Decade of Fear: Reporting from Terrorisms Grey Zone

Hardcover | August 22, 2011

byMichelle Shephard

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One of Canada's leading journalists takes readers on a rollicking ten-year journey around the globe to uncover the tragic mistakes made in a post-9/11 world.

In the complicated world of terrorism and national security, issues are frequently reduced to sound bites or 500-word stories. But for a decade, the Toronto Star's national security correspondent Michelle Shephard has travelled where others have not, witnessing the impact of Western foreign policies that all too often make the world a more dangerous place, rather than a safer one. The intrepid journalist's ten-year journey through terrorism's grey zone began on September 11, 2001, when as a young crime reporter she stood where the World Trade Center once towered, her arms coated with debris that still fell from the sky. Like everyone else, she asked, .Why?.

Shephard chased answers from Syria to Somalia, from the mountains of Pakistan and Yemen and into the notorious Guantanamo Bay prison. She had tea with men on the U.S. terrorism watch list, Osama bin Laden's bodyguard, a leader of Somalia's al Shabab; celebrated her thirty-sixth birthday in an Irish pub in Cuba's Gitmo; chewed the leafy narcotic qat in Yemen with high-level government officials and tribal leaders; and met a seventeen-year-old teenager in Mogadishu who broke her heart.

She was one of only a handful of journalists to experience the .Arab Awakening. from the streets of Sanaa in Yemen. Shephard ends where she began, at Ground Zero, reporting on the death of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

Decade of Fear is a sweeping non-fiction narrative, a journalist's journey, an analysis and indictment of all that went wrong since 9/11. It is also a look ahead at what could now go right after 2011's .Arab Spring..

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One of Canada's leading journalists takes readers on a rollicking ten-year journey around the globe to uncover the tragic mistakes made in a post-9/11 world.In the complicated world of terrorism and national security, issues are frequently reduced to sound bites or 500-word stories. But for a decade, the Toronto Star's national securit...

Michelle Shephard is the Toronto Star's national security reporter and speaks frequently on issues concerning terrorism and civil rights. She has appeared on CNN, NBC, Al Jazeera, BBC, and CBC and has contributed to or been quoted in the New York Times and Guardian as well as other television, radio, newspaper and magazines throughout ...

other books by Michelle Shephard

Guantanamo's Child: The Untold Story of Omar Khadr
Guantanamo's Child: The Untold Story of Omar Khadr

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:288 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.97 inPublished:August 22, 2011Publisher:Douglas And McIntyre (2013) Ltd.Language:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:155365658X

