Arrows of the Night: Ahmad Chalabi and the Selling of the Iraq War Audio CD – Audiobook, Unabridged
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Praise for Arrows of the Night
"This is the most thorough telling of the story of Ahmad Chalabi... Arrows of the Night is a first-rate case study of both Middle Eastern émigré politics and the American way of dealing with the Middle East."
“Arrows of the Night is the best book on the Iraq War, bar none. Bonin has written the authoritative account of how one man, along with a handful of well-meaning but naïve confederates, conned the greatest power on earth into a war it will rue for years. I read it in a sitting, and it answered every question I had about this folly. It is a must-read for the historian and anyone with the slightest interest in politics.”
—Robert Baer, author of See No Evil and The Company We Keep
“People ask me, ‘Why was there an Iraq War?’ Now I can tell them: read Arrows of the Night. It’s the best-researched, most readable narrative about how a small group of people caused the United States to fight a war that was unnecessary, and, worse, counterproductive. Most Americans do not know who Ahmad Chalabi is, but this is the story of how every American has paid a price for Chalabi’s successful manipulation of our government.”
—Richard A. Clarke, author of Against All Enemies
“In Arrows of the Night, Richard Bonin has provided a stunning portrayal of Ahmad Chalabi that, for the first time, brings him to life and places him in his proper historical context. Bonin, one of our best reporters in Washington, provides a fascinating account of Chalabi’s secretive ties to the neoconservatives in the Bush administration, and shows us that Chalabi and the neoconservatives were engaged in an elaborate dance, using each other to justify war.”
—James Risen, author of State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration
“A marvelous read about a tragic and deceitful relationship.”
—James Bamford, author of The Shadow Factory, Body of Secrets, and The Puzzle Palace
About the Author
RICHARD BONIN is a producer at 60 Minutes, working with Lesley Stahl, and has won five Emmys for his work. He lives in Washington, D.C.See all Product Description
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Richard Bonin provides exhaustive primary and secondary research, deftly and meticulously acknowledging the nuanced ambiguity of the historical record. He breathes life into Chalabi who mirrors the infantile amoral brilliance of the Monkey King in classical Chinese literature. The title has a poetic quality, originating from Shia "prayers and execrations [at night] sent up to heaven by the oppressed and the innocent" and "returned like arrows directed at your enemies". Bonin effortlessly makes fascinating references to Shakespeare, CIA secure telephone units, 18th century Russian Potemkin villages, the ancient Roman patrician Cincinnatus, Che Guevara and the 1941 Lend-Lease Act. Though he provides an abundance of fascinating details, vignettes and side trips, he never loses sight of the historical context or the larger narrative arc.
This book rivals Kinzer's ALL THE SHAH'S MEN or Wright's THE LOOMING TOWER as an accessible, original and significant contribution to understanding the modern history of the Islamic world and its interactions with the American government. You'll enjoy the VIP pass to the backstage of the CIA, DOD, White House and State Department.
I read ARROWS OF THE NIGHT and loved it. It is perhaps the most instructive book I've found on why the US went to war in Iraq--including the one I wrote and the many I've read.
I recommend this book to everyone, unless of course, they're a close associate of Chalabi. (See the comments on Nibras Kazimi's review)
The reader learns that Ahmad Chalabi came from a wealthy politically connected family. This provided him, as a child, servants and a material setting that was quite spectacular. The reader also learns, surprisingly and very importantly, that he was a Shiite as opposed to a Sunni (i.e., a member of the politically repressed majority as opposed to the minority with the political power). The reader learns how the military coup that placed the Bathist Party into power ended up forcing his family into exile in England and caused them to lose much of their wealth. Not that they were poor. Chalabi's father had squired quite a bit of his wealth away in London, where they lived an upper income lifestyle. Chalabi was sent to an "elite" public school ("public" in the terminology the English, which is the exact opposite of what it would mean to an American). The reader learns that Chalabi was a child prodigy in terms of intellect and mathematical aptitude (he later went on to earn a PhD in mathematics from MIT). It is also learned that Chalabi was extremely manipulative and deceitful as a student, a characteristic that would stay with him the rest of his life. The reader also learns that Chalabi had a very, very strong and burning desire to return to Iraq and overthrow Hussein though this would have to be, due to his personality, with himself as, naturally, the head. The rest of his life he followed this singular long-term and eventual goal.
After completing his education he goes to Jordan and makes himself a wealthy man many times over by introducing banking innovation into that nation (i.e., credit cards, etc). Unfortunately he, through his pro-Iranian/anti-Iraqi views and actions alienates his friends and the politically connected. Worse, he engages in bank fraud and as a result flees back to London. In his interviews he tells Mr. Bonin that the case against him was pure fiction and a result of his political enemies "framing" him but Bonin, through investigation, concludes otherwise.
While in his 2nd term of exile, he is able to dedicate himself to the overthrow of Sadam Hussein. As such he eventually comes to lead the Iraqi National Congress (through much manipulation and other shenanigans) and comes to the attention of the U.S. authorities, in particular the CIA, State Dept. and Defense Departments. Eventually they come to eschew him thanks to his manipulative nature, deception and ambitions. Dr. Chalabi, again using his manipulative skills and intelligence, eventually by passes these organizations and goes straight to the U.S. political elite that can, in his opinion, most help him in achieving his goals - the neoconservatives. By carefully fostering and leveraging various relationships, starting with the scholar Bernard Lewis (who introduces him to many leading and influential neo-conservatives), he gains the ears of a political constituency that, although still far from power (all this was still done under the Clinton Administration) sets the stage for his later role. The tale of how he enamored this group is quite impressive.
After President Bush the second is elected his mentors, such as Richard Pearle and Wolfowitz, among others, push to have Chalabi lead the Iraqi opposition and be strongly supported by the US, even to the point where many neo-conservatives, de facto, want to install him as a puppet ruler. This is despite fierce opposition from the CIA, State Dept. and the non-political segment of the Defense Dept (basically anyone out of the neo-conservative's cabal). This tale of manipulation, as well as stupidity, is also well told by Mr. Bonin. Eventually Iraq is invaded and Chalabi does return. Unfortunately he is eventually ruined (at least from the perspective of US support) for a number of reasons, the final straw being his provision to Iran of secret US information. However, Dr. Chalabi is currently still in Iraq where he seems to have done quite well both economically and politically. It is not out of the question that this devious and manipulative man may return to some position of authority in the Iraqi political arena. Unfortunately Mr. Bonin ends his book without examining the possibility of this.
All and all, a very good book resulting from a lot of serious investigative effort as well as those 60 hours of interview hours. Four stars.
It is pretty hard to come away from this book without the impression that protecting Israel from its perceived biggest enemy in the Arab world was the rationale behind the Americans who aided Chalabi in getting the US to attack Iraq. How else can it be explained that practically all of them, with the exception of Muslim Zalmay Khalilzad, were Jewish? Stephen Solarz was an early congressional mentor and had Chalabi at his house for Passover where they likened Saddam Hussein to one of the Egyptian plagues. Doug Feith, Harold Rhode, Richard Perle, and Paul Wolfowitz of Bush's Defense Department met early with Chalabi and plotted with him to get Bush to drop his opposition to nation building. Scooter Libby and John P Hannah of the Vice President Cheney's office kept the latter aboard.
The book ends with Chalabi in his "Yellow Zone" fortress in Baghdad, much richer from his dealings in oil and other areas after his return to Iraq from exile and perhaps plotting another attempt at assuming leadership of the country. And you know, against my better judgment, I am sort of rooting for the old rogue to do it. What he would do might hammer the coffin shut on the American neocon movement.
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