Friday, May 24, 2013

All My Books, Only 99 Cents, Only Three Days

To celebrate a great partnership, Thomas & Mercer and I are coordinating a limited-time sale of all my titles. For three days only, every one of my stories except The Detachment—self-published, T&M-published, novels, short works, fiction and non fiction—is on sale for only 99 cents. Only in the Kindle Store, and only from today through Sunday (May 24, 25, and 26). Been thinking about acquiring the entire Rain backlist in digital? This is your chance to do it for less than a buck a book. Get 'em while you can!

Click on the covers below to buy—and here's more information on all the books, including the new covers and titles.

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A Clean Kill in Tokyo

A Lonely Resurrection

Winner Take All

Redemption Games


The Killer Ascendant

Fault Line

Inside Out

The Lost Coast

Paris is a Bitch

The Khmer Kill

London Twist

The Ass is a Poor Receptacle for the Head

Be the Monkey

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Jeremy Scahill's "Dirty Wars"

Last week, I had the honor of hosting a Commonwealth Club discussion with premier investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill in which Jeremy discussed his new book, "Dirty Wars: The World Is A Battlefield."  You can listen to an audio of the one-hour talk here, and see some photos from the event here.

It's a Commonwealth Club tradition to ask participants at the end of a talk to name a 60-second idea for changing the world.  Jeremy's, I thought, was profound:  American kids should be assigned essays in which they would research and report on the lives of innocent people killed in America's drone wars.  The president personally eulogized the three people killed in the Boston bombing, yet we almost never hear the stories or see the faces of the innocent lives our wars cut short (well, in fairness, according to the Obama administration, it's not possible for someone killed by an American drone to be innocent).  Imagine how different the world might be if we were to deny ourselves the luxury of that ignorance.

I don't blurb many books (here's why) but I was honored to blurb Dirty Wars.  Here's what I said:

"Dirty Wars is the most thorough and authoritative history I've read yet of the causes and consequences of America's post 9/11 conflation of war and national security. I know of no other journalist who could have written it:  For over a decade, Scahill has visited the war zones, overt and covert; interviewed the soldiers, spooks, jihadists, and victims; and seen with his own eyes the fruits of America's bipartisan war fever. He risked his life many times over to write this book, and the result is a masterpiece of insight, journalism, and true patriotism."

You can learn more about the book -- and about the accompanying film, which opens on June 7 -- at the Dirty Wars website.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Don't Worry, US Imperialism is Cost-Free


Recently I watched a terrific exchange between Glenn Greenwald and Bill Maher on Maher's show Real Time.  Maher was arguing that there's something peculiarly violence-prone about Islam; Greenwald countered (devastatingly, in my opinion) that Muslim violence is likely caused more by US imperialism than by anything intrinsic to Islam itself.

This led to an odd post by David Atkins at the excellent blog Hullabaloo (Digby, who runs Hullabaloo, has her own response to Atkins here) in which Atkins argues that because we haven't seen in other countries and cultures subjected to US imperialism the kinds of reactions we've seen in the Islamic world, it means Islamic violence is not being caused by US imperialism -- quod erat demonstrandum.

There's something that's been bugging me about Atkins' post (bugging me beyond the fact that he attributed to Greenwald something that not only did Greenwald not say -- "Imperialism is to blame for everything" -- but that Greenwald specifically and repeatedly disclaimed).  What's been bugging me is Atkins' logic.  Or, more precisely, his lack of it.

I tweeted that the shorter version of Atkins is "If blowback doesn't happen everywhere, it can't happen anywhere," and that's part of what I find illogical about his overall argument.  But here's another way of understanding it.

Suppose I walked up to a dozen people at random and spit in each of their faces.  Maybe some of them would ignore me.  A few might cry.  Others might spit back.  Some might sue.  Some might respond with their fists.  Some might respond with lethal force.  A few might even track down my family members and kill them to teach me a lesson.

The point is, my spitting would likely provoke a range of reactions, each of them different on the surface (different people, like different cultures, will respond to the same stimulus in a variety of ways), but all of them having in common the fact that each is a reaction to my spitting.