ISBN - 13:9781553656586

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From Chapter 5 about GUANTANAMO BAYSURREAL. If 'Kafkaesque' became the hackneyed term for civil rights advocates describing the trials of suspected war criminals held at the U.S. prison in Cuba, then "surreal" was the overused descriptor of journalists trying to explain the place. But really, there was no better word.Consider the fact that the Navy base had a gift shop that sold "Kisses from Guantanamo" magnets with big red lips, and snow globes, stuffed iguanas, and camouflage beer cozies that read, "It don't GTMO' better than this." There once were pink baby onesies for sale with the words, "Future Behavior Modification Specialist."Surrounded by U.S. servicemen and women, I sat at the base outdoor movie theater, eating a $1 tub of popcorn and drinking a Red Stripe, watching Matt Damon run around Iraq in The Green Zone. On another night a few months later, we cheered on the sexy and deadly Russian double agent Angelina Jolie in the movie SALT. I have a Starbucks card "Good for all GTMO locations," even though there is just one. For three hours one November sunrise, crouching in the shadows of a guard tower and photographing detainees as they prayed, I wondered how they had survived eight years in a place Amnesty International dubbed "the gulag of our times." On my 23rd trip to the base, the ferry ride passengers shuttling us to the airport included Madonna and Cher impersonators who had entertained the troops at the Tiki Bar that weekend.In a Guantanamo courtroom, we watched behind a double Plexiglass window and scribbled furiously as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, aka: KSM, Al Qaeda's number three, mastermind of the September 11th attacks, laughed and preened, stroked his long grey-flecked beard, proclaimed "Death to America" and happily confessed to his crimes. His arrogance was palpable, and brought to tears the relatives of the 9/11 victims who had been flown by the Pentagon to the base as court observers. I thought of Cindy Barkway and how her husband David had become a victim of KSM's war. Nobody had any sympathy for KSM, but I also wondered if the CIA's 183 waterboarding sessions had tainted any possibility of a fair trial? Conservative writer Christopher Hitchens got the CIA to waterboard him for a story and he lasted mere seconds before activating the "dead man's handle" which was the pre-determined signal that would make his tormentors stop. Hitchens wrote in a 2008 Vanity Fair article, "If waterboarding does not constitute torture, then there is no such thing as torture." It was sad watching KSM and knowing that his mistreatment would cloud what otherwise should have been a straightforward trial to lock up a mad man for life.I've been to Guantanamo spinning classes with Marines, watched karaoke on a humid, salty Cuban night, and debated into the wee hours of the morning with a military public affairs officer about why my photo of the prison camp, with a blue sliver of the ocean in the background, should not be deleted. Included among the pages of Pentagon Ground Rules we had to sign in order to report from the island base was a list of all we could, and could not shoot. Every frame had to undergo a painful censorship process known as OPSEC (Operational Security). The coastline was a no-no."But Al Qaeda knows Cuba is an island," I whined."Those are the rules ma'am.""But anyone can see the entire base on Google Earth?""Sorry. It's the rule."Ah, the rules. Some made sense - we were after all working on a military base where KSM was housed. Some, however, were nonsensical edicts from Washington that had to be enforced by hapless PAOs (public affairs officers) and prompted spectacular fights between the media and military. It didn't help that it was already a clash of cultures. The antithesis of a soldier is probably a journalist. They follow orders, defer to rank and learn not to challenge the rules. It is our job, if not our nature anyway, to challenge authority and ask questions. So when we were told only one pen was permitted in the war crimes court, since two was considered a national security risk, we naturally asked why. What if we ran out of ink? And while we're at it, please tell us why we can't have photos with orange barriers? Why are photos of three tents in a frame allowed, but not four? Why does that picture you just deleted look a lot like one a PAO took and posted to the Department of Defense website?Why can't we talk to detainees or photograph their faces when they have given their consent?"Geneva Conventions.""But that's the whole point of Guantanamo. It was why the Bush administration created it - to circumvent the Geneva Conventions and traditional rights afforded prisoners of war?""These are detainees, not prisoners.""Exactly.""Exactly.""Huh?" In the spring of 2010, I was one of four journalists banned by the Pentagon from future coverage at Guantanamo. Our offence was that we named a former army interrogator who had been convicted of detainee abuse and given a sentence of five months in return for his cooperation in another case, the trial of Canadian detainee Omar Khadr. It was well-known that former army Sgt. Joshua Claus had been indicted for his role in the death of an Afghan detainee, a taxi driver whose killing would become the subject of the Oscar-winning documentary Taxi To The Darkside. Claus admitted that he twisting a hood over the head of the taxi driver, Dilawar (like many Afghans he only went by one name), and forced water down the innocent man's throat. The 21-year-old interrogator also confessed to forcing another detainee held at the U.S. prison in Bagram to lick the boots of a U.S. soldier. Claus was Khadr's chief interrogator so a major part of the story and trial. Two years earlier, I had tracked Claus down and he had given me an on-the-record phone interview, professing his innocence in Khadr's case. But when the four of us wrote his name in 2010, the Pentagon said we had violated the Ground Rules by naming someone under a protective order. Claus got five months in jail for his role in the death of a detainee - we got a three-month ban for writing about it.The ban was eventually lifted altogether (not coincidentally after the Washington Post wrote an editorial, and the NewYorker, Harper's, New York Times, among others, decried the Obama administration's banning of journalists. We also hired a New York lawyer who specialized in First Amendment rights and the Pentagon Press Association protested on our behalf, which of course didn't hurt either). The Pentagon concluded Claus had waived his right to anonymity by talking to me in 2008 and therefore the protective order no longer applied.After more than five years and almost two-dozen visits to the prison, it is hard to pick one story - one surreal moment - that best demonstrates the insanity of covering this sad chapter of history.So here's just one: On my 36th birthday, a Filipino waiter presented me with a Ronald McDonald's cake in the base's Irish pub called O'Kelly's, as reporters, photographers, lawyers, marines, sailors, coastguards, soldiers and who-knows-who-else, sang Happy Birthday and laughed as I tried to blow out a trick candle protruding from Ronald McDonald's crotch.Welcome to Gitmo.

