Book Review: Thomas E. Ricks

Everyone has their list of books that they think every American should read. After reading Thomas E. Rick’s “Fiasco: The American Military Misadventure in Iraq,” I have no choice but to put it at the top of my list.

I finished the book about four months ago and continue to reflect on it, reread it and see its relevance in our current events today.

As an American, as a journalist, as someone who admires the men and women in our armed forces, I was astounded by Rick’s precision reporting and brilliant storytelling. He does what every journalist should do: He never lets the facts get in the way of a good story; but he also never lets a story not get told well.

It’s also the most damning thing I’ve ever read on the George W. Bush administration.

Ricks, a Washington Post correspondent who covered the Pentagon, developed the book thanks to his well connected sourcing within the Pentagon and the military. However, really showing off his journalistic chops, he never lets that closeness get in the way of showing the warts within the military and the pentagon.

And those warts – the bad behavior of some soldiers and higher ups in the military – grounds the story.

As the New York Times puts it:

““Fiasco” is absolutely essential reading for anyone interested in understanding how the United States came to go to war in Iraq, how a bungled occupation fed a ballooning insurgency and how these events will affect the future of the American military. “

It takes you from the morning of 9/11, through the build up into the war and how the Bush administration didn’t hear the warnings from inside the military (echoing the disaster of not listening to the intelligence reports prior to the attacks) about what Iraq would cost us.

Through soldiers’ eyes, we see that the end game was never planned out by the administration. Ten years after the book was first published it’s now easy to see how much that failure has cost the U.S in terms of blood, prestige and finances.

We also see that this failure to prepare also rests at the military’s feet. Instead of learning the lesson from Vietnam in trying to better our tactics against insurgents and guerrilla tactics, we just tried to avoid that confrontation altogether.

Our leaders never saw that it was inevitable we would face those dangers again in Afghanistan and Iraq and we continue to pay the price.

But the book is incredibly damning of a cavalier administration, particularly officials like L. Paul Bremmer, Douglas Feith, Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney.

Rick’s doesn’t take a political axe at these guys, he shows the reader, point-by-point destruction of their mistakes, from trusting Achmed Chalabi to not even preparing soldiers for the culture they would face.If you care about the military or our nation’s foreign policy, “Fiasco” is a must read.

Published by Penquin, Fiasco is available on Audible and Amazon.


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