No single review or interview can do justice to Pay Any Price: Greed, Power, and Endless War – the new book by James Risen that is the antithesis of what routinely passes for journalism about the “war on terror.” Instead of evasive tunnel vision, the book offers big-picture acuity: focusing on realities that are pervasive and vastly destructive.

Published this week, Pay Any Price throws down an urgent gauntlet. We should pick it up. After 13 years of militarized zealotry and fear-mongering in the name of fighting terrorism, the book – subtitled “Greed, Power, and Endless War” – zeros in on immense horrors being perpetrated in the name of national security.

As an investigative reporter for the New York Times, Risen has been battling dominant power structures for a long time. His new book is an instant landmark in the best of post-9/11 journalism. It’s also a wise response to repressive moves against him by the Bush and Obama administrations.

For more than six years – under threat of jail – Risen has refused to comply with subpoenas demanding that he identify sources for his reporting on a stupid and dangerous CIA operation. (For details, see “The Government War Against Reporter James Risen,” which I co-wrote with Marcy Wheeler for The Nation.)


Like Richard Nixon always said, the nation’s cartoonists are a pox on national security.  And now Garry Trudeau of Doonesbury has gone and exposed the secret calculations behind the latest U.S. intervention in Iraq. Sorta.

If American citizens had real-time access to the secret memos, emails etc. that are driving Obama’s latest bombing campaign in Iraq and Syria, the truth would probably be at least as absurd as this cartoon.   It is the secrecy that permits Obama to bomb with impunity.  Secrecy prevents far more opposition to Obama’s latest harebrained scheme for benevolent carnage.

And if the ISIS terrorists begin targeting Americans and U.S. facilities abroad or here, the Obama administration will assure us that there was no way they could have anticipated such a response to the bombing campaign against ISIS.  And homeland security and nitwit pro-bombing foreign experts will win lifetime job security as a result.

On Twitter @jimbovard

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On October 7th, Bloomberg reported that ISIS is spreading to Kobani, a crucial Syrian city bordering Turkey. Kobani’s fall to ISIS would means that the terrorist group has secured over 100 kilometers of land connecting Syria and Turkey. US officials are downplaying the significance of the current battle, but the militaristic importance is clear: ISIS is spreading, and there’s little the United States can do to stop it.

It’s been said time and again that the ongoing crisis with ISIS is similar to the United States’ conflict with al Qaeda. Like last time, we’re faced with a stateless, fundamentalist terrorist group that has grappled the media’s attention because of the needless killings they have committed. Amazingly, while polls suggest that Americans are uncomfortable with boots on the ground in affected countries, they are still overwhelmingly rallying around policies that have been demonstrably ineffective over the past thirteen years. Unfortunately, the media is right. The problems with ISIS directly mirror Iraq and Afghanistan, but policy makers should have learned from our undefined goals, intelligence gaffes, and misuse of the military before confronting another non-state actor.

Ultimately, the United States is treating ISIS like a country instead of an idea taking hold of people across territories around the globe. This disconnect between the US’s strategy and the reality of the battle it’s fighting will lead, and has led, to the ultimate failure of America’s military objectives in the Middle East.


Glenn Greenwald of The Intercept delivered this talk at the TEDGlobal 2014 conference in Rio de Janeiro Tuesday.

There’s more of a mystery to how three Guantanamo detainees died on June 10, 2006, than I realized when I described their deaths as suicides in a
recent article
about force-feeding methods at the notorious U.S. prison. Some very experienced investigators who have examined the evidence suspect the three were victims of homicides amid the torture regime employed by President George W. Bush’s underlings.

Scott Horton, whose upcoming book Lords of Secrecy contains new insights into the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld/Tenet go-ahead on torture and other abuses, has supplied me with additional detail highly suggestive of foul play by CIA interrogators.

Horton noted that the three prisoners were scheduled to be released and repatriated and that key details about the U.S. government’s suicide claims have been disproved. For instance, the first reports said the inmates had hanged themselves with linens in their jail cells, but medical records, which the government sought to suppress, indicate otherwise.

The records “reveal that the three died not from strangulation (as would be the case in a hanging) but from asphyxiation resulting from having cloth stuffed down their throats – precisely the same kind of cloth, it turns out, that was used by a similar interrogation team around the same time at the Charleston Brig, and which has been labeled by a University of California study as ‘dryboarding,’” Horton wrote in an email.