Friday, May 19, 2006

The Assassins' Gate, The Book

I was reluctant to read this book when it was first recommended to me. Now that I read it, I wish I took the advice earlier. George Packer's excellent writing style made this book a smooth read even with the enormous amount of information he presented. I'm not surprised it was a 2006 Pulitzer Prize finalist in the General Non-Fiction category.

George explained in detail how Iraq's plan for regime change was presented to former president Bill Clinton in 1998. Clinton figured post-war Iraq wouldn't be rosy. So, he let the plan collect dust. I don't need to tell you who wrote the plan. You probably figured it out yourself.

The book also introduces Kanan Makiya to readers. I heard this name before from Iraqis and non-Iraqis. I heard good and bad opinions in regard to his work and motives. I know he's a smart person, and I have no doubt he wants the best for Iraq. But, he's definitely unrealistic in the way he envisioned post-war Iraq.

Then, there's how Jay Garner was chosen to administer post-war Iraq then dropped. I favored Garner over Bremer. Since I learned he disliked Chalabi and the INC, I like him more.

Garner was in favor of keeping the Iraqi army to help bring law and order in Iraq. He also favored a milder version of the debaathification. The guy was logical, and he probably knew most Iraqis were Baathists by force. Removing them from their jobs wasn't a wise decision. But, Garner wasn't favored by D.C. standards and it resulted in his quick replacement.

When he was in Iraq, George Packer noticed how Iraqis look tired and old. On the other hand, Iraqis were surprised how he looked young considering his age. I moved to the West 11 years ago and still find it hard to guess people's ages. That's very Iraqi.

The book explains in detail why we failed in Iraq. The one reason I agree most is Iraqis living inside Iraq should have been given the biggest role in post-war Iraq. Even if they took the wrong decisions, it would've still been their decisions and not an outside entity, that imposes its rules on them and tells them what's best for them.

If George reads this post when Googling his name, I want to say that I'm glad he got to try Iraqi Maskuf when post-war Baghdad was still safe for foreign journalists to leave their hotel rooms and socialize with ordinary Iraqis.

The Assassins' Gate

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