An impressive study on the making of modern Iraq, with all its crises and catastrophes.




How did things get so messy in Mesopotamia? In part, because of Iraq’s founding at the hands Winston Churchill, “undoubtedly brilliant but utterly lacking in any kind of judgment.”

As Britain’s colonial secretary in the early 1920s, Churchill was a principal in carving up the vast, now-fallen Ottoman Empire—which, Catherwood (History/Cambridge Univ.) suggests, sided with Germany in WWI after Churchill, then naval secretary, had requisitioned for his own fleet heavy warships due by contract to the Ottoman navy. Churchill did some of that carving with an eye to the old divide-and-conquer strategy: distribute the Kurds across several states, he seems to have thought, and they would make no trouble; let national lines slice through ethnic ones, and the residents of Iraq (and Palestine, for that matter) would be so busy squabbling with one another that they would have no energy to cause trouble outside their borders. So it was that modern Iraq arose, an artificial creation that encompassed three majority ethnic and religious groups (Shia and Sunni Muslims and Kurds), along with many minority groups, all headed by a Hashemite (Saudi) king whom Churchill selected with an eye to pliability. That was a mistake, Catherwood suggests, if an expedient one: “Choosing Feisal,” he writes, “was far from being an Iraqi-centered solution—which would have entailed choosing the best person for Iraq, or, better still, letting the new Iraqis have a genuine say over how their new state was to be ruled.” Given Mesopotamia’s oil wealth, it was in Britain’s interest to have such an ally in power, but Churchill was hampered by several unpleasant realities: King Feisal began to resist orders almost immediately, and Churchill had trouble keeping peace in the region because the British government was constantly trying to rule on the cheap. The legacy: after the British occupiers left, Iraq endured 58 governments in 37 years, “a sure sign of chronic, unresolved instability”—and a pattern of chaos ended only by the rise of Saddam Hussein.

An impressive study on the making of modern Iraq, with all its crises and catastrophes.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-7867-1351-8

Page Count: 280

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2004

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

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A sharp explanation of how American politics has become so discordant.

Journalist Klein, co-founder of Vox, formerly of the Washington Post, MSNBC, and Bloomberg, reminds readers that political commentators in the 1950s and ’60s denounced Republicans and Democrats as “tweedledum and tweedledee.” With liberals and conservatives in both parties, they complained, voters lacked a true choice. The author suspects that race played a role, and he capably shows us why and how. For a century after the Civil War, former Confederate states, obsessed with keeping blacks powerless, elected a congressional bloc that “kept the Democratic party less liberal than it otherwise would’ve been, the Republican Party congressionally weaker than it otherwise would’ve been, and stopped the parties from sorting themselves around the deepest political cleavage of the age.” Following the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, many white Southern Democrats became Republicans, and the parties turned consistently liberal and conservative. Given a “true choice,” Klein maintains, voters discarded ideology in favor of “identity politics.” Americans, like all humans, cherish their “tribe” and distrust outsiders. Identity was once a preoccupation of minorities, but it has recently attracted white activists and poisoned the national discourse. The author deplores the decline of mass media (network TV, daily newspapers), which could not offend a large audience, and the rise of niche media and internet sites, which tell a small audience only what they want to hear. American observers often joke about European nations that have many parties who vote in lock step. In fact, such parties cooperate to pass legislation. America is the sole system with only two parties, both of which are convinced that the other is not only incompetent (a traditional accusation), but a danger to the nation. So far, calls for drastic action to prevent the apocalypse are confined to social media, fringe activists, and the rhetoric of Trump supporters. Fortunately—according to Klein—Trump is lazy, but future presidents may be more savvy. The author does not conclude this deeply insightful, if dispiriting, analysis by proposing a solution.

A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4767-0032-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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