Review: Swimming with Warlords

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Kevin Sites

4.0 out of 5 stars Quick read travelogue, some nuggets, some flaws, October 22, 2014

Previously I have reviewed, very favorably, two other books by this author, In the Hot Zone: One Man, One Year, Twenty Wars and The Things They Cannot Say: Stories Soldiers Won’t Tell You About What They’ve Seen, Done or Failed to Do in War. Both of those books were authentic works of genius and the true measure of the author.

This book is a quick-read double-spaced travelogue, some nuggets on corruption, suicide, humanity, but some severe flaws as well. Almost a three for lacking an index and getting some key facts wrong.

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Oct 22

Review (Guest): Pay Any Price – Greed, Power, and Endless War

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James Risen

5.0 out of 5 stars Better Than His Last One – Imagine What He’ll Write From Prison, October 14, 2014

By David Swanson

When New York Times report James Risen published his previous book, State of War, the Times ended its delay of over a year and published his article on warrantless spying rather than be scooped by the book. The Times claimed it hadn’t wanted to influence the 2004 presidential election by informing the public of what the President was doing. But this week a Times editor said on 60 Minutes that the White House had warned him that a terrorist attack on the United States would be blamed on the Times if one followed publication — so it may be that the Times’ claim of contempt for democracy was a cover story for fear and patriotism. The Times never did report various other important stories in Risen’s book.

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Oct 21

Review: God’s Terrorists – The Wahhabi Cult and the Hidden Roots of Modern Jihad

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Charles Allen

4.0 out of 5 stars Important History Not Understood By Most, November 22, 2013

The historical half is mind-glazing, the more recent chapters highly relevant to understanding the deep ignorance of the US Intelligence Community and the US policy (prostitution) community these past 12 years.

I have given the book four stars in part because it is not designed to illuminate the threat in visualizable terms, and it is not up to date. Now that Saudi Arabia has declared war on the USA and the West generally (joining with Israel in a truly bizarre satanic alliance), and on Iran and the Shi’ite portion of Afghanistan specifically, this book absolutely merits updating and republication, hopefully with some decent maps and graphics and tables this next time around.

Early on in a nut-shell: Wahhabism spread in the 19th century, first throughout the Arabian penninsula and then to the Indian subcontinent including what are now India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. Wahabbism is both a fundamentalist ideology that wins over deep converts, and a form of mercenary religion, buying its way into susceptible corners.

The most important point stressed throughout the book is that Wahhabism is outside the mainstream of Muslim society.

The big surprise for me, and one reason I am distressed at how badly we prepare people for service in this area, is the deep history of Wahhabism among the Pashtun. Today Saudi Arabia and to a lesser extent Qatar and the United Arab Republic seem bent on funding a religious war in Central and South Asia, and no one seems to be paying attention to this emergent threat. I would go so far as to say we are now, in this region, where we were in 1988-1989 when the Saudis first began funding the global Islamic outreach program led by Sheikh Binbaz and represented in part by young Bin Laden.

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Nov 22

Berto Jongman: Al Shabaab in Somalia

Berto Jongman

Berto Jongman

Since early 2007 a new breed of combatants has appeared on the streets of Mogadishu and other towns in Somalia: the ‘Shabaab’, or youth, the only self-proclaimed branch of al-Qaeda to have gained acceptance (and praise) from Ayman al-Zawahiri and ‘AQ centre’ in Afghanistan. Itself an offshoot of the Islamic Courts Union, which split in 2006, Shabaab has imposed Sharia law and is also heavily influenced by local clan structures within Somalia itself. It remains an infamous and widely discussed, yet little-researched and understood, Islamist group.

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Hansen’s remarkable book attempts to go beyond the media headlines and simplistic analyses based on alarmist or localist narratives and, by employing intensive field research conducted within Somalia, as well as on the ground interviews with Shabaab leaders themselves, explores the history of a remarkable organisation, one that has survived predictions of its collapse on several occasions. Hansen portrays al-Shabaab as a hybrid Islamist organization that combines a strong streak of Somali nationalism with the rhetorical obligations of international jihadism, thereby attracting a not insignificant number of foreign fighters to its ranks. Both these strands of Shabaab have been inadvertently boosted by Ethiopian, American and African Union attempts to defeat it militarily, all of which have come to nought.

