And Then All Hell Broke Loose: Two Decades in the Middle East Info

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A major New York Times bestseller by NBC’s Chief
Foreign Correspondent Richard Engel—this riveting story of the
Middle East revolutions, the Arab Spring, war, and terrorism seen close
up “should be required reading” (Booklist, starred
review).


In 1997, young Richard Engel, working freelance for
Arab news sources, got a call that a busload of Italian tourists was
massacred at a Cairo museum. This is his first view of the carnage these
years would pile on. Over two decades he has been under fire, blown out
of hotel beds, and taken hostage. He has watched Mubarak and Morsi in
Egypt arrested and condemned, reported from Jerusalem, been through the
Lebanese war, covered the shooting match in Iraq and the Libyan rebels
who toppled Gaddafi, reported from Syria as Al-Qaeda stepped in, and was
kidnapped in the Syrian cross currents of fighting. Engel takes the
reader into Afghanistan with the Taliban and to Iraq with ISIS. In the
page-turning And Then All Hell Broke Loose, he shares his
“quick-paced...thrilling adventure story” (Associated
Press).

Engel takes chances, though not reckless ones, keeps a
level head and a sense of humor, as well as a grasp of history in the
making. Reporting as NBC’s Chief-Foreign Correspondent, he reveals
his unparalleled access to the major figures, the gritty soldiers, and
the helpless victims in the Middle East during this watershed time. His
vivid story is “a nerve-racking...and informative portrait of a
troubled region” (Kansas City Star) that shows the
splintering of the nation states previously cobbled together by the
victors of World War I. “Engel’s harrowing adventures make
for gripping reading” (The New York Times) and his
unforgettable view of the suffering and despair of the local populations
offers a succinct and authoritative account of our ever-changing
world.

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Reviews for And Then All Hell Broke Loose: Two Decades in the Middle East:

4

Mar 04, 2016


I don't make a habit of idolizing people, and if I did, TV journalists would probably be near the bottom of my list. But I'm willing to make an exception in the case of NBC's foreign correspondent Richard Engel. After all, the guy's intelligent, self-possessed, brave, and almost as handsome as the young David Duchovny. He is fluent in Italian, Spanish, and Arabic, and bought a house in Sicily with his blackjack winnings. In addition, I just discovered something else: Richard Engel is a man who
I don't make a habit of idolizing people, and if I did, TV journalists would probably be near the bottom of my list. But I'm willing to make an exception in the case of NBC's foreign correspondent Richard Engel. After all, the guy's intelligent, self-possessed, brave, and almost as handsome as the young David Duchovny. He is fluent in Italian, Spanish, and Arabic, and bought a house in Sicily with his blackjack winnings. In addition, I just discovered something else: Richard Engel is a man who can write.

Okay then. I officially idolize Richard Engel. In fact, I'd like to be Richard Engel.

Richard was always single-minded and ambitious. Growing up in an affluent, much-traveled Manhattan family, Richard dreamed from the age of fourteen of being a foreign correspondent. (“I'll have an apartment overlooking the Champs-Elysees, and I'll wear a white suit and smoke cigarettes out of a bone-holder. That was the vision.”). He studied International Relations at Stanford, but when he graduated in 1996, he no longer dreamed of Paris. He wanted to go where the big foreign stories would emerge, and that meant the Middle East.

He first worked as a free-lance in Cairo, where the contacts he developed with the Muslim Brotherhood led to some measure of success. Soon after he arrived in Egypt, the terror attacks began: the Europa Hotel, the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, the massacre at Deir el-Bahri across from Luxor. All this was newsworthy, sure, but Engel wished to be closer to the center: he moved to Israel in time for the Second Intifada, to Iraq just before the American Invasion (Engel was the only American journalist to stay in Iraq for all of the war). Later, he became NBC Bureau Chief in Beirut just in time to cover the Israeli-Hesbollah conflict. Then came the Afghanistan election of 2008, the Arab Spring, the revolt in Libya, and the conflict in Syria where Engel and his crew were kidnapped and held captive for five days before they managed to escape.

In this memoir of his twenty years as a foreign correspondent, Engel tells us of all these places, all these experiences, without false humility or bragging. He gives us the facts and tells us how he felt , but—like a good journalist—he lets us make up our minds for ourselves.

And what does he think about US involvement after twenty years at the shifting center of the storm? He thinks Saddam was a bad man who deserved to be removed, but that Bush pursued the invasion so recklessly and prepared for the transition of power so ineptly that he virtually guaranteed the chaos in which an ISIS would inevitably ferment, giving every jihadist in the Middle East a destination, a motive, a cellular infrastrucure ideal for 21st century terrorist communication, and a big bunch of Americans to kill smack dab in the middle of the neighbor's back yard. But Obama too earns his share of the blame. His incinsistent policies, confusing signals and intermittent attention have added to the region's uncertainty and contributed both to the general unrest and to the unresolved conflict in Syria.

