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Bookmarks Issue: 
20-Jan-Feb-2006
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America in Iraq

A-AssassinsGatePacker, a writer for The New Yorker, reluctantly supported the war in Iraq, believing that Saddam Hussein was a mass murderer who needed to be stopped before he killed again. But during several trips to Iraq between July 2003 and January 2005, Packer witnessed the hubris, incompetence, and naiveté that caused the United States to fumble the postwar occupation, get mired down in a relentless insurgency, and become caught in the middle of long-simmering ethnic and religious divisions. Packer chronicles all the chaos and his own disillusionment in The Assassins’ Gate. He also traces the intellectual history of neoconservative foreign policy and the Bush administration’s buildup to the war, which he claims was on its agenda before the September 11 terrorist attacks.
Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 454 pages. $26. ISBN: 0374299633

Baltimore Sun 4 of 5 Stars
"The Assassins’ Gate … isn’t a ‘policy’ book or an ‘I-was-there’ battlefield account. It is a rigorous, sustained inquiry into the clashing expectations for Iraq, how the war was planned, and the staggering wreckage of Iraqi society." Robert Ruby

Newsday 4 of 5 Stars
"The important thing about The Assassins’ Gate is that it is based on real reporting. He went to Iraq. He wandered around and talked to people. That counts for something; in fact, it counts for a lot." Scott McLemee

Salon.com 3.5 of 5 Stars
"The Assassins’ Gate: America in Iraq proves that holding strong opinions about a subject does not prevent a journalist of integrity from reporting the truth, even if it flies in the face of what he had believed. The Assassins’ Gate is almost certain to stand as the most comprehensive journalistic account of the greatest foreign-policy debacle in U.S. history." Gary Kamiya

Washington Post 3.5 of 5 Stars
"How could the strongest power in modern history, going to war against a much lesser opponent at a time and place of its own choosing, find itself stuck a few years later, hemorrhaging blood and treasure amid increasing chaos? Americans will be debating the answer for decades, and as they do, they are unlikely to find a better guide than George Packer’s masterful new The Assassins’ Gate." Farrar Straus Giroux

New York Times 3 of 5 Stars
"What The Assassins’ Gate may lack in freshness, however, is more than made up for by its wide-angled, overarching take on the Iraq war and Mr. Packer’s lucid ability to pull together information from earlier books and integrate it with his own reporting from Washington and Iraq." Michiko Kakutani

Critical Summary

Packer has written the most definitive account to date of the Iraq War, thanks to exceptional reporting and wide-ranging research that put the U.S. invasion into its true historical and political context. Even with the outcome of the war uncertain—and no end of the U.S. occupation in sight—The Assassins’ Gate will likely stand for years to come as the seminal book chronicling what one critic called "the greatest foreign policy debacle in U.S. history." Critics—who seemed to be opponents of the war themselves—praised Packer’s fealty to the truth even when it clashed with his support for the invasion. Packer may bring few new facts to light, but he weaves together a powerful and all-encompassing narrative that personalizes a nation’s ambivalence and disillusionment.