A look at spooks in action that does not resemble a Tom Clancy novel. A lingering question about the Bay of Pigs operation has always been how anyone could ever have thought it would work. Somehow presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy, with the input of their military and intelligence advisers, approved an invasion plan that projected the victory of a 1,400-man exile force over the 25,000-man Cuban army. Moreover, they did so while implausibly insisting that the action must not be traced back to the US. Until recently, the cloak of secrecy has restricted efforts to explain this planning and decision-making process to idle speculation; with the publication of this volume, somewhat informed speculation is now possible. Through the Freedom of Information Act, the National Security Archive (a public-interest group), with which Kornbluh is affiliated, has obtained the CIA’s internal and very critical report on the Bay of Pigs and a lengthy response from the CIA officer in charge of the operation. Edited by Kornbluh (Nicarauga, 1987), the volume includes an analytical introduction, an interview with two CIA men involved in the planning of the operation and a detailed timeline of events. This mass of information provides insight into shifting objectives, ambiguity over responsibility and accountability, and the momentum that precluded halting or even seriously reconsidering the operation. Most striking, however, is the vigor with which those involved seek to hide behind presidential cancellation of an air strike in explaining the failure. The impulse to deflect blame clearly overrides any self-analysis that could lead to institutional learning from the experience despite the absurdity of claiming that one decision was the turning point in an operation riddled with problems. What remains unexplained is the failure of American political leadership, a puzzle that may be beyond the potential of historical documents to solve. An eye-opening account, regardless of one’s political convictions.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1998

ISBN: 1-56584-494-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: The New Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1998

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

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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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