Ricks, a Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post military affairs writer, had the cooperation of a wide range of commanders at the Pentagon and in the field. He concludes that:
"Blame must lie foremost with President Bush himself, but his incompetence and arrogance are only part of the story. It takes more than one person to make a mess as big as Iraq. That is, Bush could only take such a careless action because of a series of systemic failures in the American system. Major lapses occured within the national security bureaucracy, from a weak National Security Council (NSC) to an overweening Pentagon and a confused intelligence apparatus. Larger failures of oversight also occurred in the political system, most notably in Congress, and in the inability of the media to find and present alternate sources of information about Iraq and the threat it did or didn't present to the United States. It is a tragedy in which every major player contributed to the errors, but in which the heroes tend to be anonymous and relatively powerless -- the front-line American soldier doing his best in a difficult situation, the Iraqi civilians tried to care for a family amid chaos and violence. They are the people who pay every day with blood and tears for the failures of high officials and powerful institutions."
* * * * *"Fiasco" is an appropriate companion to the other in-depth book about the war where the authors had extraordinary access to key players, "Cobra II: The Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq" by Michael R. Gordon and Bernard E. Trainor. More on these books here and here.