Quote: The Drone Memos: Targeted Killing, Secrecy and the Law

The Drone Memos: Targeted Killing, Secrecy and the Law by Jameel Jaffer

FTC NOTICE: Library Book

QUOTE: “By characterizing the struggle against terrorism as a borderless war, the United States performed a remarkable feat of legal alchemy, transforming what would otherwise have been the illegal and extrajudicial killing of civilians into the ostensibly legitimate exercise of military force. Unlawful assassination became supposedly lawful targeting. Many of the U.S. government’s targets were nowhere near Afghanistan or Iraq or any other actual battlefield, but the theory, in its boldest form, was that the battlefield is everywhere because terrorists can be found anywhere” (39).

Review: Hillary’s America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party

Hillary’s America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party by Dinesh D’Souza

MY RATING: 5/5 Stars

FTC NOTICE: Library Book

MOVIE TRAILER:Hillary’s America

“Hillary’s America” is available on DVD, Blu-Ray, and Digital HD now! Order your copy here: http://hillarysamericathemovie.com/#dvd.

REVIEW: This book changes you. It makes you wish that you could unlearn what you have read. It hardens you and breaks your heart, leaving you feeling betrayed and enlightened all at once. You are left feeling helpless while simultaneously being motivated and invigorated to do something. It is time for a change; and, Dinesh D’Souza’s “ Hillary’s America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party” provides the “Hillary” education and calls to action for his readers.

ABOUT HILLARY: “This woman has been in public life for decades, and yet she has accomplished nothing” (1). Everyone who has followed her career knows that Hillary is dishonest to the core” (2). “Yet when is the last time a major political party nominated someone who has been investigated for corruption so many times, and with an ongoing FBI inquiry?” (5). They’ve been doing it under different circumstances all along, and most of America was marketed to, and brainwashed, into thinking just the opposite of the Democratic party.

“Democrats—the mantra goes—are the party of the common man, the ordinary person. For two hundred years, Democrats have been looking out for the little guy, including historically marginalized groups like women, blacks, Hispanics, and other minorities. Where would these people be without the Democratic Party to protect them and secure their basic rights? Democrats are the party of equal rights, civil rights, and human dignity” (7). At least, that is what they want Americans to think. D’Souza masterfully details the history of the Democratic Party, their games, their marketing narrative, plus their schemes, thievery, and plan of national enslavement leading to all-out slavery. The Democrats are nothing that they say they represent and everything that all Americans should fear.

The Clintons have become the modern-era representation of the Democrats, utilizing the Alinsky model, but by changing government from within…and using many “useful idiots” to help them every step of the way. “Alinsky realized he could recruit allies and direct their hatred to the corporations by appealing to motives such as envy, resentment, and hatred, but all packaged in the rhetoric of equality and justice. He had no illusion that any of this was related to actual justice” (183). “For Alinsky, justice is a province of morality, and morality is a scam. Morality is the cloak of power. Activists appeal to the language of morality but recognize that it is a mere disguise” (183).

Everyone in the United States of America needs to read this book. It serves as an educational tool, a wake-up alarm, and a call to action. The Democratic party’s long-term sociopathic behavior must be brought to a halt. Their trended pattern of trying to stop upward mobility and creating modern day plantations in the inner cities must be reversed while simultaneously convincing the many good Americans who came to believe the opposite of what is right for our country’s future. It is with the aforementioned in mind, and so much more contained in Dinesh D’Souza’s book that “ Hillary’s America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party” easily earns its five-star rating.

Review: United States of Jihad: Americans Fighting for Radical Islam–Investigating America’s Homegrown Terrorists–From Al-Qaeda to ISIS

cvr_united-states-of-jihad-americans-fighting-for-radical-islam-from-al-qaeda-to-isis-by-peter-bergenUnited States of Jihad: Americans Fighting for Radical Islam–Investigating America’s Homegrown Terrorists–From Al-Qaeda to ISIS by Peter Bergen

MY RATING: 5/5 Stars

FTC NOTICE: Purchased Book

REVIEW: Forget everything you think you know about radical Islam, Al-Qaeda, ISIS, et. al. Close your eyes and pretend for just a moment that you have never seen pictures of radicalized Islamic terrorists and the results of their destructive events. Now open your eyes, and read Peter Bergen’s book, “United States of Jihad: Americans Fighting for Radical Islam–Investigating America’s Homegrown Terrorists–From Al-Qaeda to ISIS;” and, prepare to have your mind blown. Not literally blown!!! I’m not a terrorist, and neither is the author; but, I’ve obviously got some explaining to do.

