Sure, Manuel Noriega was a bad guy. But, to judge by this persuasive account, Panama has seen plenty worse—most of them with...

EMPERORS IN THE JUNGLE

THE HIDDEN HISTORY OF THE U.S. IN PANAMA

An eye-opening history of the tangled, racially freighted dealings of the American government with its sometime client state of Panama over a hundred years.

The American invasion of Panama on December 20, 1989, was the most violent event in that country’s history for nearly a century—though, remarked one media scholar at the time, “If you just looked at television, the most violent thing American troops did in Panama was play rock music.” That was far from all they did, writes Caribbeanist Lindsay-Poland; untold hundreds of Panamanians died in the American attack on Panama City, including many poor people unfortunate enough to have sheltered in the shadows of the capital’s official buildings. And, he continues, that was far from the first crime America inflicted on the small but strategically important Central American nation, populated, wrote Harper’s Weekly in 1902, by an ethnically mixed people with “negro blood enough to make them lazy, and Spanish blood sufficient to make them mean.” There, in the supposedly savage tropics, American troops tested and stockpiled biological and chemical weapons, including enough Agent Orange to burn up good portions of the rainforest; there, for the first time, the US Air Force deployed the F117A stealth bomber, “which is invisible to radar, although Panama had no radar defenses,” and managed to miss its target all the same; there, after withdrawing from the Panama Canal in December 1999, the American military left enough toxic waste to poison the land for generations to come—and has since done nothing to assist in the cleanup. All is of a piece, Lindsay-Poland concludes, with the long pattern of US foreign policy in the Third World, in which “the United States has sought to exercise imperial control without confronting the messy aspects of that control.”

Sure, Manuel Noriega was a bad guy. But, to judge by this persuasive account, Panama has seen plenty worse—most of them with Washington addresses.

Pub Date: April 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-8223-3098-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Duke Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2003

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A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

AN INDIGENOUS PEOPLES' HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

Custer died for your sins. And so, this book would seem to suggest, did every other native victim of colonialism.

Inducing guilt in non-native readers would seem to be the guiding idea behind Dunbar-Ortiz’s (Emerita, Ethnic Studies/California State Univ., Hayward; Blood on the Border: A Memoir of the Contra War, 2005, etc.) survey, which is hardly a new strategy. Indeed, the author says little that hasn’t been said before, but she packs a trove of ideological assumptions into nearly every page. For one thing, while “Indian” isn’t bad, since “[i]ndigenous individuals and peoples in North America on the whole do not consider ‘Indian’ a slur,” “American” is due to the fact that it’s “blatantly imperialistic.” Just so, indigenous peoples were overwhelmed by a “colonialist settler-state” (the very language broadly applied to Israelis vis-à-vis the Palestinians today) and then “displaced to fragmented reservations and economically decimated”—after, that is, having been forced to live in “concentration camps.” Were he around today, Vine Deloria Jr., the always-indignant champion of bias-puncturing in defense of native history, would disavow such tidily packaged, ready-made, reflexive language. As it is, the readers who are likely to come to this book—undergraduates, mostly, in survey courses—probably won’t question Dunbar-Ortiz’s inaccurate assertion that the military phrase “in country” derives from the military phrase “Indian country” or her insistence that all Spanish people in the New World were “gold-obsessed.” Furthermore, most readers won’t likely know that some Ancestral Pueblo (for whom Dunbar-Ortiz uses the long-abandoned term “Anasazi”) sites show evidence of cannibalism and torture, which in turn points to the inconvenient fact that North America wasn’t entirely an Eden before the arrival of Europe.

A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8070-0040-3

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Beacon

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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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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