Not always convincing, but a surefire hit for fans of Blackwater and studded with intriguing, occasionally damning material.




Scahill (Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army, 2007), the Nation magazine's national security correspondent, questions the legality and command methods of the ongoing war against al-Qaida.

Focusing on the career of Anwar al Awlaki, an American citizen and reported al-Qaida leader killed by a drone in Yemen, and the evolution of special forces–led global strikes, the author seeks to establish his case that Barack Obama's military policies are best seen as a continuation of the policies of George W. Bush. He characterizes the death of Awlaki as an “assassination by his own government” and insists that Obama's policies “keep intact many of the most aggressive counterterrorism policies of the Bush era.” Scahill traces the arc of Awlaki's career, from the aftermath of 9/11, when he appeared to be a spokesman for moderate American Muslims, to the government's later determination that he was a terrorist leader operating from Yemen. For the author, the surveillance and other methods employed to track and kill Awlaki exemplify the continuation of Bush's policies in the war on terror. He shows how, after 9/11, laws governing covert and clandestine operations were subverted to shut out oversight from Congress and competition from the intelligence community and the military chain of command. Scahill demonstrates how al-Qaida members found refuge in Yemen from November 2001 onward, while Bush's administration concluded agreements with the country's government. However, the author does not consider the possibility that the end of the Iraq war, the death of Osama bin Laden and the overthrow of governments that assisted the Bush administration’s secret prisons and torture constitute a change in policy. Scahill’s case against the Bush administration's practices is firmer than his assertion that Obama is following the same policy, and he fails to consider the difficulties of unwinding Bush's legacy.

Not always convincing, but a surefire hit for fans of Blackwater and studded with intriguing, occasionally damning material.

Pub Date: April 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-56858-671-7

Page Count: 612

Publisher: Nation Books

Review Posted Online: March 12, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2013

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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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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