Book Reviews from member Shorty Williams

In the past few months, there has been a spate of books on terrorism, Iraq, the Middle East, Afghanistan and other related issues. The following list is a brief outline of some of the ones that I have found most interesting. All of these books were purchased at Barnes and Noble at the Summit or Books and Co. at Brookwood.  

The New Terrorism (Walter Laquer, Oxford University Press). This is the bible of terrorism. Its 1999 publication date in no way should put you off. This one volume helps to make sense of terrorists from James Earl Ray to Eric Rudolph to Timothy McVey to Osama Bin Laden. I finished this book this Summer and was easily able to fit in all of these situations and find an explanation of the increasing “terrorist“resistance in Iraq. This is scary reading about how the terrorist thinks, what he wants, what he may do and what motivates him to do it. As the former Director of the CIA said, “If you read only one book on terrorism, this should be it.”  

Of Paradise and Power (Robert Kagan, Knopf) A short book by an associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. The book gives an overview of the new relationship of Europe and America. After years of mutual resentment and tension, there is a sudden recognition that the real interests of America and its allies are diverging sharply and that the transatlantic relationship itself has changed, possibly irreversibly. Europe sees the Unites States as high-handed, unilateralist, and unnecessarily belligerent; the United States sees Europe as spent, unserious and weak. The anger and mistrust on both sides are hardening into incomprehension. This book helps us to at least define the problem.  

Weapons of Mass Deception (Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber, Jeremy Tarcher, Penguin). A light hearted approach to a deadly serious subject. This is a book about how the “spin-masters” doctor the news and try to polish it into politically viable bits. This book by the authors of Trust Us, We’re Experts is a detailed expose of the aggressive public relations campaign that was used to sell the American public on the war with Iraq. This book is reminiscent of Bill press’s Spin This and Al Franken’s Lies and the Liars That Tell Them. All of these are books help us to learn how to filter the news, get behind the spin and find the truth.  

Sleeping With The Devil (Robert Baer) A frightening revelation of our relationship with Saudi Arabia. Written by a former CIA operative, it names names, gives facts, dates, places and insight into a highly questionable relationship with the oil giant. Particularly interesting are the revelations about the Bush family, some of the cabinet members and other high ranking officials with the Carlisle Group. This one is definitely not recommended for the fearful and squeamish.  

Full Spectrum Dominance (Rahul Mahajan, Seven Stories Press) A short book about the exercise of American military power in Iraq. Written by an anti-war activist, it outlines the futility of high tech weaponry and sophisticated organization against determined locals fighting for their survival and freedom from dominance. This is a “real politic” appraisal of Iraq and big military budgets.  

Three more that I am reading now and seem to warrant recommendations are:

Al-Jazeera (Mohammed El-Nawawy and Adel Iskandar,m Westview). A description of how the network operates, the programs it broadcasts, its effectiveness on Arab viewers, the reactions of the West and the Arab states, and the implications for the future of news broadcasting in the Middle East  

Inside Al Qaeda (Rohan Gunaratna, Berkeley) The definitive view of the world-wide terror network. Dan Rather calls the author “the foremost English-speaking expert on the terror network”. The book discusses organization, controls, objectives, methods and personnel of Al Qaeda.  

Salam Pax (Salam Pax, Grove Press) Salam Pax is a pseudonym of an Iraqi blogger. The author is a very well educated Iraqi who conducts an ongoing eMail conversation (Blogging) with a friend in Jordan. The effect of the book is to give an inside view of what life inside Iraq has been like for the past year. The author has recently been identified and now writes a column for the “Guardian” newspaper.

- Abbott ("Shorty") Williams