See Also:

Qwant: Al Shabaab Across the Board

Al Shabaab Tweets [Account Suspended]

 

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Sep 24

Review: Endgame: The Blueprint for Victory in the War on Terror

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Paul Vallely and Thomas McInerney

1.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Guide to Morons in Power, June 19, 2013

This is the single best book for understanding what morons in power think when they pretend to think but are actually pursuing ideological and financial objectives far removed from the public interest.

The authors, who demonstrate how far one could get in the Cold War military without reading or thinking, call this a military assessment. It is not. It is a one-track discourse on why we need to use our heavy metal military to wipe out Syria and Iran and intimidate Libya and Pakistan. It avoids discussing Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Central Asia, Muslim Africa, and Muslim Pacifica. This is not analysis, this is flim-flam.

By way of context in my specific criticism of this book, let me just note that the bibliography does not reflect any appreciation for strategy, e.g. Colin Gray’s “Modern Strategy”, or Col Dr. Max Manwaring and Ambassadors Corr and Dorff’s “The Search for Security”, or Willard Matthias “America’s Strategic Blunders” or Adda Bozeman’s “Strategic Intelligence & Statecraft” or Jonathan Schell’s “Unconquerable World.” I looked in vain for any sign the authors might comprehend the strategic context in which their specific beliefs and recommendations can only be seen as ill-advised. For example, a reference to Shultz, Godson, and Quester (at least one of whom is a neo-conservative), “Security Studies for the 21st Century”, or Robert McNamara and James Blight “Wilson’s Ghost”, or Dean Jeffrey Garten’s “The Politics of Fortune”, or Republican and conservative Clyde Prestowitz’s “Rogue Nation”, or Ambassador Mark Palmer’s “Breaking the Real Axis of Evil”. No cognizance of Kissinger, even.

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Jun 19

Review: The Thistle and the Drone: How America’s War on Terror Became a Global War on Tribal Islam

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Akbar Ahmed

5.0 out of 5 stars 6 Star (My Top 10%) — The Book Susan Rice Should Read First, June 6, 2013

I received and read this book today, and while I am troubled by the author’s buying into the Bin Laden story and the official 9/11 cover-up, this is a six-star book that easily provides one stellar concept that must be integrated into the fabric of every foreign policy — understanding the failures of the centers in each state with respect to the more traditional peripheries — and a deep broad articulation of why the US “war on terror” has actually been a thoughtless unnecessarily expensive and harmful war on tribes.

Ignore those who demean this book or this author. I generally consider Brookings to be expert at publishing dumbed down talking points for loosely-educated policy makers, but this book is easily in the top tier, a book Cambridge or Oxford would be comfortable published, and a book that ties in perfectly with Philip Allot’s extraordinary book The Health of Nations: Society and Law beyond the State. Read my review of that book as a pre-quel to reading this book, which I certainly recommend in the strongest possible terms.

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Jun 6

Review (Guest): Classified Woman-The Sibel Edmonds Story: A Memoir

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Sibel Edmonds

5.0 out of 5 stars Sibel Edmonds Finally Wins, April 30, 2012
By
David Swanson (Charlottesville, VA) – See all my reviews

 

This review is from: Classified Woman-The Sibel Edmonds Story: A Memoir (Paperback)

Sibel Edmonds’ new book, “Classified Woman,” is like an FBI file on the FBI, only without the incompetence.

The experiences she recounts resemble K.’s trip to the castle, as told by Franz Kafka, only without the pleasantness and humanity.

I’ve read a million reviews of nonfiction books about our government that referred to them as “page-turners” and “gripping dramas,” but I had never read a book that actually fit that description until now.

The F.B.I., the Justice Department, the White House, the Congress, the courts, the media, and the nonprofit industrial complex put Sibel Edmonds through hell. This book is her triumph over it all, and part of her contribution toward fixing the problems she uncovered and lived through.

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May 4