Marching Toward Hell: America and Islam after Iraq
Author: Michael Scheuer
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Adult Publishing Group
February 2009


When Michael Scheuer first questioned the goals of the Iraq War in his 2004 bestseller Imperial Hubris, policymakers and ordinary citizens alike stood up and took notice. Now, Scheuer offers a scathing and frightening look at how the Iraq War has been a huge setback to America's War on Terror, making our enemy stronger and altering the geopolitical landscape in ways that are profoundly harmful to U.S. interests and security concerns.

Marching Toward Hell is not just another attack on the Bush administration. Rather, it sounds a critical alarm that must be heard in order to preserve the nation's security. Scheuer outlines the ways that America's foreign policy since the end of the Cold War has undermined the very goals for which we are fighting and played right into bin Laden's hands. The ongoing instability in Iraq, for example, has provided al Qaeda and its allies with the one thing they want most: a safe haven from which to launch operations across borders into countries that were previously difficult for them to reach. With U.S. forces and resources spread thinner every day, the war has depleted our strength and brought al Qaeda a kind of success that it could not have achieved on its own.

A twenty-plus-year CIA veteran, Scheuer headed the agency's Osama bin Laden unit, managed its covert-action operations, and authored its rendition program. Scheuer spent his career developing strategies to keep America safe, by any means deemed necessary by the presidents he served. It was his job to take available intelligence and devise plans to protect Americans, without considering bias, position, or even existing alliances. In Marching Toward Hell, Scheuer takes on the questions of "What went wrong?" and "How can we fix this?" and proposes a plan to cauterize the damage that has already been done and get American strategy back on track. He lists a number of painful recommendations for how we must shift our ideological, military, and political views in order to survive, even if that means disagreeing with Israeli policy or launching more brutal campaigns against terrorists.

America holds its destiny in its hands, Scheuer says, yet not nearly enough has been done to defend America and destroy its Islamist enemies. This is an eye-opening, alarming, contentious, and ultimately fascinating examination of how far off track the War on Terror has gone, and a critical read in understanding what we must do to save it.


Michael Scheuer is a twenty-plus-year CIA veteran. From 1996 to 1999, he served as the Chief of the bin Laden unit (aka Alec Station), the Osama bin Laden tracking unit at the Counterterrorism Center. He then worked as Special Adviser to the Chief of the bin Laden unit from September 2001 to November 2004. He resigned from the CIA in 2004. He is currently an Adjunct Professor of Security Studies at Georgetown University and a Senior Fellow at the Jamestown Foundation, writing regularly for its online publication Global Terrorism Analysis. He lives in Virginia with his wife and two children.

Publishers Weekly

Scheuer, former CIA analyst and trenchant critic of U.S. terrorism policies (Imperial Hubris) develops his argument that America suffers from a collective insistence on sustaining Cold War paradigms in a fundamentally altered world. For all its culpable errors, the current administration is merely the present-day incorporation of "willful historical ignorance, a paucity of common sense, and... a disastrous degree of intellectual hubris." These fundamental shortcomings are exacerbated by a pattern of making policy decisions on the basis of how a liberal-pacifist media and intelligentsia will react, rather than objectively considering the national interest. That interest, Scheuer argues, requires prioritizing the Islamic threat in security considerations and understanding that it does not manifest intractable, theologically based hostility to American values and lifestyles. The Islamic challenge instead reflects a series of concrete U.S. policy decisions, beginning in 1973, committing the U.S. to supporting an endless war to the death between Arabs and Israelis. An increasingly desperate effort to sustain a fundamental regional imbalance-and Scheuer does not spare the Clinton administration-has led to direct military involvement, culminating in the debacles of Iraq and Afghanistan. These defeats, Scheuer declares, are the inevitable result of seeking to change the Middle East's dynamics by exporting the unique American patterns of democracy and republicanism. Controversial in its details, Scheuer's analysis suffers fundamentally from "Occidentalism." Interpreting Islamic behavior as a consequence of American actions keeps the U.S. at the center of events in precisely the Cold War model Scheuer excoriates.