This is a very good book. It is short, exciting, well written, and serves as an excellent introduction—or refresher course—to what has been going on in the Middle East for the last twenty years. ...more
4

Mar 29, 2016

With disturbing frequency Richard Engel has peered out at me from my television screen, generally from some area in the Middle East fraught with danger. For decades he has lived, covered new tragedies and worked in many areas of the Middle East which I believes lends credence to his writing and reporting.

This Middle East to me has seemed a tangled mess, so much happening, so little did I understand the why behind what seemed to be daily savagery of one kind or another. Engel attempts to With disturbing frequency Richard Engel has peered out at me from my television screen, generally from some area in the Middle East fraught with danger. For decades he has lived, covered new tragedies and worked in many areas of the Middle East which I believes lends credence to his writing and reporting.

This Middle East to me has seemed a tangled mess, so much happening, so little did I understand the why behind what seemed to be daily savagery of one kind or another. Engel attempts to demystify the causes, the motivations and the reasons for what we see on our nightly news. He gives an overview to the pivotal happenings in the Middle East, parts of his own personal life, mixed with the mistakes of various governments and world leaders, including those of my own country. He also includes a section explaining his capture and his days in captivity. Harrowing stuff, all of it, from beginning to now.

So yes, I have a better understanding, but it is a mind boggling problem and one I don't see being solved any time soon. There is so much going on in various countries that it is hard to wrap my head around it, am still slightly confused though this book has gone further than many others I have read in clearing up at least some confusion. It helped immensely that he included maps before discussing various countries. Don't know the answers but at least I now have a working understanding of some of the problems. ...more
5

Feb 01, 2016

I doubt I am the only person who is totally confused by the Middle East. Between different religious beliefs, tribal disputes and politics, it sure is an area ripe for turmoil. The little snippets of information we get on the evening news, in newspapers or online do little to help the average person understand all the dynamics involved. This book appealed to me because it is a topic I am interested in and comes from someone who has spent time in the area.

Mr. Engel has written a straightforward I doubt I am the only person who is totally confused by the Middle East. Between different religious beliefs, tribal disputes and politics, it sure is an area ripe for turmoil. The little snippets of information we get on the evening news, in newspapers or online do little to help the average person understand all the dynamics involved. This book appealed to me because it is a topic I am interested in and comes from someone who has spent time in the area.

Mr. Engel has written a straightforward book based on his 20 year experience of reporting in the area. He outlines the history of the Middle East in simple terms, even though there is nothing simple about the area. His explanations provided insight into the background of the many news stories we have seen over the years. I felt the majority of the book was based on fact, with the occasional personal analysis as to how the government of the USA has failed in it’s attempt to stabilize the area. Whether someone agrees or disagrees with his analysis, I will say they made sense and comes from someone with a credible background.

My thanks to Simon & Schuster, via Netgalley, for allowing me to read this in exchange for an unbiased review. ...more
5

Feb 26, 2016

Inhaled this book in one day! I lived in the Middle East like this author for ten years. Learned Arabic and wanted to compare notes with him. I agree with him on 90 to 95% of everything. His history of the area is good back to Mohammeds time, I'd pick a bone or two, but it would be minor. I'm not sure he emphasizes the Sykes-Picot Treaty of 1916/1917 enough. Basically all the contries you think of as making up the Middle East are not even a hundred years old yet. We double crossed our allies in Inhaled this book in one day! I lived in the Middle East like this author for ten years. Learned Arabic and wanted to compare notes with him. I agree with him on 90 to 95% of everything. His history of the area is good back to Mohammeds time, I'd pick a bone or two, but it would be minor. I'm not sure he emphasizes the Sykes-Picot Treaty of 1916/1917 enough. Basically all the contries you think of as making up the Middle East are not even a hundred years old yet. We double crossed our allies in the region after WW I was over. The we I'm talking about are "white Western Europeans", which basically includes Americans. We drew the boundaries of the currrent countries based on where the oil was and then made them "mandates" which was a fancy name for colonies, and then hired local thugs and bandits to manage our new colonies. That, that was never gonna work didn't matter much as long as there was oil we could steal from the legitimate owners. The US invasion of Iraq in 2003 was probably as big a blunder as a "great power" has ever made since Hannibal tried to bring elephants over the Alps to invade Rome, --that many years, quite a gap in great power stupidity. The main problem in the western part of the Middle East is a fairly well educated populace with no jobs. Afghanistan is admittedly the middle of nowhere. Mr Engel, who I respect tremendously for the truth of his account, did seem to spend an awful lot of time with the desparodoes of the Middle East, and he does mention it at times, even though I worked for a US Government agency living directly cheek by jowl with the inhabitants, my experience is that on the whole Arabs in particular are friendlier, more hospitable, sincere, openminded and polite than we are. I know the TV would have you think otherwise, but after ten years there it was not my experience and with that amount of time continuously on ground you would easily be able to detect deception and insincerity. In the ten years there I got only one month of vacation a year for the whole ten years so my immersion was pretty complete, maybe even more so that Mr. Engel's. But as I've said, this is a book you should definitely read! ...more
5

