A worthy addition to Metropolitan’s American Empire Project: a devastating account that policymakers—not to mention American...

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DEVIL’S GAME

HOW THE UNITED STATES HELPED UNLEASH FUNDAMENTALIST ISLAM

The United States government underwrote the rise of radical Islam, argues a frequent contributor to The Nation and The American Prospect.

Any American who watches the news is familiar with the photograph of a younger Donald Rumsfeld looking chummy with Saddam Hussein. Forget that picture, Dreyfuss tells us. The more important photograph shows President Eisenhower looking chummy with Said Ramadan, bigwig in the Muslim Brotherhood. (If you’ve never heard of the Muslim Brotherhood, a militant group that among other things morphed into Hamas, all the more reason to read this book.) That photograph, states the author, shows in miniature the history of American Middle East foreign policy since WWII. Concerned about limiting the spread of communism and arresting the development of leftist Arab nationalist political parties, the U.S. has over and over again allied with and supported radical Islamic groups throughout the Middle East. The CIA, of course, sponsored the 1953 coup in Iran and financed an ayatollah who had founded a radical pan-Islamic political group; American taxpayers funded an Israeli government that funneled money to fanatical Islamic Palestinian activists who, the Israeli government believed, would ultimately weaken the secular PLO; and so forth. The U.S. didn’t dream up this strategy, actually. The British did the same thing, partnering in the late-19th century with the great-granddaddy of ideological Islamism, Jamal Eddine al-Afghani. Dreyfuss insists that today’s geopolitics is not the inevitable result of a “clash of civilizations,” but at least in part the fruit of shortsighted, ill-conceived U.S. foreign policy. His account is not a disinterested history, but rather a stinging indictment of the Bush administration for, among other things, replicating the same strategy in Iraq: toppling a decidedly secular regime and encouraging Islamists to grab power (to wit, the administration’s alliance with Ali al-Sisatani).

A worthy addition to Metropolitan’s American Empire Project: a devastating account that policymakers—not to mention American citizens—ignore at their peril.

Pub Date: Nov. 3, 2005

ISBN: 0-8050-7652-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Metropolitan/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2005

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST

Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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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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