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Summary and book reviews of Fiasco by Thomas Ricks

Fiasco

The American Military Adventure in Iraq

by Thomas E. Ricks

Fiasco
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  • First Published:
    Jul 2006, 496 pages
    Paperback:
    Jul 2007, 512 pages

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Book Summary

A masterful and explosive description of the planning and execution of the American military invasion and occupation of Iraq, based on the unprecedented candor of key participants.

Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post senior Pentagon correspondent Thomas E. Ricks's Fiasco is masterful and explosive reckoning with the planning and execution of the American military invasion and occupation of Iraq, based on the unprecedented candor of key participants.

The American military is a tightly sealed community, and few outsiders have reason to know that a great many senior officers view the Iraq war with incredulity and dismay. But many officers have shared their anger with renowned military reporter Thomas E. Ricks, and in Fiasco, Ricks combines these astonishing on-the-record military accounts with his own extraordinary on-the-ground reportage to create a spellbinding account of an epic disaster.

As many in the military publicly acknowledge here for the first time, the guerrilla insurgency that exploded several months after Saddam's fall was not foreordained. In fact, to a shocking degree, it was created by the folly of the war's architects. But the officers who did raise their voices against the miscalculations, shortsightedness, and general failure of the war effort were generally crushed, their careers often ended. A willful blindness gripped political and military leaders, and dissent was not tolerated.

There are a number of heroes in Fiasco—inspiring leaders from the highest levels of the Army and Marine hierarchies to the men and women whose skill and bravery led to battlefield success in towns from Fallujah to Tall Afar—but again and again, strategic incoherence rendered tactical success meaningless. There was never any question that the U.S. military would topple Saddam Hussein, but as Fiasco shows there was also never any real thought about what would come next. This blindness has ensured the Iraq war a place in history as nothing less than a fiasco. Fair, vivid, and devastating, Fiasco is a book whose tragic verdict feels definitive.

1. A BAD ENDING
SPRING 1991

President George W. Bush’s decision to invade Iraq in 2003 ultimately may come to be seen as one of the most profligate actions in the history of American foreign policy. The consequences of his choice won’t be clear for decades, but it already is abundantly apparent in mid-2006 that the U.S. government went to war in Iraq with scant solid international support and on the basis of incorrect information—about weapons of mass destruction and a supposed nexus between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda’s terrorism—and then occupied the country negligently. Thousands of U.S. troops and an untold number of Iraqis have died. Hundreds of billions of dollars have been spent, many of them squandered. Democracy may yet come to Iraq and the region, but so too may civil war or a regional conflagration, which in turn could lead to spiraling oil prices and a global economic shock.

This book’s subtitle terms the U.S. effort in ...

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Reviews

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What makes Fiasco stand out from the crowd of recently published books about the current situation in Iraq is the comprehensiveness and coherence of Ricks's reporting, and the dozens of military sources he cites (many going on the record for the first time) backed up by the thousands of pages of internal documents - Ricks says he read over 30,000 pages of documents, including diaries, unit logs, official briefings, email correspondence and US military documents. The 2007 paperback includes a postscript that looks back on the year since the book's release.   (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).

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Media Reviews
Washington Post- Daniel Byman

Fiasco pulls no punches. .....the picture Ricks paints is so damning that it is, at times, too charitable to say that the military and civilian leadership failed.

Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

Devastating.... Fiasco is essential reading for anyone interested in understanding how the United States came to go to war in Iraq, how a bungled occupation fed a ballooning insurgency and how these events will affect the future of the American military.... [T]his volume gives the reader a lucid, tough-minded overview of this tragic enterprise that stands apart from earlier assessments in terms of simple coherence and scope.

Publishers Weekly

Ricks's solid reporting, deep knowledge of the American military and willingness to name names make this perhaps the most complete, incisive analysis yet of the Iraq quagmire.

Reader Reviews
Penny

Bamboozeled by fear
How did the American people allow this to happen? Thomas Ricks writes about a time that all Americans should be ashamed of. When the military can't hold a line of positive things about this war we shouldn't be in Iraq. The 2000 election was a fiasco ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Thomas E. Ricks has been The Washington Post's senior Pentagon correspondent since 2000. Until the end of 1999, he held the same beat at The Wall Street Journal, where he was a reporter for seventeen years. A member of two Pulitzer Prize-winning teams for national reporting, he has reported on U.S. military activities in Somalia, Haiti, Korea, Bosnia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Kuwait, Turkey, Afghanistan, and Iraq. He is the author of Making the Corps and A Soldier's Duty.

Between 2003 and 2006 he made five trips to Iraq. He says that on his first trip in April/May 2003 he could walk the streets of Baghdad at night, albeit with caution; even in the summer of 2003 he felt safe driving to Tikrit, but "to do either of those ...

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