Jul 05, 2016

Absolutely amazing book that explains Engel's adventures from the very beginning. It is all first hand accounts from one of the most respected war correspondents in the world.
5

Nov 09, 2016


This is an absolute must read for anyone interested in international affairs. It is right up to date, well written and includes the background history required to make sense of the state of affairs in the Middle East in 2016. I can certainly see why this book has been nominated as the best nonfiction book of 2016. I have great admiration for journalists who are brave enough to go into areas of conflict and get the story told. Richard Engel Is one of those brave and daring war correspondents who
This is an absolute must read for anyone interested in international affairs. It is right up to date, well written and includes the background history required to make sense of the state of affairs in the Middle East in 2016. I can certainly see why this book has been nominated as the best nonfiction book of 2016. I have great admiration for journalists who are brave enough to go into areas of conflict and get the story told. Richard Engel Is one of those brave and daring war correspondents who want the truth of the situation to be presented. This book gives yet another perspective to the coverage given in Imperial Life in the Emerald City by Rajiv Chandrasekaran or The Forever War by Dexter Filkins, two other books covering the fall of the Sadam Husseien regime. There is a very personal touch in Engel's writing; you feel that you know him and understand how he is reacting emotionally to the horrors of war. His mother's plea for him to leave Iraq is so earnest, it is a request any mother could give. The dictators, Saddam Hussein, Mubarak, Gadhafi, Ben Ali and the Assad family are referred to as 'the big men' who saw religious fundamentalists as the enemy. For a decade Engels pondered, without the dictatorships what would become of their nations? "It was heartbreaking to see what a brutal dictatorship could do to the human soul." Well Arab Spring happened but nothing has yet been resolved. Chaos exists.



...more
5

Apr 29, 2016

Richard Engel reported from the Middle East for twenty years, going to places few others dared. He traces the region's governmental evolutions from the days of the big men (Gaddafi, Mubarak, etc.) through to ISIS' chaos today.

The on-the-ground reporting is superb. When Engel steps back to directly ding Bush's and Obama's policies, it detracts because he seems somewhat out of his depth. However, this is a minor point.

I recommend reading this book to understand the fluid and complex situation in Richard Engel reported from the Middle East for twenty years, going to places few others dared. He traces the region's governmental evolutions from the days of the big men (Gaddafi, Mubarak, etc.) through to ISIS' chaos today.

The on-the-ground reporting is superb. When Engel steps back to directly ding Bush's and Obama's policies, it detracts because he seems somewhat out of his depth. However, this is a minor point.

I recommend reading this book to understand the fluid and complex situation in Syria, Libya, Egypt, Yemen, etc. ...more
4

Apr 13, 2016

'And Then All Hell Broke Loose' is an informative concise memoir of the twenty years Richard Engel, journalist, spent living and reporting in the Middle East. The book also briefly recaps the story how the winning WWII European powers created the countries Lebanon, Israel, Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, etc. without regard to the tribal and religious affiliations of the new citizens. He explains how the Sunni/Shia sects split the original Islam religion into two warring Muslim groups, which occurred 'And Then All Hell Broke Loose' is an informative concise memoir of the twenty years Richard Engel, journalist, spent living and reporting in the Middle East. The book also briefly recaps the story how the winning WWII European powers created the countries Lebanon, Israel, Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, etc. without regard to the tribal and religious affiliations of the new citizens. He explains how the Sunni/Shia sects split the original Islam religion into two warring Muslim groups, which occurred over a millennia ago. Intermittent war between the two major Muslim sects was eventually suppressed by secular 'hard men' ruling the new countries, a delicate balancing act which George W. Bush upset by invading Iraq.

Engel is not a fan of fundamentalist Islam, but initially as a young man he enjoyed Egyptian culture and its people very much, where he first moved after graduating from Stanford University in 1996. Eventually he was able to convince small news services to hire him as a reporter, and he sharpened his Arabic language skills while developing contacts. He never expected the violent turn politics would take in Egypt after America invaded Afghanistan and Iraq, but no one knew how hollowed out by corruption and rot these countries were. As the so-called 'Arab Spring' violence moved from one Middle-Eastern country to another, Engel was able to follow the stories from country to country, war after war.

This is a very interesting book to read. Richard Engel can write, plus there is no excess verbiage or ego in his book to wade through. He certainly is a brave man too.
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4

Mar 06, 2018

a) Egypt (96) when it (re)started,
b) Palestine 2nd intifada,
c) Iraq 2003
d) Beirut 2006
e) Cairo 2011
f) Libya 2011
g) Syria 2014
This guy is like Forest Gump of war. As some1 jokingly told the author - plz dont return to Washington. The book is a short quick read thru the above conflicts and how the author managed to cover them while just managing to dodge death at times. I have read books dealing in depth on (b) & (e). And starting with The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 on (a) a) Egypt (96) when it (re)started,
b) Palestine 2nd intifada,
c) Iraq 2003
d) Beirut 2006
e) Cairo 2011
f) Libya 2011
g) Syria 2014
This guy is like Forest Gump of war. As some1 jokingly told the author - plz dont return to Washington. The book is a short quick read thru the above conflicts and how the author managed to cover them while just managing to dodge death at times. I have read books dealing in depth on (b) & (e). And starting with The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 on (a) which a friend has rated 5/5. ...more
5

