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The Spy Who Tried to Stop a War: Katharine Gun and the Secret Plot to Sanction the Iraq Invasion

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British secret service officer Katharine Gun's only crime was telling the truth, but she paid a steep price when she exposed a U.S.-U.K. spy operation to secure UN authorization for the Iraq invasion. Thoroughly researched and engagingly written, this book tells the story of the young woman Sean Penn describes as "a hero of the human spirit."


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British secret service officer Katharine Gun's only crime was telling the truth, but she paid a steep price when she exposed a U.S.-U.K. spy operation to secure UN authorization for the Iraq invasion. Thoroughly researched and engagingly written, this book tells the story of the young woman Sean Penn describes as "a hero of the human spirit."

30 review for The Spy Who Tried to Stop a War: Katharine Gun and the Secret Plot to Sanction the Iraq Invasion

  1. 5 out of 5

    ☘Misericordia☘ ~ The Serendipity Aegis ~ ⚡ϟ⚡ϟ⚡⛈ ✺❂❤❣

    Wow! This is quite a mind-blowing story!

  2. 5 out of 5

    James

    Well-rounded, fascinating, and inspiring. The authors go beyond relating the story of Katharine Gun's whistle-blower leak of an NSA message to their counterpart organization in the UK, the GCHQ, asking Britain to collaborate in illegally bugging the delegates of other UN Security Council members to get leverage to manipulate or coerce them into supporting a resolution to back the Iraq invasion in 2003. Gun worked at GCHQ as a Mandarin translator, and was horrified when she saw the message - she Well-rounded, fascinating, and inspiring. The authors go beyond relating the story of Katharine Gun's whistle-blower leak of an NSA message to their counterpart organization in the UK, the GCHQ, asking Britain to collaborate in illegally bugging the delegates of other UN Security Council members to get leverage to manipulate or coerce them into supporting a resolution to back the Iraq invasion in 2003. Gun worked at GCHQ as a Mandarin translator, and was horrified when she saw the message - she almost instantly thought that if the public knew about the action, their disapproval could prevent an illegal and disastrous war with huge loss of life, and although the idea of leaking it terrified her, she decided she had to. The book also tells Gun's life story and the factors that shaped her character, describes the aftermath of her action (including the UK government's heavy-handed effort to retaliate by deporting her husband, who is from Turkey), looks at the experiences of other whistle-blowers in the UK and US, looks at the possible motivations of George Bush and Tony Blair in pushing illegal action to support a war based on false premises (they had agreed far in advance on regime change in Iraq as their goal, but that is not a legal basis for war, so they came up with the WMD story), and does a good job of exploring the pros and cons of whistle-blowing by government employees who release secret information. I was struck by the wrongness of an American executive and former Marine officer the authors quote as saying "When you are under orders, you follow those orders no matter what, no matter how you feel about what's happening." As a retired Marine officer myself, I remember extensive training on the bedrock principle that you do NOT obey an unlawful order, and if you do, you are morally and legally responsible for your actions - a principle that's been taught in our military system since the Nuremberg trials and the failed Nazi defense of "I was only following orders." All in all, an excellent book and, I think, a necessary one for anyone interested in civics and the balance of power and conscience.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Lynn

    Arm Chair Generals ... those in the US Congress and Executive office anyway, needed to be stopped! I'm glad that Katharine had the guts to say, "Wait a minute ... that's a bald-faced lie." As those were the very same words I was uttering during the whole lead-up to the invasion, although I didn't have the proof sitting in my hands. If I knew then (or knew that I knew) what I know now about the stupidity of the whole fiasco, I would have done the same thing! Although the book is basically built Arm Chair Generals ... those in the US Congress and Executive office anyway, needed to be stopped! I'm glad that Katharine had the guts to say, "Wait a minute ... that's a bald-faced lie." As those were the very same words I was uttering during the whole lead-up to the invasion, although I didn't have the proof sitting in my hands. If I knew then (or knew that I knew) what I know now about the stupidity of the whole fiasco, I would have done the same thing! Although the book is basically built on the sensationalism of the British press, if you are any kind of writer, you know that there are very fine lines that can be crossed without being put on the block yourself. The authors did a fantastic job of pointing out just how creepy government can be (British or American) when the attack is on them. The authors took information that was made available (at the time of the writing, many things were still under wraps, not to be divulged), conducted background research with others who were involved in some way, and pulled the information together so that the average reader could see the nuances that were swirling around the whole debacle, and read about things that were not otherwise available to the general public outside of the UK.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Julie

