Al Qaeda's Great Escape: The Military and the Media on Terror's Trail Hardcover – Jun 15 2004
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From Publishers Weekly
Christian Science Monitor foreign correspondent Smucker offers an excellent, compact study of the campaign in Afghanistan and expounds a familiar thesis clearly and convincingly: the U.S. military, under not only executive but public pressure for a quick victory in revenge for September 11, adopted a strategy that achieved that victory, but only over the Taliban. Resources were not allocated to the hunt for Osama bin Laden and his cohorts, many of whom either fled or went underground, to continue to cause trouble in Afghanistan and elsewhere. The bulk of the book details how that was allowed to happen. Smucker is much harsher on U.S. strategists and his fellow journalists than he is on the American fighting men and women in the field, who include not only the glamorous covert operations troops but the humble logisticians "in the air, on land, and sea." Stronger on the military than on the civilian side, Smucker does not adequately deal with the question of whether the pursuit of the Taliban received its priority because of the need for Northern Alliance support, and the Washington-based coverage could have been usefully expanded. Much more literate than most journalistic accounts, this book is not for ideologues at either end of the spectrum, as the struggle for balance and perspective is visible on every page. By the end, the wealth of operational detail will leave readers with a palpable sense of missed opportunity.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
This account of the American campaign in Afghanistan, specifically the battles of Tora Bora and Operation Anaconda, is that of an experienced war correspondent. It covers what happened in the Afghan hills, the strategic policies in Washington, media coverage on the spot, and how bin Laden and scores of his followers were able to escape from Afghanistan, despite the U.S. Army. Besides providing an excellent picture--and pictures--of the war, Smucker explains how information was obtained, used, abused, and just plain ignored, which is important because, although the last thing the media should do during a campaign is provide the enemy with free intelligence, an informed citizenry needs to know this to consider what kind of job the commander in chief has done. War reporting has always been subject to propaganda biases, but Smucker's narrative style makes you feel as if you were there, especially when his "get the story at all costs" impulses take over. So in addition to everything else it is, this is quite a picture of contemporary combat reporting. Frieda Murray
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Top Customer Reviews
AQGE chronicles how the war, fought with unreliable Pakistani and Afghan proxies, never had a chance of defeating Al Quaeda. That the US allowed bin Laden to escape is either a sign that we are not serious about fighting terrorism, or that our military and governmental leaders are too stupid to run a real war. We had thousands of al Qaeda fighters bottled up at Tora Bora. Yet we chose not to lay siege and flush them out. Also, we hugely underestimated the resolve, tenacity and ingenuity of the Al Quaeda fighters. Fighting on while vastly outgunned and outnumbered, they held off the larger and better-equipped US forces and inflicted serious casualties. Was this the "fog of war" or the fogginess of mind in the Pentagon and the White House?
AQGE also offers a comic look at the media buffoons who used the war to bolster their own egos and ratings. Geraldo Rivera comes in for a special raking. His moving, from-the-scene "report" on the aftermath of an attack on American troops was complicated by the fact that he was never there.Read more ›
this is a very enjoyable and enlightening read. Enjoyable because the author - a bit of an eccentric perhaps - takes us
along with him as he wanders througout eastern Afghanistan in the hope of interviewing or capturing Bin Laden. Along the way we are given snapshots of other
member of the foreign correspondant trade - with the
exception of Geraldo Rivera, who's arrival and subsequent
reporting fills five pages, with a mixture of respect, bemusement and envy at the whole coterie of assistants that accompany him. And then we have the two Afghan warlords hired by the Pentagon to conduct most of the ground operations. Smucker captures their ideosyncrasies perfectly, and the reader is not ultimately surprised to learn that they find no problem in being bribed by both sides.
The second half of the book is less folksy, as it concentrates
on the two major battles the US took part in: Tora Bora and
the Anaconda campaign. Here we learn how Rumsfeld's naivety perhaps didn't cost us Bin Laden per se, but allowed most of his high command to cross the border to Pakistan.
As for Anaconda, the only drawn out battle, Smucker reports it mainly from interviews and military records, describing it with a journalistic "you are there" eye. And it is an eye-opener to see that were it not for our air power our ground forces might have actually taken a beating.
Smucker wisely refrains from writing about what he doesn't either observe or learn first-hand. For that reason the reader doesn't get much insight into what the Pentagon was thinking when it did what it did. In any case, this book will help prepare for the fact that the "war" in Afghanistan is far
from finished, and may not yet turn out the way we want.
Most recent customer reviews
An awesome, fascinating tale with an unhappy ending. Mr. Smucker's book, a high-stakes account from the trenches, rightly focuses on the crucial few weeks in the Afghan campaign... Read morePublished on May 30 2004 by ralph begletter
The hunt for Bin Laden, post 9-11, was the featured media story during the Oct. - Dec. 2001 timeframe. Read morePublished on May 11 2004 by Dennis Sullivan
A bit to the left but probably one of the most balanced presentations on this topic in print. Very well writen and a smooth read.Published on May 7 2004
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