My husband was on a business trip in the Washington, D.C. Metro area. Each time he does this, he tries to stop by a place that is special to us: Coco Sala Restaurant and Chocolate Boutique. What what does chocolate have to do with “United States of Jihad?” One day he arrived before the chocolate boutique opened; so he walked to one of my other favorite places, “The International Spy Museum” and entered its bookstore. From there he called me and said, “Honey, have you read, “X” where “X” became a list of books that he was plucking from the shelves and hoping to bring home to me. How incredibly thoughtful and kind of him! When he mentioned, “United States of Jihad,” I became excited…and that’s how he knew to bring it home for me.
cvr_united-states-of-jihad_withcoversticker_intlspymuseum_signedcopy-by-peter-bergen cvr_united-states-of-jihad_insidecoverpg_signed-by-peter-bergenWhen I opened the museum store’s goody bag, I was delighted that my husband chose a hardcover copy of the book. It had a sticker on the upper corner, but all I noticed was “SPY” and thanked my husband with a big hug and a kiss. Then he said, “And its autographed, too.”  I took another look, saw the author’s signature, and couldn’t stop smiling.  My husband wanted to do something so special for me, and I could not hug him enough.  His night definitely had a happier ending than it did for people in Bergen’s work!  This book became one more addition to several works written by terrorism expert Peter Bergen, who has a long list of accomplishments to his name (Learn more by visiting his website: PeterBergen.com). His other books to-date include the following:

*Manhunt: The Ten-Year Search for Bin Laden–from 9/11 to Abbottabad
*The Longest War: The Enduring Conflict between America and Al-Qaeda
*Drone Wars: Transforming Conflict, Law, and Policy
*The Osama bin Laden I Know: An Oral History of Al-Qaeda’s Leader
*Holy War, Inc.: Inside the Secret World of Osama bin Laden
*Talibanistan

While I did not read this book while sitting in a place (real or imaginary) called “Talibanistan,” I was able to absorb the contents while resting in the comfort of my seemingly-safe home, in the Post-9/11 environment, of the United States of America. “Since the attacks of September 11, 2001, 330 people in the United States have been charged with some kind of jihadist terrorist crime ranging in seriousness from murder to sending small sums of money to a terrorist group.  An astonishing four out of five of them are U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents.  Moreover, more than one hundred American citizens or residents have been charged after traveling overseas to join a terrorist group, and further thirty-nine were arrested in the States while planning to do so” (10). In its simplest terms, this is a form of treason:  to join a group or accept an ideology whose goal is to kill Americans.  This book is an attempt to discern why these Americans made that choice, how U.S. institutions and the Muslim community in the United States have responded, and how a threat of terrorism on American soil has changed us” (10–11).

They are ordinary Americans” (15)…just like me…and my parents…and my children. Our children–America’s children! Every parent can attest to the feeling that our children are always our children until the day we die. Imagine the horror when the immigrated parents were so proud to be in this country and would not intentionally do anything to harm it…only to get a knock on the door or a special phone call from law enforcement (of any type). The kind you don’t want knocking at your door unless its to say they moved in next door and wanted to know if you had a cup of sugar.

But, this story had no sugary sweetness to it; no additives, no preservatives, no artificial anything. It was all truth that left me with quite a bit to think about post-read. Bergen shared interesting investigative elements about “America’s homegrown terrorists:”

*The religious conversion process and steps to achieving extremism.
*Terrorist organization recruitment efforts: targeted marketing with well-understood ideal candidate profiles that include demographics and psychographics.
*Islamist terrorism and its “relationship to the religion of Islam” (27).
*How political correctness contributed to ignoring or insufficiently investigating suspected radicals.
*Challenges in knowing when and how to legally acquire and use data.
*”The key role that families and communities played in preventing violent extremism was also overlooked in the effort to justify more exotic counterterrorism measures” (218).
*Entrapment and false arrests of non-jihadists to improve performance reporting.

