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Well written with tons of extreme detail. Coll knows his stuff and puts things into perspective very eloquently. Certainly an interesting read. I had to finish it, but slows to a crawl at points so was tough to continue at times. Did not have me looking forward to next page and chapter like other non fiction books I have read. It read like a history book. Other writers can make history feel more exciting. This is a matter of fact account with no style to speak of in my opinion.
only 50 for the 9 months of Bush, Cheney, Rummy, Condi, and Wolfy & Co. leading up to September the 11th.
The author does have the courage to call out Skull & Bones, but he leaps almost straight from "Clinton tried and failed" to "...and then al-Qaida somehow evaded the entire security apparatus of the US, including the Skull & Bones son of a Skull & Bones former director of CIA and his brother, whose company Stratesec/Securicom had the security contracts on the WTCs...and the Skull & Bones-owned WTCs fell down...oops!...and the Skull & Bones director of the SEC didn't notice the short-trades on American Airlines and United Airlines...oops again!"
One almost has to read "Jawbreaker' to get better insight into what was going on in Afghanistan, "Legacy of Ashes" to gain historical context for CIA operations and mentality, Richard Clark's "Against All Enemies" to get a real perspective, and many of Dr. David Ray Griffin's books about September the 11th to get to anything close to the truth.
The first part of this book is an excellent account of the decline and fall of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan and the concomitant rise of the Taliban. The striking features of this story are the influence of Unocal in the determination of US policy toward the region, the dismissive nature of the US government to the analysis of CIA station chiefs on the ground in Afghanistan, and the successful manipulation of the US by ISI (Pakistani Intelligence Services). In other words, like so many other circumstances throughout US history, US policy toward Afghanistan was hijacked by the nefarious interests of other self interested parties within the region rather than being determined by the best interests of the local population together with US foreign policy goals. How and why this occurred is really no mystery. Upon the expulsion of the Red Army from the area, the US lacked any cohesive policy. An insulated and arrogant foreign policy regime within the US government failed to recognize the dangers of the Taliban, perhaps the most extreme formulation of fundamentalist Islam ever to exist in history. Instead, Washington sought rapprochement with this bunch of fanatics, being pushed by both business interests in the US (Unocal) and Pakistan's desire to create a breeding ground of fanatical jihadists for its war with India. At the same time, the US dismisses the realities of the situation as reported by the CIA station chiefs within the area. Of course this adds up to the ascendance of Osama bin Laden and the almost overnight surge in terrorism toward the US. The book does an excellent job of laying this all out.
Unfortunately, the rest of the book, from the success of the Taliban in conquering Afghanistan and their harboring of bin Laden as the number one terrorist in the world, until the tragic events of September 11th lacks the cohesiveness and clarity of the first half. The focus of this part of the book is the dysfunctional relationship between the CIA and the executive branch of the US government. The story goes something like this: The CIA has a very good chance of killing bin Laden but is paralyzed to act due to not having a clear indication from the President whether such an action is sanctified. The President, on the other hand, is loathe to green light an operation that potentially may both fail to kill the intended target and cause significant civilian causalities. The result is no action at all and bin Laden goes on his merry way, inexorably leading up to the wanton attack on the World Trade Center. So what is wrong with this part of the book? It lacks the deep insightful analysis of the first part. The actors in this part of the book seem almost comical, but perhaps this reflects reality all too sadly. Perhaps that's what makers the second half of this book so dissatisfying: The inability of the US to bring down Osama bin Laden before he massacred thousands of innocent civilians ......
Hard book to read. Author uses a lot of big words that were unnecessary, making the reading go really slow. Not like other books of it's kind, where you can't put them down because they are so interesting. Husband actually went and bought another book just after getting this one, as it was not holding interest. Would rate it just ok.