Polemics & Exchanges

On Missing the Boat

While it was gratifying to see you take note of George Packer’s important book The Assassins’ Gate, Ivan Eland’s tepid review (May) gives only grudging praise to perhaps the most incisive reportage so far of our involvement in Iraq.

Packer’s book is not, as Eland suggests, merely an exposé of the Bush administration’s incompetence.  It is a careful, comprehensive panorama of the perverse human chemistry created by any misguided, isolated bureaucracy seeking empire and plunder in a foreign land under a banner of lofty ideals.  It also documents, by detailed reporting, the bunker-like, group-think mentality of the architects of the continuing delusional “regime change” efforts aimed at Israel’s remaining adjacent enemies.

Essentially unacknowledged by Dr. Eland, however, is Packer’s singular skill in placing so much “red meat” reporting in a dramatic perspective readers can easily grasp and enjoy.

Packer records several revealing quotations from the War Party’s leadership.  Take, for example, the reaction of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to Baghdad’s rising chaos in 2003: “Stuff happens.”  Or President Bush’s aside to departing CPA nation-rebuilder Jay Garner a scant two months after the night of “shock...

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