Review: On Intelligence–Spies and Secrecy in an Open World

5 Star, Intelligence (Government/Secret), Intelligence (Public)

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5.0 out of 5 stars 9/11 is for intelligence what Sputnik was for science,

December 11, 2001
Robert David Steele
This book, the second edition, is an exact copy of the first edition with two changes: the publisher, and a new one-page Publisher’s Foreword that itemizes the six intelligence and counterintelligence failures that allowed 9/11 to happen.9/11 is for intelligence what Sputnik was for science. The across-the-board failure of clandestine intelligence (overseas), counterintelligence (at home) and our generally mediocre understanding of the real world (since we lack a properly funded, language-qualified foreign or diplomatic service), all contributed equally.

Henry Kissinger is absolutely right when he laments the lack of any serious consideration of foreign policy in recent presidential and congressional elections, and that is what 9/11 must change–this book is intended to be useful to citizens as well as government and business intelligence professionals. It lays out with great precision (see the index) both $11.6 billion dollars (out of $30 billion a year) in potential savings that could be applied to the new craft of intelligence, and it recommends with great precision all that should be in a new National Security Act of 2002.

Intelligence in the 21st Century is too important to be relegated to a chaotic cluster of secret government agencies. It is time for all citizens to take an interest in intelligence, to migrate the proven process of intelligence (there is a great deal that is good about the U.S. intelligence community) into the business sector as well as over to the sovereign states and their localities, and to demand of our elected representatives a proper accounting for the failure, and measures to prevent future failures.

Less than 2% of the $30 billion a year intelligence has been spent on terrorism–the policy and intelligence leadership over several administrations have given lip-service to the war on terrorism–and there will be no improvements, no matter how much money we pour into intelligence and counterintelligence, unless we change the fundamentals–who’s in charge, how we do it, who we do it with, and how seriously we take our responsibilities for protecting America.
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Review: Inside Sudan–Political Islam, Conflict, and Catastrophe

2 Star, Country/Regional, Diplomacy, Threats (Emerging & Perennial)

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2.0 out of 5 stars Strong on Travel and Chit-Chat, Weak on History and Reality,

December 10, 2001
Donald Petterson
When compared to the other book on Sudan that I read at the same time, “White Nile, Black Blood: War, Leadership, and Ethnicity from Khartoum to Kampala”, this book, while worth reviewing, is extremely disappointing. If this is the best our Department of State can do–if this bland account of endless repetitive meetings and meaningless demarches is the best that America can do in addressing the deep challenges of Sudan–then we need a whole new State Department.It struck me immediately, as I worked through the book, that it is the diary of someone who means well, but has only his personal experience from which to judge the situation. Not only are there no references to learned studies, but the short-sighted thesis of the author is summed up on page 136: “The cumulative combination of factors putting Sudan in such a bad light (with the U.S. Government) began with the military takeover in July 1989.” When one contrasts this statement with the rich 200-year survey provided by “White Nile, Black Blood”, one can only feel a deep sadness for the lower depths of our foreign service.

Early on in the book the author-ambassador confesses to not knowing Arabic and to having had six months training in Arabic before reporting. This demonstrates two things clearly: first, that the Department of State is incompetent in Arabic affairs if it does not have legions of qualified officers fluent in Arabic from whom it can select an Ambassador and second, that obviously the language is not considered critical to the job if six months will suffice–just enough to get to the toilet, not enough to accept directions across town.

This book is a travel diary. I have annotated page 148 with the note: “substitutes travel for thinking.” There is no analysis in this book, no grasp of history, no real grip on the regional realities (other than a passing reference to the fact that water is going to be a cause of war in the future–something well covered in Marq de Villiers “WATER: The Fate of Our Most Precious Resource”. Neither de Villiers nor Michael Klare’s “RESOURCE WARS: The New Landscape of Global Conflict” are cited by this book.)

At the very end there was a tiny glimmer of hope as the author began a chapter on working with the United Nations, and made it clear that the UN practice of allowing each of its agencies to appoint independent ambassadors to the same country, rather than subordinating all UN agencies to a single UN ambassador, was a big part of their problem. After three paragraphs, it became clear there was nothing else to be had from this chapter. I have the note “This is not a serious book.”

At one point in the book the author observes that neither Congress nor the U.S. public would allow the Administration to be more pro-active in Sudan. It immediately occurred to me that if this is true, then the Department of State has failed miserably, ignominiously, at informing the U.S. public of the true situation in Sudan, for any informed citizen would be sure to support extremely aggressive action against the (northern) Sudan despots and supporters of terrorism and genocide.

