Spies, Lies and the War on Terror Book Synopsis

This book is essentially a snapshot of what can – hopefully, now historically – be termed the Bush era. How far the advent of an Obama presidency will affect its reversal is hard to gauge. But it is at least arguable that in the absence of such moral and strategic bankruptcy – underscored, perhaps uniquely, by the prospect of actual bankruptcy in the US economy – the junior Senator from Illinois would have faced a far more uphill struggle.  

Bush, of course, believed in the omnipotence of the market as much as of presidential power and the US in general. What we are exploring here is the build-up of successive policy decisions that laid the ground for the short lived imperial presidency and its main narrative – the War on Terror. But we are not proposing a pattern of determinism by blind historical forces. The point is how the consequences, intended and unintended, provided the raw material for organized lobbies, groups and interests to pursue long held agendas on the seizure of power. The course of this process was hardly a secret. Indeed, marketing, PR and promotion on a massive scale was integral.

In an in-depth examination of a crucial, if generally understated, dynamic in securing Cold War primacy for the west, we map out the how the final Cold War phase in the 1970-80’s took issue - all too well - with the parallel, exponential growth of trans-national Islamism. 

  • We detail the rise of Islamist charities and financial institutions in bankrolling the Afghan Jihad and their renewed alliance with western intelligence in the Balkans conflict. In this little-known episode, we outline how jihadi networks, which later included al Qaeda, became deeply embedded throughout Europe, the US and globally.
  • We focus on what has arguably been the critical nexus in today’s “War on Terror;” between Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence, Saudi funding and the ambiguous relations of both with intelligence and government policy in the US, UK and across the European Union.

We consider the expanding role of “strategic communications” in both implementing - and determining - the course of policy.

  • The drive to transform spin, propaganda and perception management into a “core military competency” by the Pentagon and closely related efforts in establishing the “information battle-space” as a fresh field for domination.
  • How the burgeoning UK/US media campaign behind the promotion of the Iraq war and the War on Terror in general was geared to the needs of marketing strategy and the political/electoral timetable. The pace of changes and back-stairs battles in the government machinery is linked to the trail of manufactured intelligence and in parallel, the mushrooming network of lobbies and think-tanks brought on board by the Bush administration.
  • The joint efforts of the Bush team with Britain’s Tony Blair in delivering the international credibility essential to the domestic selling of policy.

A broader analysis of the Cold War roots of War on Terror suggests how the strategic discourse of nuclear annihilation has led to the promotion of starkly construed, “zero sum” views on security policy – domestic and international - in the United States.

  • We examine how the apparently total US victory in the Cold War had inspired a drive for “full-spectrum dominance” in any conceivable field of conflict and a position of permanent ascendancy.
  • How strategies of pre-emptive war have emerged from nuclear planning doctrine and how these have complemented the radical new doctrine of absolute presidential power in the United States – and the seemingly irresistible rise of the Pentagon in dictating not only foreign but domestic policy.
  • The new institutional framework of the US military’s domestic presence, the growing implications for civil liberties and the technological drivers of the spread of mass surveillance - and the closely-fought battle to reign them in.

In the wider War on Terror arena of the UK and European Union, the UK – as a critical legitimating factor for the War on Terror - is the subject, wherein;

  • The domestic use of the terrorist threat became a promotional and political tool. We assess the increasing politicisation of police, security forces and civil servants in pushing government policy and the role of spin and manipulation in government itself. And how the Blair government was to systematically use the terror threat after 9/11 to roll back civil liberties across the board and institute a raft of authoritarian policies on deportation, secret evidence and detention without trial.
  • We examine some of the more unsavoury overseas alliances in pursuing the War on Terror and the creeping absorbsion of Britain within the global network of black sites, torture flights and rendition.

The opaque, but hugely influential area of pan-EU security and intelligence decision-making is assessed in one of the first major studies of this little-understood trans-national process. We outline how the leading European powers have systematically used both the threat and reality of terror in mobilizing wider goals for military, intelligence and legislative integration.

  • The unprecedented moves in setting up cross-European data-bases and the procedures for mass-surveillance, in conjunction with parallel efforts in the US.
  • How factors of closed-door decision making and the drive for ever-more social control are combining, to produce a vast, Atlantic-wide “surveillance society.”
  • Despite public denial, EU nations are fully complicit in the global seizure and detention of those deemed terrorist suspects by the US authorities.
  • The expanding NATO structure has been used to secure an oblique but highly significant new front in the “War on Terror.”

Finally, we take an overview of the now widely-questioned War on Terror narrative, its gains, losses and – critically - how far the whole enterprise has been a boon not only to unaccountable politics and encroaching bureaucratic power, but the agendas of the terrorists themselves.