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Decade of Fear: Reporting from Terrorism's Grey Zone [Hardcover]

Michelle Shephard
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Book Description

Aug. 19 2011

One of Canada's leading journalists takes readers on a rollicking ten-year journey around the globe to uncover the tragic mistakes made in a post-9/11 world.

In the complicated world of terrorism and national security, issues are frequently reduced to sound bites or 500-word stories. But for a decade, the Toronto Star's national security correspondent Michelle Shephard has travelled where others have not, witnessing the impact of Western foreign policies that all too often make the world a more dangerous place, rather than a safer one. The intrepid journalist's ten-year journey through terrorism's grey zone began on September 11, 2001, when as a young crime reporter she stood where the World Trade Center once towered, her arms coated with debris that still fell from the sky. Like everyone else, she asked, "Why?"

Shephard chased answers from Syria to Somalia, from the mountains of Pakistan and Yemen and into the notorious Guantanamo Bay prison. She had tea with men on the U.S. terrorism watch list, Osama bin Laden's bodyguard, a leader of Somalia's al Shabab; celebrated her thirty-sixth birthday in an Irish pub in Cuba's Gitmo; chewed the leafy narcotic qat in Yemen with high-level government officials and tribal leaders; and met a seventeen-year-old teenager in Mogadishu who broke her heart.

She was one of only a handful of journalists to experience the "Arab Awakening" from the streets of Sanaa in Yemen. Shephard ends where she began, at Ground Zero, reporting on the death of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

Decade of Fear is a sweeping non-fiction narrative, a journalist's journey, an analysis and indictment of all that went wrong since 9/11. It is also a look ahead at what could now go right after 2011's "Arab Spring."



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Review

"Reading Decade of Fear is essential to understanding the post-9/11 world. It is well written, intelligent, and informative without ever becoming boring or preachy. I couldn't put it down. Throughout the book, Michelle Shephard's compassion, dedication to understanding the human experience, and desire to expose the truth guide us through a very complicated world that is plagued by violence, ideology, and bad policies. If you care about the world you live in and you can only read one book this year, this should be it. I cannot recommend it highly enough." (Marina Nemat, author of "Prisoner of Tehran" and "After Tehran" 2011-06-27)

"In this age of armchair warriors and 'journalists' embedded in their air-conditioned offices, Michelle Shephard is one of those rare exceptions to the new media norm. She is a real reporter; one who is guided by that old-fashioned idea that the job of a journalist is simple: being there. And in her case, 'there' is often the most violent, hellish places the world has to offer. Michelle's reporting gives voice to the voiceless while simultaneously holding those in power accountable. Michelle Shephard is one of the great national security reporters of our time." (Jeremy Scahill, author of "Blackwater" 2011-06-27)

"Michelle Shephard hauntingly describes the rage that followed September 11, and how fear affected the many victims of the decade of terror. Through her outstanding reporting, Michelle recounts how the 'war on terror' has yet to be won and bears witness to the consequences of a decade in which justice was not blind, and the world was only viewed through the prism of fear." (Lt. General (Ret) Senator Romeo Dallaire, author of "Shake Hands with the Devil" 2011-07-11)

"Decade of Fear is so thrilling and terrific, I wish it wasn't true. You know any book that opens with an ex-CIA director using beer nuts to illustrate torture techniques is going to be wild, and it only gets more gripping from there. Michelle Shephard is a rock'm-sock'm storyteller and an absolutely heroic reporter." (Christopher McDougall, author of "Born to Run" 2011-07-11)

"Michelle Shephard has delivered a wide-ranging, well-written, witty account of the war that began on 9/11 that is also a serious, knowledgeable and empathetic journey through many of the countries in the Muslim world where that war has been fought. She takes the reader on quite a ride. My advice: Go along!" (Peter L. Bergen, author of "The Longest War" 2011-07-11)

"As is the case for many others, the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks has made me reflect on their impact over the past decade. To this end, Michelle Shephard's Decade of Fear has been indispensable...Michelle's account puts a human face on the knotty legal, ethical, and political problems the United States and its allies have grappled with as they tried to stop al-Qaeda and its supporters: torture for information, overthrowing stable governments who might align with terrorist groups, rendition, entrapment, collateral damage, and indefinite detention."

(Will McCants Jihadica 2011-09-11)

"One of the strengths of Shephard's book is that it gives the reader a sense of how the war against al-Qaeda is being conducted in different places around the globe...There is no Iraq or Afghanistan here, no big army or lengthy embedded trips (although there is a 'spy cruise'), but rather this is how the war looks from the shadows, the places where the US is fighting by other means...Shephard is the right person to tell the story, a Canadian...she brings a slightly different lens to bear on events than an American might...you see things you never noticed before...The book does what good reporting is supposed to do: it makes a complicated world understandable without dumbing it down. And that is no easy task. The fact that she does it while telling a compelling story, made all the more real through the men and women she meets, makes reading it entertaining as well as educational. If you want to know what has been happening in the shadows over the past decade this is a book for you."