Dec 21, 2015

This is exactly the kind of book I love! Richard Engel was the Chief Foreign Correspondent in the Middle East for NBC News. He went to the Middle East when it was actually somewhat boring. But he liked the culture there and he found the history interesting – a reason I can certainly relate to! When he arrived in Cairo the journalistic focus was on the Israel-Palestinian peace talks. Hard to imagine now that there was a time when this was really the only topic of interest from the region. Engel This is exactly the kind of book I love! Richard Engel was the Chief Foreign Correspondent in the Middle East for NBC News. He went to the Middle East when it was actually somewhat boring. But he liked the culture there and he found the history interesting – a reason I can certainly relate to! When he arrived in Cairo the journalistic focus was on the Israel-Palestinian peace talks. Hard to imagine now that there was a time when this was really the only topic of interest from the region. Engel was only 23 years old when he set off to Egypt as a freelance reporter. But shortly after he arrived “all hell broke loose”. His first exposure to what was to come was when he got a call that a busload of Italian tourists had been killed at a Cairo Museum.

I found the book very easy to read and factual. Living in the region for so long he has a good understanding of the culture and the politics. His analysis of how Washington politicians went wrong in many ways was really interesting. Most of his perceptions match what I learned over years of working in international affairs. Other conclusions left me with a lot to mull over. He certainly covered it all. He describes most of the Arab leaders at the time and how they each met their downfall. He covered the beginnings of the revolutions, the Arab Spring, the evolution of al-Qaeda and ISIS. He was kidnapped at one time and learned then to really appreciate life. He was witness to some horrific sights.

The part I found most interesting was probably his explanation of the ethnic clashes in the region. There are more fractures there than most people know. One needs to understand how the Kurds got split across three countries; the clash between Sunni and Shia and how in most countries the minority Sunni were ruling the majority Shia. This, of course, created a lot of resentment. Now we have the Shia fighting to come out on top and the Sunni fighting back. (Very reminiscent of the Hutu and Tutsi in Rwanda.)

If you have an interest in this region, I highly recommend his well-written and concise account of the hell people in that region live with every day.
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3

Jun 13, 2016

As a personal memoir this book is a puzzle that is missing too many pieces. We do not really get to know Richard Engel, NBC's Chief Foreign Correspondent. As a historical document it is missing many pieces and offers personal opinions that are often puzzling. So it's not a memoir and it's not really history. But it's a decent book.

Engel's history of the Middle East dating from the First World War is brief but thorough. The reader learns of the false, arbitrary national borders that were As a personal memoir this book is a puzzle that is missing too many pieces. We do not really get to know Richard Engel, NBC's Chief Foreign Correspondent. As a historical document it is missing many pieces and offers personal opinions that are often puzzling. So it's not a memoir and it's not really history. But it's a decent book.

Engel's history of the Middle East dating from the First World War is brief but thorough. The reader learns of the false, arbitrary national borders that were selfishly drawn by European powers. He sets the table well. A brief history of Islam is also well done. We become knowledgeable of the historic and toxic Sunni/Shia conflict that rages today. Especially valuable is Engel's careful account of the evolution of ISIS. From al-Qaeda in Afghanistan to al-Qaeda in Iraq to ISIS now in Iraq and Syria, we become schooled on the major players and in the twisted motivations of these butchers. It's immensely helpful.

After the historical groundwork, however, the book feels rushed. Indeed Richard Engel's life is rushed. He is always in a hurry. From country to country, city to city, battle to battle he is there beating the competition, beating CNN. Even his hasty, one week vacations to Thailand seem frantic. His life in the Middle East has been fraught with peril. He's lucky to be alive. He miraculously escaped from kidnappers in Syria. He has more balls than any reporter on this earth and we owe him a debt of gratitude.

Engel seeks to get the scoop and sum it up in 30 seconds in front of a camera and he does it well. Being concise, however, does not necessarily work in writing. To the extent that it's a memoir, I want to know you Richard. If it's history, be thorough. His chapter on Libya and the fall of Gadaffi does not mention the subsequent tragic attack on our people in Benghazi. His chapter on Syria makes no mention of the Russian intervention and their abrupt withdrawal after an Isis attack that brought down a commercial airliner with more than 200 Russian tourists.

Slow down man. What's the hurry? Give us the goods.

Near the end of his book Engel insists that he not addicted to danger. I hope that's true. He has a young child now. I remember the tragic death of Anthony Shadid who could not say no to a story, who died in Syria leaving behind a wife and young daughter. Please Richard, be more careful. Do it for the kid.



