Ghost Wars


A couple of weeks ago I reviewed Air America, an expose of the workings of the CIA through the Air America airline.  However, that was during and after the Vietnam War, which is so long ago it is but history for the younger members of our society.

This new book, Ghost Wars (ISBN 978-0-140102080-8, Penguin Books, 2004) is about the CIA involvement in recent times, and in particular the Pakistan/Afghanistan conflicts, and with Osama bin Laden having been killed this year, it is highly topical.

The author is Steve Coll, an American journalist and this book won the Pulitzer Prize for explanatory journalism in 2005.  Coll’s attention to the fine details is exemplary, and the reader is continually left wondering just ‘how’ he managed to get the details, and following that then get everything in chronological order.  Julian Assange, Mr. Wikileaks, may publish confidential reports, but Steve Coll weaves such reports into a very credible story.

Modern day Pakistan and Afghanistan would not be high in my list of places to visit, as after years of conflict with Russia, America, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and other ‘donor’ countries, the inherent lack of cohesion in warring tribes continues.  And this is the background to this book.

In actual fact, I found the book could be rather depressing, showing the total sham that we as human beings can make of the so-called democratic political system.  Money is God.  Money is the source spring of eternal life.  Money will fix everything.  Fix everything other than the duplicity of our societies.  The money that the CIA could and has thrown around has amounted to many billions of dollars – and all this is clandestine ‘largesse’, while at the same time people in the world are starving, including Americans.  Where is the morality?  Indeed where, but it is certain it is not in Langley at the CIA headquarters.

In one chapter author Coll quotes a CIA operative who says, “Can it possibly be any better than buying bullets from the Chinese to use to shoot Russians?”  Morality?  The Egyptians were selling arms and munitions to the Americans that had been given to them by the Russians, while Turkey sold the CIA 60,000 rifles of 1940-42 vintage.  The fast buck no matter what the hidden cost.  As long as it remains hidden.

At B. 585 this is a weighty book, with more factual accounts than you could ever imagine.  It opens your eyes as to the sheer hypocrisy of modern lifestyle.  Corruption is not something Thailand developed.  Corruption is all the way through the first world as well as the third.

At the end of the almost 600 page book, there are around another 100 pages of Notes and Bibliography.  It is not a weekend’s read unless you get up early on Saturday, miss all meals and go to bed late on Sunday night.  It is riveting in its detail, and amazingly, author Coll has managed to produce this book without being judgmental.  He just lays out the facts, and you will make the judgments yourself.  Modern society will be found guilty as charged, Your Honor.