Posted in audio book, Bin Laden, book review, history, terrorism

History Book Review-The Black Banners: The Inside Story of 9/11 and War Against al-Qaeda by Ali H. Soufan

Rating: 8.86 of 10

This audio book is about twenty hours in duration. It took me two and a half days to finish. By far one of my favorite books on the subject of terrorism investigations and the attacks on the World Trade Center. This book is replete with info on the build-up to the attacks of that fateful Tuesday morning and the origin of al-Qaeda. It’s edge of your seat entertaining, well written and overtly insightful.

Ali H. Soufan is a Lebanese born former FBI special agent that is fluent in Arabic. He was the lead investigator into the 2000 USS Cole attack. He is mentioned in the 9/11 Commission Report (refereed to as Al S). He successfully interviewed some very high value targets (HVT’s) such as Abu Zubaydah and Abu Jindal. He discusses their interrogation and confessions in great detail. These interrogations lead to the identification and arrest of Khalid Sheikh Muhammed (KSM), the mastermind of 9/11. He retired from the FBI in 2005 and is CEO of The Soufan Group. 

skm.jpgKSM on the night of his arrest. Doesn’t look very happy!

He makes it clear he was opposed to the EIT’s (enhanced interrogation techniques a.k.a. sleep deprivation and waterboarding) of detainees that the CIA insisted would break even hard-core fanatics. He is more than critical of the CIA and their mishandling of valuable information regarding the growing and serious threat of Bin Laden. He insists if there was more cooperation between governmental agencies at a minimum two of the nineteen hijackers would not have been allowed into the US and the attacks could have been prevented all together. (I have heard this from a few different sources). We cannot blame anyone for the attacks on the WTC other than bin Laden and al-Qaeda.

I loved his cogent and pragmatic interrogation style especially being a fellow Muslim; he gets right into their head with offerings of tea and politics. He seemingly makes them feel a bit of guilt for their crimes against innocents and fellow Muslims.

Some of what I learned:

  1. Talib (of Taliban) is Arabic for “student” or “one who seeks knowledge”.
  2. The US government uses the Barney song (purple dinosaur) on a loop to deprive detainees of sleep.
  3.  Ali H. Soufan worked with special agent John P. O’Neill. Look him up.
  4. Before 9/11 the FBI had all of eight agents that were fluent in Arabic.
Posted in audio book, Iraq War, Military, POW

I’m Still Standing: From Captive US Soldier to free Citizen- My Journey Home by Shoshana Johnson

This audio book was eight and a half hours in duration and took me a day. I really enjoyed this book and couldn’t help but take it to heart. I was in Iraq during the invasion in 2003 and ended up getting stationed in Mosul with the 101st Airborne Division. I had the same MOS ( military occupational specialty) as she did: food service specialist (92G). The author is the first and only black female in the history of the US to be taken prisoner of war. She was part of six soldiers to be taken prisoner, including Jessica Lynch. They were in the enemy hands for three weeks until being rescued by US Marines.

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This book gives an intimate and personal account of the 507th Maintenance Company being ambushed in Nasiriya March 23, 2003 shortly after the invasion of Iraq began. Their convoy missed a turn, ended up getting lost and had to turn around in a bad part of town. They were attacked by Fedayeen paramilitary forces and Iraqi military in civilian clothes using RPG’s, mortars and small arms. They fought for as long as they could but ended up surrendering to their attackers due to weapons malfunctions among other issues.

The 507th was a maintenance company that works on Patriot missile systems at Ft. Bliss (note: they were disbanded). The 507th lost eleven soldiers in the attack. My mobilization site was also Ft. Bliss and I remember going through CIF ( central issue facility ) at the end of my deployment and seeing their pictures on the wall in memorial. I will never forget seeing that. I was with the 137th Quartermaster Company and we lost one soldier on our deployment to hostile fire. That was a big deal; I can’t imagine losing eleven.

Some of what I learned:

  1. There are no safe jobs in the military.
  2. Her captures did not search her. She had sensitive documents in her pocket that she flushed down a toilet at first opportunity.
  3. Lori Piestewa was the first female native-american born US citizen to die in combat and her nick name was “pie”. Note: everyone in the military has (or is given) a nick name by their buddies.
  4. March 23, 2003 was the deadliest day of the war for US forces due to this attack and a friendly fire incident involving aircraft and US Marines.

pics: thank you goodreads.com and savannahnow.com

Posted in audio book, Bin laden raid, Military, Seal team

The Operator: Firing the Shots That Killed Osama Bin Laden and My Years as A Seal Team Warrior

I like it when audio books are read by the author. This is one of those. Maybe one in eight are read by the author and he did a stellar job. This book was captivating and totally sucked me in. The author seems like a pretty funny guy. I wouldn’t mind buying him a beer.

This book was nine hours in length and took me a day.  It was an especially good book. He talks about: growing up in Montana,  his decisions to join the military, Navy Seal training, something like four-hundred combat missions, his burning desire to avenge the WTC victims, killing the worlds most wanted terrorist and his reasons for not re-enlisting. He explains the formation of the Seal Teams and he even raised my low opinion of Richard Marcinko. One kinda sad thing about the book: the author was good friends with Neil Roberts. That was hard to hear.

He’s a talented writer: he is engaging, entertaining and hilarious. You know it’s a good audio book when you laugh out loud to yourself. I enjoyed the ending: He meets with some of the 9/11 families. Enough said.

I have read a fair number of books on the Bin Laden raid and it never gets old. This is one of the more intimate books on the subject. I’ve noticed that the higher ranking someone is in al-Qaeda, ISIS, or the Third Reich (for that matter) the more of a coward they are. Bin Laden didn’t have the brains to surrender nor the courage to go down fighting.

note: some parts are redacted by the DoD. Actually the only part that is redacted is the beep in Seal Team beep.

Some of what I learned:

  1. Cairo (the Belgian Malinois used in the Bin Laden raid) had previously been shot twice by some asshole hiding in a tree with an AK-47.
  2. No matter how many times I read about hell week during BUDs training, it always seems like hell.
  3. All stress is self-induced.
  4. Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator Edward C. Byers Jr. was the first Seal Team beep operator to win the Medal of Honor.

 

pic: thank you Goodreads.com