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5

Feb 28, 2016

Journalist, Richard Engel's memoir of 20 years covering war, politics and uprising in Middle East. Book is divided into chapters on his time spent in several countries. He looks back at history of the region, including religion. We are often let to believe that the situation is too complicated for us to understand. After reading this book, along with a few others recently, it seems to me the causes for the current turmoil are very clear. What do do now?
5

April 19, 2016

Richard does a great job of explaining the history of how and why there's so much turmoil throughout the middle east. At the same time he's walking you through his career as a war correspondent. I have broad knowledge of the middle East and still learned a great deal. Finished the book in two days.
3

Mar 24, 2016


choppy, not so easy to follow. Feels like book written in haste.

Jim
3

Apr 24, 2016

I so wanted to be blown away by this book. I think Richard Engel is a great reporter so the idea of a book about his adventures sounded can't miss. I think the problem with this is that it simply dances over things. He does help explain why there is so much trouble in the middle east in regards to religious and cultural issues. But he really glosses over what he has done and what he has seen. It is just like his reporting on TV. He pops up to cover a battle here and then next a battle somewhere I so wanted to be blown away by this book. I think Richard Engel is a great reporter so the idea of a book about his adventures sounded can't miss. I think the problem with this is that it simply dances over things. He does help explain why there is so much trouble in the middle east in regards to religious and cultural issues. But he really glosses over what he has done and what he has seen. It is just like his reporting on TV. He pops up to cover a battle here and then next a battle somewhere else but offers very little detail on the battles themselves. I may be jaded by having read truly great books about the wars. This book isn't bad, it just isn't what it could be. ...more
5

Mar 24, 2016

Part memoir, part history lesson, NBC News foreign correspondent Richard Engel, does a fantastic job of retelling the events that led to the current crisis in the Middle East. Richard takes us back to the days of Mohammed and the eventually split within Islam (Sunni-Shia) which is still playing out to this day. When then venture to the mid-60's and the rise of the Middle East strongman consisting of Hussein, Gadhafi, Nasser (and later Mubarak), Ben Ali, and the Assad family. He then ends in the Part memoir, part history lesson, NBC News foreign correspondent Richard Engel, does a fantastic job of retelling the events that led to the current crisis in the Middle East. Richard takes us back to the days of Mohammed and the eventually split within Islam (Sunni-Shia) which is still playing out to this day. When then venture to the mid-60's and the rise of the Middle East strongman consisting of Hussein, Gadhafi, Nasser (and later Mubarak), Ben Ali, and the Assad family. He then ends in the present with the jihadist movement of Al-Qaeda and its subsequent evolution, ISIS.

A fantastic reporter and a highly recommended read. ...more
3

Jan 19, 2017

Although I am not all that interested in the history of the Middle East, I am interested in the people who choose to put themselves in danger to gather / dispense information that may be of importance to our country.

I learned a lot about this area of the world. For example, al-Quaeda "hatched" when George W. Bush became President, you'd be wrong. They've been around for close to 20 years (that's documented), but probably longer. As far as al-Quaeda, ISIS, and other extreme organizations, there Although I am not all that interested in the history of the Middle East, I am interested in the people who choose to put themselves in danger to gather / dispense information that may be of importance to our country.

I learned a lot about this area of the world. For example, al-Quaeda "hatched" when George W. Bush became President, you'd be wrong. They've been around for close to 20 years (that's documented), but probably longer. As far as al-Quaeda, ISIS, and other extreme organizations, there are no good and bad people, most are shades of gray, and you'll have to read the book to see what I'm talking about.

Richard Engel is the Chief Foreign Correspondent for NBC. The situations that he has been in and continues to place himself in makes me want to run for cover and never come out, again! ...more
5

Feb 16, 2016

When a friend told me and some other friends about this book, I became interested immediately in it, as I've had a great interest in the Middle East since I was very young. I use to love learning about it in school, and I followed it in the news for years, eating up whatever I could read about it! So when I saw this, I became instantly interested in reading it! And read it I did! I can tell you it didn't disappoint!

It was a complicated region of the world years ago, it has been for centuries When a friend told me and some other friends about this book, I became interested immediately in it, as I've had a great interest in the Middle East since I was very young. I use to love learning about it in school, and I followed it in the news for years, eating up whatever I could read about it! So when I saw this, I became instantly interested in reading it! And read it I did! I can tell you it didn't disappoint!

It was a complicated region of the world years ago, it has been for centuries before I was thought of. Probably was nearly from the beginning of time. But reading what my own country has done to these people, making promises they didn't keep, going into Iraq with no clear vision of what would come after Saddam, thus putting the Middle East in it's current predicament, all these things make me so sad! No of course we didn't cause it all, of course it is a very complex part of the world, very prone to wars with all of it's religious history.

