I’d like to start this review by throwing two opinions right out on the table. First this book is incredibly fascinating. It reads almost like a cerebral detective story. The author who is also the protagonist in the story is sent by the U.S. government to extract information from Iraqi prisoners. Just an excellent, excellent book. To this I’d like to add I’m not quite sure how much I buy the whole story.
The author lands in the Middle East charged with a mission. Use the latest techniques, think Law and Order S.V.U., from men who are hard core foes of the United States and implicated in terrorist acts. He quickly comes to a couple of conclusions. The first being that not all of the men he is questioning are ideologically motivated. Some are, but many are involved for the money or possibly even social status. He also realizes that for the hard core beatings just confirm what they think of brutish Americans and they either clam up or provide fake information just to avoid further beatings.
Using an approach that uses empathy the author gets deep inside the minds of those he questions. Soon a chain of events get him on the chase for Abu Musab al Zarqawi, the leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq. As al Zarqawi and his followers get more violent the more finding him becomes a priority for Matthew Alexander and his team.
Finally after a string of smaller victories Alexander gets his hands on someone who he feels knows where Abu Musab al Zarqawi might be. By simultaneously stroking his ego and letting into his head Alexander pieces together enough information to figure out where al Zarqawi is.
A quick military operation leads to his death and the recovery of his body dealing Al Qaeda in Iraq a serious blow.
The author is never credited for this great piece of work as Army officers who don’t want their interrogation techniques, mostly involving beatings and water boardings, discredited. The reader is left to believe that Alexander’s ideas are the way to go in the future, the new science in the field.
Without independent confirmation it’s hard to get a read on how much of the story is true. I’d also like to see a statistical breakdown of the author’s successes and failures as opposed to men using more “conventional” techniques to extract information. The author’s message is one that anyone with common sense would like to embrace. It allows our men in the field to gather valuable information without damaging the reputation of the United States.
Definitely a must read whether you agree with the author’s story or not. Of course however our military got the information leading to al Zarqawi’s demise it was a good day for our soldiers and Iraqi society when he was removed from the scene.