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No Good Men Among the Living: America, the Taliban, and the War through Afghan Eyes Hardcover – April 29, 2014
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“Gopal's book is essential reading for anyone concerned about how America got Afghanistan so wrong. It is a devastating, well-honed prosecution detailing how our government bungled the initial salvo in the so-called war on terror, ignored attempts by top Taliban leaders to surrender, trusted the wrong people and backed a feckless and corrupt Afghan regime. . . . It is ultimately the most compelling account I've read of how Afghans themselves see the war.” ―The New York Times Book Review
“Astonishing stories. . . Such investigative reporting is very rare in Afghanistan, where foreign journalists have been targets since 2001. Gopal pursued his stories into the most active centers of the insurgency. He learned Dari and -- more difficult -- Pushtu. He won the trust of insurgent leaders. But his real genius lies in binding all these sources together and combining them with thousands of hours of interviews. . . . All this allows him to bring life to figures who have hitherto been caricatures.” ―The New York Review of Books
“A brilliant analysis of our military's dysfunction and a startlingly clear account of the consequences” ―Mother Jones
“Extraordinary . . . Brilliantly written . . . Gopal’s method of going deep into the lives of several Talibs, warlords, and ordinary Afghans―he includes an exhilarating portrait of one Afghan woman―demonstrates how different the Americans’ ‘mistakes’ feel when the dead, injured, and traumatized people have been amply humanized.” ―Bookforum
“With a plethora of policy-oriented works on Afghanistan having appeared in recent years, Anand Gopal wisely chooses to tell the war's story from the personal perspective of three characters. . . . Gopal displays a keen understanding of the levers of power in Afghan society and their sometimes devastating effect on individuals trying to make their way in the world.” ―Los Angeles Times
“Refreshingly complex and thought-provoking. . . Often reading like an adventure novel, No Good Men Among the Living is certain to appeal to Afghan-ophiles and casual readers alike. . . . Gopal offers a unique perspective, an essential examination of policy, and a rock-solid narrative that ensures this will be one of the few books people still read years from now when they want to understand America's war in Afghanistan.” ―The Christian Science Monitor
“The level of craftsmanship in this book is often awe-inspiring. . . . Provides unique insights into America's intervention in Afghanistan and makes important contributions to our understanding of the conflict there.” ―Foreign Policy
“Compelling. . .Gopal's chronology of how America's deadly incompetence and the predatory graft of Afghan authorities drove many Afghans to despair or rebellion is the product of sustained and impressive shoe-leather reporting. This is a valuable book.” ―Maclean’s
“Haunting . . . Presents a stirring critique of American forces who commanded overwhelming firepower, but lacked the situational knowledge to achieve their objectives . . . Gopal reveals the fragility of the tenuous connection between intention and destiny in a war-torn land.” ―Publishers Weekly
“Gopal puts the present Afghanistan in perspective . . . He presents his analysis of Afghanistan through three individuals: Mullah Cable, a Taliban commander; Jan Muhammad, a member of the U.S.-backed Afghan government; and Heela, a village housewife. His portraits of these three and their tumultuous lives are rich in detail, as are his descriptions of their stark and war-ravaged land.” ―Kirkus Reviews
“Original and stimulating . . . Policymakers and informed readers will benefit immensely from this illuminating book” ―Library Journal
“A brilliant, incisive work of storytelling and analysis. Of all the recent books on Afghanistan, this one stands out like a bright shining light, revealing the truth of the war from the ground up. Breathtaking and magnificent, this is a must read.” ―Ahmed Rashid, author of Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia
“If you read one book on Afghanistan today, make it this one. No Good Men Among the Living is a masterfully told narrative of how, after 9/11, the Americans defeated the Taliban only to revive them. An admirable achievement.” ―Jon Lee Anderson, author of The Fall of Baghdad and The Lion’s Grave
“Anand Gopal, known for his extraordinarily brave firsthand accounts of the Taliban, now tells the story of the Afghan war through stories of the Afghans themselves―whose voices have been notably absent from almost all coverage of the conflict. With its deep reporting and excellent writing, No Good Men Among the Living is destined to became a classic of war reportage.” ―Peter Bergen, author of Manhunt: The Ten-Year Search for Bin Laden from 9/11 to Abbottabad
About the Author
Anand Gopal has served as an Afghanistan correspondent for The Wall Street Journal and The Christian Science Monitor, and has reported on the Middle East and South Asia for Harper's, The Nation, The New Republic, Foreign Policy, and other publications. Gopal is a fellow at the New America Foundation.
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REVIEW ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON GOODREADS.
People of all types--be they primative tribes or advanced members of society--have an urge toward cruelty. This urge toward cruelty is seen in a limited example at: www. prisonexp. org. When "the law" reinforces that urge--as it does in war--the urge toward cruelty has no check.
Anand Gopal's No Good Men Among the Living gives us a superb but another small example of the urge toward cruelty. There are also those unnumbered billions, as Horace reminds us, who have died "unmourned" because "they lack their sacred poet."
There is law, which, when it operates appropriately, can keep the urge largely in check. But law is an ineffective check against those who society has granted the power to torture and kill, even when to torture is illegal because, in the United States, we have a mostly supine federal appellate judiciary, which eschews the power to enforce our Constitution and our laws. As Swift observed, the law is a web that ensnares small flies but lets the hornets through.