- Paperback: 672 pages
- Publisher: PublicAffairs; 1 edition (February 5, 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 158648608X
- ISBN-13: 978-1586486082
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.8 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 11 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,511,190 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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No End in Sight: Iraq's Descent into Chaos 1st Edition
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"Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress"
Is the world really falling apart? Is the ideal of progress obsolete? Cognitive scientist and public intellectual Steven Pinker urges us to step back from the gory headlines and prophecies of doom, and instead, follow the data: In seventy-five jaw-dropping graphs, Pinker shows that life, health, prosperity, safety, peace, knowledge, and happiness are on the rise. Learn more
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"Now he has taken the material he collected from more than 50 interviews, expanded and updated it with additional interviews, and added his own interpolated commentary and a charming introduction, and produced a book also titled "No End In Sight" that, in its way, is as powerful as his movie, and equally heartbreaking." -- New York Times Book Review, March 30, 2008
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Charles Ferguson, award-winning documentarian, obtained candid interviews with officials such as Richard Armitage, former deputy secretary of the State Department. These interviews were lengthy, hours in many cases, and the documentary film version only featured a small percentage of the material. Much of the best of this material works even better in book form.
The movie is no substitute for the book, which Ferguson wrote later and which benefited from a longer editing process, follow-on trips to the region, deeper and matured analysis, and even more interviews.
This is not an analysis of why the U.S. went to war. It is the classic account of what happened once the war began. No End In Sight informs us on how the big decisions were actually made and would probably serve as a textbook for the military academies.
Recall that after the Gulf War, which ended in February 1991, the first President Bush went on to lose the election of 1992 despite having been extremely popular during that war. The Iraq War, began in March 2003, would be managed differently.
The Iraq war was not going to end before the U.S. presidential election of November 2004. Paul Bremer, who went to Iraq in May 2003, would help see to that.
Interviewees tell how the demise of the original plan happened. But nobody wanted to risk themselves personally by going public in the midst of the nation's greatest housing boom. Time ate away at the players Ferguson interviewed. They needed to talk. That's how this book got started.
Meet Barbara Bodine, the ambassador placed in charge of the city of Baghdad by the Office for Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance. She was determined to help the Iraqis to manage their affairs and thereby bring home the troops.
Ambassador Bodine had needed, perhaps more than others, to get things right in Baghdad. A capable in-fighter in her own right, Bodine was hung out to dry.
Bodine's long career as a stateswoman had become controversial when as Ambassador to the Republic of Yemen, she denied FBI agent John P. O'Neill re-entry into Yemen to continue his command of the FBI investigation into the USS Cole bombing. This was just a turf spat between State and FBI.
Some scholars now believe that O'Neill would have uncovered the 9/11 plot in time to save lives, as O'Neill had already put together several important pieces of the puzzle that became 9/11. (O'Neill was subsequently investigated for losing a briefcase and many feel he was forced out of the FBI, not having recovered from losing the turf battle in Yemen. He became the head of security at the World Trade Center, where he was killed in the September 11, 2001 attacks.)
Colonel Paul Hughes, a highly decorated former Army colonel, is another Iraq War veteran with tread marks on his back. He served in the Office of Post War Planning, the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance and the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq.
Hughes is now a Senior Program Officer in the Center for Post-Conflict Peace and Stability Operations in the United States Institute for Peace (whatever all that means). Some colleagues say he lost a piece of his soul in Iraq and is searching for it. Good and troubled people reclined at Documentarian Ferguson's couch.
The cast of characters tells us how the insurgency got started. In particular, Paul Bremer replaced Jay Gardner in May 2003. Bremer took over as head of the Coalition Provisional Authority and reported directly to the U.S. Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld. Bremer was tasked with re-jiggering the war in Iraq while on the home front efforts were made to push out liquidity.
Bremer made surprise decisions that contradicted all the meticulous planning of the U.S. experts on the ground in Iraq. He disbanded the Iraqi military, sending them home with their weapons and no income. He followed that up by removing Ba'ath party members from all government positions, resulting in collapse of law and order. In June 2004 Bremer was finished. He transferred limited sovereignty of Iraqi territory to the Iraqi Interim Government and got out.
Ferguson's interviewees seem mortified that one man could do so much to shape the war in so little time. Whose side was Bremer on? By all accounts, Bremer was courageous and industrious, exposing himself to countless risks. At the same time, his decisions could not have been more precisely targeted to thwart all efforts made by everyone else in-country to wrap up the mission and get the troops home.
In December 2004, President Bush awarded Bremer the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian award.
The Presidential Medal of Freedom has an interesting history of symbolism. Normally this medal is awarded to those close to a president or to celebrities that lend support to a president. The Presidential Medal of Freedom is often thought of as the "First Ladies Medal" - it has been awarded to Nancy Reagan, Rosalyn Carter, Betty Ford and Lady Bird Johnson.
Bremer never explained to Ferguson or anyone else why he did what he did. He returned a year later and promptly received the nation's highest civilian award. This award normally only goes to the closest associates of the president and supportive celebrities. But Bremer was neither.
One could conclude that Paul Bremer was merely following orders. If so, it would make sense that he could not disclose his real mission to others. His job may have been to disrupt what the others were doing in order to make the war last at least through the 2004 election.
No End In Sight makes a huge contribution in our effort to understand how the Iraq War was managed. Ferguson's masterpiece is an examination of the conflict between the interests of the top elected official and what is best for the U.S.
Instead of Caligula, there is Cheney, and his puppet boy President, whose track record in business and government is that he absolutely ruined financially every organization he was part of because he refused to listen to people who knew better, be it oil, baseball, the state of Texas, the US federal government...
Barbara Bodine, on the ground immediately after the fall of the Hussein government and in cahrge of getting the city of Baghdad up and running, put it best:
"There were 2 or 3 ways to get it (reconstruction) right and 500 or more to get it wrong, and we got all (500) of them."
As a consequence, the designed incompetence that has functioned as a smoke screen for Cheney and his corporate buddies put consecutive bumblers and enablers in a volatile situation and they successfully made absoluetly everything worse: Wolfowicz, Bremer and on to Petraeus. It is a gallery of very bad actors exploiting a disaster with the mentality that it's all going to hell in a hangbasket, so let's grab what we can.
The interviews speak for themselves. Rumsfeld refused to speak or comment. The White House could care less. The US is now 1 trillion in the whole and counting, and the sad prospect comes across with blunt and dismaying clarity in the final section of the book. A bloodbath seems ineveitable, unless a military coup, i.e. a controlled bloodbath, is effected by the Sunni military and their foreign backers (but not the US). Short of that, a series of civil wars destabilizing the economic tipping point of the rest of the planet has been unleashed and is all but inevitable.
Cheney, Bush, and their cadre will effect what the criminals of other wars never managed - they'll get away with it.
Regardless of who wins the Democratic nomination, it is abundantly clear that an immediate pullout is impossible. No matter who wins the general election, the prospect of staying another 100 years, as McCain suggests, is possible and would in much shorter time ruin what is left of the US.
The electorate in the US thinks that withdrawal has something to do with bringing soldiers home. Instead, as this book spells out quite intensely, it has to do with just how precariously interconnected the entire globe has become. Whether extrication is possible without intense disaster remians to be seen. If you saw the film, that tells only part of the story. This book will keep you up awake the rest of your life, tossed between extraordinary anger at the exploiters and certain dismay for the generations which follow and will pay the price, one way or another, for the evil done.