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Fiasco: The American Military Adventure, by Thomas Ricks

By an everyday book reader
May 1, 2007

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.

Fair, vivid, and devastating, Fiasco is a book whose tragic verdict feels definitive.

Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq
by Thomas E. RicksBook Picture

Softcover: 512 pages
ISBN: 9780143038917, 0143038915
July 2007

This is the definitive military chronicle of the Iraq war and a searing judgment on the strategic blindness with which America has conducted it, drawing on the accounts of senior military officers giving voice to their anger for the first time.

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.

"Fiasco is not a screed but a well-researched, strongly written account of the miscues that led from shock-and-awe to rampant sectarian strife." - Los Angeles Times

"It is not an exaggeration, or at least not much of one, to say that with his new book, Fiasco, Thomas Ricks has changed the debate over Iraq.... It may leave your hand shaking just a bit when you finish and put it down." -

"The title of this devastating new book about the American war in Iraq says it all.... Absolutely essential reading ... [This] 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." - Michiko Kakutani - The New York Times

"Compelling and well-researched ... Fiasco pulls no punches.... News on Iraq usually comes with blaring headlines, but Ricks' work allows us to fit seemingly disparate events into an overall pattern." - The Washington Post

"A comprehensive and illuminating portrait of the willful blindness of the Bush administration to Iraqi realities." - The New York Times Book Review

Thomas E. Ricks, senior Pentagon correspondent for the Washington Post, puts forth in Fiasco a masterful reckoning with the planning and execution of the American military invasion and occupation of Iraq, now with a preface on recent developments. Ricks draws on the exclusive cooperation of an extraordinary number of American personnel - including more than one hundred senior officers - and access to more than 30,000 pages of official documents, many of them never before made public.

Tragically, it is an undeniable account - explosive, shocking, and authoritative - of unsurpassed tactical success combined with unsurpassed strategic failure that indicts some of America's most powerful and honored civilian and military leaders.

Thomas E . Ricks is the senior Pentagon correspondent for the Washington Post. A member of two Pulitzer Prize - winning teams for national reporting, he has covered U.S. military activities in Somalia, Haiti, Korea, Bosnia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Kuwait, Turkey, Afghanistan, and Iraq. He is the bestselling author of Making the Corps and a novel, A Soldier's Duty.

"Indeed, the picture Ricks paints is so damning that it is, at times, too charitable to say that the military and civilian leadership failed. Fiasco portrays several commanders as misguided but trying their best, but others -- particularly the hapless Franks -- appear not to have tried at all. Worse, the overall war and occupation effort lacked the high-level White House coordination essential to victory, allowing Bremer to operate on his own, making major decisions without consulting the Pentagon or the National Security Council, let alone his counterparts on the military side of the occupation. These failures feel particularly raw given the sacrifices, grit and determination of the heroes of Ricks's book: the junior and noncommissioned officers risking their lives in Iraq's streets." - Daniel Byman, The Washington Post

"The main points of this hard-hitting indictment of the Iraq war have been made before, but seldom with such compelling specificity... an under-manned, unprepared U.S. military stood by as chaos and insurgency took root, then responded with heavy-handed tactics that brutalized and alienated Iraqis. Based on extensive interviews with American soldiers and officers as well as first-hand reportage, Ricks's detailed, unsparing account of the occupation paints a woeful panorama of reckless firepower, mass arrests, humiliating home invasions, hostage-taking and abuse of detainees... 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." - Publishers Weekly

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