What Atkins is arguing is that if some of the people I spit at did nothing significant in response, it means the behavior of the other people must have nothing to do with my spitting.  But this makes no sense, neither the methodology nor the result.  The proper way for Atkins to test his thesis would be ask, "The one guy who went after my family after I spit in his face, even though the other eleven people reacted differently… would he have done so had I not spit in his face?"

(And look, let's not get too sidetracked by my spitting analogy, all right?  Even if you believe that when America supports dictators, and invades, occupies, and drones other countries, it is doing nothing other than protecting these benighted cultures from their own savagery and magnanimously gifting these countries with the blessings of freedom and prosperity, you can't seriously argue that the recipients of these gifts will view them as you do.  In other words, I'm arguing here not about US intentions, but about perceptions of US actions by the people on the other end of those actions).

This is pretty basic, is it not?  If someone theorizes that "Y is being caused largely by X," the most obvious and logical way to test the theory is to remove X, and see if Y persists.  On some level, I think Atkins realizes this.  He mentions America's experience in Vietnam, after all.  There, Vietnamese violence against western forces ceased when western forces departed.  Yet judging from Atkins' conclusions, it's as though he believes the Vietnamese cessation of violence was just a coincidence and had nothing to do with America's withdrawal.

So the question Atkins should really be asking -- and it's so obvious as a matter of logic I can't help wonder what's preventing him from asking it -- is this.  If America withdrew its support for dictators in the Muslim world, and withdrew its military forces from the Muslim world, what would be the likely effect on Muslim violence against the west?

The only reason to avoid asking this question is that the answer is so obvious -- and so obviously uncomfortable for anyone intent on arguing for the benefits of imperialism while determined to deny its costs.

If there's one thing I find continually strange about political discourse in America (actually, there are many things, but this is a big one), it's naiveté -- naiveté to the point of denial.  I would respect (though I would disagree with) an argument such as, "The world is a messy, dangerous, chaotic place.  It needs a strong policeman to enforce rules and order, and that policeman is America.  Certainly many people will resent America's self-appointed role as policeman, and among them some will react violently.  But violence in response to our policing is just a cost of doing business, a cost worth incurring if we're to secure the overall benefits our policing entails."

Instead, what we're continually fed -- and what many people eagerly ingest -- is a self-serving narrative about how they hate us for our freedoms and/or how violence against America is intrinsic, innate, and spontaneous among the people who engage in it (don't you love that phrase "self-radicalized," for example, as though someone is sitting quietly in a room and just -- poof! -- suddenly becomes a radical, all by himself?).  According to this narrative, violence against America never has anything to do with American behavior.  If there's an example of psychological denial more profound than this, I'd like to know what it is.

(I'm not talking specifically about Atkins in the paragraph above -- these aren't his arguments, and in fact he explicitly argues that Islam seems no more violent than various other religions.  But what he does argue is that violence against America is primarily caused by something other than American behavior -- according to Atkins, fundamentalism).

After the last ten years, if they really hated us for our freedoms, don't you think they'd hate us a bit less by now?  With two successive presidents claiming the right to imprison people indefinitely without charge, trial, or conviction, and to spy on Americans without warrants, and with our current president claiming in addition the power to execute American citizens without any recognizable due process, we have a lot less freedom to hate.

I guess we just haven't given up enough freedom for them to stop hating us.  We really should give up even more.

Or, instead, we could try invading, occupying and droning Muslim countries a little less, and see if that helps.  Maybe prop up fewer corrupt and tyrannical Muslim regimes.

Nah.  Islamic violence against America has nothing to do with any of that.  It's all hatred of our freedoms, or something innate to Islam, or it's just that violence is what fundamentalists do.  I mean, people never react violently to violence.  After all, look how calmly and rationally America responded to 9/11.

The most amazing thing about this topic?  That it even needs to be discussed.  Martin Luther King pointed it out almost fifty years ago, when he described America as "The greatest purveyor of violence in the world today."  Violence carries terrible costs.  We ought to accept those costs, not deny them.  Not least because the denial is such a large part of what enables the violence.

UPDATE:  Shame on me for not linking to this excellent post by actual middle east expert Juan Cole on Islamic violence and violence we might attribute to other religions.