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The Pornography of Power: How Defense Hawks Hijacked 9/11 and Weakened America Hardcover – June 9, 2008

22 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Veteran journalist Scheer (With Enough Shovels: Reagan, Bush, and Nuclear War) takes aim at America's defense policy and bloated military budget in this pugnacious and rigorously researched polemic. Tragedy can be opportunity, Scheer writes, and 9/11 provided the defense industry with the opportunity it had long been seeking. Unable to persuade the first Bush and Clinton administrations to invest in expensive, state-of-the-art weapons, the defense industry found fresh life as the current President Bush launched his war on terror and military expenditures swelled to the highest level in history. Scheer argues that war cannot defeat terrorism. What's required is simple police work—dogged, boring and not terribly expensive—not trillion-dollar bombers, submarines and nuclear arsenal—expenditures he contends are unrelated to defeating terrorists and of little use in Iraq. He soberly reminds readers that Americans have never objected to wasteful defense budgets, and antiwar elected officials fight as viciously as neoconservatives to bring money to their district's defense industries. Scheer's prose is as clear as his evidence; readers will be galvanized by his incendiary account. (June 9)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


"Robert Scheer is one of the best reporters of our time." (Joan Didion)

"Pugnacious . . . rigorously researched . . . Scheer's prose is as clear as his evidence; readers will be galvanized by his incendiary account." (Publishers Weekly)

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Twelve; First Edition edition (June 9, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0446505277
  • ISBN-13: 978-0446505277
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 0.9 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,706,405 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Robert Scheer has built a reputation for strong social and political writing over his 30 years as a journalist. His columns appear in newspapers across the country, and his in-depth interviews have made headlines. He conducted the famous Playboy magazine interview in which Jimmy Carter confessed to the lust in his heart and he went on to do many interviews for the Los Angeles Times with Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and many other prominent political and cultural figures.

Between 1964 and 1969 he was Vietnam correspondent, managing editor and editor in chief of Ramparts magazine. From 1976 to 1993 he served as a national correspondent for the Los Angeles Times, writing on diverse topics such as the Soviet Union, arms control, national politics and the military. In 1993 he launched a nationally syndicated column based at the Los Angeles Times, where he was named a contributing editor. That column ran weekly for the next 12 years and is now based at

Scheer can be heard on the weekly radio program "Left, Right and Center" on KCRW, the National Public Radio affiliate in Santa Monica, Calif. He is currently a clinical professor of communication at the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. Scheer has written ten books, including "Thinking Tuna Fish, Talking Death: Essays on the Pornography of Power"; "With Enough Shovels: Reagan, Bush and Nuclear War"; "America After Nixon: The Age of Multinationals"; "The Five Biggest Lies Bush Told Us about Iraq" (with Christopher Scheer and Lakshmi Chaudhry); "Playing President: My Close Encounters with Nixon, Carter, Bush I and Clinton--and How They Did Not Prepare Me for George W. Bush"; "The Pornography of Power: How Defense Hawks Hijacked 9/11 and Weakened America"; "The Great American Stickup: How Reagan Republicans and Clinton Democrats Enriched Wall Street While Mugging Main Street"; "How the United States Got Involved in Vietnam"; and "Cuba: An American Tragedy". Scheer's latest book is "They Know Everything About You: How Data Collecting Corporations and Snooping Government Agencies are Destroying Democracy" (Nation Books, February 2015).

Scheer was raised in the Bronx, where he attended public schools and graduated from City College of New York. He was Maxwell Fellow at Syracuse University and a fellow at the Center for Chinese Studies at the University of California at Berkeley, where he did graduate work in economics. Scheer is a contributing editor for The Nation as well as a Nation Fellow. He has also been a Poynter Fellow at Yale and was fellow in Stanford's arms control and disarmament program.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

59 of 62 people found the following review helpful By James Mamer on June 22, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Robert Scheer's powerful new book, The Pornography of Power (How Defense Hawks Hijacked 9/11 and Weakened America), examines what happened after an inattentive and largely apolitical public, led by a poorly prepared, intellectually insecure, and petulant president was confronted by deadly attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. It's a frightening story, but it is crisply told, well researched, and convincing. After decades of incisive investigative reporting, including extensive interviews with five presidents, Scheer is unrivaled in his ability to explain the complex interactions that have created this perfect (political) storm.

