Customer Review

28 of 35 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting alternative look at B20, but flawed research, 10 Jun 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: The Real Bravo Two Zero: The Truth Behind Bravo Two Zero (Paperback)
As far as I'm concerned its as simple as this: All the Spec ops wannabes and SAS groupies who actually believe that a small recon team is capable of pulling off all the John Wayne heroics claimed by Andy McNab are living in a fantasy world. But by the same token, those who stray to the other extreme and believe that Michael Asher has uncovered the indisputable truth in "The Real Bravo Two Zero" are being just as gullible. When I heard that an SAS man who was experienced in desert exploration and dealing with the Arabs had uncovered the "true story" of McNab's mission, I was eager to see what he had found. Unfortunately the book left me unimpressed. I admire Asher's extremely thorough field investigation, but much of his research is incomplete and his conclusions highly questionable.
Apparently the memory of a fallen comrade was dishonored by Chris Ryan, who accused him of cowardice and blame him for compromising the patrol (though I haven't read Ryan's book). Whether it was true or not, the idea that Ryan would publicly kick dirt on the grave of one of his brothers who made the ultimate sacrifice is just plain disgraceful and completely lacking in any sort of military honor. To Asher's credit, his efforts to clear this man's good name were very admirable. I was also impressed by the extent to which Asher traced B20's exact path on location. He also does a great job of pointing out all the inconsistencies and questionable aspects of McNab and Ryan's stories. He does successfully expose these two jokers. However, his effort to uncover the true story falls way short. As rightfully skeptical of McNab and Ryan as he is, for some reason Asher easily accepts the stories given to him by a few Iraqis and Bedouin as the definitive truth. If he thinks that the Iraqis would have no motivation to lie, then he ought to have his head checked! Saddam's oppressive government was (among other things) a massive propaganda machine with no credibility whatsoever. During the OIF invasion there was a point where Saddam's military had literally collapsed and we pretty much had his country occupied. As some might recall, the Iraqi Minister of Information was still doing press conferences and reporting to his own people and the world that American forces were being hopelessly slaughtered and driven out. Yeah I had myself a good laugh on that one.
Why Asher would so quickly dismiss the possibility that the Iraqis could've distorted their story for the purposes of propaganda is beyond me. And if he thinks that Bedouin are so honorable and saintly that they would not lie to make themselves look good, then he doesn't know the Arabs half as well as he seems to think he does. Not to sound racist, but it is my experience that the Arabs can be notorious liars and storytellers, especially when it comes to issues of their personal manliness and cultural pride. Asher seems so enamored with Arab culture and the Bedouin way of life that he refuses to see this. The story that the Bedouin fed Asher is just as unbelievable as McNab's. So three crusty goatherders fearlessly chased away a team of heavily armed infidels with no help from Saddam's army, huh? Sure buddy. Obviously McNab and Ryan aren't the only ones in the B20 story lying to make themselves look like heroes.
A compromise of any sort is cause for a mission abort. But a compromise involving only three armed civilians (with no enemy troops in sight) is NOT going to send a highly trained team running for their lives so frantically that they come down with heat exhaustion and lose each other in the desert. That's just completely ridiculous. I believe that the patrol probably encountered significant enemy forces at their OP. But instead of charging into them like a bunch of cowboys (as McNab describes) they probably broke contact and E&E'ed as fast as they could. Those poor guys were probably scared out of their wits. They had no comm, no vehicles, and were evading in open desert terrain. Pretty bad situation to be in.
Asher simply lacks objectivity when dealing with the Arabs. He is willing to accept almost everything they tell him at face value. His justifications for putting such faith in their stories is weak, at best. Why didn't he try to get more details of the official SAS op report and compare it with the Iraqi side of the story? Why didn't he interview a few of the other surviving members of the B20 squad? In the end, Asher's book is worth reading just for the fact that it exposes McNab and Ryan as the liars they are. However, it suffers from incomplete research, and Asher ends up jumping to conclusions. As for Andy McNab and Chris Ryan, they sold out the honor of their profession. I respect whatever accomplishments they've had in their careers, and I respect the SAS as home to some of the finest professional soldiers in the world. However this does not mean that the public should idealize men like McNab and Ryan as great heroes. They are unscrupulous opportunists who shamelessly played upon the public's perception of special forces soldiers in order to make themselves into pop culture icons. There are many men in the SAS and other places who've made much bigger sacrifices and achieved much greater heights of true heroism, but will never get fame or fortune for what they've accomplished (and they won't ask for it either). The truth is that B20 was little more than a fairly insignificant mission that turned into a complete fiasco. It is a poor example of the SAS's level of competence and capability. If I had to draw an American parallel, it would be the Desert One mission.
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 15 Jan 2011 23:19:36 GMT
Though I agree with most of your points, I think you misunderstand the difference between the Bedouin and the other Iraqi cultures that have been so in th media the last two decades. Asher's comment that he (and everyone else) now knows that McNab and Ryan lied, while he was unable to catch any of the the Bedouin's he interviewed in any lies, is very telling.
Your comparison between the B20 mission and that of Desert 1 is spot on: one was professional and though they made one major mistake, did what you expect professionals to do while the other was a complete cluster**** from the get-go.
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