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Review: 9-11

4 Star, 9-11 Truth Books & DVDs

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4.0 out of 5 stars Predictable but Potent, Irritating But Illuminating,

December 10, 2001
Noam Chomsky
Chomsky is somewhat predictable and irritating in his repetitive condemnation of all past and present U.S. interventions around the world, and he harps heavily on the U.S. being the only country in the world actually condemned for terrorism (against Nicaragua) by the World Court but one has to give him credit–his is one of the few credible voices seeking to enlighten the American people with respect to two major global realities: first, that America is violating others with impunity and regularity; and second, that we have no idea just how hated we are for these actions.There were a couple of tid-bits in this book that made me especially glad to have obtained it for reading and retention. His evaluation of the Sudan situation, and his detailed review of the impact on Sudanese reliant on the low-cost medicines from the factory bombed into oblivion on the now-disputed suggestion of the CIA, provides a perspective that needs more respect.

His lengthy discussion of the contradictory record of the United States on human rights–in favor when it does not interfere with business, actively obstructionist when it takes place in Saudi Arabia or Indonesia where financial equities (generally mining and energy company equities) are great, is disturbingly sensible.

I will always read Chomsky, for he provides a leavening of forthright candor and intellectual honesty that is too often absent from mainstream discussions. Indeed, as I was reading the bit on Sudan, it occured to me that we are long over-due for the next revolution in learned discourse–the digitization of all such books so that a reader can, to take Sudan as an example, see on their screen a “map” of Sudanese issues, and then select from across a range of competing viewpoints on any issue. One has to seek out Chomsky now–in the future it may be salutory to find him automatically served up as a side dish whenever the pundits wax too pontifical.
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Review: How to Prevent Genocide–A Guide for Policymakers, Scholars, and the Concerned Citizen

5 Star, Atrocities & Genocide

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5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, Compelling, Practical, Essential and Unnerving,

December 10, 2001
John G. Heidenrich
The author of this book not only completed graduate work with a direct focus on genocide, but spent over a year supporting the Office of War Crimes at the Department of State, each day creating an open source intelligence report on genocide-at the time he was engaged in this activity, there were eighteen (18) such active genocidal movements going on around the world.This is a brilliant and compelling book that is also practical and essential for anyone who desires to understand the complete inadequacy of the diplomats, the policymakers, the media, and the intelligence communities. It is unnerving in its calm and reasoned detailing of how genocide can take place, its survey of the millions upon millions of post-WWII holocausts taking place today–as the media and policymakers ignore these realities.

Citizen-voters, in my view, will benefit considerably from this book because it will help them understand that there are three worlds out there, and we as a nation are not dealing well with two of the three–the most dangerous two. There is the world of well-fed diplomats and businessman, traveling and negotiating in their warm safe buffer zones. There is the real world as experienced by normal people, many of whom are oppressed and poor and feel helpless in the face of dictatorial regimes and local warlords who may do as they wish absent the rule of law. And then there is the world of genocide, an underworld of such horrific pervasive violence and inhuman brutality that one can only wonder if we are all guilty of mass insanity for turning our backs on this murder of millions.

The author is a world-class scholar and ardent champion for informing the public and achieving informed policy in this vital area, and I can only hope that serious people put some money behind his thinking.
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Review: Genocide in the Congo (Zaire)

5 Star, Atrocities & Genocide, Country/Regional

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5.0 out of 5 stars Most Inexpensive Deep Look at Real World Genocide,

December 10, 2001
Yaa-Lengi Ngemi
This book is a perfect complement to the more scholarly and policy-oriented book by John Heidenrich on “How to Prevent Genocide: A Guide for Policymakers, Scholars, and the Concerned Citizen.” I strongly recommend that both books be bought and read at the same time.This book is a cry from the heart of a Congolese, it has explicit photographs, and you can get through it in half an hour–what you see and feel will be with you for the rest of your life.
It is a good thing when a book of this utility and importance can make its way from the lower depths of Africa and–with the help of amazon–into the mainstream world where anyone can learn of its availability. This is not a book that will be found in libraries or used in classrooms–it is a book that is at once so inexpensive and so horrifying, that any adult who in any way cares about the future of the international community, should buy it….at the same time that they get the Heidenrich book. Two men, world’s apart, with one mind and the same broken heart.
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Review: Those Who Trespass

5 Star, Biography & Memoirs, Censorship & Denial of Access, Culture, Research, Media

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5.0 out of 5 stars Insights into Workplace Terrorism and Network Corruption,

