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Arrows of the Night: Ahmad Chalabi and the Selling of the Iraq War (Anglais) CD audio – Livre audio, Version intégrale


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Chapter One

Ahmad Chalabi was in Washington, D.C., on Inauguration Day, 2001. He had chosen his favorite double-breasted Ermenegildo Zegna suit and a bright orange tie to celebrate opening day of the George W. Bush presidency. With his mischievous smile and aristocratic bearing, the fifty-six-year-old Iraqi-born Chalabi made his way from one inaugural bash to the next, gliding among the crowds of Bush partygoers. A Muslim who neither smokes nor drinks, he took it all in with the eye of an exile and the soul of a schemer. What would the Bush era mean for him? he wondered. How could he make the most of it?

The day after Bush’s swearing in, Chalabi took a car to Chevy Chase, Maryland, just outside the nation’s capital. He was invited to a meeting at the two-story home of Richard Perle, a leading figure in the neoconservative movement, which advocated using American military power to promote democracy abroad. Among those present, Chalabi said, were Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas J. Feith, Zalmay Khalilzad, and John P. Hannah. Within a few months, they all would hold influential positions in the new administration—with Wolfowitz and Feith landing the number two and number three positions at the Pentagon and Perle becoming a top adviser to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Khalilzad a special assistant to Bush and ambassador at large for Iraqi exiles, and Hannah a national security adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney. But on this brisk and sunny afternoon, January 21, 2001, they were just a handful of like-minded civilians who saw the charting of U.S. foreign policy as both their dominion and their duty.

Everyone came casually dressed, some in blue jeans, sweaters, and polo shirts—except for Chalabi, who, as always, chose his outfits with care. In this case, a beige sports coat with blue pinstripes, a pale blue shirt, and a wide navy tie. Casual was not his way. They gathered in a small salon near the front of Perle’s house, seated around a glass coffee table atop a red-and-black Turkish rug and beneath a portrait of Arthur Rimbaud, the influential eighteenth-century French poet who was as famous for his scandalous behavior as he was for his groundbreaking and revolutionary writings.

“Well, we have won.” Perle beamed as he opened the meeting. “And now we have to get our policy objective adopted by the administration.”

That policy objective was both simple and audacious: to get Bush to back Chalabi in his long quest to overthrow Saddam Hussein.

“We were sympathetic to what Ahmad was trying to accomplish,” Perle later explained matter-of-factly. But more important, the group believed that Chalabi was the missing piece in their own strategy for engineering a post-Saddam Iraq. To them, Chalabi was a modern-day Charles de Gaulle, someone “who shared our values” and who could be trusted to carry U.S. national interests to the most vital of regions, the Middle East.

“I believed at the time that we didn’t know enough about Iraq to go in there and remake the place,” Perle recounted. “We had to work with somebody, and I thought that he was the right person.”

So, over the next two hours, as they snacked on cold cuts and salad, they sketched out their agenda. Chalabi mostly listened. It was, in his estimation, a crucial meeting.

“Of course, none of these people had jobs in the administration,” Chalabi noted. “But it was important that they would be mobilized early to move the agenda for the liberation of Iraq.” The primary objective was to get “ideas through to the people who would be in a position to do things.” The ideas, he said, included “that Saddam was dangerous to U.S. interests in the Middle East. He was bent on revenge [over losing the 1990–1991 Gulf War].” Another objective was “to brush up and revive the arguments that would make it in the U.S. interest to help us overthrow Saddam.”

By “us” Chalabi meant the Iraqi National Congress (INC), the fractious umbrella group of Iraqi exiles—composed of Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds—that he led. Chalabi was under no illusion about the enormity of the INC’s challenge, especially given the roster of enemies he had amassed over the years inside the U.S. foreign policy establishment, which preferred to maintain the status quo in Iraq.

“I didn’t know how they were going to outmaneuver the State Department,” Chalabi said of his neoconservative supporters. Or how they might neutralize the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), where senior officials detested Chalabi, viewing him as a charlatan and an opportunist.

Then there was the question of Bush and where he stood on regime change. After a meeting with him in 2000, Perle had come to believe that Bush had “the temperament” to finish the job his father, George H. W. Bush, had begun. But Chalabi and his supporters gathered at Perle’s house that afternoon realized they would have to persuade the new president to make a U-turn on his campaign pronouncements denouncing nation building.

