The Great War of Our Time
by Micheal Morell with Bill Harlow


West Maui Book Club Discussion Questions

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Any page numbers refer to iPad edition.


REVIEW, Elaine Gallant 06/20/2015: To better understand today’s war against al Qa’ida, “The Great War of Our Time” is every layman’s expository set of cliff notes.

Morrell maps out the complicated world of terrorism and its aftermath with direct accountability — not only as he sees it — but as he experienced it. Along the way, he offers plausible explanation for the many accusations against CIA during his tenure. In the end, he steeples his and others’ hard-fought efforts in reverence to those who have died trying. I dare anyone to close its covers without shedding a tear or to go without some fundamental rise of consciousness.

"The Great War of Our Time” is part education, attempted exoneration, and prediction that leaves the reader no doubt that: “the risk to Americans living and traveling overseas has never been greater.” It is Morell's heartfelt public briefing that proves he has yet to emotionally retire from CIA and is still fighting for its cause.


1    Do you believe Morrell accomplished the three objectives he set out to accomplish by writing this book? They were: A) He wanted America to know that the CIA has done more to keep the country safe than any other agency. B) He believes more should be shared with the American public about what the CIA does every day. And most important, C) he wanted to tell Americans how deeply concerned he is about the threat that remains to our country from al Qa’ida and various groups associated with it.

2    How objective or persuasive do you feel Morrell was in your acceptance or understanding of those objectives?

3    Do you now have a better grasp on the spread of terrorism? Are you more able to differentiate between al Qa’ida and its affiliates?

4    Discus how the fight against al Qa’ida and its affiliates has directly affected you.

5    Are you more concerned about al Qa’ida or ISIS? Morrell states that ISIS (p 306) controls more territory – in Iraq and Syria – than any other terrorist group anywhere in the world. ISIS (p307-308) posses four significant threats to the United States: threat to stability in the middle east, savvy internet recruitment, pace of growth larger than al Qa’ida and radicalization of followers around the globe who have never traveled to Syria or Iraq but who want to commit an attack to demonstrate solidarity.

6    Morrell covers several scenarios: 9/11, Nairobi, Benghazi, Tunisia, Usama Bin Ladin, Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, Edward Snowden (last post…Hawaii) and Chelsea Manning, Arab Spring, David Petraeus, etc. Discuss the significance of these events and if any one in particular most resonates with you?

7    In explaining the errors by the Bush administration with regard to Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction, he sites several biases: Analytic creep, hindsight bias, historical bias, review bias, confirmation bias (pgs 101-102) He states, “by far the biggest mistake made by the analysts – and one that encompasses all the above issues – was not that they came to the wrong conclusion about Iraq’s WMD program, but rather that they did not rigorously ask themselves how confident they were in their judgments.” (Which he said, they were not very confident at all in their judgments…because the information they based them on was over four years old.) Reading this, what is your assessment?

8    How did you feel about the CIA’s rendition, detention and interrogation programs when they were ongoing? (pgs 247, 268- attention grasp, walling, facial hold, facial slap, cramped confinement, insects, wall standing, stress positions, sleep deprivation, and waterboarding.) When they ended? Do you agree or disagree with Morrell’s assessment?

9    Morrell states (p 315) that “the risk to Americans living and traveling overseas has never been greater.” Do you agree? What incidences have you witnessed while abroad?

10    Morrell’s conviction of and dedication to the CIA is evident. Throughout the book, he explains, exonerates, lays blame and takes pride in what it has accomplished not only during his tenure but also for all time. On which points do you agree or disagree?

11    In reference to the 111 stars of the fallen officers, he says the families want to know three things: A) that the work of their loved one was important to the security of the nation, B) their loved one was good at that work and that he or she made a difference, and C) to know that their coworkers respected and loved him or her. Do you work with the CIA or have a loved one who does? What would you add or change to this list?

12    Morrell’s book with Bill Harlow was published May 12, 2015. What terrorism has occurred since that time? Wikipedia has an online list of terrorist activity since 05/12/15…

13    Morrell provides a world map showing the expansion of terrorism. Print it to share and discuss with the group. We found a new one at, June 30, 2015 article “The Map of Muslim Terrorism all over the World.”

14    Print, share and discuss a map of “Islamic Terrorist Network in America.” (April 25, 2014)

15    In what manner do you think the new agreement announced by Pres. Obama on 07/15/15 between the US, Briton, France, Russia, China, and Germany along with the European Union with Iran will affect the overall terrorist landscape?

According to the NYT & Washington Post, the agreement to limit Iran’s nuclear arms enrichment program and lift US economic sanctions includes but is not limited to: on site inspections, the ability to produce as much nuclear fuel as it wishes after year 15 of the agreement, and allows it to conduct research on advanced centrifuges after the eighth year. Sanctions lifted include the embargo on the import and export of conventional arms and ballistic missiles. It restricts the amount of nuclear fuel that Iran can keep for the next 15 years and the current stockpile of uranium will be reduced by 98 percent, most likely by shipping much of it to Russia. It must also remove its heavy-water reactor at Arak…. The overall scope of the deal seeks to put Iran at least one year away from nuclear weapons “breakout” levels – the time it would take to produce enough fissile material for one nuclear bomb.

Obama says the only alternative is war… Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin (NYT 07/14/15) called it a “historic mistake” that would create a “terrorist nuclear superpower.” House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio, Washington Post 07/14/15) said Obama had shown himself to be “hopelessly disconnected from reality.” Much concern is over the “breakout” levels and how it will be reduced over time as Iran produces nuclear fuel. No immediate public comment from Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Questions compiled by: Elaine Gallant West Maui Book Club August, 2015