December 1, 2001
Bill O’Reilly
Novels by authoritative figures are a proven way of telling shocking truths without having to deal with lawyers. Richard Marcenko did this to U.S. Navy Special Operations with “Rogue Warrior”, Winn Schwartau did this for American’s vulnerability to anonymous electronic terrorism with “Terminal Compromise.”O’Reilly was written a fascinating novel, one that is not only a first-rate thriller in its own right, but that also lays out some of the really outrageous manipulative and corrupt behavior that is common among senior network managers. He introduces the concept of workplace terrorism (by managers), of “bigfooting” (the theft–plagarism–of good work by field reporters so that the pretty face names (both male and female) can be reinforced); and the falsification of market surveys for the purpose of slandering and firing really good people who refuse to be cowed by bad and unethical network managers.
This novel has it all–engaging truths, a solid plot, a sentimental love story, good police thread, and a dramatic climax. I ended up buying a used copy and am glad I took the trouble. If you ever wondered what traitors to our national intelligence community and some senior network managers have in common, read this book–O’Reilly has put a stake through their hearts.
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Review: White Nile, Black Blood–War, Leadership, and Ethnicity from Khartoum to Kampala

5 Star, Atrocities & Genocide, Country/Regional

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5.0 out of 5 stars Puts It All Together–Vastly Superior to State Department,

December 1, 2001
Jay Spaulding
I read this book at the same time that I read the quasi-official story on Sudan (“Inside Sudan: Political Islam, Conflict, and Catastrophe”) and I have to say, not only is this collection of edited articles–and the editorial summary–quite pleasing in its professional grasp of history, its depth, its coverage of the core issues in a comprehensive and actionable way–but it also causes me extreme anguish when I compare it to what can only be described as a self-centered mediocre State Department memoire.This is good solid stuff. It is especially helpful in setting aside the superficial views that ethnic conflict or European-drawn borders are the root of Sudan’s internal conflict issues, and it cuts to chase: “it’s about wealth, simpleton!”.

The history of Sudan is well-drawn out, with the bottom line being that the southerners and their especially rich territory have been constantly besieged and ravished by the northern elite. The only time of peace in the 200 year war has been when the British imposed that peace, and there is a suggestive air about that finding.

The varied discussions of genocide and “cultural cleansing”, including the forced rape of the women in the groups being eradicated, and the use of famine to kill two million, are dismaying in the extreme.

“Ecology and economics provide controlling metaphors.” This is an excellent summary of the book.

Also helpful is the book’s coverage of the relations between Egypt and Sudan (both historical and current), the explicit (northern) Sudanese sponsorship of terrorism and hosting of many Islamic and other terrorist groups within its territory, and the general references to the varying influences of the Turks, the British, and the missionaries.

This is a serious book, by serious people, and it does the Sudan issues full justice. One puts the book down feeling somewhat aghast at the ignorance of the U.S. government, the incapacity of the United Nations, and the blatant malevolence of the northern Sudanese predators. This book is strongly recommended for any person who wonders about their government’s competence and compassion. Sudan is a cancer, not just within Africa, but within the larger world, and the continued acceptance of the genocide and slavery and related plagues that characterize this place call into question the legitimacy, the ethics, the accountabilty, of all Western governments.
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Review: Eastward to Tartary–Travels in the Balkans, the Middle East, and the Caucasus

5 Star, Atlases & State of the World, Country/Regional, Threats (Emerging & Perennial), Voices Lost (Indigenous, Gender, Poor, Marginalized)

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5.0 out of 5 stars Detail You Might Hate, But You Need It…,

November 23, 2001
Robert D. Kaplan
This will not be a long review. There is a similarity to Robert Kaplan’s books, and my reviews of his other books will suffice for additional detail.Having said that, I will also say that this book continues an excellent pattern of combining prior reading of history, a solid understanding of geography, and a gift for drawing out from an astonishing diversity of individuals, those little details that may bore in the aggregate but are priceless when endured and absorbed.

He seems to have missed the genocide against the Tatars, but perhaps that was hidden from him.

There is one huge gem, at least for me, in this book, and that is his assessment of the potential for a new schism between Western and Eastern Christianity, and how that must be avoided at all costs. This one sentence and the surrounding text is alone worth the price of the book.
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Review: The No-Spin Zone–Confrontations with the Powerful and Famous in America

3 Star, America (Founders, Current Situation), Culture, Research, Media

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3.0 out of 5 stars Wanders–With More Structure, Sequel Could Be Sensational,

November 17, 2001
Bill O’Reilly
Unlike the first book, which offered a very fine slice of structured thoughts across 20 topics, this is more of an ego-driven one-upsmanship volume, and it does not help the intelligent reader (or their intelligent cheerful gifted pets) make sense out of the world. This one wanders.I would like to see O’Reilly do a “Mandate for Leadership” type book where he invites more than one expert at a time to his show, structured over the course of a year to cover each aspect of the real-world threat and how our government is organized to manage American on our behalf, and let’s see if he can bring out the best of our distributed citizen knowledge.
We know the author is really good at rooting out the truth–can he take it to the next level and manage a national conversation that actually improves the State of the Nation?
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