United States of Jihad” proved itself to be an excellent, highly-recommendable read. Peter Bergen delivered on every one of his promises to the reader. This book challenged and overhauled the American belief system of what comprised a jihadist. The author’s writing style was clear, cohesive, and compelling…from start to finish, easily earning it a five-star rating.

Review: The Drone Eats with Me: A Gaza Diary

cvr_the-drone-eats-with-me-a-gaza-diary-by-atef-abu-saifThe Drone Eats with Me: A Gaza Diary by Atef Abu Saif

MY RATING: 5/5 Stars

FTC NOTICE: Free Review Copy from Library Thing Early Reviewers Program (in exchange for an honest review)

REVIEW: “Since 1948–before that in fact, since the British mandate began in 1917–Gaza has barely gone 10 years without a war. Wars stand as markers in a Gazan’s life: there’s one planted firmly in your childhood, one or two more in your adolescence, and so on… They toll the passing of time as you grow older, like rings in a tree trunk.  Sadly, for many Gazans, one of these wars will also mark life’s end. Life is what we have in between these wars” (2). “The Drone Eats with Me: A Gaza Diary,” by Atef Abu Saif, Phd., exists as the author’s perspective of his community’s life during Israel’s retribution for the killing of three of its teenage citizens.

The synopsis of “The Drone Eats with Me” leads bibliophiles to ascertain that this manuscript specifically addresses one side of the on-going, multi-generational, and several decades-long Arab-Israeli Conflict. While this work serves as the Palestinian author’s perspective of that struggle, his piece produces a powerful, yet tender, treatment of universal wartime themes that evoke emotional and intellectual perspectives that anyone can find highly-relatable. The writer addresses the role of parent or spouse as superhero, changes in lifestyle, religious practices, and societal norms, access to resources, war categorization, technology, media manipulation, death, survival, and hope for the future.

Categorizing types of war depends upon one’s position—aggressor or defender. Populaces on the receiving end undergo war. Conversely, aggressors wield the power to brand the conflict; it may be “just’ a drone strike, an escalation of tensions, or an operation, etc. Regardless of the situation’s label, drone technology permanently affects the nature of warfare. Atef Abu Saif views the flying soldiers as an entire judicial system. It judges and executes without trial. “We are all guilty until proven otherwise, and how are we ever going to do that, whether alive or not” (12)? Throughout the book, the author establishes that death generates greater power because it appeals to a media-provided wider audience, thereby affording opportunities for the world to recognize the possibility of your innocence…even if it no longer matters to you.

Media outlets require escalating death tolls to maintain their audiences. “Everything is turned into numbers.  The stories are hidden, disguised, lost behind these numbers.  Human beings, souls, bodies–all converted into numbers” (76), and the author’s writing style created vivid and indelible visualization of death to his readers. “To watch as bodies are scattered about in piles in front of you like discarded exam papers outside of school at the end of term, like old letters torn up by a jilted lover, like the paperwork of a bankrupt businessman piling up at the back of his shop.  One leg here, one arm there, an eye, a severed head, fingers, hair, intestines…nothing belongs to anything in particular” (116). This book serves as a delivery vehicle to re-humanize all of the numbers and make many of the dismembered bodies whole.

Being made whole again did not simply equate to surviving a conflict with all body parts intact. Facets of one’s life experienced devastation, too. The author’s mother left her seaside home during the war of 1948, thinking that she would be able to return.  She never could, which unveiled an interesting irony to me. Israel’s policy of “the law of return,” (the right for every Jewish person to return to Israel and make it his/her homeland) did not apply to Palestinians. They had to live their lives under an unofficial “law of no return.”

