An unrelenting, incisive, masterly comparative study.

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CULTURES OF WAR

PEARL HARBOR / HIROSHIMA / 9-11 / IRAQ

Pulitzer Prize– and National Book Award–winning historian Dower (Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II, 1999, etc.) draws astute ironies between Pearl Harbor and 9/11 in terms of the overweening arrogance of military superpowers.

The author moves back and forth between these two definitive eras in history, providing a brilliant examination of the willful self-delusion and selective reasoning involved in the highest levels of decision making—from Japan’s spectacularly ill-advised bombing of Pearl Harbor to the Bush Administration’s bundling of “weapons of mass destruction” and Osama bin Laden as justification for invasion of Iraq. Dower is intensely interested in the language of war, specifically the “code” words that prime the propaganda pump—e.g., “infamy,” as used to ignite public opinion against the enemy by both presidents Roosevelt and Bush; “ground zero,” evoked after the atomic bombs dropped on Japan and then after 9/11, underscoring in both incidences the terrible momentum of modern weaponry and the deliberate targeting of noncombatants; and “occupying power,” a term that morphed from carrying a benevolent connotation in postwar Japan to the malevolent quagmire that ensued in Iraq. The author traces the “groupthink” mentality through the faulty, blinkered rationale by the Japanese warlords as well as the Islamists and the Americans. Most presciently, Dower looks at America’s creation of what the late Benazir Bhutto called a “Frankenstein’s monster” in the Middle East—the sanctimonious preaching of democracy and justice on one hand, and the practice of supporting tyrannical regimes and military intervention on the other. The myth of American innocence and victimization (“Pearl Harbor,” “9/11”) is shattered by the baleful effects of terror bombing, torture (Abu Ghraib) and racism—what Dower calls a “profound failure of imagination” in thinking that the “little yellow men” and the “little Muslim sons-of-bitches” could execute such ingenious attacks.

An unrelenting, incisive, masterly comparative study.

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-393-06150-5

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: June 7, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2010

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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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