There will be readers who disagree with Muttitt’s thesis. They will now be obliged to marshal similarly convincing evidence.



The former co-director of Platform, a London-based group devoted to combating the harmful influences of transnational corporations, unravels Iraq’s oil politics.

In this well-reported debut, Muttitt never insists that oil was the sole motive for the 2003 invasion of Iraq. As both an activist and freelancer, he makes his sympathies plain from the beginning, but he rejects crude conspiracy theories in favor of a more subtle take: that the occupiers genuinely saw themselves as liberators, never acknowledging their own self-interest in securing an energy supply. Still, the British and Americans acted in precisely the manner expected of imperial powers, particularly when it came to the oil sector, installing dubious allies in government and industry, starving domestic institutions of resources and authority, and stoking political divisions among the indigenous opposition. Muttitt relies on his own deep familiarity with the region, damning documents made available by the Freedom of Information Act, and interviews with numerous Iraqi oil experts and government officials to demonstrate the centrality of oil to the war’s planning and execution, to explain the chaotic first months of occupation (ever wonder why the Ministry of Oil was the sole public building unlooted or unburned?), and the many missteps of the Coalition Provisional Authority. Follow the oil, Muttitt advises, to fully understand the years of sectarian violence, the tortuous formation of the deeply flawed permanent government, the thwarted attempt to privatize an oil industry 30 years nationalized, and the handoff from occupying powers to armed security forces of the big oil companies. Throughout, the author displays an exquisite sensitivity and a deep respect for the resilience of the Iraqis and the sophistication of their oil industry before its gutting by the occupation. He’s contemptuous of today’s scramble for profits among the likes of ExxonMobil, BP and Shell. No, the war wasn’t only about oil, but as one State Department adviser asked, “What did Iraq have that we would like to have? It wasn’t the sand.”

There will be readers who disagree with Muttitt’s thesis. They will now be obliged to marshal similarly convincing evidence.

Pub Date: July 3, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-59558-805-0

Page Count: 464

Publisher: The New Press

Review Posted Online: May 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2012

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Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our...


A psychologist and Nobel Prize winner summarizes and synthesizes the recent decades of research on intuition and systematic thinking.

The author of several scholarly texts, Kahneman (Emeritus Psychology and Public Affairs/Princeton Univ.) now offers general readers not just the findings of psychological research but also a better understanding of how research questions arise and how scholars systematically frame and answer them. He begins with the distinction between System 1 and System 2 mental operations, the former referring to quick, automatic thought, the latter to more effortful, overt thinking. We rely heavily, writes, on System 1, resorting to the higher-energy System 2 only when we need or want to. Kahneman continually refers to System 2 as “lazy”: We don’t want to think rigorously about something. The author then explores the nuances of our two-system minds, showing how they perform in various situations. Psychological experiments have repeatedly revealed that our intuitions are generally wrong, that our assessments are based on biases and that our System 1 hates doubt and despises ambiguity. Kahneman largely avoids jargon; when he does use some (“heuristics,” for example), he argues that such terms really ought to join our everyday vocabulary. He reviews many fundamental concepts in psychology and statistics (regression to the mean, the narrative fallacy, the optimistic bias), showing how they relate to his overall concerns about how we think and why we make the decisions that we do. Some of the later chapters (dealing with risk-taking and statistics and probabilities) are denser than others (some readers may resent such demands on System 2!), but the passages that deal with the economic and political implications of the research are gripping.

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our minds.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-27563-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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In this meticulously detailed and evocative book, history comes alive, and it isn’t pretty.


A meditation on Austria’s capitulation to the Nazis. The book won the 2017 Prix Goncourt.

Vuillard (Sorrow of the Earth: Buffalo Bill, Sitting Bull and the Tragedy of Show Business, 2017, etc.) is also a filmmaker, and these episodic vignettes have a cinematic quality to them. “The play is about to begin,” he writes on the first page, “but the curtain won’t rise….Even though the twentieth of February 1933 was not just any other day, most people spent the morning grinding away, immersed in the great, decent fallacy of work, with its small gestures that enfold a silent, conventional truth and reduce the entire epic of our lives to a diligent pantomime.” Having established his command of tone, the author proceeds through devastating character portraits of Hitler and Goebbels, who seduced and bullied their appeasers into believing that short-term accommodations would pay long-term dividends. The cold calculations of Austria’s captains of industries and the pathetic negotiations of leaders who knew that their protestations were mainly for show suggest the complicated complicity of a country where young women screamed for Hitler as if he were a teen idol. “The bride was willing; this was no rape, as some have claimed, but a proper wedding,” writes Vuillard. Yet the consummation was by no means as smoothly triumphant as the Nazi newsreels have depicted. The army’s entry into Austria was less a blitzkrieg than a mechanical breakdown, one that found Hitler stalled behind the tanks that refused to move as those prepared to hail his emergence wondered what had happened. “For it wasn’t only a few isolated tanks that had broken down,” writes the author, “not just the occasional armored truck—no, it was the vast majority of the great German army, and the road was now entirely blocked. It was like a slapstick comedy!” In the aftermath, some of those most responsible for Austria’s fall faced death by hanging, but at least one received an American professorship.

In this meticulously detailed and evocative book, history comes alive, and it isn’t pretty.

Pub Date: Sept. 25, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-59051-969-1

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Other Press

Review Posted Online: June 18, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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