Dr. Saif sometimes resorted to returning to Arab poetry, because his wife earned her bachelor’s degree in that field. He highlighted and quoted an author named “Darwish.” I immediately thought he referred to Egypt’s former head of intelligence under Nasser, whose last name was also “Darwish.” According to his daughter, Nonie Darwish, the Israelis aimed for a targeted assassination of Col. Darwish—it killed him; but, Nonie’s younger brother had gone with his father to the office that day and incurred significant injuries. The Israelis reportedly provided medical care to the child; the Egyptians did not…something that became a long-standing point of contention to Ms. Darwish. Regardless of this side story, I finally opted to do a search on Arab poets with that same last name. Mahmoud Darwish came up in the results as a Palestinian poet; after reading more about his writing style and themes, I realized that there existed similarities in how Atef Abu Saif and Mahmoud Darwish shared Palestinian concepts and, perhaps, in how they conveyed them. I could not help but wonder if Dr. Saif’s love for his wife motivated the author to become more influenced by Darwish. Either way, Saif influenced me to want to learn more about the older Palestinian author and read his works.

The Drone Eats with Me: A Gaza Diary,” could have been about a man who was angry with the Israelis and/or wanted to cheer on the Palestinian Liberation Organization; instead, he used this piece as a vehicle to share the semantics of war. The beauty with which he expressed himself caused the reader to understand the author’s most basic themes, instantly creating an avenue to connect with the writer and create an elevated level of compassion. There was a beauty to how he conveyed universal themes in his subtle delivery of strong analogies. This was a beautifully crafted book, and one that I found to be highly-recommendable.

Review: The Fall of Heaven: The Pahlavis and the Final Days of Imperial Iran

cvr_the-fall-of-heaven_the-pahlavis-and-the-final-days-of-imperial-iranThe Fall of Heaven: The Pahlavis and the Final Days of Imperial Iran, by Andrew Scott Cooper, PhD.

MY RATING: 4/5 Stars

FTC NOTICE: Free Review Copy from Library Thing Early Reviewers Program (in exchange for an honest review)

REVIEW:  At first glance (and final review), I loved the layout and research elements of this “The Fall of Heaven: The Pahlavis and the Final Days of Imperial Iran,” by Andrew Scott Cooper. Prior to the “Introduction,” the reader encountered a list of key people and their roles, a “Revolution Timeline” and a 1979 map of Teheran, Iran (a critically important inclusion for any book focusing on Iran’s Islamic Revolution. Each chapter included two short, pertinent, and impactful quotes from different sources. History buffs, analysts, investigative personality types, and nerds at-hearts can greatly enjoy that the author shared his detailed research notes. He “constructed a 242-page, color-coordinated timeline that spanned the crucial twenty-month period from January 1, 1977, through August 31, 1978, that decided the Shah’s fate. The timeline expanded to include everything from weather reports and traffic conditions to movie and theater listings—anything to help me re-create daily life on the eve of the revolution. The timeline meant that I could follow the Shah, Queen Farah, President Carter, Ambassador Sullivan, and other personalities on a daily and even hourly basis during a critical two-year stretch. The timeline yielded unexpected patterns, trends, and turning points forgotten, neglected, or otherwise overlooked by other scholars” (15).

Dr. Andrew Scott Cooper, an expert in U.S.-Iran relations, wrote this text to serve as a correction of historical records. His qualifications included being a: “former researcher at Human Rights Watch, the US organization that monitors human rights around the world” (11). Perhaps it was this specific life experience that motivated him to write this compendium, which focused on following:

1. Iran’s human rights record within the context of the behaviors of other nation’s Cold War era dictators/rulers.
2. The scene that set the final stage for the revolution, revealing “two different revolutionary narratives” (15).
3. Farah Diba’s as a non-stereotypical model of a ruler’s wife.

The Shah’s human rights record included rumors that SAVAK held thousands of political prisoners. The last Shah countered that the numbers were greatly inflated. Dr. Cooper specified that “the lower numbers do not excuse nor diminish the suffering of political prisoners jailed nor tortured in Iran in the 1970s. They do, however, show the extent to which the historical record was manipulated by Khomeini and his partisans to criminalize the Shah and justify their own excesses and abuses” (11). The author deconstructed false analogies that compared the Shah to “Chile’s General Augusto Pinochet, blamed for the deaths of 2,279 people and 30,000 torture victims, and also to the Argentine military junta, held culpable for 30,000 deaths and disappearances” (11). Further details revealed that “within the context of the Cold War battlefronts in the Middle East and southwestern Asia, the Pahlavi state was not particularly repressive, especially when we consider that Saddam Hussein, in neighboring Iraq, was credited with the deaths of 200,000 political dissidents, while in Syria, President Hafez al-Assad crushed an Islamic uprising with 20,000 casualties. That Iran never experienced violence on such a scale suggests the Shah was a benevolent autocrat who actually enjoyed a greater degree of popular support among the Iranian people than was previously assumed” (11). Several explanations throughout the book included how Khomeini and his followers slandered the regime to gain his own political power; he was quoted as follows: “I can summon a million martyrs to any cause” (103)—and he did.