    I was fascinated by this book. Normally I don't read current events books until they've faded into distant memory; but when Katherine Gun was charged and she in turn accused the US and Blair of conspiring to spy on UN members and pressuring them to align with their goal of war against Iraq, I remember thinking it was going to be a real sh- - storm, and then nothing. I couldn't understand how or why it could be dropped so quickly by the US mainstream media (they're all supposed to be conservative I was fascinated by this book. Normally I don't read current events books until they've faded into distant memory; but when Katherine Gun was charged and she in turn accused the US and Blair of conspiring to spy on UN members and pressuring them to align with their goal of war against Iraq, I remember thinking it was going to be a real sh- - storm, and then nothing. I couldn't understand how or why it could be dropped so quickly by the US mainstream media (they're all supposed to be conservative bashing liberals, right?). Although this book still left me with some unanswered questions, it was interesting to see how an ordinary person dealt with the pressure of the media and good to know that there are still people who will withstand the pressure for their moral convictions.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Brooke

    Fascinating story. Something I never knew about.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Ariel

    Reads more like an extended news article, but I had no idea about this case.

  7. 5 out of 5

    John

    I read this because I admired the bravery of the British intelligence worker who stood up against the war. But the book was boring, and prone to silly digressions.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Ralph Tattersall

    A very good read outlining with some sensitivity and balance, the story behind whistle blower's Katherine Gun exposure of the illegal and illegitimate war against the Saddam Hussein regime, championed by an over zealous George Bush and a sycophantic Tony Blair. I have a modicum of ambivalence about admiring her actions, but she seemed courageous in her conscience albeit a little naive. Enjoy the book and then Keira Knightley's portrayal in the movie, Official Secrets

  9. 5 out of 5

    Grace

    The account being told here is fascinating and Katharine Gun's story deserved to be told so that she could be recognised for the immensely brave thing she did. However, as much as I enjoyed reading about her, the book was, at times, quite boring. I would have enjoyed I more, I think, if it had focussed more on the narrative of Katharine and less on the wider political narrative.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Kathy Ryan

    Loved this opportunity to see US as others see US. Katherine Gun, a citizen of the UK and a spy analyst, leaks a memo about the US pressure campaign to manipulate the UN Security Council into voting for military action against Iraq. This little crime was glossed over by our media. While the book can drag, the perspective it offers is fascinating.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Robin EH.

    While I feel this is an important book that tells a story that needed to be told, it could have used a better editor. At times it felt quite academic, and I think in the hands of a journalist like Ronan Farrow it could have been explosive. It got a bit pedantic at times, and there were numerous digressions that weren't terribly compelling. I do admire Katherine Gun and her courage though.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Wendy

    I'm not sure exactly what I was expecting, but this wasn't nearly as exciting as I had hoped. It felt more like an article that had been stretched into a book. I understand this was the basis for the movie Official Secrets and I would be interested to see that.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Deyth Banger

    "December 12, 2019 – 45.0% December 12, 2019 – 15.0% "It's a Page turner" December 12, 2019 – 15.0% "Typical Edward Snowden style... I like stories like this one!" December 12, 2019 – 15.0% December 12, 2019 – Shelved December 12, 2019 – Started Reading"

  14. 5 out of 5

    Thebroadgrumps

    Great story - pity about the writing which to be generous I describe as tedious - no I didn't finish this book

  15. 4 out of 5

    Ashley

  16. 5 out of 5

    Steven Farmer

  17. 4 out of 5

    Fiona

  18. 4 out of 5

    Barbara Lipkin

  19. 4 out of 5

    Christina D'Aversa

  20. 5 out of 5

    Xhu

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jimnina9

  22. 5 out of 5

    Larry

  23. 5 out of 5

    Adam

  24. 4 out of 5

    Pamela Flowers

  25. 5 out of 5

    Ellee

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jon D

  27. 5 out of 5

    Yonatan

  28. 5 out of 5

    Laura Quazzo

  29. 5 out of 5

    Dennis Woods

  30. 4 out of 5

    Anish Gulati

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