HOAX by Nicholas Von Hoffman


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A full charge of liberal birdshot, aimed and fired at the broad side of the barn—or, better, White House.

George Bush’s recent adventure in Iraq is, Washington Post columnist von Hoffman (Capitalist Fools, 1992, etc.) asserts, a classic con game: “There was the bait (terrorism), then the switch (weapons of mass destruction), then a switch again (kill the dictator), and yet again (regime change).” As with any con, the perpetrator has to be either damn good at the game or have a particularly stupid victim in tow; von Hoffman does not dwell unseemly long on the second possibility, though he does reckon that the US differs from the bygone USSR only by lagging behind 40 years: Americans, he writes, “may not drink vodka, but add up the drunks and the Americans stoned on prescription drugs and recreational substances, and what percentage of the USA’s population is perpetually intoxicated? Thirty? Forty? But no Chernobyl, just blackouts.” The side widens, the shot scatters: here von Hoffman likens American forces’ arrival in Baghdad to “Adolf Hitler’s waltz into the Rhineland in 1936,” a woefully sloppy analogy; there he lampoons Bush’s famous—or infamous, depending on your point of view—descent onto the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln, “bowlegged from his oversized cod piece, proclaiming the end of a war which was never fought to seize a cache of weapons of mass destruction which didn’t exist”; here he picks on poor George M. Cohan for supplying “pathological patriotism with a hymnal full of danceable, singable songs”; there he sneaks in a dig at modern America’s allergy to facts or critical thinking. Occasionally the author hits a target: he’s right in wondering why we went after Manuel Noriega way back when, right in recalling that our long embargo on Iraq caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of blameless children, right in pointing out the US’s infantile need to be loved and applauded by other nations.

But the delivery, a careless sermon to the choir, will not convince those most in need of convincing. A shame: von Hoffman’s done much better.

Pub Date: June 1st, 2003
ISBN: 1-56025-582-X
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Nation Books
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 2004


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