as an ‘International Best Seller’, Fiasco (ISBN 978-141-02850-7, Penguin
Books, 2007) has been written by Thomas E. Ricks, a senior political
journalist with the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal. He has been
in two Pulitzer Prize teams, and the sub-title of this book is “The American
military adventure in Iraq”. The book is based on interviews and eye witness
accounts from all levels in the American military machine, and in the halls
of power in the Pentagon and White House. It also has pages of notes at the
end of the book showing from where opinions and quotes were gathered.
The book is divided into three parts - Containment, Into Iraq and The Long
Term, plus a new postscript, added in April 2007 with this Penguin edition.
The first part is the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq and details the
double-dealings that went on between the advisors and the president’s
entourage. Author Ricks gently dissects the information as it was slowly
embellished. He is particularly critical of Judith Miller, the New York
Times correspondent who went into print with a story from an Iraqi civil
engineer defector who knew where the weapons of mass destruction (WMD) were
held. This gilded the path for those in favor of attacking Iraq, the WMD
being the ‘reason’. As Ricks writes, “There was just one major problem with
the story: It wasn’t true, not one bit of it.” Ms. Miller was later to spend
time in jail for failing to name her ‘source’ and since then has been
discredited as a journalist, says Ricks.
After the attack took place, the Americans relaxed. Saddam was deposed and
they considered themselves the great liberators of Iraq. Unfortunately, the
Iraqi people were not reading the same memos as the Americans. The
‘liberators’ were initially considered occupiers, and then considered
enemies as relations soured even further.
Hicks details the fact that the invaders had no real plan as to what to do
with Iraq after the ‘successful’ toppling of Saddam. Ad hoc concepts were
used, tried, failed and discarded. In the meantime people were killed
(including the US military) and guerilla groups proliferated to fill the
power vacuum that had been produced. Disbanding the Iraqi police and
military forces in one fell swoop put hundreds of thousands out of work and
produced even more enmity.
Then came the Abu Ghraib POW camp tortures - another fiasco which was
initially denied and then later shown to be true, and a very minor officer
sacrificed for the ‘good name’ of the military. Hardly a salve for the
And so to the long term - and another fiasco. Is there no end?
B. 495 for around 500 pages makes it an inexpensive epic, but one that is
well worth reading. It certainly was (is) a fiasco as described by author
Ricks. It could have been entitled “Gullibles Travels” and been just as apt.
How the American people fell for such duplicity and outright confabulation
is mind boggling. The Iraqi people may not have liked Saddam Hussein, but
after the US bungling, they don’t like America much either - and with good