Douglas J. Feith
This book is essential reading for historians and those concerned with national security reform. It is not recommended for normal people, including those that have strong political views one way or the other. You will get much better value simply by reading reviews of a 100 related books starting with the ten below, and buying the book Fixing Failed States and checking out the reviews of the books I recommend there.
I read the Index after the Table of Contents and before I actually read the book. It became immediately evident to me that:
1) The index stinks in not including place names like Jalabad, Tora Bora, Kandahar, etcetera.
2) The author has written a personal account that opens with a concise (even impressive) summary of the high points of “alleged” criticisms and conspiracy claims, but with the exception of Bob Woodward, I could not find a single other reputable author in the index (see my list of ten books below, a token of the 100+ books that generally refute most of what this author has to say at the external level). I have no doubt this author is honest and credible on the details he knows, but as with the Viet-Nam rejoinder, “so what”, I really question whether the author–good man that he is–is at all in touch with reality. Baer, Bamford, Clarke, Ritter, etc. do NOT appear in this book's index or footnotes that I could find.
Getting into the book, I am immediately impressed by the existence of a supporting website (waranddecision.com just add the www) and I am generally very impressed with the level of detail, the sequencing of information, the able reference to those he talked with by name. There is no question in my mind about the authenticity of this book. The author speaks from his mind and his heart, he is not dumb, just self-centered.
As the book progresses, I am astonished by several factors:
1) Dick Cheney appears only 28 times in this book, and not before page 53. The Cheney-Rumsfeld relationship is one that was evidently not shared by the author. He consequently is oblivious to the reality that Dick Cheney orchestrated 935 distinct documented lies in the rush to war; and committed 25 distinct impeachable offenses, not least of which was leveraging the nine advance warnings of the plans to attack the World Trade Center to allow a Pearl Harbor.
2) I had to go forward to read Chapter 6 (“Why Iraq”) because of the prominence of the author's claim of the many “proven” instances in which Iraq trained, supported, or financed terrorism, but I quickly note that the author makes no reference at all the many proven open sources, including the former President of Czechoslovakia, who totally trashed this assertion.
3) The author is actively deceptive on more than one occasion. He cites the New York Times as “evidence” while casually neglecting to mention that he is citing the notorious Judith Miller, a fellow traveler at least, if not an active agent of influence for Israel.
4) The author is critical of the CIA throughout the book, including Milt Bearden whom I happen to respect greatly, and while I myself think CIA needs to be burned to the ground, I do not respect the manner in which the author manages to completely disrespect by omission of three major facts:
+ CIA got it right on WMD. Between the son in law that defected and the 30+ legal travelers that Charlie Allen orchestrated, CIA established without a shadow of a doubt that they kept the cookbooks, poured the stocks into the river (something that will have downstream impacts for decades), and were bluffing for regional sake. Since Rumsfeld and Cheney delivered the original WMD supplies and the joke is they kept the receipts, what I see here is an elegant concealment of the reality that the Pentagon was not about to listen to the CIA no matter what. The fact is that the professional CIA got it right, George Tenet sacrificed his integrity, and the White House was able to ignore secret intelligence because both the CIA professionals and the Pentagon's flag officers drank the koolaid and confused loyalty with integrity to their Constitutional oaths of office. ALL of our checks and balances failed us.
+ The author infuriates me with the manner in which he blatantly misleads the reader about how he and Rumsfeld triumphed in pushing for both early precision targetting inside Afghanistan, and the push to Kabul prior to the winter. He is maliciously evil in failing to credit the CIA teams that are described in “First In” and “Jawbreaker” and he can be excused for not being told that Putin told Bush he could take Kabul before the winter. Obviously the author does not read widely, and one can understand how immersed he might be in the reality of his own creation.
+ He misleads the reader in parroting Ahmed Chalabi's accusations against the CIA, while failing to point out that CIA fired Chalabi for stealing and lying; that Chalabi was convicted in Jordan for embezzlement; and that Chalabi is almost certainly a very well paid agent of influence for Iran, one reason most in Iraq's leadership circles want nothing to do with him.
In passing, there is no mention in this book of our love fest with 42 of 44 dictators; there is active (virulent) hatred for Colin Powell and Rich Armitage (I would follow either over any hill), nor is there any mention, as the book draws to a close, that ignorant treasonous rendition and torture aside, the score for nailing terrorists right now is CIA 40+, DoD zero (I may not know of one or two).
I bought and labored through this book because James Schlesinger recommended it and because it may be the only book among the 100 or so I have read circling the sordid regime from 2000-2008, that comes from one of the avowed “insiders.” I give the author high marks for his homework, his documentation, and his writing.
Doug Feith is what you get when you agree to elect one man who picks a few cronies that pick other cronies who in turn orchestrate their kind of crony in Afghanistan and Iraq and elsewhere. In Singapore, I am told, one must have a Master of Business Administration before being qualified to run for Parliament. We don't need to go that far. I believe that in the General Election, we must demand that Presidential candidates appoint a Cabinet in advance of election, at least three of whom must participate in the debate process (State, Defense, Attorney General), *and* they must produce a balanced budget proposal for public scrutiny at least 90 days before Election Day. It's time to put Citizen Wisdom back into the Republic.
See also, apart from my lists on Dick Cheney, impeachment, strategy, emerging threats and so on, the following ten books:
DVD Why We Fight
Breaking the Real Axis of Evil: How to Oust the World's Last Dictators by 2025
9/11 Synthetic Terror: Made in USA, Fourth Edition
A Pretext for War : 9/11, Iraq, and the Abuse of America's Intelligence Agencies
State of Denial: Bush at War, Part III
Jawbreaker: The Attack on Bin Laden and Al Qaeda: A Personal Account by the CIA's Key Field Commander
First In: An Insider's Account of How the CIA Spearheaded the War on Terror in Afghanistan
Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq
Squandered Victory: The American Occupation and the Bungled Effort to Bring Democracy to Iraq
Vice: Dick Cheney and the Hijacking of the American Presidency