Perle, who had spent a quarter century in government—first on Capitol Hill as a Senate staffer and later as a senior Pentagon official in the Reagan administration—knew from experience that the fate of their agenda would most likely boil down to what he called “the battle of the memos.” He advised the group in his sitting room that while he expected many of them to land senior positions in the new administration through which they could promote their cause, they would still face formidable opposition from the career professionals in the State Department, the Department of Defense, and the intelligence community. He called members of that permanent bureaucracy “mattress mice” because of their skill in quietly and anonymously gnawing away at policy initiatives they opposed. As one of the participants at the meeting described it, “Just when you think your bed is all made up and your policy is securely in place, along come these mattress mice with their nay-saying memos and, before you know it, you’re lying on a bed of shreds.”

To counter the mattress mice, Perle advised that they preassemble their own stack of memos to answer the likely arguments opposing regime change: that the United Nations’ trade sanctions against Iraq, though imperfect, were working well enough; that Saddam was safely contained and posed a minimal threat to the United States; that whatever the upside of removing the dictator might be, it was not worth the inevitable empowerment of neighboring Iran; that because Iraq is so ethnically divided, toppling Saddam could lead to a dangerous and uncontrollable explosion in ethnic and religious violence among its people; that without a strongman the country could break up into separate Shiite, Sunni, and Kurdish enclaves, igniting an ethnic war so chaotic and violent that it would destabilize the region. There was much work to be done.

Even still, an epochal shift in U.S. foreign policy had begun. From day two of the Bush presidency, the push for a new Iraq was on—and Ahmad Chalabi was smack in the middle of it.

Who was this Iraqi exile?

I first met him a year after the Bush inauguration on behalf of CBS News’ 60 Minutes, where I have been a producer since 1988. At the time, I knew nothing of the meeting at Perle’s house. All I knew was that Chalabi was a leading figure in the Iraqi opposition movement and that he was campaigning hard for the overthrow of Saddam. The prospect of regime change in Baghdad was far from certain then, and the notion that the straight-talking former Texas governor would saddle up with this Iraqi blue blood with a taste for designer suits seemed far-fetched at best—especially to the executives at 60 Minutes in New York. But when I visited Chalabi that first time—at the Iraqi National Congress’s office in London near Hyde Park—I was struck by the nonstop frenzy of backroom meetings and cross-Atlantic cell phone calls I observed between him and the clique of neoconservatives working inside and outside the Bush administration. Chalabi was no mere dandy, I realized. This was a well-connected man of action who should be taken seriously. I called Lesley Stahl, the 60 Minutes correspondent, to propose our doing a story on him and the potential policy change afoot in the Bush administration, and she agreed. The result was the first of several stories she and I did together on Chalabi—and the beginning of a ten-year-long association with him in which I got a glimpse into just how wily he was, and how well positioned to maneuver the United States toward war.

I also knew that there was much more to this man and his story than I could document on a deadline or report in a television news segment. Chalabi had secrets to tell; it was a matter of prying them out of him. So I approached him in 2007 about sitting down with me and filling in the unexplored crevices of recent history—both his and that of the Bush administration’s decision to topple Saddam Hussein. Chalabi took several months to reply but eventually agreed, and since then I’ve traveled back and forth to Baghdad, where he now lives, interviewing him for more than sixty hours about his life and machinations. These include a larger-than-life résumé of triumphs and scandal: a degree in mathematics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and a doctorate from the University of Chicago, stints as university professor and banker, a conviction for embezzling. And that was all before he became a CIA operative and decided to devote his prodigious intellect full time to what had always been his true obsession: overthrowing the murderous Ba’athist regime in Baghdad and returning home to Iraq in a blaze of glory.

Often the fate of an exile is to see his dreams dim and then die before ever making it home again. But throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, Chalabi skillfully, fanatically, and sometimes ruthlessly orchestrated a uniquely different course for himself. Depending on whom you ask, he is either the Great Liberator of Iraq or the Great Seducer of America. Either way, there has never been a foreigner more crucially involved in a decision by the United States to go to war than Chalabi. He is one of the titanic figures to emerge from the U.S. adventure in Iraq, and the meeting at Richard Perle’s house that January 21, 2001, proved to be a turning point in his long journey home.


From the Hardcover edition.

Revue de presse

Praise for Arrows of the Night

"This is the most thorough telling of the story of Ahmad Chalabi... Arrows of the Night is a first-rate case study of both Middle Eastern émigré politics and the American way of dealing with the Middle East."
     —Foreign Affairs

Arrows of the Night is the best book on the Iraq War, bar none. Bonin has written the authoritative account of how one man, along with a handful of well-meaning but naïve confederates, conned the greatest power on earth into a war it will rue for years. I read it in a sitting, and it answered every question I had about this folly. It is a must-read for the historian and anyone with the slightest interest in politics.”
     —Robert Baer, author of See No Evil and The Company We Keep

