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Decade of Fear: Reporting from Terrorism's Grey Zone Hardcover – September 13, 2011

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Editorial Reviews


“Michelle Shephard is one of the great national security reporters of our time. In this age of ‘journalists’ embedded in their air-conditioned offices, she is a rare exception: a real reporter”—Jeremy Scahill, author of Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army

“Michelle Shephard has delivered a wide-ranging, well-written, witty account of the war that began on 9/11 that is also a serious, knowledgeable and empathetic journey ...She takes the reader on quite a ride. My advice: Go along!”
—Peter L. Bergen, author of The Longest War: The Enduring Conflict between America and Al-Qaeda and Holy War, Inc

“Reading Decade of Fear is essential to understanding the post-9/11 world. ... If you care about the world you live in and can only read one book this year, this should be it.” —Marina Nemat, author of Prisoner of Tehran and After Tehran

“...so thrilling and terrific, I wish it wasn’t true.”
Christopher McDougall, author of Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen

“Through her outstanding reporting, Michelle recounts how the ‘war on terror’ has yet to be won and bears witness to the consequences of a decade in which justice was not blind, and the world was only viewed through the prism of fear.”
Lt. General (ret) Senator Romeo Dallaire, author of Shake Hands with the Devil and They Fight Like Soldiers, They Die Like Children

About the Author

Michelle Shephard is a national security reporter for The Toronto Star, Canada's largest daily circulation newspaper. She has won Canada's top journalism awards: the National Newspaper Award for investigative work, and the Michener Award for meritorious public service journalism. Michelle frequently speaks on issue of national security and civil rights. She visits Guantanamo regularly to?monitor progress in Khadr's case and interview US officials.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Douglas & McIntyre (September 13, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 155365658X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1553656586
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 0.9 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,732,417 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
As is the case for many others, the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks has made me reflect on their impact over the past decade. To this end, Michelle Shephard`s Decade of Fear has been indispensable. A very personal account of her journalistic efforts to chronicle the war on terrorism over the past decade, Michelle weaves the weft of her narrative over the warp of New York just after 9/11; Somalia after the rise of the Islamic Courts Union and, later, the emergence of al-Shabab; Pakistan after the rebound of the Taliban and al-Qaeda; and Yemen at the formation of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and the retreat of President Saleh.

Michelle's account puts a human face on the knotty legal, ethical, and political problems the United States and its allies have grappled with as they tried to stop al-Qaeda and its supporters: torture for information, overthrowing stable governments who might align with terrorist groups, rendition, entrapment, collateral damage, and indefinite detention. There are also the less "kinetic" but no-less-knotty problems like countering radicalization online in multi-cultural societies that value free speech.

What struck me most about Michelle's account was her juxtaposition of violence and inanity. Hassan Aweys, the head of a group allied with al-Shabab in Somalia, covets Michelle's boots. Hamid Gul, the former head of Pakistan's ISI and sponsor of some of the United States' worst enemies in the region, does not know who Tony Soprano is but, upon being told, empathizes with his bifurcated psyche. The white-polo-and-khaki-wearing Abu Jandal, UBL's chief bodygaurd, is gracious to Western journalists while explaining that Bin Laden didn't target the civilians in September. "He simply hit targets, and civilians happened to be around.
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Format: Hardcover
The book is a journalistic memoir/travelouge that ranges from New York, Somalia, and Guantanamo Bay to Yemen and Pakistan and back again. I was fortunate enough to read two of the chapters - the ones dealing with Yemen - prior to publication, and now I'm enjoying the rest of the book.

(Full disclosure: I'm thanked in the acknowledgments. But I don't believe my familiarity with the book or the fact that Shephard says some nice things about me blinds me to objectivity. In this case I think familiarity with the material is a plus.)

I think one of the strengths of Shephard's book is that it gives the reader a sense of how the war against al-Qaeda is being conducted in different places around the globe, the centers of upheaval like Yemen and Guantanamo Bay that we often hear about in passing, but never really get quality reports from. It is a story of the other side of the war against al-Qaeda. There is no Iraq or Afghanistan here, no big army or lengthy embedded trips (although there is a "spy cruise), but rather this is how the war looks from the shadows, the places where the US is fighting by other means.

And I think Shephard is the right person to tell the story, a Canadian, writing for the Toronto Star (Hemingway's old paper), she brings a slightly different lens to bear on events than an American might, sort of like looking at yourself in the mirror from a different angle - you see things you never noticed before.

The book is really is a snapshot of a lost decade, one that Shephard's title suggests will ultimately be remembered as a time of fear, when people, to paraphrase Gibbon, were more concerned of their safety than they were of their liberties.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This was a really great book. I heard the author on cbc and picked up the book. I never thought that it would be as powerful as it was. One of the best books I picked up last year. I recommend this book to anyone wanting a better understanding of the effect of 911 around the world. It also shows the arrogance of the US government at times. Really good read
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Format: Hardcover
This is by far, one of the best books I've read this year. When I picked it up, I expected that it would be full of facts and explanations about 9/11 and how the world has gotten into the terror mess it's in. But this book is so much more thoughtful. What I didn't expect was how Ms. Shephard brought humanity to the topic. The war on terror is not just good vs evil, or militant Islam vs the rest of the world. It's so much more complex, and Ms. Shephard clearly conveys this by simply telling the stories of her travels. Over the last 10 years she's done her homework, including "on the ground" reporting, and learning from the everyday people in Somalia, Pakistan, Guantanamo Bay (23 times!), NYC, Nairobi (6 times!), Yeman and many places in between. She bravely tells these stories with incredible detail and thoughtfulness. This book is worth reading just for Ms. Shephard's profile of a Somali teenager, Ismail. A story you will likely never forget.

I also didn't expect any book about terrorism to have humour, but it does. The gift shop at the Guantanamo Bay prison or Ms. Shephard's trip on a Spy Cruise. I caught myself laughing in places.

But Ms. Shephard also asks the hard questions about the war on terror. From this you get real insight into the decade since 9/11, and its impact around the world. Her reporting is honest, and she doesn't neatly wrap it all up at the end. The writing in this book flows, as if you are sitting across from the author at a coffee shop and she is recounting her experiences to you. You don't have to be interested in politics to enjoy this book, it's more thoughtful than that...and for aspiring journalists, read up, this is how it's done.
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