The first Schmierer-recommended book on Iraq I picked up was The Assassins’ Gate: America in Iraq, by The New Yorker writer George Packer. The book starts of with a great job of explaining the political history of the neoconservatives (neocons) prior to the Iraq War and their involvement in the rationale behind the war, then Packer writes about what he saw in Iraq over the course of several trips over several years. The book ends right after the 2005 elections in Iraq, with an afterword written later in 2006.
I never quite knew who the neocons were or where they came from, so the first few chapters were great even before getting to the Iraq War. All the stories from Iraq were fascinating and sad. Even the heroes of the book are tragic heroes in that they all go home (or die) before they’ve reached their goals. And much of the book is not about heroes, it’s about anti-heroes, the politicians.
Packer is critical of the Bush Administration from top to bottom (with some slack given to Secretary of State Colin Powell) and of their actions from the beginnings of even thinking about a war through to the last he covers in the book. The shortest summary might be “the war was not justified, not planned well, not honestly explained to the citizens of the United States, not executed well and is not being “ended” well now; but the U.S. did start it, did make things a different kind of worse and now much stay and make things right.” Packer does not offer many suggestions on how to make things right. The book is about how things went wrong.