I won't say more about the book, you'll have to read it if you want to know. But I can tell you, that for anyone interested in the Middle East, and why ISIS has risen, I would totally recommend this book to you! ...more
4

Feb 17, 2016

A fascinating look at a war correspondents time in the Middle East. Richard Engel was unfortunate/ or lucky enough depending on how you look at it, to have a war break out shortly after he moved each time to a new country. During the election cycle this year a lot has been said about George W. Bush having been responsible for the creation of Isis. After reading this book you will understand why that accusation has been leveled at him and through Engles eye witness accounts you get a first row A fascinating look at a war correspondents time in the Middle East. Richard Engel was unfortunate/ or lucky enough depending on how you look at it, to have a war break out shortly after he moved each time to a new country. During the election cycle this year a lot has been said about George W. Bush having been responsible for the creation of Isis. After reading this book you will understand why that accusation has been leveled at him and through Engles eye witness accounts you get a first row view of how Washington has really botched things in the Middle East thereby causing the terrorists threats of today. I was afraid this book might be a little dry but it was a very entertaining look at the Middle East and it touched on many of the biggest events in recent years. Confusing Middle Eastern politics and religion were explained in a clear way that anyone could understand. I can't say that this account has made me very hopeful that peace will be achieved in the Middle East anytime soon. What I did take away was a better understanding of what happened. Now if we could only get the foreign policy makers in Washington to read this book. ...more
5

Jan 27, 2016

While some of us were backpacking around Europe in our 20s, Richard Engel was resettling himself in Cairo with the hope of becoming a reporter. Fresh out of Stanford and eager to make his mark on the world, he landed in the midst of one of the most critical times in the Middle East. And the rest, as they say, is history.

He was there for it all: the Arab Spring, the Iraq War, the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, the fall of Libya, the rise of ISIS, and more. Though this book may be While some of us were backpacking around Europe in our 20s, Richard Engel was resettling himself in Cairo with the hope of becoming a reporter. Fresh out of Stanford and eager to make his mark on the world, he landed in the midst of one of the most critical times in the Middle East. And the rest, as they say, is history.

He was there for it all: the Arab Spring, the Iraq War, the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, the fall of Libya, the rise of ISIS, and more. Though this book may be considered by some as too short (given the range and complexity of events in this region), Engel gives an excellent, understandable overview of what happened under the administrations of Presidents George W Bush and Barack Obama and how those policies added to the instability and mess that exists today.

Engel does an excellent job of laying out some of the centuries-old conflicts and ideologies of Arab thinking and divisions. To understand the Middle East is to know its history. Clearly where the US failed is in not considering its actions in anything other than a modern-day mind set (and continues with this error). Will the next president fare any better? It's a loaded question.

Much as Engel has done as a TV correspondent, most recently for NBC (although he's worked for many more news organizations along the way), he's able to present a complex situation in understandable terms for lay readers.

The problem is that most people in the West just aren't willing to put in the time and effort to understand how the Middle East developed or how the US got itself into such a conflict quagmire. Thus, the political landscape is ripe for mixed signals and misunderstanding all around. And it seems unlikely to resolve itself anytime soon. As we all know, those who don't learn from history are bound to repeat it, and never did that sentiment ring more true than it does in the Middle East. ...more
5

Mar 12, 2017

Wow! This book gives you an understanding of the lives of the people in the Middle East. Not an uplifting book but this needs to be read by every westerner!
5

Oct 19, 2017

A fantastic story, with a broad historical lessons throughout. Everything richard lacks slightly with his writing craft he makes up with the exciting journey he take you on! Really enjoyed it
3

Mar 24, 2018

the premises were good but the book did not live up to them
Certainly interesting and informative but too much of me me me.. I thought there would be more in depth analysis of the situatio. However, concepts were briefly touched and discussed and then immediately followed by yet another experience..
a bit disappointing really
4

Nov 20, 2016

Richard Engel spent twenty years as a correspondent covering Middle Eastern conflicts. No one could duplicate the pathway he took from newcomer freelancer to seasoned American TV network correspondent today, both because his life choices were his, and because so much has happened since then to change daily life in countries he reported from. As a young, single guy right out of college, he simply plunked himself down into an apartment in Cairo, where he essentially learned Arabic on the ground as Richard Engel spent twenty years as a correspondent covering Middle Eastern conflicts. No one could duplicate the pathway he took from newcomer freelancer to seasoned American TV network correspondent today, both because his life choices were his, and because so much has happened since then to change daily life in countries he reported from. As a young, single guy right out of college, he simply plunked himself down into an apartment in Cairo, where he essentially learned Arabic on the ground as he interacted with Egyptians day-to-day.

Being in the right place at the right time, if only by accident on many occasions, became habit for Engel. This also meant that he also experienced the war correspondent knowledge that continuing to cover uprisings and wars means you are living on borrowed time. Engel lived a sometimes dangerous life as he gained a wealth of knowledge of the Middle East, its histories and continuing struggles, while living in Israel during the second Intifada, and then getting into Iraq to cover George Bush's invasion by posing as a human shield candidate. As foreign correspondents filtered out of the country during the imminent American invasion in 2003, Engel stayed and became the last remaining American reporter there while the invasion began.

