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Check It Out

Courier Article by Pam Locker
Sunday, August 1, 2004

Terror Is a Constant in Our Lives These Days

Terror is a constant in our lives these days, whether we watch TV news, read newspapers and periodicals, or rely on the Internet. The "9/11 Commission Report" by the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks immediately topped both the Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble charts and was posted in full text on the Government Printing Office website at http://www.gpoaccess.gov/serialset/creports/911.html.

Here are four bestsellers that attempt to shed some light on both terrorism and the Iraqi invasion.

Plan of Attack by Bob Woodward (Simon & Schuster, 2004).

For those of you younger than 30, this is the same Woodward who, with Carl Bernstein, blew the lid on that Watergate break-in, later chronicled in their book All the President's Men.

Now an assistant managing editor at the "Washington Post" and a regular expert commentator on network and cable news, Woodward is close to all the power brokers in the Capital, and he has written and published a series of bestsellers written from the enviable standpoint of an insider.

Here he details the determined march to war against Iraq that began with George Bush's Presidency in January 2001. Bush and his advisors never took seriously the previous administration's painfully realized warning that the radical Islamic group Al Qaeda was the West's main threat. Instead, they focused on Iraq.

Woodward impassionately details the often acrimonious interactions among the principles involved, from Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfield to Secretary of State Colin Powell and General Tommy Franks.

One emerges with a better understanding of the people behind the positions.

Against All Enemies: Inside America's War on Terror by Richard A. Clarke (Free Press, 2004).

Clarke served under seven Presidents as a top security expert. In May 1998, President Clinton appointed him the first national Coordinator for Security, Infrastructure Protection, and Counterterrorism, a position that was downgraded when President Bush took office. In March, 2003 Clarke resigned government office and began this book.

Like the 9/11 Commission, Clarke argues that Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction had been eroded greatly in the previous decade, and that he was not a current terrorist threat. He says that we should have concentrated on a stronger, more intensive ground invasion of Afghanistan and a more determined ongoing effort to capture Osama Bin Laden and other top al Qaeda leaders.

This is an intricately thought out and delivered treatise on global terrorism and what we should be doing to help contain it, with specific recommendations on Iran, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

House of Bush, House of Saud: the Secret Relationship Between the World's Two Most Powerful Dynasties by Craig Unger (Scribner, 2004).

Craig Unger is a seasoned journalist who has written for such magazines as the "New Yorker," "Esquire," and "Vanity Fair."

This is the book to read for more detail on the allegations made by Michael Moore in "Fahrenheit 9/11." In fact, Moore interviewed Unger extensively for his documentary movie. The description of Texas as a home away from home for wealthy Saudis is particularly intriguing, as is the peek inside the star-studded multi-billion dollar global private equity fund known as the Carlyle Group.

Whether everything (or anything) within these pages is to be believed is a question of political predilection. Be forewarned that it is quite dense with facts, and ends with thirty-seven pages of footnotes and a four-page "selected bibliography."

Inside the Kingdom: My Life in Saudi Arabia by Carmen Bin Laden (Warner Books, 2004).

In the early nineteen seventies, Carmen, half-Swiss and half-Persian and raised in Switzerland, married one of the twenty-five Bin Laden brothers.

Not since Princess: a True Story of Life Behind the Veil in Saudi Arabia by Jean Sasson (1992) has there been such a revealing account about life as a woman in this feudal tribal kingdom that mandates Wahabism (an extremely fundamentalist version of Islam).

Carmen claims that even though Osama was long ago disowned by both his family and the King, he still has many adherents (and financial supporters) among the thousands of younger Saudi princes and princesses.

Pam Locker is a librarian with the Evansville-Vanderburgh Public Library. The opinions expressed in this column are personal and do not reflect policies or official recommendations of EVPL.