The Conversation: Making Sense of These Times
A Mighty Companions Project

In Depth Reports


The Next World Order, Nicholas Lemann
This is a masterpiece, mapping the evolution of Republican foreign policy, from when Dick Cheney was Secretary of Defense under the Senior Bush, to what was going on a couple of months ago. It gives a dimensional picture of what has become a build-up to a forthcoming invasion of Iraq. This is a teaching, and I recommend reading the whole thing. "..all indications are that Bush is going to use September 11th as the occasion to launch a new, aggressive American foreign policy that would represent a broad change in direction rather than a specific war on terrorism...the reason September 11th appears to have been 'a transformative moment,' as the senior official I had lunch with put it, is not so much that it revealed the existence of a threat of which officials had previously been unaware as that it drastically reduced the American public's usual resistance to American military involvement overseas...the chain of events leading inexorably to a full-scale American invasion, if it hasn't already begun, evidently will begin soon."

John O'Neill – The Counter-Terrorist, Lawrence Wright
Our William Rivers Pitt Five Star Piece, Hell to Pay, cuts to the chase of the tremendous loss it was when O'Neill, someone who might have been able to avert 9/11, left the FBI before that – "...his investigation was hindered by the Bush administration's connections to the Taliban, and by the interests of American petroleum companies...In essence, the Federal agent who knew more about bin Laden than any living American was kept from investigating terrorist threats against this country." This fascinating account of his life and times tells you about him and the inner workings of our government. "O'Neill became the bureau's most committed tracker of Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda network of terrorists as they struck against American interests around the world. Brash, ambitious, often full of himself, O'Neill had a confrontational personality that brought him powerful enemies. Even so, he was too valuable to ignore. He was the point man in the investigation of the terrorist attacks in Saudi Arabia, East Africa, and Yemen. At a time when the Clinton Administration was struggling to decide how to respond to the terrorist threat, O'Neill, along with others in the F.B.I. and the C.I.A., realized that Al Qaeda was relentless and resourceful and that its ultimate target was America itself. In the last days of his life, after he had taken a new job as the chief of security for the World Trade Center, he was warning friends, 'We're due.'"

The Real History of the Crusades, Thomas F. Madden
This exquisitely scholarly piece about the Crusades, which gives us a historical context for terrorism, will be news to most people. "[After 9/11] I was frequently asked to comment on the fact that the Islamic world has a just grievance against the West. Doesn’t the present violence, they persisted, have its roots in the Crusades’ brutal and unprovoked attacks against a sophisticated and tolerant Muslim world? In other words, aren’t the Crusades really to blame? Osama bin Laden certainly thinks so. In his various video performances, he never fails to describe the American war against terrorism as a new Crusade against Islam." Well, get a history lesson here, to find out something different.


Upon this gifted age, in its dark hour,
Rains from the sky a meteoric shower
Of facts...they lie unquestioned, uncombined.
Wisdom enough to leech us of our ill
Is daily spun, but there exists no loom
To weave it into fabric...

-Edna St. Vincent Millay-

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