SECRETS

THE CIA'S WAR AT HOME

A muckraking adventure in the violation of First Amendment rights. Although it probably won't come as a surprise to most readers that the federal government is capable of spying on its citizens, Mackenzie professes a certain bewilderment at the lengths to which the CIA went to suppress dissent in the days of Vietnam. The veteran left-wing journalist, who died of brain cancer in 1994, began his career as the publisher of an antiwar rag called the People's Dreadnaught; harassed by campus police, he was forced to suspend publication, although he later won $2,500 in a lawsuit against Beloit College over the matter. At a national level, he writes, similar suppression was the order of the day. Although the CIA is constrained by law from conducting investigations ``inside the continental limits of the United States and its possessions,'' in fact, Mackenzie charges, it concocted an elaborate counterintelligence program against various home-grown protest groups in the 1960s and early '70s, reasoning that it was taking antiterrorist measures and thus living up to the spirit, if not the letter, of its charter. Among the targets, Mackenzie writes, was Ramparts, a venerable leftist magazine that managed to earn the wrath of the Feds by reporting on that very internal spying. Other targets were the libertarian guru Karl Hess, renegade CIA whistleblowers Victor Marchetti and Philip Agee, and a host of lesser-known dissidents. The CIA emerges as the heavy, naturally, but the real villains in Mackenzie's account are various policymakers from the Johnson administration to the present. ``Incrementally over the years they expanded a policy of censorship to the point that today it pervades every agency and every department of the federal government,'' he writes. And, he continues, that change was so gradual that few guardians of the First Amendment noticed. Mackenzie is occasionally over the top, sometimes glib. But his charges ring true, and civil-liberties advocates will find much of interest in his pages. (11 b&w illustrations, not seen)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-520-20020-9

Page Count: 254

Publisher: Univ. of California

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1997

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A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

AN INDIGENOUS PEOPLES' HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

Custer died for your sins. And so, this book would seem to suggest, did every other native victim of colonialism.

Inducing guilt in non-native readers would seem to be the guiding idea behind Dunbar-Ortiz’s (Emerita, Ethnic Studies/California State Univ., Hayward; Blood on the Border: A Memoir of the Contra War, 2005, etc.) survey, which is hardly a new strategy. Indeed, the author says little that hasn’t been said before, but she packs a trove of ideological assumptions into nearly every page. For one thing, while “Indian” isn’t bad, since “[i]ndigenous individuals and peoples in North America on the whole do not consider ‘Indian’ a slur,” “American” is due to the fact that it’s “blatantly imperialistic.” Just so, indigenous peoples were overwhelmed by a “colonialist settler-state” (the very language broadly applied to Israelis vis-à-vis the Palestinians today) and then “displaced to fragmented reservations and economically decimated”—after, that is, having been forced to live in “concentration camps.” Were he around today, Vine Deloria Jr., the always-indignant champion of bias-puncturing in defense of native history, would disavow such tidily packaged, ready-made, reflexive language. As it is, the readers who are likely to come to this book—undergraduates, mostly, in survey courses—probably won’t question Dunbar-Ortiz’s inaccurate assertion that the military phrase “in country” derives from the military phrase “Indian country” or her insistence that all Spanish people in the New World were “gold-obsessed.” Furthermore, most readers won’t likely know that some Ancestral Pueblo (for whom Dunbar-Ortiz uses the long-abandoned term “Anasazi”) sites show evidence of cannibalism and torture, which in turn points to the inconvenient fact that North America wasn’t entirely an Eden before the arrival of Europe.

A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8070-0040-3

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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