A primer on knowing thy enemy.

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CONFRONTING FEAR

A HISTORY OF TERRORISM

Not a history, exactly, but a useful anthology of primary documents and secondary articles on what the Russian nihilists called “Propaganda by Deed.”

Cronin, an American who worked in international trade and lived in Algeria during a wave of fundamentalist violence, brings no unifying thesis to this collection, save perhaps the obvious one that “terrorism is a form of warfare that has evolving causes, motivations, and objectives.” Still, the documents here don’t really require commentary. Among them are firsthand accounts of terror from the propagator’s point of view: one, for instance, comes from the poison pen of Osama bin Laden himself, who instructs Muslims that it is their duty to kill members of the “Zionists-Crusaders alliance,” particularly “the Americans and their allies—civilians and military”; while another, from the portable typewriter of Unabomber Theodore Kaczynski, asserts that the violent overthrow of the technological system is a necessary duty for anyone who values freedom. Other pieces are literary responses to terrorism, including the almost obligatory excerpt from Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Agent (“A bomb outrage to have any influence on public opinion must now go beyond the intention of vengeance or terrorism. It must be purely destructive”) and a thoughtful piece of reportage by Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami about the Aum Shinrikyo gas attack on the Tokyo subway in 1995. Still others are interpretive, ranging from historian Walter Laqueur’s brief history of terrorism, tracing its antecedents back to the Hebrew Zealots who from a.d. 66 to 73 assassinated Jewish priests and Roman imperial officials, along the way destroying whole archives’ worth of tax records, to Saudi journalist Ahmed Rashid’s eye-opening revelation that bin Laden first went to Afghanistan at the behest of the Saudi rulers “in order to show Muslims the commitment of the Royal Family to the jihad.”

A primer on knowing thy enemy.

Pub Date: June 1, 2001

ISBN: 1-56025-399-1

Page Count: 576

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2002

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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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