A fresh perspective on a little-understood nation.

INVISIBLE HISTORY

AFGHANISTAN’S UNTOLD STORY

Seasoned journalists Fitzgerald and Gould—co-producers of the 1981 PBS documentary Afghanistan Between the Wars—deliver a probing history of the country and a critical evaluation of American involvement in recent decades.

The authors had just finished a documentary in late 1979 on SALT II (Arms Race and the Economy) when Russia invaded the seemingly insignificant country of Afghanistan. In this densely researched work, they study the ancient ethnic makeup of the country, its fledgling attempts at democracy and the catastrophic rise of the Taliban, introduced by Pakistan refugee groups and funded by the Saudis. As the “meeting place of four cultural zones,” Afghanistan has constantly been overrun by invaders eager to get somewhere else, including Alexander the Great, early Arab armies that converted the country to Islam, Genghis Khan, and the mid-19th century invasion by the British, which sowed the seeds of destabilizing colonial politics that would wreak havoc until the present day. The country lived in perpetual fear of Russian invasion of its northern territories, and it became a natural base for Cold War confrontation. Internally, a conservative, traditional society in which Islam played a pious rather than political role was being radically transformed by the 1970s, “under the influence of outside religious and intellectual forces.” Most chilling to read is the American government’s hot-cold manipulation of the region for its own purposes. As the situation devolved into “a sea of drugs, covert operations, Islamic revolutionaries, and Maoist cadres,” and U.S. ambassador Adolph Dubs was murdered in February 1979, an aggressive anti-Soviet stance was set in play from Brzezinski to Reagan, and the entrenchment of Islamic extremism was assured. The authors ably demystify Afghan efforts in the wake of 9/11, delineating its destroyed culture and offering a cogent plan for the next American president.

A fresh perspective on a little-understood nation.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-87286-494-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: City Lights

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2008

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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 clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

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WHY WE'RE POLARIZED

A sharp explanation of how American politics has become so discordant.

Journalist Klein, co-founder of Vox, formerly of the Washington Post, MSNBC, and Bloomberg, reminds readers that political commentators in the 1950s and ’60s denounced Republicans and Democrats as “tweedledum and tweedledee.” With liberals and conservatives in both parties, they complained, voters lacked a true choice. The author suspects that race played a role, and he capably shows us why and how. For a century after the Civil War, former Confederate states, obsessed with keeping blacks powerless, elected a congressional bloc that “kept the Democratic party less liberal than it otherwise would’ve been, the Republican Party congressionally weaker than it otherwise would’ve been, and stopped the parties from sorting themselves around the deepest political cleavage of the age.” Following the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, many white Southern Democrats became Republicans, and the parties turned consistently liberal and conservative. Given a “true choice,” Klein maintains, voters discarded ideology in favor of “identity politics.” Americans, like all humans, cherish their “tribe” and distrust outsiders. Identity was once a preoccupation of minorities, but it has recently attracted white activists and poisoned the national discourse. The author deplores the decline of mass media (network TV, daily newspapers), which could not offend a large audience, and the rise of niche media and internet sites, which tell a small audience only what they want to hear. American observers often joke about European nations that have many parties who vote in lock step. In fact, such parties cooperate to pass legislation. America is the sole system with only two parties, both of which are convinced that the other is not only incompetent (a traditional accusation), but a danger to the nation. So far, calls for drastic action to prevent the apocalypse are confined to social media, fringe activists, and the rhetoric of Trump supporters. Fortunately—according to Klein—Trump is lazy, but future presidents may be more savvy. The author does not conclude this deeply insightful, if dispiriting, analysis by proposing a solution.

A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4767-0032-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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