal at best, and going public with any doubt or question inevitably resulted in early retirement, usually accompanied by character assassination.Read more ›
The first of these occurrences is the absolute incompetence of the Bush administration and the neocons leading the Iraq War policy to see beyond what they have dreamed up in their think tanks or been told by the many Iraqi exiles eager to tell them what they want to hear. This incompetence led to a failure to plan for post-war occupation and governance of Iraq, and a failure to be straight with the American people about the real costs and consequences of the Iraq war.
The second occurrence is what happened to the Iraqi people once they were liberated from the totalitarianism of the Saddam Hussein regime. After nearly four decades of his iron fisted rule, it appears that Iraqis almost didn't know how to experience their freedom. Vast voids and crevices opened in Iraqi society that were quickly filled with Saudi and Iranian backed religious parties, eager to impose their own vision of society on the majority of Iraqis.
These two points coming together in March 2003, has led to where we are today in Iraq. It now appears that the Bush administration ahs no clue how to move forward from the morass that is the situation as of the first of the year in 2006. Recent elections have brought to power those organized religious parties who are vastly opposed to American and Western ideals. The big winners of the entire exhibition appear to be the theocrats, while the losers are the majority of the Iraqi population, the prestige of the United States, the military, and our own future security.
For an explanation of how this situation came to pass I highly recommend George Packer's book.
In his vignettes, Packer captures the lives of disaffected doctors, obsequious sheikhs, drivers, bodyguards, and translators that he is lucky enough to meet, who are brave enough to speak to him, and who (often) speak English well enough to impress upon him their stories.
If Packer's journalism is one-sided, it is not in his conclusions (as some reviews have claimed), it is his sources. The Iraqis he does get through to are but a small and biased set. But when he profiles Americans in Iraq, Packer is incisive and honest. Here we see Marine captain Prior, Paul Bremer's bureaucrats, and others grappling with the enormity of the goal of a stable, democratic Iraq -- against the backdrop of crippled infrastructure and deteriorating security on which that goal depends.
My regret after reading this book is that the fog that has settled over Iraq has not been lifted, only presented in greater detail. Perhaps Packer cannot see through this fog as well as I would have hoped. But what is unsettling is that he appears to see further and clearer than our American leadership, for whom a deep understanding of Iraqis is so much more critical.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Part history, part memoir, this book details the utter folly of the Bush administration in underestimating and ultimately destroying the country of Iraq through lack of planning,... Read morePublished 4 months ago by Michael Friedman
I started this book yesterday. I gave up shortly into the third chapter. Packer seems convinced the Bush administration decided on invading Iraq in 2002 and just went through the... Read morePublished 4 months ago by M. Johnson
The pre-Iraq part of the book that takes place in Washington, D.C. is a little slow and academic at times; however, the book takes off in a big way once Packer shifts the narrative... Read morePublished 12 months ago by teacherusa
Intelligent, well researched, lively written, a masterpiece of contemperary history. A must read in order to understand the arrogance, ignorance and moral corruption of the Bush... Read morePublished 13 months ago by J.A.M.J. van Gorp
Why did we invade Iraq? I don't think there has ever been a war in US history where the people couldn't even answer the most basic question of this or any war. Read morePublished 14 months ago by Shakir
George Packer is a wonderful writer--very clear and concise in his story-telling. Really enjoyed the book. Read morePublished 15 months ago by Janet Rotner
Thrillingly interesting. Truth be told. An in site to why we failed the mission.Published 16 months ago by Agent