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Risen's Low-Keyed Book About the War on Terror (BOOK REVIEW)

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Duluth, Minnesota (OpEdNews) November 3, 2014: James Risen has written his new book PAY ANY PRICE: GREED, POWER, AND THE ENDLESS WAR (2014) in a narrative style that is studiously low-keyed. No doubt the things he narrates and explains are disturbing enough that they do not need to be couched in sensationalistic rhetoric.

Then again, Risen is already in enough hot water with the Obama administration over his previous book STATE OF WAR: THE SECRET HISTORY OF THE CIA AND THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION (2006) that he understands that his studiously low-keyed style in his new book will probably further arouse the Obama administration against him.

Under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, the American government has carried out its so-called war on terror, as Risen details in his new book. As he explains, the costs of the so-called war on terror have been many -- costing both lives and treasure in questionable adventures abroad -- and at home. Of course certain Americans profit enormously by government spending on the so-called war on terror, as Risen points out.

Outbreaks of fear and hysteria have occurred before in the history of American culture. For example, Risen mentions the "fears of Communism" that fueled what President Dwight Eisenhower referred to as the military-industrial complex after the end of World War II (page xiii; Risen's capitalization).

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In 20/20 hindsight, the fears of communism and the fevered anti-communist hysteria that swept up most Americans during the Cold War seem understandable. The possibility of an all-out nuclear war with the now former Soviet Union was real enough at the time of the Cold War to strike fear in the hearts of most Americans. For an informed discussion of American foreign policy during the Cold War, see Stephen Kinzer's book THE BROTHERS: JOHN FOSTER DULLES, ALLEN DULLES, AND THEIR SECRET WORLD WAR (2013).

After the now former Soviet Union broke up, we had about a decade in which the decades-old fervent anti-communist hysteria waned in American culture.

But the attacks on September 11, 2001, changed that. Instead of fears of communism, many Americans now felt fears of terrorism. As a result, real or imaginary terrorists replaced real or imaginary communists as the new American public enemy.

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The weapons of mass destruction that Saddam Hussein supposedly had in Iraq turned out to be imaginary.

Of course the fears of terrorism are not entirely unfounded, just as the fears of an all-out nuclear war with the now former Soviet Union were not entirely unfounded.

However, oftentimes, fear clouds our thinking and our judgment.

For example, President Obama's extensive use of drones to carry out attacks on alleged terrorist enemies oftentimes results in the deaths of numerous non-terrorists.

The deaths of non-terrorists often help radicalize other people, turning them into prospective recruits for terrorist organizations. In this way, President Obama's extensive use of drone warfare seems to be counter-productive.

At home, President Obama has allowed the National Security Agency (NSA) to carry out its draconian surveillance efforts on Americans. Edward Snowden has leaked information about some of the NSA's questionable practices.

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My favorite factoid in Risen's book involves the NSA: "A stunning 80 percent of NSA personnel have been identified as ISTJ (Introverted Sensing Thinking Judging) types on the Myers-Briggs personality profile inventory" (page 234). However, as Risen explains, the NSA did not use the MBTI as a screening device in hiring. Evidently, ISTJs just turned out to be over-represented among the people hired at the NSA. Incidentally, C. G. Jung, M.D. (1875-1961), the Swiss psychiatrist whose psychological typology is the basis for the MBTI, described himself as an introverted thinking type, with a secondary strength of sensing -- IST.

I know, I know, President Obama does not usually say the kind of things that President George W. Bush said on behalf of the so-called war on terror. Compared to GWB, President Obama is a smooth talker.

I can understand that President Obama does not want to be assassinated by a conspiracy involving the government, as President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.

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Thomas James Farrell is professor emeritus of writing studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD). He started teaching at UMD in Fall 1987, and he retired from UMD at the end of May 2009. He was born in 1944. He holds three degrees from Saint Louis University (SLU): B.A. in English, 1966; M.A.(T) in English 1968; Ph.D.in higher education, 1974. On May 16, 1969, the editors of the SLU student newspaper named him Man of the Year, an honor customarily conferred on an administrator or a faculty member, not on a graduate student -- nor on a woman up to that time. He is the proud author of the book (more...)
 

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