This book is a great first-hand account of the Iraq War and numerous other conflicts, including Engel's transfer to Beirut right before the war between Israel and Hezbollah, and his return to
Egypt and subsequent reporting of the Arab Spring and downfall of Hosni Mubarak. Well before this time, Engel no doubt disabused himself of any views of the glamorous profession of foreign correspondent; his absolutely greatest horror no doubt happened when he and his crew infiltrated into Syria during the start of the civil war and became captives.

Beyond the ability to recount great personal stories, the experiences gained from the perspective of a witness to decades of conflict have given Engel insight into the backgrounds of the forces of change. The role of the United States government cannot be minimized, and Engel does not mince words when passing judgement on the diplomatic and military decisions that were made by both Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama over a period of sixteen years.

The main problem caused by the misapplication of policy by these two administrations, according to Engel, has been the destruction of the status quo as it existed throughout the region for most of the twentieth century, especially since World War II. For better or, far more, for worse, the prevailing model of governance had been to have countries led by what he terms the "big men". These dictators and despots were in their prime when Engel starting reporting from the area. Engel of course deplores the abuses and crimes committed by these strong-men, but he notes that none of their countries experienced the destabilization that has been taking place since they've been gone. Most of these regimes were destroyed from about 2003 to 2013, and the United States directly or indirectly contributed to the resulting messes that were left in the wake of their leaving. The primary blame for this misguided leadership is assigned to "Bush's aggressive interventionism and Obama's timidity and inconsistency" (p. 23).

Certainly there are a lot of dynamics that, historically, have contributed to the ongoing strife in the region that Engel covered as a reporter. This is why he takes care to explain that, although the Middle Eastern governments were functioning to maintain a predictable and mostly safe daily life for their citizens prior to 2003, their foundations were rotten with corruption and unresolved religious and sectarian strife. He predicts that the continued horrors of ISIS and Sunni-Shia bloodshed (p. 411) will eventually lead to the acceptance by most populations of new strongmen. Whether that happens, he at least provides a thoughtful guide for the future establishment of American policy and action in the area by laying out the mistakes that were made by the last two administrations. Then again, who says history is never repeated, especially in the area of foreign relations and peace-keeping.

The prospects for lasting, constructive American-brokered peace-making in the region do not look optimistic, as American involvement transitions from the practices of a preemptive-war favoring neocon, followed by the feckless policy of a president who has uttered mixed messages of support for Arab causes. Now, on the eve of a Presidential Inauguration, as this is written, United States diplomacy is poised to be in the hands of a President who is an accommodationist of the Israeli government, who has proposed an individual with absolutely no foreign policy background to be the Secretary of State; an oil billionaire Secretary, who will be the point man in maintaining American credibility in the oil-producing region. God help us.

The last observation of course is not Engel's, since the 2016 Presidential election occurred after this book was published, but its mention is included here to demonstrate that optimism is often a casualty when describing hope for a stable future in the Middle East. ...more
4

Aug 19, 2016

And Then All Hell Broke Loose: Two Decades in the Middle East by Richard Engel

“And Then All Hell Broke Loose” is a riveting account of the last two decades of the Middle East through the eyes of brave foreign correspondent Richard Engel. Engel gets dangerously close to the action to provide readers with unparalleled access to on-going history of the Middle East. This enthralling 256-page includes nine unnamed chapters, an epilogue, and photographs.

Positives:
1. A well-written, first-rate access And Then All Hell Broke Loose: Two Decades in the Middle East by Richard Engel

“And Then All Hell Broke Loose” is a riveting account of the last two decades of the Middle East through the eyes of brave foreign correspondent Richard Engel. Engel gets dangerously close to the action to provide readers with unparalleled access to on-going history of the Middle East. This enthralling 256-page includes nine unnamed chapters, an epilogue, and photographs.

