TO START A WAR

HOW THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION TOOK AMERICA INTO IRAQ

A painful yet gripping, essential account of a disastrous series of decisions.

An authoritative account of the background to the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

A writer at large for the New York Times Magazine, Draper contrasts American Middle East policy with Iraq’s under Saddam Hussein since he took power in 1979; disturbingly, it remains unclear which was more dysfunctional. The author reminds readers that the U.S. supported Iraq after it invaded Iran in 1980 despite widespread atrocities perpetrated by Hussein. In 1991, American forces crushed Iraq’s army after it invaded Kuwait. Convinced that this humiliation would lead to Hussein’s overthrow, the U.S. withdrew. The war and ongoing sanctions impoverished Iraq, but Hussein’s rhetoric convinced everyone that he remained a threat. Draper paints George W. Bush as a decent man aware of his ignorance who surrounded himself with men of vast experience: Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and Secretary of State Colin Powell. The author, who ably distills his deep research and reporting into a fluid narrative, is not the first to focus on Paul Wolfowitz, deputy secretary of defense and a veteran adviser since the Reagan administration, who took a dislike to Hussein after the First Gulf War and never ceased urging his overthrow. Unconvinced but then horrified by 9/11, Bush vowed not to be blindsided a second time. As a result, he came to accept that Hussein, rather than Osama bin Laden, was the major figure behind terrorism. It helped that Cheney and Rumsfeld were on board. What followed makes excruciating reading because the true believers got everything wrong. Under pressure to find evidence justifying war (weapons of mass destruction, a Hussein–bin Laden connection), the CIA waffled, so the hawks created their own intelligence group that found it. An evenhanded chronicler, Draper reminds readers that most Americans, most congressmen, and even the New York Times supported invasion. Today, almost everyone has changed their minds, and the trillions of dollars wasted would be useful right now.

A painful yet gripping, essential account of a disastrous series of decisions.

Pub Date: July 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-56104-0

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: April 19, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON

THE OSAGE MURDERS AND THE BIRTH OF THE FBI

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

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Greed, depravity, and serial murder in 1920s Oklahoma.

During that time, enrolled members of the Osage Indian nation were among the wealthiest people per capita in the world. The rich oil fields beneath their reservation brought millions of dollars into the tribe annually, distributed to tribal members holding "headrights" that could not be bought or sold but only inherited. This vast wealth attracted the attention of unscrupulous whites who found ways to divert it to themselves by marrying Osage women or by having Osage declared legally incompetent so the whites could fleece them through the administration of their estates. For some, however, these deceptive tactics were not enough, and a plague of violent death—by shooting, poison, orchestrated automobile accident, and bombing—began to decimate the Osage in what they came to call the "Reign of Terror." Corrupt and incompetent law enforcement and judicial systems ensured that the perpetrators were never found or punished until the young J. Edgar Hoover saw cracking these cases as a means of burnishing the reputation of the newly professionalized FBI. Bestselling New Yorker staff writer Grann (The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness, and Obsession, 2010, etc.) follows Special Agent Tom White and his assistants as they track the killers of one extended Osage family through a closed local culture of greed, bigotry, and lies in pursuit of protection for the survivors and justice for the dead. But he doesn't stop there; relying almost entirely on primary and unpublished sources, the author goes on to expose a web of conspiracy and corruption that extended far wider than even the FBI ever suspected. This page-turner surges forward with the pacing of a true-crime thriller, elevated by Grann's crisp and evocative prose and enhanced by dozens of period photographs.

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

Pub Date: April 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-385-53424-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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