“There are no good men among the living, and no bad ones among the dead” – Book Review

Top Taliban leaders actually tried to surrender within months of the US invasion, renouncing all political activity and submitting to the new government. Effectively, the Taliban ceased to exist—yet the Americans were unwilling to accept such a turnaround. Instead, driven by false intelligence from their allies and an unyielding mandate to fight terrorism, American forces continued to press the conflict, resurrecting the insurgency that persists to this day.

No Good Men Among the Living, a non-fiction book by Anand Gopal, takes a look at Afghanistan post 9/11 during the “War on Terror” through the eyes of three Afghans. Gopal spent three years travelling extensively throughout Afghanistan, getting first-hand accounts from a housewife, Heela, a U.S.-backed warlord, and a Taliban commander. There is an incredible amount of information which is impeccably researched and presented in a way that reads both like the historical exposé it is, and a riveting, fictional story – which makes it all the more harrowing when you remember the stories and people are real.

The book explores tribal relationships, the relationship between the U.S. and various Afghan factions, and the hypocrisy with all those involved to meet their desired goals; the tragedy, the torture, and how violence begets violence.

The title of the book – No Good Men Among the Living – aptly reflects what I took to be the thesis of the book: Doing whatever it takes to survive. Oftentimes this meant changing allegiances, lying, and doing horrendous things to make sure horrendous things aren’t done to you. In a world where everyone is vying for survival, there are no good men.

In a lot of ways, this is everything a book should be: gripping and eye-opening; it challenges your thoughts and opinions. This book taught me so much, opened my eyes to things I had no idea about, and above all, reaffirmed there is no such thing as black and white.

I highly, highly recommend this book.

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