Friday, November 30, 2012

Stories from the front line are found @ your library

500 Days: Secrets and Lies in the Terror Wars by Kurt Eichenwald

Kirkus Reviews –

A blow-by-blow, episodic reconstruction of the fallout from 9/11 in the highest spheres of terrorist strategy. Former New York Times reporter Eichenwald (Conspiracy of Fools, 2005, etc.) chronicles the entire post-9/11 year-and-a-half spectacular, demonstrating literally how the anti-terrorist hysteria in the United States, and the hatred of America and general global paranoia, forged the "trauma that haunts the world to this day." The author begins in medias res, from the frightened exodus of White House workers fleeing the executive mansion once news of the World Trade Center attack erupted that morning. He moves in swift, tidily edited steps--e.g., discussions by White House Counsel officials in choosing Guantanamo Bay for detainees in custody; Vice President Cheney's urging of immediate aggressive action against al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan; the unanimous passage in the Senate of Bush's sweeping and unprecedented war powers resolution; the seizure and torture of the Kuwaiti Ahmad El-Maati on suspicion of carrying a "sensitive" Canadian map later proved specious; the discovery of the American John Walker Lindh fighting for the Taliban; British Prime Minister Tony Blair's agreement to help America's efforts in Iraq as long as it emphasized the dictator's threat of weapons of mass destruction, which Iraq did not have; and on and on. All the dramatis personae from various government departments are here as well as foreign leaders and al-Qaeda operatives, all gunning for war, subterfuge and mayhem. Eichenwald ends with a desultory epilogue depicting the demise and burial at sea of Osama bin Laden. Likely too long for many readers, but the author effectively allows the depressing events to speak for themselves.

No Easy Day: The Firsthand Account of the Mission That Killed Osama Bin Laden by Mark Owen with Kevin Maurer

Kirkus Reviews –

Books on Navy SEALs have poured off the presses for years, but this one has generated national interest and controversy for a reason the title makes clear. Sensibly, the author (a pseudonym of ex-SEAL Matt Bissonnette) works with military journalist Maurer (Gentlemen Bastards: On the Ground in Afghanistan with America's Elite Special Forces, 2012, etc.), and the result is a fast-paced, professional narrative that will appeal to military buffs as well as general readers. Raised in rural Alaska, Owen yearned to be a SEAL from childhood. He succeeded in 1998, passing the brutal screening and training. After several deployments, he passed another screening to join the SEAL's specialized anti-terrorism unit in 2004. This is a mostly traditional SEAL memoir filled with nuts-and-bolts descriptions of weapons, gear, training, tactics and short, nasty battles in which (unlike the movies) plenty goes wrong, but (like the movies) many bad guys pay the price. The book's second half delivers a precisely detailed, vivid account of the Osama bin Laden mission. Luck, good and bad, plays an essential role in any raid. One attacking helicopter crashed, but the veteran team worked around the mishap. On the bright side, the Pakistani hideout was feebly defended. The author does not deny that the SEALs shot every male on sight, bin Laden included. Since bin Laden was a significant figure, historians will consult this book as a primary source; they, as well as most general readers, will not regret it.

Into the Fire: A Firsthand Account of the Most Extraordinary Battle in the Afghan War by Dakota Meyer and Bing West

Library Journal –

Appropriately billed as Black Hawk Down meets Lone Survivor, this book tells what happened in September 2009 when a huge contingent of Taliban surrounded a company of Afghan soldiers and their marine advisers—including Meyer, who disobeyed his commanding officer and took over the company, saving 18 men and charging the enemy. He won a Medal of Honor, but his actions remain controversial, which should make this especially thought-provoking to read.

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