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A Chance in Hell: The Men Who Triumphed Over Iraq's Deadliest City and Turned the Tide of War Hardcover – June 22, 2010

4.3 out of 5 stars 35 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Michaels...deftly explains how the so-called Anbar Awakening emerged from this seemingly hopeless set of circumstances...."
-- The Wall Street Journal

"Michaels shows that ideas can win wars or lose them, often by the narrowest of margins."
-- Ken Allard in New York Journal of Books

"Many of the events in the book...will captivate readers...."
-- Army Times

"A Chance in Hell is one of the most important books written thus far on Army operations in Iraq."
-- Lou DiMarco in the blog, A Horse Soldier's Thoughts

"It is one helluve story that has been told brilliantly by Jim Michaels."
--Jim Lehrer, author and anchor of PBS Newshour

“Anbar province was the place where the Iraq war began to turn around, and in this book Jim Michaels captures that time and place. He also brings to this story a fine feel for how the U.S. military thinks and operates.”
--Thomas E. Ricks, bestselling author of Fiasco and The Gamble, and of ForeignPolicy.com’s “Best Defense” blog

Review

"Many of the events in the book…will captivate readers." --Army Times

"Ramadi was the place where the Iraq war made its real turn toward success. A group of smart, courageous Americans--mostly Army and Marine officers on the ground, not in Washington--worked with Iraqi tribal leaders to make it happen. It is one helluva story that has been told brilliantly by Jim Michaels." --Jim Lehrer, author and anchor of PBS Newshour

“Anbar province was the place where the Iraq war began to turn around, and in this book Jim Michaels captures that time and place. He also brings to this story a fine feel for how the U.S. military thinks and operates.”
--Thomas E. Ricks, bestselling author of Fiasco and The Gamble, and of ForeignPolicy.com’s “The Best Defense” blog

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; 1 edition (June 22, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312587465
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312587468
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #373,926 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Wow, this author really rips apart the National Guard....So let me tell you what we did there. I was stationed at Corregidor with Animal Company 3/103rd. There were no "blind" old guys there....I am truly saddened that the author failed to interview the troops themselves. Maybe he would have learned a thing or two. For example, McFarland was not responsible for the awakening. We had already made contact with the leaders in the Sufia district and they were fighting the insurgents BEFORE the "Ready First" brigade arrived. The 2nd Brigade's officers may not have had a grasp of "conditions on the ground" but 1/506th's LTC Clark was on the ball and everyone on Corregidor knew the deal. Camp Ramadi was a different world. They had intermural sports leagues, we had mortar and rocket showers. If the author wants the truth, he can contact me and I will share my journal with him. There was alot of progress made BEFORE the SEALS and Ready First. When we arrived there, the 2nd Inf Div was in desperate need of replacement. Animal Company and 2-69 Armor (3rd ID) did what we could to the best of our abilities. We did not perform like the stereotypical part time soldiers portrayed by the author in this book. I respect all the units that had to survive Ramadi. It truly was hell and the book does a great job describing life there...I just wish people respected the job we did and give us some damn credit.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As an Iraqi Army advisor in the Fallujah AO from 2005-06, serving just before and during the time covered in this great book, I highly recommend it along with many other books from Amazon about the war. In reading this book, I was better able to understand what was going on "next door" (we rarely, if ever left our battle spaces)and it solidified what I was hearing. A couple of points: most of us, by 05, were against the general strategy from "way up" to work through the gov't channels that Bremer, etc. had established and to some extent, we were all trying to do what occurred in Ramadi. I also liked the angle of joint operations that was stressed in the book: Marines working with Army, etc. This paradigm shift, I hope, will last from here on out. Both services benefitted and learned a lot from the other. I also liked the angle of working with the locals and the temperment that is needed. It was dead on. The first time I saw Patriquin's PPT from an SF colonel at the War College (where I was posted after I got home) I LOL, jealous that I or someone on my team didn't create it. Capt. P. is an inspiration to us all and he verbalized what we were all thinking. Down load it from the web. To all my brothers and sisters from Al Anbar: Salaam Malechum!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I bought A Chance in Hell after reading Bing West's The Strongest Tribe and although I didn't read it for several months, I'm definitely glad I did. Jim Michaels, a former USMC infantry officer, does an excellent job covering the events that led to the rout of al-Qaeda from Ramadi, a city that was once considered one of the most dangerous in Iraq, if not the entire world. A great deal of Michaels's material is drawn from interviews conducted in Iraq and he details the unconventional measures the U.S. Marines, Army and Special Ops personnel employed to turn the local population against al-Qaeda.

Much of the credit for this has to go to Col. Sean McFarland, commanding officer of First Brigade, First Armored division. McFarland was an unconventional officer, to say the least, and was lucky enough to have officers such as Arabic-speaking Capt. Travis Patriquin under his command that shared the same trait. They formed an alliance with Sheik Abdul Sattar Bezia al-Rishawi, a known smuggler and whiskey drinker, who opposed al-Qaeda from the start. Although Sattar was killed before he saw the end result of his efforts, the working relationship McFarland and his officers forged with the tribes of Ramadi helped deliver a crushing blow to al-Qaeda.

Needless to say, some of the things McFarland's troops did to help the tribes that aligned themselves with the U.S. would not have passed muster if it was done through official channels but in this case, it worked. They learned the intricacies of tribal politics and used it to win the battle for Ramadi, handing al-Qaeda a stinging defeat. A Chance in Hell should be read by anyone interested in learning how a successful counterinsurgency campaign in the Arabic-speaking world should be conducted.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I bought this book to get a different perspective of what went on in Ramadi during 2006. I knew many of the players mentioned in the book, but while I was in and out of Ramadi, I was more involved with working the sheiks in the Amman meetings.

Overall, I think the author did a good job of giving what happened in the upper echelons of the Ready First. I think he captured MG (then COL) MacFarland pretty well and his thought process. While I had been previously privy to much of what went on in the brigade, there was much more in the book that gave a broader picture.

While I think the author did a good job, I wish he had expanded on what he had written about the enlisted members of the brigade, the warriors. He gave us some teasing glimpses, but those only served to whet the appetite.

I realize that the author spent most of his time with the brigade and this was the focus of his book, but I think he might have shortchanged the National Guard, the Marines, and two people, in particular: BGen Reist and Governor Maamoon Sami Rasheed al-Alwani. The author describes the Awakening as being the result of MacFarland as half of the equation and Sheik Abdul Sattar Bezia al-Rishawi being the other half. Not taking away from any of these two men, but the Marines had long been in contact with Sattar and other sheiks, at least since 2004, and probably the National Guard had as well. Reist was deeply involved with this in 2006, even if he might have given more hope to working something out with the more established sheiks. If anything, Reist was a pragmatic man who would do whatever it took to succeed. The governor, although he had little initial support from the sheiks, slowly earned their respect.
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