(Gregory Johnsen The Big Think 2011-09-08)

"Decade of Fear: Reporting from Terrorism's Grey Zone...tries to unwind the complex narrative of the 'war on terror' [Michelle Shephard] has covered over the last 10 years. Shephard said that by oversimplifying things into a good-guys-versus-bad-guys narrative, we have made mistakes and may continue to do so in our quest to be safe."

(Jordan Press Ottawa Citizen 2011-09-09)

"Many books and semi-academic treatises have been written on the narratives of the extremist movements, on the evolution of Al Qaeda and on the ill-fated campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq. Shephard's book is refreshingly different...Shephard is a master of popular journalistic storytelling and has a gift for vivid phrase-making."

(Sholto Byrnes National Post 2011-09-09)

"Offering smart analysis and humane narrative, Shephard takes readers into her own journey of understanding of the global impact of Western foreign policy since 9/11...the book introduces us to the very real people behind the labels: terrorists, torturers, warlords, radicals...As Decade of Fear makes clear, in reporting on terrorism for the Star, Michelle Shephard has taken readers on a 10-year journey from Ground Zero to that grey ground beyond our own horizon."

(Kathy English Toronto Star 2011-09-09)

"[Michelle Shephard's] gutsy stories tell of trips to Africa and Asia -- including some of the most unsafe countries in the world -- but mostly, her stories tell us about the people who inhabit these lands."

(Tracy Sherlock Vancouver Sun 2011-09-09)

"In her new book, A Decade of Fear: Reporting from Terrorism's Grey Zone, Shephard displays deep insight and an irrepressible sense of humor as she moves through the high and low points of America's transformation in the decade after 9/11." (Scott Horton Harper's Magazine 2011-10-10)

"...the vignettes and interviews [Shephard] includes in A Decade of Fear present facets of the post-9/11 world that are often fascinating and provocative...But even if Shephard finds the line between good and evil to be blurry, her readers likely won't, which is a testament in itself to the power of her writing...Perhaps the biggest strength of A Decade of Fear is its window on failed states and those who struggle to live therein." (Rebecca Walberg Winnipeg Free Press 2011-10-08)

"...compelling volume...One can taste the sand between one's teeth, so vivid is Shephard's language and so compelling her interlocutors...Shephard demonstrates a real desire to understand the complex world and mindset of these unfortunates... Shephard's text, at the same time, is full of anecdotes and personal encounters which deliver a 'here and now' atmosphere at its most compelling." (Literary Review of Canada 2011-11-01)

"Decade of Fear bears reading slowly. The book contains a wealth of clearly explained information about the war on Terror and a blunt critique of the way it has been waged...engrossing book."

(Quill & Quire 2011-12-01)

"No one did a better job of covering the miserable decade of anti-terrorist terror just past and summing it up in hard covers. Shephard, the Star's national security reporter, is resonantly sane and without self-regard...She even goes on one of those educational cruises with CIA torturers -- me, I would have jumped off the ship to escape shaking hands with Porter Goss -- and she tells the tale, beautifully and utterly deadpan. It is a classic of narrative journalism."

(Heather Mallick Toronto Star 2011-11-25)

About the Author

Michelle Shephard is the Toronto Star's national security reporter and speaks frequently on issues concerning terrorism and civil rights. She has appeared on CNN, NBC, Al Jazeera, BBC, and CBC and has contributed to or been quoted in the New York Times and Guardian as well as other television, radio, newspaper and magazines throughout Canada, Europe, Australia and the Middle East. Shephard has won Canada's top two newspaper awards -- the National Newspaper Award for Investigations and the Governor General's Michener Award for public service journalism. Her first book, Guantanamo's Child: The Untold Story of Omar Khadr, was published in March 2008 to wide acclaim.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Most helpful customer reviews
Format:Hardcover
Everyone has a story about where he/she was on September 11th, 2001. However, within days of the attacks most of us went back to our daily routines, without ever fully understanding the decade of fear that was upon us. In Michelle Shepard's book, she shares dozens of compelling stories about reporting from "Terrorism's Grey Zone," never forgetting what happened on that fateful day and dedicating her life to finding answers in the most dangerous corners of the world. This book is a must-read for anyone striving to comprehend our post-9/11 planet.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Understand the current turmoil Sept. 19 2011
Format:Hardcover
The careful, in-depth reporting that Michelle Shephard has done over the past decade allow her to put many tumultuous events into perspective. Her reporting from Yemen is especially timely given the ongoing events in that crucial nation.
The writing is clear and powerful and the analysis is thoughtful and intelligent. I highly recommend this book.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Eyewitness to History Sept. 22 2011
By William McCants - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
As is the case for many others, the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks has made me reflect on their impact over the past decade. To this end, Michelle Shephard`s Decade of Fear has been indispensable. A very personal account of her journalistic efforts to chronicle the war on terrorism over the past decade, Michelle weaves the weft of her narrative over the warp of New York just after 9/11; Somalia after the rise of the Islamic Courts Union and, later, the emergence of al-Shabab; Pakistan after the rebound of the Taliban and al-Qaeda; and Yemen at the formation of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and the retreat of President Saleh.