Positives:
1. A well-written, first-rate access to the on-going history of the Middle Eastover the past two decades.
2. A fascinating topic handled with expertise, fairness and respect.
3. Vivid descriptions, Engel captures the excitement behind the stories.
4. Provides maps and a photo section.
5. A fascinating way to learn about recent historical events in the Middle East. “Everything changed with the First World War. The Middle East was reorganized, redefined, and the seeds were planted for a century of bloodshed.”
6. Engel provides interesting observations about the Middle East. “Of course, all the big men had rivals. They were all opposed by Islamic dreamers and fundamentalists. Islam has never accepted a division of church and state. For Islamists the distinction is nonsensical and heretical.”
7. Engel provides credibility in a world dictated by spin. “Through six years of direct military action, by invading, occupying, and wildly mismanaging Iraq, the Bush administration broke the status quo that had existed since 1967. He knocked over the first house. In the years that followed, Obama, elected by a public opposed to more adventurism in the Middle East, broke the status quo even further through inconsistent action.”
8. A tour of the countries in the Middle East and what went down. “The revolution Egyptians needed wasn’t for political power and democracy, but a revolution in thinking, a revolt against the Brotherhood’s bile. Egyptians needed to strip away the conspiracy theories, anti-Semitism, and litany of victimization that passed for education. Sometimes I thought the only way to fix Egypt would be to drop books on it. Open the bomb doors of B-52s and let Kant and Locke, Hemingway and Gloria Steinem, rain from the heavens.”
9. A look at Islam and the major divide. “Those early assassinations led to the split between Sunnis and Shiites, battle lines drawn fourteen centuries ago that US troops would encounter, and help reignite, in Iraq. There is no distinction between modern and ancient history in the Middle East. No region is more obsessed with its own past. Islam began as a force to be reckoned with, and Muslims have longed to return to their former glory.”
10. Provides readers with the evolution of religious extremism and what Muslims need to do. “A growing number of Muslim reformers say—at great physical risk to themselves—that Islam needs to evolve and rediscover more tolerant strains of the faith, schools of thought that were pervasive in Islam when it led the world in science, mathematics, and medicine. Instead, these days Islam is unfortunately mostly known for its anger, which is a tragedy for most believers of one of the world’s longest-surviving and decent religions.”
11. Interesting insights into the life of a reporter. “I’m back in Baghdad and finally in business. I drove to Jordan and back in the last 36 hours. Of course, I still didn’t have a firm commitment from ABC News, and all hell was about to break loose. But at least I didn’t have any kids, I thought.”
12. U.S. Middle East Politics. “I was also suspicious of Washington’s changing explanations as to why it went to war in the first place. President Bush’s administration said the primary casus belli was destroying Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, which turned out to not be real but were seized upon by political hawks. The secondary reason offered up was that the war was needed to stamp out the Iraqi regime’s links to international terrorists, who only arrived in numbers after it became clear there would be a US invasion. Later the administration said it invaded Iraq to bring democracy and protect human rights. The casus belli was a moving target.”
13. Make no bones about it, Engel is a brave man. Engel explains the four stages in a war zone and shares his personal experiences.
14. Describes what is to me one of the most important moments of the book. “He understood that the United States was disenfranchising Sunnis and used it as a powerful rallying cry. ISIS wouldn’t have existed without the US invasion of Iraq.” “This grievance is at the core of ISIS ideology. Simply put, no Iraq war, no ISIS.”
15. Hezbollah and Israel. “For me, the Lebanon war was a milestone. It was a war that ended without even an attempt to resolve the core grievances. It was a war designed to be painful to dissuade a hostile group, in this case Hezbollah, from attacking again. It assumed that when conflicts are complicated—and hostilities ingrained—that they can only be resolved by the fear of more pain and death. It assumes a perpetual state of unresolvable hostilities in the Middle East.”
16. President Bush and Iraq. “In reality, by occupying Iraq for years and by reopening old religious wounds and upsetting the old order, the US invasion was making a terrorist attack in the United States more likely than it would have been otherwise. Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11 and wasn’t a nest full of terrorists.” “As I would hear over and over, from Zarqa to Lebanon and now in Syria, “The US war on terror is a war against Islam.”
17. The Arab Spring. “Economic resentments, not religious or ethnic divisions, had sent Egyptians into the streets. The Internet, Facebook, and Twitter didn’t cause the revolutions, but like television in Eastern Europe in 1989, technology accelerated the pace of events.”
18. Engels kidnapping and how he was able to keep it together.
19. The rise of ISIS. “ISIS follows Salafism (the Saudi version of Salafism is called Wahhabism), but the group effectively stole al-Qaeda’s ideology and expanded on it, embracing the most grizzly and brutal aspects of Islam’s history like enslaving female captives and beheadings, while rejecting the faith’s long traditions of tolerance.” “ISIS is not a virus that came from nowhere. It started in Iraq, and then expanded in Syria, cannibalizing the rebel movement and capitalizing on Syrians’ dashed hopes and growing anger.”
20. An excellent epilogue to close out in style. “In the end, it isn’t Washington’s responsibility to make amends between Sunnis and Shiites.”

Negatives:
1. Lacked supplementary materials that could have made this book a true 5-star effort. As an example, Engel could have provided tables depicting the demographics of the Middle East. A glossary of major players in the region.
2. The kidnapping was a fascinating story but I wanted more details. Perhaps a map, description of weapons used.
3. Though what’s here is very interesting it does lack historical depth.
4. No formal bibliography. No supplementary material other than the maps to help readers.

In summary, I enjoy these kinds of books. Richard Engel is a brave correspondent who is able to gain access to very dangerous events taking place in the Middle East and is able to report his observations in a fair, respectful and vivid manner. The best analogy I can provide is to say that if this were a movie it would be a very good action flick but lacks historical depth. An interesting read, I recommend it!

Further recommendations: “War Journal: My Five Years in Iraq” by the same author, “Radical: My Journey out of Islamist Extremism” by Maajid Nawaz, “The United States of Jihad” and “Manhunt” by Peter Bergen, “ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror” by Michael Weiss, “Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS” by Joby Warrick, “ISIS Apocalypse” by William McCants, and “War” by Sebastian Junger. ...more

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