May become the preferred single-source reference to an episode whose foreign policy and military implications continue to...

THE BAY OF PIGS

A taut account of a dismal passage of the Cold War: the failed, American-sponsored attempt to invade Cuba and remove Fidel Castro from power.

Fed up with Castro’s anti-American rhetoric and alarmed at his growing ties to the Soviet Union, President Eisenhower approved a covert CIA plan to overthrow the Cuban government. By the time the Kennedy administration took office, the CIA had assembled a paramilitary force of Cuban dissidents in Guatemala and contemplated ways, with Mafia assistance, to assassinate the troublesome Cuban dictator. Fearful of the PR hit that would surely come by disbanding the brigade (leaving them free to tell their story), reluctant to appear complacent about Castro’s machinations and relying on the advice of his more experienced advisors, JFK went ahead with the plan that ended in the death of 114 and the capture of 1,179 out of the 1,511-man force that stormed the Bay of Pigs on April 17, 1961. With remarkable efficiency, Jones (History/Univ. of Alabama; Death of a Generation: How the Assassinations of Diem and JFK Prolonged the Vietnam War, 2003, etc.) examines all aspects of the debacle that depended on a series of unlikely contingencies: the killing of Castro, an indigenous insurrection to supplement the invaders and, crucially, air support from the U.S. military. The author apportions blame among the CIA—Allen Dulles and Richard Bissell emerge as the chief villains—the Joint Chiefs who signed off on a military plan for which they bore no responsibility, and the White House, seized by seeming Cold War imperatives and seeking plausible deniability for a scheme that, from the beginning, had little hope of disguising presidential fingerprints. The disaster left Castro more firmly in power than ever, with Kennedy privately fuming and ridiculed on the world stage, and publicly forced to assume responsibility, memorably observing that “victory has a hundred fathers and defeat is an orphan.”

May become the preferred single-source reference to an episode whose foreign policy and military implications continue to reverberate.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-19-517383-3

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2008

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

NIGHT

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 PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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