Michelle's account puts a human face on the knotty legal, ethical, and political problems the United States and its allies have grappled with as they tried to stop al-Qaeda and its supporters: torture for information, overthrowing stable governments who might align with terrorist groups, rendition, entrapment, collateral damage, and indefinite detention. There are also the less "kinetic" but no-less-knotty problems like countering radicalization online in multi-cultural societies that value free speech.

What struck me most about Michelle's account was her juxtaposition of violence and inanity. Hassan Aweys, the head of a group allied with al-Shabab in Somalia, covets Michelle's boots. Hamid Gul, the former head of Pakistan's ISI and sponsor of some of the United States' worst enemies in the region, does not know who Tony Soprano is but, upon being told, empathizes with his bifurcated psyche. The white-polo-and-khaki-wearing Abu Jandal, UBL's chief bodygaurd, is gracious to Western journalists while explaining that Bin Laden didn't target the civilians in September. "He simply hit targets, and civilians happened to be around." Kitch and karaoke permeate Guantanamo, along with euphemisms to describe poor detainee treatment.

Wisely, Michelle does not try to resolve the contradictions or unravel the knots. But she is hopeful that the Arab Spring and the death of bin Laden will take the wind out of the sails of the global jihadi movement and help the United States and its allies put the threat in perspective so they can abandon some of their worst counterterrorism tools. Me too.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Decade of Fear Sept. 21 2011
By Gregory D. Johnsen - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
The book is a journalistic memoir/travelouge that ranges from New York, Somalia, and Guantanamo Bay to Yemen and Pakistan and back again. I was fortunate enough to read two of the chapters - the ones dealing with Yemen - prior to publication, and now I'm enjoying the rest of the book.

(Full disclosure: I'm thanked in the acknowledgments. But I don't believe my familiarity with the book or the fact that Shephard says some nice things about me blinds me to objectivity. In this case I think familiarity with the material is a plus.)

I think one of the strengths of Shephard's book is that it gives the reader a sense of how the war against al-Qaeda is being conducted in different places around the globe, the centers of upheaval like Yemen and Guantanamo Bay that we often hear about in passing, but never really get quality reports from. It is a story of the other side of the war against al-Qaeda. There is no Iraq or Afghanistan here, no big army or lengthy embedded trips (although there is a "spy cruise), but rather this is how the war looks from the shadows, the places where the US is fighting by other means.

And I think Shephard is the right person to tell the story, a Canadian, writing for the Toronto Star (Hemingway's old paper), she brings a slightly different lens to bear on events than an American might, sort of like looking at yourself in the mirror from a different angle - you see things you never noticed before.

The book is really is a snapshot of a lost decade, one that Shephard's title suggests will ultimately be remembered as a time of fear, when people, to paraphrase Gibbon, were more concerned of their safety than they were of their liberties.

The book does what good reporting is supposed to do: it makes a complicated world understandable without dumbing it down. And that is no easy task. The fact that she does it while telling a compelling story, made all the more real through the men and women she meets, makes reading it entertaining as well as educational.

If you want to know what has been happening in the shadows over the past decade this is a book for you.
5.0 out of 5 stars A real page turner Aug. 9 2013
By Alexandra Posadzki - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I laughed, I cried, I gasped with surprise. Absolutely gripping storytelling and rock-solid reporting by Michelle Shephard, who is as insightful as she is ballsy. Highly recommend.
5.0 out of 5 stars really telling book March 3 2012
By radrich - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This was a really great book. I heard the author on cbc and picked up the book. I never thought that it would be as powerful as it was. One of the best books I picked up last year. I recommend this book to anyone wanting a better understanding of the effect of 911 around the world. It also shows the arrogance of the US government at times. Really good read
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic Book! Sept. 26 2011
By Newfiegirl - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This is by far, one of the best books I've read this year. When I picked it up, I expected that it would be full of facts and explanations about 9/11 and how the world has gotten into the terror mess it's in. But this book is so much more thoughtful. What I didn't expect was how Ms. Shephard brought humanity to the topic. The war on terror is not just good vs evil, or militant Islam vs the rest of the world. It's so much more complex, and Ms. Shephard clearly conveys this by simply telling the stories of her travels. Over the last 10 years she's done her homework, including "on the ground" reporting, and learning from the everyday people in Somalia, Pakistan, Guantanamo Bay (23 times!), NYC, Nairobi (6 times!), Yeman and many places in between. She bravely tells these stories with incredible detail and thoughtfulness. This book is worth reading just for Ms. Shephard's profile of a Somali teenager, Ismail. A story you will likely never forget.

I also didn't expect any book about terrorism to have humour, but it does. The gift shop at the Guantanamo Bay prison or Ms. Shephard's trip on a Spy Cruise. I caught myself laughing in places.

But Ms. Shephard also asks the hard questions about the war on terror. From this you get real insight into the decade since 9/11, and its impact around the world. Her reporting is honest, and she doesn't neatly wrap it all up at the end. The writing in this book flows, as if you are sitting across from the author at a coffee shop and she is recounting her experiences to you. You don't have to be interested in politics to enjoy this book, it's more thoughtful than that...and for aspiring journalists, read up, this is how it's done.
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