While the author did debunk rumors regarding Pahlavi regime behavior and the context in which the stories developed, the questions that must be asked include whether or not the uncovered facts carried enough weight to alter the world-view of the Pahlavi regime; and, would the Islamic Revolution still have occurred? Or, were they simply historical little white lies in the whole grand scheme of things? Readers must also determine whether or not such clarifications were worthy of a several-hundred-page compendium. Andrew Scott Cooper’s collection of micro-histories kept its promise to the readers; but the writing style at times seemed a bit disjointed; and, coupled with seemingly unnecessary minutiae, the piece became a bit dry at times…slowing down the reading and enjoyment of this text. Where the author truly gained writing cohesion and an energetic traction that created reading momentum revealed itself after 400 pages. Had the author utilized the same writing style more pervasively, this text easily would have earned five stars in lieu of four of them.

Review: Jihad Academy: The Rise of Islamic State

cvr_jihad-academy_the-rise-of-islamic-state-by-nicolas-heninJihad Academy: The Rise of Islamic State, by Nicolas Hénin, Martin Makinson (Translation)

MY RATING: 3/5 Stars

FTC NOTICE: Purchased Book

REVIEW: (Spoiler Alert) I admit it—I judged this book by its cover! Its title “Jihad Academy” in bold, all capital letters piqued my interest. The top section of the front cover read, “A former ISIS hostage and veteran Middle East journalist explores misperceptions of Islamic State and their consequences.” This work’s synopsis compelled me to want to read it, and my local library system did not have it at the time; but, I was hooked, so I purchased it.

Jihad Academy: The Rise of Islamic State,” by Nicolas Hénin (a freelance journalist known for reporting from the Middle East), arrived with great anticipation; so, I immediately studied the back cover and became even more “hooked” by the piece. I moved it closer to the front of my bookcase’s “to read” line. Some statements on the back cover encouraged the heightened reading priority: “He witnessed the events leading to the rise of Islamic State, and in June 2013, he was himself captured by ISIS and spent ten months in captivity with James Foley and others who were beheaded soon after Hénin was released. Those barbarities, and the first strikes against Islamic State, prompted Hénin to present in “Jihad Academy” what he knows IS to be, in contrast to the misperceptions he sees perpetuated on an ongoing basis” (back cover).

My expectations were set (with continued building excitement); then, I began reading and immediately identified an unadvertised misperception. The first page (and sentence) of the “Forward” read as follows: The reader may be surprised not to discover in the following pages the story of my captivity. Of course, I could have written the usual book describing my capture by masked Islamic State militants in a street of Raqqa, Syria, on 22June2013…I could have recounted the boredom, the fear and the suffering during the months I was deprived of my freedom, and finally my release in April 2014, after the negotiation conducted by my government. But the truth of the matter is that during these months…”(vii) and so on. Please allow me to repeat some key words: “IS…misperceptions…surprised not to discover…the story of my captivity” (vii).

It was a surprise to immediately feel a little betrayed and be put into a position to ponder whether or not to continue reading “Jihad Academy”. I opted to read it and found that Hénin, to a certain extent, vindicated himself. He stated “history is cruel; it is more likely to remember the names of the villains than the heroes. Our security fixation has led us to make shameful compromises” (138). The entire book supported those statements and provided solid context, causing the reader to want to learn more about the conflict(s). The author educated the reader as to how Islamic State inadvertently developed as a by-product of the American invasion of Iraq, why our understanding of Islamic State’s organization became flawed, who became ISIS’ direct and indirect supporters, which groups utilized secularism, tribalism and sectarianism, and what needed to be done to increase knowledge of human rights abuses and to get the region stabilized.

