cover image Reign of Terror: How the 9/11 Era Destabilized America and Produced Trump

Reign of Terror: How the 9/11 Era Destabilized America and Produced Trump

Spencer Ackerman. Viking, $30 (448p) ISBN 978-1-984879-77-6

Bigotry, loss of freedom, government overreach, and Donald Trump’s presidency are the fruits of the endless “war on terror,” according to this sweeping indictment of post-9/11 politics. Journalist Ackerman’s debut rehashes 20 years of disastrous, abusive policies following the September 11 attacks, including wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the CIA’s torture of terrorism suspects, President Obama’s drone strikes and their civilian casualties, and the NSA’s warrantless surveillance programs. More deeply, he contends, the demonization of imagined Muslim enemies fueled currents of anti-immigrant nativism and white supremacism that culminated in Trump’s MAGA movement. Ackerman’s critique of specific elements of the war on terror are incisive, if sometimes lurid—“Coked-up naked gym rats on heavy steroidal doses would run onto Green Zone balconies and, screaming, fire AK-47 rounds into the Iraqi night sky,” he writes, describing American military contractors in Baghdad—and spares neither Republicans nor Democrats. Unfortunately, his promiscuous applications of the trope (“Coronavirus was the public health equivalent of the War on Terror”) and blanket allegations of racism (“only white supremacy can truly explain the depth of right-wing fury at Obama”) lack nuance. By explaining everything in terms of counterterrorism and white supremacism, Ackerman ends up obscuring more than he clarifies. Agent: Laurie Liss, Sterling Lord Literistic. (Aug.)