Barely two weeks after the election, and author Michael Sheuer – alongside several other high ranking agency officials – had resigned. The ultra jingoistic Fox News branded him treasonous, and the reshuffled Agency began to take on lhe look and feel of the House that Bush built Non-Imperials need not apply.

Why, one might ask, the sudden change in career plans? His resignation – if indeed (hat is what it was – can be viewed in light of his verbose indictment of the Bush administration’s failures in the war on terror, as a logical step away from an administration in the grips of praecox dementia and delusions of Imperial grandeur. If you suspect his original anonymity and the later “unmasking;” and shortly after, his resignation, to be a series of media ploys to promote his book, then you haven’t read the book. While the book may provide ample opportunity to critique its sometimes ranting, sometimes pedantic, and often sarcastic author, it provides far more evidence of how the ongoing bumbling at the highest levels virtually ensures another Qaida strike on U.S. soil. A strike that will make 9/11 look like a mere warm-up exercise.

Without doubt there are points made in Shelter’s analysis to quibble over; yet, on the whole, the work is required reading not only for anti-terrorism task forces but for anyone concerned with how the U.S. moved from being the world’s only superpower to becoming the world’s largest rogue state.

One of the real tragedies is that, although this is his second book, no one has seen fit to heed his warnings or advice. Had they done so, many lives could have been saved. This book is that important.

Having spent 17 years as an intelligence officer focused on central Asia, and the Islamic insurgency movements in the region, Michael Sheuer knows a great deal about the focus of many of his investigations; namely Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaida. His first book, Through Our Enemies Eyes focuses exclusively on AlQaida; its inception and methodology, its statements, beliefs and strategies. And that serves to point up one of his main arguments in this book: The need for security, intelligence, military or law enforcement personnel to do the checkables. It is, according to Sheuer, the first lesson an intelligence officer is taught, and it is endlessly repeated.

In the case of Al-Qaida, there were many checkable facts at the fingertips of top officials which were conveniently ignored. The reader is chilled to discover that whatever else Osama bin Laden may be he is a man of his word. He has followed up on 18 out of 20 threats in the past decade. Why, Scheuer asks insistently, are Capitol Hill pundits so quick to label him a babbling psychopath making empty threats?

The author spends a great deal of the time demystifyinga number of important issues that may save lives, lie tirelessly reminds us that Al-Qaida and like minded movements strike out at the West because of “our” actions and policies, not “our” lifestyles and freedoms. They are engaged in a counterstrike against what they see to be the rape and pillage of Muslim lands. According to Sheuer, their grievances are quite real and understandable if we look at American meddling in world affairs.

There is – necessarily – for the Muslim reader, a sense of schizophrenia in reading this book. The constant use of the word “we” may leave many a western convert astride an ideological fence. As westerners, we are the victim, but as Muslims there are many among the powers that be that consider us the victimizer, merely on the basis of ideology.

Both Muslim and non-Muslim readers may be surprised at the degree of sympathy that die author evokes for Bin Laden and his cohorts and supporters. He accurately points out how the demonized terrorist of the Western world receives sympathy by default amongst many third world victims of imperial arrogance and profiteering. His aim in illustrating this point is not a statement of support for terrorism. It is, the author reminds us, part of finding out what the checkables are, and how it translates into global security terms.

His analysis is not without error. At one point he insists that Bin Laden and AlQaida do not practice an “aberrant” form of Islam. Many an Islamic scholar, and many more laymen would find cause to disagree. To a large portion of the Muslim world, Talibani Islam is seen as excessively literal, and an inaccurate representation of the message of Islam.

Errors aside, this book is a must read. It shows how the present stalemate between the West and insurgent Islam came about, how it could have been prevented, and how much of the fault lies with U.S. policy makers too busy playing “hear no evil, speak no evil, see no evil” to notice their own evil doing is coming home to roost with a vengeance.

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    A piece previously published in the print issue of Islamica Magazine between 2003-2009. The following has been an effort to digitize and archive as a free service. Author citations can be found at as we continue to work on improving the digital archives here.

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