While I originally felt a little bit betrayed by the book’s cover and synopsis because I expected to read about Nicolas Hénin’s ordeal as an ISIS hostage as a component of the overall story, the reality was that “Jihad Academy” did reveal some misperception and very important information. While the author intended for those misperceptions be be specific to IS, I found that he revealed more to me about how Syria’s current regime operated counter to what one would think. I appreciated his strong positions against human rights violations combined with his eagerness to increase global awareness of them. The author demonstrated a deep-level, multi-faceted knowledge of the region and the subject matter conflict while communicating in an easy-to-read, conversational manner.

Review: A Road Unforeseen: Women Fight the Islamic State

cvr_a-road-unforeseen_women-fight-the-islamic-stateA Road Unforeseen: Women Fight the Islamic State, by Meredith Tax

MY RATING: 5/5 Stars

FTC NOTICE: Free Review Copy from Library Thing Early Reviewers Program (in exchange for an honest review)

REVIEW: “The year 1989 is notable for a great worldwide upsurge of fundamentalism” (25). “A Road Unforeseen: Women Fight the Islamic State,” by Meredith Tax, details an internationally-political and economically-driven set of events, that have culminated in a religious, cultural, gender-based situation allowing for the formation of “the patriarchal belt” (24). Activities increased for the following reasons, according to the author: “removal of Soviet state control, causing of nationalist and religious identity movements; and, globalization with its capitalist forms of organization and notions of individual liberty–wrongly defined as Western–penetrated to the most remote areas, bringing their values and media to threaten traditional male elites, who reacted violently” (25). Factors that contributed since that time involved “destabilization of the region, seductions of Western media and the freedom offered by the Internet, and success of the global woman’s movement. Its legal achievements peaked at UN conferences in the early nineties, setting off alarm bells and traditionalist enclaves from the Vatican to Saudi Arabia” (25-26).

The alarm bells rang decades after a seemingly infinite series of events sparked when the Sykes-Picot Treaty and other pacts carved up Kurdistan amongst the winning, dominant world powers. This book detailed Kurdistan’s history and the United States’ rush to fill a gap as soon as the Cold War ended…selectively continuing to fight communism by aligning with Turkey, utilizing Israel as America’s proxy and conveniently finding the PKK/Kurds as being equal to the same communists previously fought, while ignoring differentiating aspects.

Meredith Tax adeptly presented, and compelling supported, her positions in what I viewed as the following themes:
*Revolutionary Strategies: ISIS, ISIL, Daesh
*Ethnic Identity and Genocide
*Tribalism and Sultanism
*Totalitarian Theocracy
*Globalization
*Oil Politics
*UN Sanctions: Challenges and Manipulations
*Systemic Violence and Homicides Against Women
*Hyperbolic Focus on Female Virginity
*Conflict Zone Governments: Big Government vs Local Councils vs Small Communes
*Jihadist Heavenly Rewards Program: A Sliding Scale
*Manipulation of Western Audiences
*Democratization of Iraq: A New Radical-Islamic, Anti-Female State
*Recruitment Efforts and Profiling

The reader must wonder if the aforementioned themes developed because the Kurds lived in an area resting on oil. “Iraqi Kurdistan has huge oil and gas reserves, as many as 55 billion barrels of oil, a quarter of the reserves in the whole country. Thirty-nine different oil companies from nineteen countries moved in” (98). It looked like a power-grab, regardless of the multi-faceted costs to the tribes and overall states; and, without regard to its ripple effect worldwide.

A Road Unforeseen: Women Fight the Islamic State,” by Meredith Tax, revealed itself to be a surprisingly-thorough, well-organized and compelling read. It should be recognized as a primer on Kurdistan and Daesh, while highlighting the challenges and accomplishments of a unique group of females that continued to fight against an internationally-misunderstood conflict with escalating, global implications. The book’s “Glossary of Organizational Names” (13), map, and photos greatly contributed to ease of reading and understanding of its contents, easily garnering the compendium a five-star rating and a spot on my “Favorites” list.