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

4.4 out of 5 stars 23 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.

Review

"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 (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,005,871 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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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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