“People ask me, ‘Why was there an Iraq War?’ Now I can tell them: read Arrows of the Night. It’s the best-researched, most readable narrative about how a small group of people caused the United States to fight a war that was unnecessary, and, worse, counterproductive. Most Americans do not know who Ahmad Chalabi is, but this is the story of how every American has paid a price for Chalabi’s successful manipulation of our government.”
     —Richard A. Clarke, author of Against All Enemies

“In Arrows of the Night, Richard Bonin has provided a stunning portrayal of Ahmad Chalabi that, for the first time, brings him to life and places him in his proper historical context. Bonin, one of our best reporters in Washington, provides a fascinating account of Chalabi’s secretive ties to the neoconservatives in the Bush administration, and shows us that Chalabi and the neoconservatives were engaged in an elaborate dance, using each other to justify war.”
     —James Risen, author of State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration

“A marvelous read about a tragic and deceitful relationship.”
     —James Bamford, author of The Shadow Factory, Body of Secrets, and The Puzzle Palace


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7 internautes sur 7 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Lyrical Exploration of a Tragic Figure 8 décembre 2011
Par JonaAmazon - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
Just as you cannot separate the dancer from the dance, you cannot separate significant historical figures from their enveloping history. Such is one lesson from ARROWS OF THE NIGHT, which explores the biography of Ahmad Chalabi who coaxed the United States into a war of choice in Iraq by "cloudseeding" public and private debates "in the steadfast belief that eventually the circumstances of history [would] combine to produce the outcome of [his] choosing".

Richard Bonin provides exhaustive primary and secondary research, deftly and meticulously acknowledging the nuanced ambiguity of the historical record. He breathes life into Chalabi who mirrors the infantile amoral brilliance of the Monkey King in classical Chinese literature. The title has a poetic quality, originating from Shia "prayers and execrations [at night] sent up to heaven by the oppressed and the innocent" and "returned like arrows directed at your enemies". Bonin effortlessly makes fascinating references to Shakespeare, CIA secure telephone units, 18th century Russian Potemkin villages, the ancient Roman patrician Cincinnatus, Che Guevara and the 1941 Lend-Lease Act. Though he provides an abundance of fascinating details, vignettes and side trips, he never loses sight of the historical context or the larger narrative arc.

This book rivals Kinzer's ALL THE SHAH'S MEN or Wright's THE LOOMING TOWER as an accessible, original and significant contribution to understanding the modern history of the Islamic world and its interactions with the American government. You'll enjoy the VIP pass to the backstage of the CIA, DOD, White House and State Department.
7 internautes sur 8 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
A MUST READ 15 décembre 2011
Par Josh Rushing - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
Clearly the previous reviewer's ties to Chalabi present a conflict of interest. Amazon should remove his two-star review.

I read ARROWS OF THE NIGHT and loved it. It is perhaps the most instructive book I've found on why the US went to war in Iraq--including the one I wrote and the many I've read.

I recommend this book to everyone, unless of course, they're a close associate of Chalabi. (See the comments on Nibras Kazimi's review)
4 internautes sur 4 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
A biography that you cannot put down 1 janvier 2012
Par Brian M. Beitner - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié Achat vérifié
For a first effort this book is monumental. It reads like a gripping spy thriller but educates the way non fiction and biographies should. Bonin clearly has a talent for telling a story but he brings a professional journalist's (in his case as a veteran producer with 60 minutes) ability to present the full story without bias. Despite the serious treatment he keeps the reader engrossed. I look forward to Bonin's next book.
1 internautes sur 1 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
A very good biography of Ahdmad Chalabi the man as well as his actions 25 mai 2013
Par Yoda - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché Achat vérifié
The author of this book, Richard Bonin, is an investigative reporter. As such, he uses this background to bring this man out of the shadows in this biography. A man who, unfortunately, has been very little written about per se (as opposed to being just mentioned in the press). Mr. Bonin's key to this biography was the unprecedented access he had to Dr. Chalabi. This access took the form of 60 hours of interview time that Dr. Chalabi had granted to Mr. Bonin. It should be stressed that this access was not bought by Mr. Bonin at the cost of providing a positive picture of the man (as Bob Woodward has paid for his access to players in the early part of the Bush Jr.'s administration on the early parts of the Gulf War II). Mr. Bonin was able to use this access very well, along with a lot of serious independent investigative journalism, to provide an interesting and seemingly accurate picture of the man.

