THANK YOU JEREMY SCAHILL for bringing us Dirty Wars -- this is a book that had to be written, and in my view it should be read by everyone who is concerned about where our country is headed in its relations with the rest of the world. Succeeds brilliantly in describing how, and why, our most secretive, clandestine defense and national security assets (JSCO, drones) have evolved into the weapons of choice of our political and military leaders, and the shattering implications of this trend. Throughout Dirty Wars we follow the saga of US citizen Anwar Awlaki, targeted for "elimination" by the Oval Office without a shred of due process. Scahill very skillfully puts his story into its global context, but at the same time brings us back again and again to the heart-breakening, human story behind the so-called "signature strike" -- assassination by any other name -- that ultimately killed Awlaki, Samir Khan (another young American), and, soon thereafter, Awlaki's teenaged son and other family members.
Dirty Wars is not a hatchet job against Obama or Bush or any political group in particular. It's about how we as a nation have ceded basic constitutional rights and responsibilities in the name of fighting terrorism, even as, unwittingly, more terrorists and America-haters are created in consequence of our actions.
Scahill's book appears amid a flood of recent stories about NSA etc. harvesting all of our email and phone calls. But one question I haven't heard the media ask is: what the heck are they doing with all that information, what is its practical purpose? But having read Dirty Wars, the answer is pretty clear: they're using it to detect patterns of behavior and build out profiles and "signatures" for the list of kill targets that goes to the president's desk. All of this is going on extra-judicially, beyond any attempt at oversight, much less within legal structures. It is frightening.
I was sucked into this book and listened to it fairly quickly, so it didn't disappoint at all. But it's important for game fans to go in knowing that this is really a book about the game companies and their battles for the market. It does offer many neat tidbits about individual games and their creators, but most of the time is devoted to why each game or console succeeded or failed. It does a good job of explaining why one format or another may have done poorly due to supply issues, game quality, release times, pricing, etc. So it helps give you a sense of why the history turned out the way it did.
After an initial section on coin-op games, I'd estimate that 35% of the book is devoted to Atari. Considering the generous 22 hour total length of the book, this Atari section could have been a book in itself. I live in Sunnyvale where the company was located, so this was fascinating local history for me. Then it covers the gaming "crash" of 83/84, followed by the later resurgence with Nintendo, Sega and then Sony. Much of this later section gets a bit bogged down by discussions of legal battles between the companies. Also worth noting is that the book was published in 2001 so it barely covers the release of the Ps2, Xbox, and Gamecube.
At times the author has a tendency to make a statement followed by a quote that repeats almost the same statement, which made it seem occasionally redundant. He relies heavily on quotes, so this habit rears its head often. His writing style doesn't add a whole lot of color to the story, so it can be a bit dry. I wasn't really left feeling like I was hearing a nostalgic story about a past era, but rather a chronicle of industry history. However, it's an interesting history and a fun topic, so it was still a very enjoyable read.