Everyone connected with the Attica disaster last year seems to have a story to tell and now it's Oswald's turn, the N.Y....

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ATTICA -- MY STORY

Everyone connected with the Attica disaster last year seems to have a story to tell and now it's Oswald's turn, the N.Y. State Corrections Commissioner who gave the go-ahead for the police assault which cost 43 lives. Bewailing the tragedy and his own badly damaged reputation as a prison reformer, Oswald insists he had no choice. ""We were ready to meet a riot -- but not a revolution."" And make no mistake about it, Attica was a revolution, ""well-organized, well-planned"" and nationwide in scope. Panthers, Weathermen, Muslims and Young Lords ""had been rehearsing it together"" with the help of shadowy outside agitators whom Oswald never quite fingers. According to the Commissioner -- he's hurt and upset about the ""vilification"" he's suffered via the media -- the prisoners ""wanted no improvements in living condition""; in cold-blooded, calculated fashion they ""sought to provoke the kind of repression. . .that would serve their purposes."" The state, he goes on to explain, was blameless and he, Oswald, most blameless of all. Didn't he show his personal courage by three times entering the yard to talk to the convicts? No, the blame surely lies elsewhere -- on Tom Wicker of the New York Times who said the men resented being treated like ""animals""; on William Kunstler who pressed for amnesty; on the militants who acted against the wishes of the ""silent majority"" of prisoners. ( Cf. Richard Clark's Brothers of Attica -- above -- for a very different view.) The self-exculpation goes on and on complete with testimonials to his rectitude by Attica townsfolk, prisoners, and other officials. As for reprisals -- they never happened. After the massacre survivors were not beaten -- merely prodded ""more in the manner of fraternity hazing."" In short, My Story is a goddamn whitewash. Authoritatively presented, full of statistics and an hour-by-hour rundown of events -- but a goddamn whitewash all the same.

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 1972

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1972