There have been a number of previous biographies of Zarqawi, but Warrick takes the story much further and deeper. Most important, he shows, in painful but compulsively readable detail, how a series of mishaps and mistakes by the U.S. and Jordanian governments gave this unschooled hoodlum his start as a terrorist superstar and set the Middle East on a path of sectarian violence that has proved hard to contain ... What makes Warrick’s book unique is its focus on the group’s roots, especially the evolution of its founder.
Warrick’s account centers as much on American missteps as it does on the jihadi long game to build capacity. He telegraphs his disgust with ISIS without turning his book into a two-dimensional jeremiad and takes pains to include accounts of the group’s thinking, evolution, and internal political disputes ... Most bracing of all is Warrick’s historically-grounded corrective, which blames the American invasion of Iraq in 2003 as the single most pivotal factor in the organization’s creation.
Mr. Warrick has a gift for constructing narratives with a novelistic energy and detail, and in this volume, he creates the most revealing portrait yet laid out in a book of Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, the founding father of the organization that would become the Islamic State ... The final chapters of this volume have a somewhat hurried feel ... But for readers interested in the roots of the Islamic State and the evil genius of its godfather, Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, there is no better book to begin with than Black Flags.
Warrick has written a brilliant biography of Zarqawi and a gripping account of the officials in Jordan, Washington and elsewhere who tracked his career and ultimately chased him down. It is less convincing at explaining the subsequent 'rise of ISIS,' as the title promises ... Various reasons are offered to explain the group's success — the multi-sided civil war in Syria, Sunni fury at the Shiite-led government in Baghdad, Iraqi army officers who switched sides, sophisticated use of social media and so on. All are factors, but none is fully satisfying. Alas, there's time to search for an answer. As this seminal book makes alarmingly clear, Zarqawi's appalling legacy won't fade any time soon.
Black Flags is a detailed, step-by-step narrative demonstrating how repeated miscalculations by the United States, Arab leaders and al-Qaeda wound up empowering the Islamic State ... Black Flags provides answers in this still-unfolding history of what happens when religious radicals try to outdo one another for the mantle of God’s favorite.
In Black Flags, Warrick draws on more than 200 interviews, many of them with diplomats and intelligence officers, to provide a revealing, riveting and exquisitely detailed account of the life and death of Zarqawi, the improbable terrorist mastermind, and the rise of the movement now known as the Islamic State ... Although at times Warrick gives too much credence to the (inevitably) self-serving narratives supplied by his sources and too much credit to the prescience of Jordan’s King Abdullah II, his account of the mistakes and missed opportunities that gave rise to ISIS seems all too tragically true.