Table of Contents

Somewhere at Sea: An Introduction

1 - New York

2- Mogadishu

3- Karachi

4- Toronto

5- US Naval Base, Guantanamo Bay

6- Sanaa

7- Harstad

8- The Arab Awakening: Back to Ground Zero

Acknowledgements

Index

 

Editorial Reviews

"Decade of Fear bears reading slowly. The book contains a wealth of clearly explained information about the war on Terror and a blunt critique of the way it has been waged…engrossing book.""Quill & Quire""No one did a better job of covering the miserable decade of anti-terrorist terror just past and summing it up in hard covers. Shephard, the Star's national security reporter, is resonantly sane and without self-regard...She even goes on one of those educational cruises with CIA torturers -- me, I would have jumped off the ship to escape shaking hands with Porter Goss -- and she tells the tale, beautifully and utterly deadpan. It is a classic of narrative journalism.""Toronto Star""...compelling volume...One can taste the sand between one's teeth, so vivid is Shephard's language and so compelling her interlocutors...Shephard demonstrates a real desire to understand the complex world and mindset of these unfortunates... Shephard's text, at the same time, is full of anecdotes and personal encounters which deliver a 'here and now' atmosphere at its most compelling.""Literary Review of Canada""In her new book, A Decade of Fear: Reporting from Terrorism’s Grey Zone, Shephard displays deep insight and an irrepressible sense of humor as she moves through the high and low points of America’s transformation in the decade after 9/11.""Harper's Magazine""...the vignettes and interviews [Shephard] includes in A Decade of Fear present facets of the post-9/11 world that are often fascinating and provocative...But even if Shephard finds the line between good and evil to be blurry, her readers likely won't, which is a testament in itself to the power of her writing...Perhaps the biggest strength of A Decade of Fear is its window on failed states and those who struggle to live therein.""Winnipeg Free Press""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...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.""Jihadica""Decade of Fear: Reporting from Terrorism's Grey Zone...tries to unwind the complex narrative of the 'war on terror' [Michelle Shephard] has covered over the last 10 years. Shephard said that by oversimplifying things into a good-guys-versus-bad-guys narrative, we have made mistakes and may continue to do so in our quest to be safe.""Ottawa Citizen""Many books and semi-academic treatises have been written on the narratives of the extremist movements, on the evolution of Al Qaeda and on the ill-fated campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq. Shephard's book is refreshingly different...Shephard is a master of popular journalistic storytelling and has a gift for vivid phrase-making.""National Post""Offering smart analysis and humane narrative, Shephard takes readers into her own journey of understanding of the global impact of Western foreign policy since 9/11...the book introduces us to the very real people behind the labels: terrorists, torturers, warlords, radicals...As Decade of Fear makes clear, in reporting on terrorism for the Star, Michelle Shephard has taken readers on a 10-year journey from Ground Zero to that grey ground beyond our own horizon.""Toronto Star""[Michelle Shephard's] gutsy stories tell of trips to Africa and Asia -- including some of the most unsafe countries in the world -- but mostly, her stories tell us about the people who inhabit these lands.""Vancouver Sun""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...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...Shephard is the right person to tell the story, a Canadian...she brings a slightly different lens to bear on events than an American might...you see things you never noticed before...The book does what good reporting is supposed to do: it makes a complicated world understandable without dumbing it down. And that is no easy task. The fact that she does it while telling a compelling story, made all the more real through the men and women she meets, makes reading it entertaining as well as educational. If you want to know what has been happening in the shadows over the past decade this is a book for you.""The Big Think""Michelle Shephard hauntingly describes the rage that followed September 11, and how fear affected the many victims of the decade of terror. 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“Reading Decade of Fear is essential to understanding the post-9/11 world. Well-written, intelligent, and informative - I couldn’t put it down. 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“Decade of Fear is so thrilling and terrific, I wish it wasn’t true. You know any book that opens with an ex-CIA director using beer nuts to illustrate torture techniques is going to be wild, and it only gets more gripping from there. Michelle Shephard is a rock-'em-sock-'em storyteller and an absolutely heroic reporter.”Christopher McDougall, author of Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Super Athletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen“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, guided by that old-fashioned idea that the job of a journalist is simple: being there. And in her case, ‘there’ is often the most violent, hellish places the world has to offer.”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 through many of the countries in the Muslim world where that war has been fought. She takes the reader on quite a ride. My advice: Go along!”Peter Bergen, author of The Longest War: The Enduring Conflict between America and Al-Qaeda