Legacy of Ashes

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 06 July, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 06 July, 2008, 12:00am

Legacy of Ashes

by Tim Weiner

Anchor, HK$136

If Tim Weiner were writing the Central Intelligence Agency's report card it would be riddled with Fs: the CIA failed to foresee the North Korean invasion of South Korea in 1950; the installation of Soviet missiles in Cuba in 1962; the Arab-Israeli war in 1973; Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990; and the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Other fiascos abound. The author, a Pulitzer Prize winner who has written about intelligence for 20 years, chronicles in Legacy of Ashes the agency's long list of failures, all of which point to incompetence and highlight its inability to fulfil its mission of keeping the US president informed about what is happening in the world. Or what is not happening, as the case should have been with Iraq. By the time Weiner reaches the chapter in which the CIA produces false reports on the existence of weapons of mass destruction, it is clear the agency has sabotaged itself as a reliable source of secret information. Its death sentence, Weiner writes, was pronounced when President George W. Bush casually said 'the agency was 'just guessing' about the course of the war in Iraq'. Readable, informative and frightening, this well-researched book is also, says Weiner, on the record, for which it deserves many extra plaudits.


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