Worthwhile, though Keegan’s dry account pales next to more immediate works, such as Rick Atkinson’s superb In the Company of...

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THE IRAQ WAR

Saddam had it coming, writes distinguished historian Keegan (Winston Churchill, 2002, etc.) in this account of what he calls the “Iraq War of 2003.”

That war is still unfolding and ongoing in 2004, even though George W. Bush declared the major fighting to be over in May 2003. If Keegan’s account of the campaign is to be faulted, it is because it effectively ends at Bush’s pronouncement—and because Keegan seemingly shares Bush’s belief that Saddam had to go, even though acting on it yielded a war that Keegan characterizes as “mysterious.” For Keegan, the reasons to overthrow Saddam have global implications: “The reality of the Iraq campaign,” he writes, “is . . . a better guide to what needs to be done to secure the safety of our world than any amount of law-making or treaty-writing can offer.” (Kim Il Jong, watch out.) Keegan lingers on the generations between the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and Saddam’s rise to power, and on the larger picture of regional geopolitics. As he comes nearer to the actual fighting, Keegan—who is defense editor for the London Daily Telegraph—relies on insights from theater commander Gen. Tommy Franks, who reveals that he “had never cared for the use of the term ‘shock and awe’ ” and didn’t find much to worry about in Iraq’s command-and-control structure, which crumbled the minute Allied bombs began to fall. Keegan provides insights of his own on the important role of international forces, such as the British troops in Basra, Australian special forces in the western desert, and Eastern European contingents whose leaders recognized Saddam for the Stalin wannabe that he was. He is also open in faulting what he perceives to be American missteps; the US command, for instance, ignored the pragmatic approach of the British army in the south and instead disarmed and dismantled the Iraqi army and police, idling masses of well-trained fighters who are now causing the occupiers so much grief.

Worthwhile, though Keegan’s dry account pales next to more immediate works, such as Rick Atkinson’s superb In the Company of Soldiers (p. 115).

Pub Date: May 28, 2004

ISBN: 1-4000-4199-6

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 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...

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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