An outstanding, thorough, apparently well-supported and fairly balanced overview of the history of the CIA, this book also sheds light on antidemocratic policies and illegal strategies of several US presidents who used and abused the agency. Using recently declassified internal CIA documents and Congressional testimony, the author argues that CIA officials have long exaggerated the agency's accomplishments. In the aftermath of its catastrophes they have asserted that only its few failures are made public, but that supposedly numerous successes can never be known. The author offers convincing evidence that this is a myth--that the agency has had few successes worthy of pride, and that the overwhelming body of its work has been so counterproductive that the reader ends up feeling the US would have been better off had the CIA never been formed. The reasons are partly structural--the nature of the agency, how it is funded and overseen--and partly driven by the personalities and capabilities of its leadership. The book is well complemented by John Perkins' Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, which tells a related story about disturbing contributions of the private sector to American foreign policy.
Tim Weiner reveals truths about our government, and the CIA in particular, that tie together seemlingly unrelated historical events into a larger portrait of good-intentioned failure on the part of the CIA. Explains a lot about how and why America got involved in Korea, Vietnam, Watergate, Iran-Contra, the bombing of the Cole, 9/11, and the Iraq War. Definitely recommend.
Considering the author's NY Times resume, I was not surprised at the discussion of poor CIA performance under Ike. But when he slammed the Kennedy brothers in a later chapter, I got interested.
It's an even-handed destruction of the CIA, as we thought it existed. It rings true, to my dismay.
"Dilbert's World" exists - with real world problems as a result.
I'm fairly new to audiobooks, having listened to 8 or so. I've generally relied on reviews for the selection process and have not been disappointed until this selection. I don't usually participate in the review process that is so prevalent in the connected world but I felt strongly enough about my disappointment with this book to say something.
I have to assume the facts and details covered in the book are true. I'd like to assume that the facts and details were fairly presented but the fact that I say this is a clue to the one suspicion that I have.
The book is amazingly well researched. The detail is overwhelming. The research had to have been exhausting. But the basic issue I have is can it be true that the CIA has been as consistently screwed up as depicted?..that the author couldn't come up with one or two situations where the CIA had a successful outcome? Life tells you that just by chance you succeed at something just because things go your way and you fall into a bed of roses. It's the antithesis to the overachiever that stumbles once in awhile. To hear one shortcoming after another for an agency of the government that has generally been viewed as the leader of the free world over the past 80 years starts to sound a little unbelievable. In my opinion the balance just wasn't there. If no balance, or attempt at balance, it doesn't ring true.
When you drive along listening to an audiobook and you realize that you were daydreaming the last 5 minutes and not listening to the book...
Having read great reviews of this on Amazon, I was, at first, a bit disappointed because it started out rather boringly. About half-way through Part 1, it started to deliver on the promise.
I actually knew about the involvement of the CIA in all the things the author wrote about; however, I didn't know details. Plus, having it all laid out in one document made it all the more disturbing.
Don't misunderstand; I think we the USA (and every country) needs to have an intelligence agency. I'm not a "wacky liberal" (have never voted anything but Republican, in fact). I'm in no way opposed to intelligence gathering. A government would be negligent not to have such an agency. However, I am opposed to many/most/all covert operations. Firstly, because they are generally immoral and illegal. And second, because of the long term affects. I lived in Central America and know what CIA activities there have done to American prestige and credibility. What it's done in the Mideast has contributed greatly to(I don't say "caused") the problems we have there.
Finally, it is just plain frightening to know that - excuse me for saying it - but that such stupid people, have held so much unrestrained power.
I highly recommend anyone to read this book. While it is long and admittedly I stopped listening to it for a long time, it has opened my eyes and explained in detail many historic events. While I won't give anything away in the book, I am quite honestly surprised the CIA didn't start us a war with a few nations due to failed or exposed CIA missions. But who knows, they could have and it could still be classified.
I will say that the author seems to be slanted in his views. He seems to pull out and explain many many failed missions he doesn't go into as much detail in the missions that were a success. Successful missions he lists and explains seem less than what you can count on two hands. I find it hard to believe the CIA has been that ineffective. CIA is no James Bond but if they were truly that unsuccessful then they would have been abolished long ago.
This book is a surprisingly refreshing look at the often revered American intelligence community. It's non-partisan and thoughtful insight into the history of the CIA is an must listen for anyone who cares about the future of the United States.
Interests in Design/Engineering, Architecture, & History
Ok, so it won a Pulitzer. The research is there, no doubt. Very good job doing the research. However, note that the title is "Legacy of Ashes" - it's got an angle from the very beginning, and the book sets out to substantiate this opinion. The books swings from epic failure to epic failure, and even if there is a successful mission, the moral burden and the consequences are presented in a way that even successes can be perceived as failures in their own way.
I am far from a CIA basher, but I find that even though and even if all the content is correct, I'm somehow being fed a cynic's presentation and negative viewpoint.
The narrator's voice gets droning after a while.
As a 35 year-old reading this book, I found it fascinating learning about what happened in the inner workings of the CIA before I was born. Some of what you read hear contradicts what you learned in school, other tales are just simply unbelievable. This book shows you what we are capable of doing in the name of freedom.
This is the best use of voice change I have ever heard. The narrator modifies or adds only a hint of an accent instead of a complete change. He is a very talented and unique reader.
The book itself is extremely interesting and articulate as if it was written to be spoken.