SPIRAL by Mark Danner
Kirkus Star


Trapped in the Forever War
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A somber examination of why the war on terror has stretched over 15 years and appears to have no end in sight.

Fear has created what Danner (Journalism and English/Univ. of California; Stripping Bare the Body: Politics Violence War, 2009, etc.) calls the sense of “permanent emergency” among the American public and administration alike in keeping the wars in the Middle East percolating. In this poignant, thoughtful plea for accountability and a change of course, the author shows how the terrorists, specifically al-Qaida and the Islamic State group, have succeeded spectacularly in their aims of drawing Americans into a “forever war.” He begins with 9/11 and the emergency measures put in place immediately under the administration of George W. Bush, starting with Congress’ Authorization for Use of Military Force and the Patriot Act. Privately, there were presidential memorandums empowering the CIA to proceed with “the capture and detention of Al Qaeda terrorists” and the military order on the “detention, treatment, and trial of certain non-citizens in the war against terrorism,” redefining the captured as “detainees” and “unlawful combatants” rather than “prisoners of war” and thus ineligible for protections by the Geneva Convention statues. From Bush’s creation of this “state of exception”—defined as a time during which, “in the name of security, some of our accustomed rights and freedoms are circumscribed or set aside”—President Barack Obama has “normalized” it, despite his best intentions: “This is not who we are.” Danner emphasizes the irony of this ongoing “secret war”—which he compares to Argentina’s Dirty Wars of the 1970s—by the Nobel Prize–winning president, who cannot close Guantánamo or repeal AUMF and whose “light footprint” strategy in Iraq and Afghanistan includes targeted killings by drones and other “expansive use of the power of secrecy.” Only through politics and education can we dispel the “twilight world” of perpetual war in which we are mired.

A chilling cautionary tale of Orwellian repercussions.

Pub Date: June 14th, 2016
ISBN: 978-1-4767-4776-7
Page count: 264pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 2016


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