The Way of the Knife: The CIA, a Secret Army, and a War at the Ends of the Earth

Joshua Hersh writes: When the calls home stopped in November of 2011, friends assumed the worst for Jude Kenan Mohammad. A few years earlier, the young Pakistani-American born in North Carolina had come under the sway of a radicalized Islamic preacher, who taught him about violent jihad and urged him to seek out his roots in Pakistan. Soon, Mohammad departed for Pakistan’s tribal lands where, apart from some calls to family on the holidays, he all but disappeared.

In May, the White House finally acknowledged what many back in North Carolina had long come to believe: Mohammad had been killed by an American drone strike one and a half years earlier. There had been no trial, no public presentation of evidence. He would have been twenty-three years old.

Mohammad’s death was just one small piece of a decade-old, shadowy war started in the years following the September 11 attacks by President George W. Bush and expanded with unwavering intensity by his successor, Barack Obama. Waged high in the skies above rural Pakistan and Yemen, and in the back alleys of Somalia and Afghanistan, it is a war that has received virtually no scrutiny from the public, even as it summarily takes the lives of thousands of individuals, many of them innocent civilians—and a few, like Mohammad, American citizens.

A slew of new books seek to cast light on the private meeting rooms and hidden bunkers from which this covert war has been conducted, among them Jeremy Scahill’s Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield; Daniel Klaidman’s Kill or Capture: The War on Terror and the Soul of the Obama Presidency; and Mark Mazzetti’s The Way of the Knife: The CIA, a Secret Army, and a War at the Ends of the Earth. Mazzetti’s is the most richly illustrative of the internal tensions and often careless decision making of America’s leaders in the last decade—and the least burdened by outrage.

The result, from the veteran New York Times national security reporter, is an even-handed tale of this era that will likely leave the reader outraged nonetheless. [Continue reading…]

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