An intelligent and readable postscript to the Iraq War that will be valuable for future historians.

DEBRIEFING THE PRESIDENT

THE INTERROGATION OF SADDAM HUSSEIN

A report on the CIA’s interrogation of deposed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein (1937-2006).

Former senior CIA analyst Nixon—the first American to question Hussein at length after his 2003 capture following the fall of Baghdad—debuts with a fascinating glimpse of the “tough, shrewd, manipulative” leader and his views on the U.S. invasion, Iraqi history, and his own role in the Middle East. Tasked with identifying Hussein based on tribal markings (“Holy shit, it’s Saddam!” he remembers thinking), Nixon spent days in a dinghy guardhouse with the charismatic dictator, who proved sane but unlikable, variously cooperative and confrontational, and touted an inflated idea of his place in Iraqi history. Hussein scoffed at the idea that his country had weapons of mass destruction, denied any connection to al-Qaida, and said he had committed no war crimes. He said he was no longer governing at the time of the invasion but was instead spending his time writing fiction. He “loved” the Kurds, against whom his military, acting on their own authority, had used chemical weapons. Above all, he was “dumbfounded” at American ignorance of the Arab world. He thought the 9/11 attacks would bring the U.S. closer to his regime, which opposed radicalism in the Islamic world. Instead, the George W. Bush administration “vastly underestimated” Hussein, viewing him through a “tyrant caricature,” writes Nixon, noting, “no serious Middle East analyst believes that Saddam Hussein was a threat to the United States.” The author is highly critical of both the Bush administration and the CIA. He recounts White House visits during which officials obsessively demanded to know the location of the WMDs and displayed their misunderstanding of Iraq and the region. CIA leaders seemed interested mainly in pleasing the president. Readers are left with the impression that both Hussein and Bush were clueless about the thinking and motives of one another. There are some redactions in the text.

An intelligent and readable postscript to the Iraq War that will be valuable for future historians.

Pub Date: Dec. 27, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-399-57581-5

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Blue Rider Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 5, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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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 moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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