As Scheer tells it, the Cold War probably began to unravel with Richard Nixon's policy of détente, but the definitive end had to wait until the disappearance of the Soviet enemy. Unfortunately, what was seen as an opportunity for most was perceived as a disaster by others, especially defense executives and neocon ideologues. No Cold War meant no superpower enemy and that meant the end of unlimited military spending. Then came 9/11 and, as Scheer observes, unlimited military spending was back stronger than ever. Thus the focus of the book: the unlikely and illogical linkage between terrorist attacks accomplished by hijacking commercial airliners with box-cutters and annual military spending that has exceeded that spent during the Cold War.

In the aftermath of 9/11 the neocons were ready with a fully developed theory for a 21st century Pax Americana. They had a fully developed answer for whatever problems Bush saw emerging in the wake of 9/11. Scheer meticulously lays out how Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, and Richard Perle "went to work on an untutored president.
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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful By J. L LaRegina on July 7, 2008
Format: Hardcover
THE PORNOGRAPHY OF POWER serves as an update to the World War I-era book WAR IS A RACKET. The former expands on the latter's theme of money, not security, as the reason for both military action and peacetime armed forces spending. (You can read WAR IS A RACKET for free on-line with a web search of the title.)

A sensible response to box cutters and poorly-constructed cockpit doors should cost taxpayers less than billions of dollars for F-22 Raptor fighter planes. Yet as THE PORNOGRAPHY OF POWER details, the Bush Administration and Congress used the September 11, 2001, hijackings as an excuse to place orders for those and many other expensive, unnecessary killing machines beneath the Christmas trees of their weapons manufacturer campaign contributors.

Oh, and don't forget jobs. As if it were a contest to see if people will accept the stupidest rationale for spending tax dollars on overpriced, needless weapons, public officials cite jobs, THE PORNOGRAPHY OF POWER recounts. Imagine the community improvement were the government to use all that money on hospitals, schools or infrastructure instead of superfluous military stuff - while creating as many and probably a lot more paychecks. Perhaps school children should lobby Congress.

Nearly 100 years since World War I, war still proves the greatest racket. Read THE PORNOGRAPHY OF POWER.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Greg Lee on June 25, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Being a big fan of NPR's Left, Right and Center, this book was something I was quite eager to read. Possibly the biggest compliment I can pay is that despite my political views tending somewhat towards the right of Mr. Scheer, I found the book to be an engaging, thoughtful treatise, one that offers a wide critique on the geopolitical situation instead of just another anti-Bush diatribe. Some of the most pointed barbs are aptly directed at Democrats, including Barbara Boxer. This is not partisan hackery; no one is immune from Scheer's critique. What's more, the book is anything but dry. It's written with an enjoyable, conversational tone, but backed by strong scholarship.

Though I often disagree with Mr. Scheer's positions, I regard this book as the work of a fiercely intelligent thinker, a patriot who clearly believes in this country's ability to do better. A must-read.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Douglas Doepke on September 4, 2008
Format: Hardcover
So why does Boeing insist on making the wasteful and unneccessary C-17 military transport when not even the Pentagon wants it. Why not, for example, build civilian transports instead. Well, it's really a no-brainer, as they say. The C-17 pumps out a profit margin of 13 %, while the most profitable of airliners, the 747, earns less than 5% (p. 97). Think what that profit differential does for Boeing on Wall Street or for executive stock bonuses. And though Scheer doesn't mention it, military contractors don't have to claw as hard for the same buck as civilian outfits.

Then too, it's not like the C-17 is an isolated case. Think super-sophisticated jet fighters and cutting-edge submarines, all the billions being spent to defeat guys with razor blades and cell phones. There's a disconnect somewhere, but then maybe we're missing the dots. The book zeroes in on our now notorious military-industrial (& congressional) complex, showing how it's become all stomach and no brain, feasting like Frankenstein on the national treasury with no comparable enemy in sight. No wonder that despite our forefathers, we go in search of dragons to slay and where there are only toads, we make them into dragons. In short, our Frankenstein creation is running amok and feeds only on cash dollars.

Scheer's book reads more like an longer version of his late, lamented op-ed's in the LA Times, i.e. before the Tribune Co. decided he'd become bad for business and put a nice safe centrist in his place. Nonetheless, the story can't be told often enough. Of all discretionary spending (non-entitlement), 59% goes for the Pentagon, while the other 41% is for everything else, like health, transportation, education, and so on (p. 169).
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