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Blind Into Baghdad: America's War in Iraq Paperback – August 15, 2006
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"Warlight" by Michael Ondaatje
A dramatic coming-of-age story set in the decade after World War II, "Warlight" is the mesmerizing new novel from the best-selling author of "The English Patient." Pre-order today
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From Publishers Weekly
Fallows, national correspondent for the Atlantic Monthly, compiles in this slim volume a series of five articles he wrote for that magazine between 2002 and 2005, which collectively won a National Magazine Award. Along with an original introduction and afterword, the essays systematically chronicle the mendacity, insularity and incompetence of the Bush administration while developing and implementing its Iraq policy. Relying heavily on inside sources and declassified documents, Fallows (National Defense) shows that, before the war, the government had ample intelligence to forestall many of the disastrous consequences of the occupation, but Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and others ordered their subordinates to ignore the reports. "Bush's Lost Year" addresses a topic that has received little attention: the effects of the buildup in Iraq on the campaign in Afghanistan and the broader war on terror. "Why Iraq Has No Army" studies one decision that has hampered the war effort ever since. For avid news readers, little will be new, though "Will Iran Be Next?"—an account of a high-level discussion convened by the Atlantic Monthly—may pique more interest. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Fallows' series of articles for the Atlantic Monthly between 2002 and 2005 that won the magazine a National Magazine Award are collected in this book, offering a backward look on the analysis that criticized the administration's plan for a preemptive war in Iraq and its woefully inadequate planning for the aftermath of war. Fallows' article "The Fifty-first State," published in November 2002, conveyed the complexity of dealing with Iraq after the war and the likelihood that the responsibility would be long term and consuming. The collection examines the questionable reports of Iraq's cache of weapons of mass destruction and how the administration could have known of the internal tensions within Iraq that would make managing the occupation extremely difficult. Fallows explores why Iraq has no army two years after the invasion and the threats posed by Iran. The collection provides an interesting perspective on the war, looking back on what was anticipated with uncanny accuracy, which raises even more questions about the administration's inability to foresee the difficulties of occupying Iraq. Footnotes provide additional information, background, and commentary since the articles first appeared. Vanessa Bush
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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I’ve been a subscriber of The Atlantic for many years and have always enjoyed the work of Mr. Fallows. I recall reading most of these stories when they came out in the magazine, but still found re-reading them in this format to be beneficial. Of course from the perspective of early 2014 we know how the story ends but these essays provide snapshots of the tumultuous first few years of U.S. involvement in Iraq. Any serious study of the 2003 U.S. invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq should have Blind Into Baghdad in the bibliography.
Even if you don't agree with the author's conclusions--that the war in Iraq was handled badly--it DOES offer suggestions why Iraq and Iran in 2015 present such threats to America's security.
Fallows himself begins by describing the book's perspective (page x):
"The subject of the book is America's preparation for and conduct of its war in Iraq, whose combat phase began in March 2003. because that war played so large a part in the U. S. government response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, assessing the war naturally raises questions about the wisdom, competence, and effectiveness of the overall strategy against Islamic terrorism.
The cumulative argument of the book is that this strategy was gravely flawed in both design and execution."
The chapters cover various aspects of the Iraqi invasion and its aftermath. The chapter entitled "The Fifty-First State?" is based on interviews with knowledgeable players before the invasion of Iraq. The focus was on what was likely to happen after the invasion, since all assumed that the American forces would walk over the Iraqi army. The essay's predictions do not all pan out (and Fallows adds footnotes to note more current information). However, it is interesting to see how a number of these predictions did come to fruition.
Other chapters explore Paul Bremer's terminating the Iraqi Army and his extreme de-Baathification program, how George Bush's original war on terror focusing on Afghanistan began to lose focus with the invasion of Iraq, and so on.
His conclusions are exceedingly harsh and may irritate many readers. He notes, to provide a flavor of his reflections, that (page 229):
"The country failed because individuals who led it failed. They made the wrong choices; they did not learn or listen; they were fools. No one responsible for these errors was dismissed from the administration. No senior officer was relieved or reprimanded."
In the final analysis, because of the approach, some of the material does appear dated. However, this perspective also provides an interesting test of how well (or poorly) Fallows and those people whom he interviewed perceived accurately what the longer term situation would actually be.
For those who do not have the time or energy to read the whole array of books on the Iraq war, Blind into Baghdad may be the one best book to select from that array.
Fallows deftly examines how the administration blithely ignored pre-war alerts concerning insufficient troop levels, red flags about possible post-war rioting, and military logistical problems. In addition, the vindictive nature of the administration is also evident as Fallows shows how those people raising hard questions about the war were swiftly scuttled. Finally, the author then gives an excellent analysis of how Bush and company completely fumbled the post-combat operations period when it started to become clear that the administration hadn't done its homework.
This book is not recommended for those with cardiac or circulatory troubles because it will definitely angry the blood.