The reader learns that Ahmad Chalabi came from a wealthy politically connected family. This provided him, as a child, servants and a material setting that was quite spectacular. The reader also learns, surprisingly and very importantly, that he was a Shiite as opposed to a Sunni (i.e., a member of the politically repressed majority as opposed to the minority with the political power). The reader learns how the military coup that placed the Bathist Party into power ended up forcing his family into exile in England and caused them to lose much of their wealth. Not that they were poor. Chalabi's father had squired quite a bit of his wealth away in London, where they lived an upper income lifestyle. Chalabi was sent to an "elite" public school ("public" in the terminology the English, which is the exact opposite of what it would mean to an American). The reader learns that Chalabi was a child prodigy in terms of intellect and mathematical aptitude (he later went on to earn a PhD in mathematics from MIT). It is also learned that Chalabi was extremely manipulative and deceitful as a student, a characteristic that would stay with him the rest of his life. The reader also learns that Chalabi had a very, very strong and burning desire to return to Iraq and overthrow Hussein though this would have to be, due to his personality, with himself as, naturally, the head. The rest of his life he followed this singular long-term and eventual goal.

After completing his education he goes to Jordan and makes himself a wealthy man many times over by introducing banking innovation into that nation (i.e., credit cards, etc). Unfortunately he, through his pro-Iranian/anti-Iraqi views and actions alienates his friends and the politically connected. Worse, he engages in bank fraud and as a result flees back to London. In his interviews he tells Mr. Bonin that the case against him was pure fiction and a result of his political enemies "framing" him but Bonin, through investigation, concludes otherwise.

While in his 2nd term of exile, he is able to dedicate himself to the overthrow of Sadam Hussein. As such he eventually comes to lead the Iraqi National Congress (through much manipulation and other shenanigans) and comes to the attention of the U.S. authorities, in particular the CIA, State Dept. and Defense Departments. Eventually they come to eschew him thanks to his manipulative nature, deception and ambitions. Dr. Chalabi, again using his manipulative skills and intelligence, eventually by passes these organizations and goes straight to the U.S. political elite that can, in his opinion, most help him in achieving his goals - the neoconservatives. By carefully fostering and leveraging various relationships, starting with the scholar Bernard Lewis (who introduces him to many leading and influential neo-conservatives), he gains the ears of a political constituency that, although still far from power (all this was still done under the Clinton Administration) sets the stage for his later role. The tale of how he enamored this group is quite impressive.

After President Bush the second is elected his mentors, such as Richard Pearle and Wolfowitz, among others, push to have Chalabi lead the Iraqi opposition and be strongly supported by the US, even to the point where many neo-conservatives, de facto, want to install him as a puppet ruler. This is despite fierce opposition from the CIA, State Dept. and the non-political segment of the Defense Dept (basically anyone out of the neo-conservative's cabal). This tale of manipulation, as well as stupidity, is also well told by Mr. Bonin. Eventually Iraq is invaded and Chalabi does return. Unfortunately he is eventually ruined (at least from the perspective of US support) for a number of reasons, the final straw being his provision to Iran of secret US information. However, Dr. Chalabi is currently still in Iraq where he seems to have done quite well both economically and politically. It is not out of the question that this devious and manipulative man may return to some position of authority in the Iraqi political arena. Unfortunately Mr. Bonin ends his book without examining the possibility of this.

All and all, a very good book resulting from a lot of serious investigative effort as well as those 60 hours of interview hours. Four stars.
1 internautes sur 1 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Confirms My Suspicions 26 novembre 2012
Par Ben Franklin - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
I listened to the audio version and it served its purpose of keeping me awake while driving and informing me at the same time :-) The last part about Chalabi's shady to treasonous activities after he returned to Iraq had many places where it wasn't clear how reliable Bonin's unnamed sources were, and perhaps that couldn't be helped. Chalabi seems to have lost all his American neocon friends by the time the book was finished in late 2010 with the possible exception of Richard Perle. Perle was quoted at the end as saying that Chalabi would have been even more important if 911 hadn't happened. The loopy and false reasoning he gives is that before 911 Chalabi was the only one pushing for invading Iraq while after 911 lots of others joined in.

It is pretty hard to come away from this book without the impression that protecting Israel from its perceived biggest enemy in the Arab world was the rationale behind the Americans who aided Chalabi in getting the US to attack Iraq. How else can it be explained that practically all of them, with the exception of Muslim Zalmay Khalilzad, were Jewish? Stephen Solarz was an early congressional mentor and had Chalabi at his house for Passover where they likened Saddam Hussein to one of the Egyptian plagues. Doug Feith, Harold Rhode, Richard Perle, and Paul Wolfowitz of Bush's Defense Department met early with Chalabi and plotted with him to get Bush to drop his opposition to nation building. Scooter Libby and John P Hannah of the Vice President Cheney's office kept the latter aboard.

The book ends with Chalabi in his "Yellow Zone" fortress in Baghdad, much richer from his dealings in oil and other areas after his return to Iraq from exile and perhaps plotting another attempt at assuming leadership of the country. And you know, against my better judgment, I am sort of rooting for the old rogue to do it. What he would do might hammer the coffin shut on the American neocon movement.
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