First-rate frontline reportage, full of luminous and eye-opening details.



A reporter’s notebook documents life in Iraq before and during the current war.

It seems telling, if strange, that Saddam Hussein’s so-called Triumph Leader Museum—devoted to himself, naturally—contained trophy cases full of gifts from foreign leaders: “a pair of decorative riding spurs which, according to the museum labels, were a 1986 gift from Ronald Reagan; a collection of guabayera shirts from Fidel Castro . . . ceremonial swords from Jacques Chirac and Vladimir Zhirinovsky.” Hussein’s hold on Iraq, suggests New Yorker correspondent Anderson (The Lion’s Grave, 2002, etc.), owed much to such legitimating kindness, enabling the dictator to lord it over his people with astonishing comprehensiveness. And with considerable leeway: on receiving 100 percent of the vote in the last election, Anderson writes, Hussein freed all but a few inmates from the now doubly notorious Abu Ghraib prison, saying that they were no threat to anyone; explained prime minister Tariq Aziz, “We are like Jesus Christ, who pardoned the people who crucified him.” Hussein was anything but Christlike, though, says Anderson, who suggests that Iraq did indeed have the WMDs that have so far eluded Western investigators—and, moreover, sheds no tears for the fall of the tyrant. Still, and interestingly, his pages are full of veiled warnings from Iraqis about what lies in store for any would-be occupier—“If you do anything in Iraq, do it quickly,” says one—and, ominously, about what lies in store for the world should Islamic fundamentalism replace secular government. Anderson’s descriptions of the American “shock and awe” attacks on Baghdad are stunning (“Saddam’s palace complex was littered with the smoking hulks of bombed buildings. I noticed that Iraqis did not gather to stare at the damage, but cast fleeting, sidelong looks at it”), though his account of events subsequent to the invasion will disquiet anyone who supports a continued American presence there: as he suggests at the close, “a year after the fall of Baghdad, it seemed as if the city had not really fallen at all. Or, perhaps it was still falling.”

First-rate frontline reportage, full of luminous and eye-opening details.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2004

ISBN: 1-59420-034-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 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...


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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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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