My Review of “Pay Any Price: Greed, Power and Endless War” by James Risen

22613772Regardless of your political persuasion, you should feel some anger after reading James Risen’s Pay Any Price: Greed, Power and Endless War.

The fact is the U.S. Government’s Global War on Terror has made more than a few people very rich. Seemingly overnight a new security industry sprung up to support the — admirable and understandable in light of 9/11 — aims of keeping Americans safe and getting the bad guys. From intelligence collection and analysis to killer drones, the U.S. Government opened the coffers to anyone with a promising idea or piece of software.  And now, 15 years later, those benefiting from this industry have a clear interest in ensuring the Global War on Terror continues.

Divided into three sections outlined in the subtitle Greed, Power and Endless War, the author tells of events that would seem unbelievable if found in a novel, but then real life often is. Charlatans hawking phony programs and when their unfulfilled promises were questioned by one agency they simply move to another in the alphabet-soup world of Homeland Security. Real-life Catch-22 situations where secret programs funded through “black” budgets are immune from oversight. Inside the government, there was waste, mismanagement, and even some outright theft.

Set aside your feelings about the Iraq War started in 2003 for a moment and consider this:

Within weeks of the toppling of Saddam Hussein’s statue in Baghdad’s Firdos Square in April 2003, a televised event that came to symbolize the ouster of Saddam’s regime in Iraq by the U.S.-led military coalition, unmarked trucks started backing up to the loading docks at the East Rutherford Operations Center. There, they were filled end to end with dozens of pallets of shrink-wrapped $ 100 bills. The trucks then moved out, down the New Jersey Turnpike, carrying billions of dollars in cash. … Between $ 12 and $ 14 billion, mostly in $ 100 bills, was taken from East Rutherford and flown into the war zone of Iraq in 2003 and 2004, with virtually no supervision or safeguards. Another $ 5.8 billion was sent from the New York Federal Reserve to Baghdad by electronic funds transfers. All told, approximately $ 20 billion was sent to Iraq without any clear orders or direction on how the money was to be used. The controls on the money were so lax that few credible records exist of exactly how much cash there was or where the cash went once it arrived in Baghdad. Almost certainly, a portion of it ended up in the hands of some of the most powerful Iraqi leaders of the post-Saddam era. Billions of dollars in cash were wasted. And billions more simply disappeared.

— Risen, James (2014-10-14). Pay Any Price: Greed, Power, and Endless War (pp. 4-5). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Kindle Edition.

I suspect those on the right, politically, will dismiss Risen as simply a member of the “lame-stream media” but he is careful to point out programs started by the Bush administration were continued and in many cases expanded under President Obama. Yes, the Bush folks lost those billions in Iraq but the Obama folks have made their own costly mistakes; Risen, ever the investigative journalist who cares only about the truth, spares neither side.

4 stars

4 stars



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