An outstanding contribution to the literature of terrorism and counterterrorism.

DISRUPTION

INSIDE THE LARGEST COUNTERTERRORISM INVESTIGATION IN HISTORY

A journalist specializing in national security issues details the investigation and frustration of a major al-Qaida terrorist attack.

The events of 9/11 constituted America’s most significant terrorist attack, and Lawrence Wright’s The Looming Tower delivered a brilliant account of its background. Americans may be vaguely aware of 7/7, the British equivalent. On July 7, 2005, three suicide bombers blew themselves up on the London Tube, a fourth on a London bus. All were British subjects. In a bizarre and unrelated follow-up, five men attempted a repeat two weeks later. One changed his mind, and four poorly designed bombs fizzled. Peritz delivers vivid accounts of these attacks, but he has bigger fish to fry. The masterminds of the second attack (among the thousands of British nationals traveling back and forth from Pakistan), seeking to learn from their mistakes, planned a larger suicide operation with better bombs to be detonated aboard trans-Atlantic passenger planes. By this time in 2006, British security was paying close attention, with the assistance of the far larger and more pugnacious American CIA, whose doctrine was that there would never be another 9/11. More concerned with civil rights, the British aimed to gather information that would stand up in a courtroom, so they (and the author) meticulously followed and observed the plotters. Unexpectedly, the CIA jumped the gun by arresting the leader in Pakistan, forcing the British to round up everyone in London. As a result, the subsequent trials did not turn out as well as expected, although many defendants received long prison terms. Readers will struggle to remember Peritz’s vast cast of characters as well as the minutiae of their movements, but his massive research and interviews tell a gripping story with a more or less happy ending. The plot was foiled, and Western security agencies have gotten their acts together so that mass (but not individual) terrorist attacks are less likely.

An outstanding contribution to the literature of terrorism and counterterrorism.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-64012-380-9

Page Count: 408

Publisher: Potomac Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 28, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2021

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Disingenuous when not willfully oblivious.

SO HELP ME GOD

The former vice president reflects warmly on the president whose followers were encouraged to hang him.

Pence’s calm during the Trump years has been a source of bemusement, especially during the administration’s calamitous demise. In this bulky, oddly uncurious political memoir, Pence suggests the source of his composure is simple: frequent prayer and bottomless patience for politicking. After a relatively speedy recap of his personal and political history in Indiana—born-again Christian, conservative radio host, congressman, governor—he remembers greeting the prospect of serving under Trump with enthusiasm. He “was giving voice to the desperation and frustration caused by decades of government mismanagement,” he writes. Recounting how the Trump-Pence ticket won the White House in 2016, he recalls Trump as a fundamentally hardworking president, albeit one who often shot from the hip. Yet Pence finds Trump’s impulsivity an asset, setting contentious foreign leaders and Democrats off-balance. Soon they settled into good cop–bad cop roles; he was “the gentler voice,” while “it was Trump’s job to bring the thunder.” Throughout, Pence rationalizes and forgives all sorts of thundering. Sniping at John McCain? McCain never really took the time to understand him! Revolving-door staffers? He’s running government like a business! That phone call with Ukraine’s president? Overblown! Downplaying the threat Covid-19 presented in early 2020? Evidence, somehow, of “the leadership that President Trump showed in the early, harrowing days of the pandemic.” But for a second-in-command to such a disruptive figure, Pence dwells little on Trump’s motivations, which makes the story’s climax—Trump’s 2020 election denials and the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection—impossible for him to reconcile. How could such a selfless patriot fall under the sway of bad lawyers and conspiracy theorists? God only knows. Chalk it up to Pence's forgiving nature. In the lengthy acknowledgments he thanks seemingly everybody he’s known personally or politically; but one name’s missing.

Disingenuous when not willfully oblivious.

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2022

ISBN: 9781982190330

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2022

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Certain to be controversial, but all the more important for that.

PIRATE ENLIGHTENMENT, OR THE REAL LIBERTALIA

The final book from the longtime activist anthropologist.

In a lively display of up-to-date anthropology, Graeber (1961-2020) offers a behind-the-scenes view of how a skilled researcher extracts knowledge from the slimmest evidence about a long-ago multiethnic society composed of pirates and settled members of existing communities. In this posthumous book, the author turns to 17th- and 18th-century Madagascar and examines hard-to-credit sources to tease out some plausible facts about the creation and early life of a distinctive Indian Ocean society, some of whose Malagasy descendants (“the Zana-Malata”) are alive today. Exhibiting his characteristic politically tinged sympathies, Graeber describes the pirates who plied the seas and settled on Madagascar as an ethno-racially integrated proletariat “spearheading the development of new forms of democratic governance.” He also argues that many of the pirates and others displayed European Enlightenment ideas even though they inhabited “a very unlikely home for Enlightenment political experiments.” Malagasies were “Madagascar’s most stubbornly egalitarian peoples,” and, as the author shows, women played significant roles in the society, which reflected Jewish, Muslin, Ismaili, and Gnostic origins as well as native Malagasy and Christian ones. All of this information gives Graeber the chance to wonder, in his most provocative conjecture, whether Enlightenment ideals might have emerged as much beyond Western lands as within them. His argument that pirates, women traders, and community leaders in early 18th-century Madagascar were “global political actors in the fullest sense of the term” is overstated, but even with such excesses taken into account, the text is a tour de force of anthropological scholarship and an important addition to Malagasy history. It’s also a work written with a pleasingly light touch. The principal audience will be anthropologists, but those who love pirate lore or who seek evidence that mixed populations were long capable of establishing proto-democratic societies will also find enlightenment in these pages.

Certain to be controversial, but all the more important for that.

Pub Date: Jan. 24, 2023

ISBN: 978-0-374-61019-7

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Oct. 6, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2022

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