Thursday, October 06, 2005

Salon reviews the Assassin's Gate

It took us over 10 years to fully realize we'd messed up very badly in Vietnam. Iraq took about two years. I guess that's progress. I doubt our victims are impressed. Books | The road to hell

Most of the American left lined up against the war in Iraq. But some did not. Among the liberal intellectuals who supported the invasion was George Packer, a staff writer for the New Yorker. His new book, 'The Assassins' Gate: America in Iraq,' proves that holding strong opinions about a subject does not prevent a journalist of integrity from reporting the truth, even if it flies in the face of what he had believed. 'The Assassins' Gate' is almost certain to stand as the most comprehensive journalistic account of the greatest foreign-policy debacle in U.S. history.

A funny thing happened to Packer: He went to Iraq. Reporting is a solvent that dissolves illusions quickly if one has an open mind, and Packer brought that and much more. His first-rate reporting from occupied Iraq, and his superb work covering the corridors of power in Washington, offers an extraordinarily wide-ranging portrait of the Iraq war, from its genesis in neoconservative think tanks to its catastrophic execution to its devastating effects on ordinary Americans and Iraqis. Anthony Shadid, in 'Darkness Draws Near: Iraq's People in the Shadow of America's War,' offers a deeper portrait of the Iraqi people, but he does not have Packer's majestic scope. 'The Assassins' Gate' is the best book yet about the Iraq war...

...The dangerous absurdity of this scheme (elements of which appeared in a later book by Perle and Bush speechwriter David Frum, modestly titled "An End to Evil") did not prevent it from being accepted by high officials of the Bush administration. "A few weeks before the start of the Iraq War, a State Department official described for me what he called the 'everybody move over one theory': Israel would annex the occupied territories, the Palestinians would get Jordan, and the Jordanian Hashemites would be restored to the throne of Iraq," Packer writes. The neocons were out-Likuding the Likud: Even Ariel Sharon had long abandoned his beloved "Jordan is Palestine" idea. That Douglas Feith, one of the ideologues who subscribed to such lunatic plans (the departing Colin Powell denounced Feith to President Bush as "a card-carrying member of the Likud") was in charge of planning for Iraq is almost beyond belief...
I trusted Tony Blair. My mistake. Greatest debacle in US history is a high standard. There's the Philipines for example. Time will tell whether Bush made the greatest error, or only 2nd or 3rd greatest.

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