Fiasco : The American Military Adventure in Iraq, Paperback

Fiasco : The American Military Adventure in Iraq Paperback

4 out of 5 (1 rating)


Cutting through the headlines and spin, this is the first book to give us a true picture of the reality on the ground, through the words of the people there - from commanders to intelligence officers, army doctors to ordinary soldiers.

Providing eye-witness accounts that contradict the official stories and figures, they give a chilling picture of the deceit, stupidity, wishful thinking, lack of forward planning and total intellectual failure of those behind the invasion.

The result is an extraordinary new insight into the plight of ordinary soldiers doing nightmarish jobs, and the real nature of the fighting in Iraq.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 528 pages, 16pp
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Middle Eastern history
  • ISBN: 9780141028507



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The Washington Post's Thomas Ricks has written a dense, readable and highly-detailed account of the first 3 years of the American war in Iraq as seen and experienced from within the US military. It is an outstanding account in many ways and a number of other reviewers have done a good job in explaining many of its good qualities. Ricks has obviously had access to many, many officers who were involved in the invasion and subsequent occupation and he seems to have been provided and extraordinary amount of access, including memos, presentations, papers, emails, communications and other internal documents.However one would hesitate in calling it the definitive account of this period of the war, though it is undoubtedly one of the most important. Firstly, as is immediately noticeable when scanning the dramatis personae provided at the front of the book, there are virtually no Iraqis here, which is unfortunate in a book to do with Iraq. In fact the only Iraqi who makes an appearance is Ahmed Chalabi and he comes across as some kind of evil Machivellian villain manipulating things behind the scenes, blamed by various Coalition Provisional Authority officials for all sorts of bad decisions made by the Bush administration and Bremer in Iraq. He's also blamed for faulty intelligence and the shoddy reporting by the New York Times' Judith Miller. Now, there's no doubt that Chalabi played a major role in feeding people in the administration and in the world of journalism the kinds of stories they wanted to hear in order to further his own agenda. However one suspects there's a great deal of buck-shifting going on here.Another issue to keep in mind is that Ricks' book seems heavily influenced by the milieu in which it was written. It is an account of how the military operated in the years 2002 to 2006 but it is also a polemic. Ricks is arguing for the adoption of Counter Insurgency strategy (or COIN) by the military in Iraq if it wants to have a hope of success. Now, he makes a very compelling argument, but as a result of this agenda, sometimes it feels as if Ricks is focused on addressing officers within the army. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it can sometimes feel as if the narrative is kept within a box. Assumptions and attitudes are only questioned so far. So, for example, he looks at the containment vs. elimination debate within the military on the question of how to deal with Saddam Hussein but does not really examine the history of the US-Saddam relationship or question the assumption that he had to be dealt with in one of these two ways.Now I'm not necessarily saying this is a bad thing. However, it does mean that this is a book with a certain focus, and that is the operations of the U.S. military in the Iraq War, from planning to execution, and the successes and failures thereof. It is in its own way an excellent book and one I would certainly recommend to anyone who wants to understand what the US military encountered and how it adapted during the first few years of the Iraq war.

Also by Thomas E. Ricks