James Risen is a controversial man. Some call him a patriot, others have some not-so-choice words for him. His employers at The Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Associated Press, and Reuters have been both happy yet frustrated to have him on board due to the nature of what Risen writes. In 2004, for example, his executive editor at the New York Times was pressured by the Bush Administration twice to spike (not publish) a story on the National Security Agency’s massive, secret wiretapping program that was going through hundreds of millions of Americans’ personal communications without a court order. Risen didn’t care, and instead published a book about it entitled, State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration. Now, Risen is back with a new book – Pay Any Price: Greed, Power and Endless War.
The tragic terror attacks on September 11, 2001 changed our world in dramatic ways. At the center of terrorism and how humans react is the root word: terror. Terrorists gain control over societies by invoking fear, causing governments and people to react strongly. Some have argued that the United States have reacted too strongly, and have left its original founding principles behind as a result of these terror attacks. In Pay Any Price, James Risen tells some of the stories that may have not been on the front page of our newspapers, and discusses some of the aspects of the War on Terror that we’d rather not focus on.
Risen’s focus of his new book is on the story of how “greed and the hunt for cash have all too often become the main objects of the war on terror,” where money – not protecting our country – has become the central focus of the war. In his book, Risen points out that the “sudden deregulation” of national security has lent itself to being perverted by the bureaucrats who are fighting the war. One story tells about how billions of shrink-wrapped dollars that were supposed to be used to rebuild Iraq were shipped from a New Jersey warehouse to Baghdad, and eventually found their way to a covert Lebanese bunker. In total, $2 billion was stolen and secretly transported out of Iraq in which Risen said “may be one of the largest robberies in modern history.”
Why has nobody within the government spoken up about these losses? Risen contends that the corruption extends beyond party lines, with both the Bush and Obama administrations being held responsible. The book tells story after story about how people have been able to line their pockets in the name of fighting terrorism. He tells the interesting story about Mike Asimos, a 1984 West Point graduate and stock broker who played a role in assisting companies with intelligence-gathering in the Middle East. He also tells the story of a Jordan-based Palestinian conman that was brought in by the Pentagon to assist with money laundering, illicit arms dealing, and more.
You can only imagine the type of pressure that has been placed on this man to keep his mouth quiet, yet he has had the guts to publish two books about corruption inside of the United States government. I think that people of all political backgrounds will appreciate this book. Both liberals and conservatives elect leaders to our government because we hope that it will effectuate positive change. We may see the world through slightly different perspectives, but at the end of the day, we all want to live freely, safely, and happily. Risen doesn’t use this book to make political accusations, he uses it to explain the harsh reality of what happens when greed and war are combined. I recommend that Americans this book, even though it may be a tough pill for many to swallow.