The Nation, 21 April 2008

“Chalabi’s Lobby” shows both that Ahmad Chalabi’s efforts to persuade the US to invade Iraq were paid for by the US government itself and that Chalabi is back in favor with senior American officials.  “Inside the Surge” argues that America is helpless in Iraq, and that Iraqi groups who share none of America’s interests are manipulating American forces and money for their own advantage.  Some memorable lines: “The Americans think they have purchased Sunni loyalty by giving aid to these groups, but in fact it is the Sunnis who have bought the Americans.”  “The Bush administration and the US military have stopped talking of Iraq as a grand project of nation building, and the US media have dutifully done the same.  They too have abandoned any larger narrative, presenting Iraq as a series of small pieces.  Just as Iraq is physically deconstructed, so too is it intellectually deconstructed, not as an occupied country undergoing several civil wars but as small stories of local heroes and villains, of well-meaning American soldiers, of good news here and progress there.” 

Alice Kaplan reviews a clutch of books by, about, and related to Irene Nemirovsky.  Matt Steinglass reviews two books about the Vietnam War, Andrew Wiest’s Vietnam’s Forgotten Army: Heroism and Betrayal in the ARVN, and Mark Moyar’s Phoenix and the Birds of Prey: Counterinsurgency and Counterterrorism in Vietnam.  Wiest’s book includes the riveting story of Colonel Pham Van Dinh, the hero of Dong Ap Bia (aka Hamburger Hill) who later defected to the North.  Leading with this story, Steinglass argues that the Communists were better able to meet the aspirations of Vietnamese nationalism than the Saigon regime ever could.  As for Moyar’s book, Steinglass claims that “just as for some liberals Iraq has always been about Vietnam, for Moyar Vietnam has always been about Iraq.”  Steinglass argues that Moyar’s partisanship leads him to wander away from a set of perfectly reasonable claims and to try to defend the some of the most reprehensible policies the USA pursued in Vietnam.

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