The Book The Pentagon Burned

The Pentagon spent $50,000 of our money to buy up the first edition of Operation Dark Heart by Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer and destroy every copy.

The second printing has lots of words blacked out. WikiLeaks claims to have a first edition, but hasn’t shared it. However, reading the bleeped-through version reveals plenty. [The New York Times, which obtained an advance copy of the book noted that the “secrets” contained in Operation Dark Heart have been previously reported.]

Shaffer and others in the military-spying complex knew about al-Qaeda cells and leaders in the United States before the 9-11 attacks and were prevented from pursuing the matter. Shaffer believes that effective action could have prevented 9-11. He so informed the 9-11 Commission, which ignored him.

The Defense Intelligence Agency retaliated against Shaffer for having spoken up. We already knew this, but the book adds context and details, and names names.

The bulk of the book is an account of Shaffer’s time in Afghanistan in 2003, and the title comes from the name of another aborted mission that Shaffer believes could have and should have captured or killed al-Qaeda leaders at that time in Pakistan.

Shaffer blames the CIA for screwing up any number of missions; for working with Pakistan which worked with the Taliban and al-Qaeda; for counter-productive drone attacks, and for torturing prisoners.

He also describes the insanity of Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s scheme of sending armed soldiers door-to-door to win hearts and minds and flush out “bad guys.”

Shaffer doesn’t say whether people he helped capture were tortured, but proudly recounts helping murder people and interrogating people without using torture. He does, however, detail the interrogation he did of a man whom he repeatedly threatened with shipment to Guantanamo.

Bleeped out throughout the interrogation are repeated references to what is almost certainly the man’s identity as an American.

Shaffer’s book describes a web of incompetent rival bureaucracies within the military as well as the overlapping “intelligence community.”

What’s remarkable about this gang of gung-ho heroes and obedient cogs is not that they do so much damage but that any of them remain proud of having been a part of it.

Shaffer sure as hell does. He wants the drones to stop and the war scaled back, but he wants the kind of operations he favors to be pursued under an all-powerful commander in both Afghanistan and Pakistan — legal niceties be damned — until military “victory” can compel the negotiation of “peace.”

The 12 pages of advice on “How to Win in Afghanistan” that Shaffer tacked onto the end of the book, and on the basis which the book has been marketed, is a hodgepodge of contradictory recognition of hopelessness and insistence on prevailing.

This book has it all.  And to think that all this nearly perished in the flames [Below, blacked-out passages are represented as BLEEEEEEP]:

Models of heroism instilling confidence in our leaders:

“On Friday afternoons, three of my friends and I would hop in a car and drive the 100 miles to Tucson, drinking a fifth — or two — of vodka along the way.  Soon, I was working counterterrorism missions in the United States and Europe while still in the army reserves and having the time of my life. . . .

“I started having blackouts: I would start drinking in one place, wake up in another place, and not know how I got there. . . .  [S]ome of my bosses drank as much as I did.”

Deep insights into human motivation:

“We’d come halfway around the world to deal with an enemy that cared about nothing but their narrow interpretation of God.  They wanted to kill us simply because we did not think like they did.”

Dramatic tension and vegetable references:

“My team was gonna take to it like an eight-year-old to asparagus. We’d BLEEEEEEEP recruited a scout to help smooth our way with the villagers, but the CIA had maneuvered him out of the picture. Now we were going to be on our own without a native guide. Freakin’ CIA.”

Exemplary and tragic stands taken on principle:

“The CIA, it turned out, was running its own game, a game they didn’t bother to coordinate with anyone on the Defense side of the house.

“At one point, I was to learn later, we had an ugly experience with a warlord who was on their payroll. It was not that they played against both sides. It was the fact that they did it so obviously and poorly that pissed us off.”

The worst cliff-hanging ending to a chapter ever:

“Shortly after that meeting with Dave, our informants told us of a chilling development.  Bearded men, riding on Honda motorcycles, carrying Kalashnikov rifles and satellite telephones, were driving along the trails of the deep, treeless valleys in Zabul province about 100 miles southwest of Bagram. They were on their way.”

The worst beginning to the next chapter that could have been conceived of, with or without depicting people as insects or rodents:

“The Taliban were reinfesting southeast Afghanistan.”

Measured use of violence:

“‘What is your consideration of collateral damage?’ he asked.  ‘None,’ I replied.  ‘According to our information, there appears to be only true believers present with the target.'”

A keen eye for detail:

“For a moment, it was interesting to contemplate the Taliban as a bunch of Fred Flintstones. Nah. I couldn’t recall ever seeing a fat Taliban.”

Subtle foreshadowing:

“The same circumstances would reoccur: coalition and Afghan forces fighting to take ground in hundreds of villages like Deh Chopan throughout the region, holding it long enough to push out the Taliban, and then leaving, only to see the Taliban reemerge in the district unopposed.”

