A grimly clinical assessment by a former high-ranking adviser of the “modern-day Crusade of ideologues and idealists” who drove the United States invasion of Iraq—to say nothing of their “ignorance, arrogance, and naivety.”
Not my idea, not my idea. Sky, a British civilian who volunteered to help with Iraq reconstruction and wound up serving as a deputy to theater commander Raymond Odierno, or “General O,” might as well have used the mantra as a running head for the book. By her account, no one on the outside—including, to her credit, her—had an unimpeded view of what was going on, but all were sure of the rightness of their cause. George W. Bush and Tony Blair, writes Sky unsparingly, tried hard to sell their war internationally, but they could find only a few buyers. The ones who did come along for the ride, such as the Italians with their kiosks selling pasta and coffee, were disinclined to shed much of their own blood, leaving it to the Americans and Brits to do so. There were plenty of differences between even those allies: The Americans “pray more often than the Muslims do,” to quote one bemused Australian, and as Sky writes engagingly, the American God to whom they prayed “was also different from the one I had grown up with”—even as American chaplains “prayed for victory over our enemies rather than peace.” Peace was not in the offing, anyway, not with the Bush administration in charge. Unfortunately, once it was Barack Obama’s turn, it didn’t get better. “Here I was,” writes the author, “sitting in on the high-level discussion of the policy decision that would perhaps determine the outcome of the Iraq war, but none of my arguments made the vice president reconsider his decision.”
One might call the events Sky describes as a comedy of errors, except that there’s nothing comedic about it. A tragedy of errors, then, crisply recounted by one who was there.