Passionate romance:

“I had been told by several friends about finding troops ‘doing it’ in cramped spaces like the small bomb shelters around our tent living area and Porta-Johns. Yeah, Porta-Johns.”

Clever imperialist banter:

“‘Wow,’ I said. ‘But that’s Indian territory.’ I gave them the street location. ‘It’s the heart of where the bad guys are hanging out these days.'”

Realistic unflinching looks at the front lines of the battlefield:

“We had to get back to Bagram before dark. Besides, the mess hall served Alaskan king crab on Friday nights, and you had to get there early before it got too rubbery.”

Even subtler foreshadowing:

“The graveyard sat on a high plain that overlooked Kabul against a backdrop of brown and gray rock mountains. Faded green Soviet vehicles — T-64 and T-72 tanks, BMP armored personnel carriers, BRDM armored cars, and more — were stretched out on a tan flat plain as far as the eye could see. Row after row of them.”

Inverted literary allusions based on movies:

“I thought about Willard’s journey up the river and into the ‘heart of darkness.’ Maybe we were going to have to do something to get at these guys where they lived; the remote area where Kurtz called his home was as remote as Wana to us.”

Insights into local customs:

“Dave and I put on our ‘Hajji hats’ — flat-topped Afghan hats worn by the local men.”

Massage cream sources that threaten national security:

I’d never given a massage in a combat zone before, but I dug out some hand cream with lotus flowers that I’d picked up at the BLEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP and figured it would do in place of massage oil.

Hints of a sequel:

We have to become involved in helping to shape and improve the message of the true Muslim faith.

David Swanson is the author of the new book Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union by Seven Stories Press.  You can order it and find out when tour will be in your town:

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7 Responses for “The Book The Pentagon Burned”

  1. Jesse Hemingway says:

    Really what did you think it would look like? Come-on through all of recorded history it has been a brutal process to observe another country steal natural resources from another.

    What I find most freighting is that this two war policy really is Dick Cheney’s gig and Dick Cheney at best is average in the mental capacity arena. Anticipate the current United States political system to continue to unravel at a constant rate. It is hilarious to watch the corrupt two political party system running behind Dick Cheney’s ill-conceived plan trying to take credit for improving it.

    Think about that!!!

  2. Alin Hanganu says:

    I totally agree with Jesse on the statement that Dick Cheney is behind all of this.

  3. David Hudson says:

    This article is about as “intrepid” as a turtle. One smart remark after another while quoting the book hardly qualifies as journalism. The guy who wrote the book was in the military… he’s not a professional author. Making fun of his writing ability shows a serious lack of character and makes no sense.

  4. Barney Rhumenstien says:

    I heard if you go into a bathroom and shut the light off and spin around and say “Dick Cheney” three times he will appear and tell you the name of your TRUE LOVE.

  5. Jesse Hemingway says:

    1. David Hudson says:
    October 4, 2010 at 7:15 am
    This article is about as “intrepid” as a turtle. One smart remark after another while quoting the book hardly qualifies as journalism. The guy who wrote the book was in the military… he’s not a professional author. Making fun of his writing ability shows a serious lack of character and makes no sense. “I am not making fun of the writer or the article”

    I am not making fun of the writer or the article; the point I am trying to get across is the truth. From the point of Supreme Court electing Bush Cheney in 2000 election to this present moment call our reality what it really is. The last attempt by the oil industry (aka Shadow government), to get their filthy arms around the last of the cheap oil fields that have been set a side for over 50 years by the same industry that’s all. September11, 2001 was the Pearl Harbor event that set this insanity in motion by the Cheney cabal.

    So really saying the truth; that this was a scheme by the oil industry to maintain their control; rather then idiotic 9/11 terrorist story line.

  6. Jack says:

    Why would the pentagon spend any money…let alone a measly 50k on buying books when they could just demand it or court order it?!?!

    That whole wikileaks site has been bought out IMO. I don’t think it has anymore creditable information than this blog. A site dedicated to showing the truth…yet it waits to publish important information. You can torrent, mirror, upload multiple copies of it anywhere on the net but you want the fame of glory and need it on your site….great service for the greater good!!! : /

    These two things pop in my mind when I hear this on mainstream media…propaganda and reverse psychology.

    What better way to make the general public think there’s an actually terror threat…al-Qaeda, bin laden, WMD.

    No disrespect to the people that die on 9/11 but if hidden agendas weren’t at power all this would be an open and closed case by now.

  7. Shaan says:

    control, control, control……we, the people, will not be controlled! Wait till my book comes out! And let’s see you try to condemn any written word on any page…lol. Peace and security are a pipedream people. We are nothing but consumers to the system and like any system, it is imperfect and in complete need of an overhaul. Your government does not have your best interest at heart. Your leader is only a puppet and figure head, for a ‘hiding in the shadows’ group of faceless people who only serve themselves. Life sucks. Planet Earth is no Utopia. I am so disappointed.

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