A valiantly researched study that resurrects a troubling episode in American history.

POISONER IN CHIEF

SIDNEY GOTTLIEB AND THE CIA SEARCH FOR MIND CONTROL

An accomplished journalist digs into the elusive and deeply troubling story behind the U.S. government’s postwar search for the perfect mind-control drug.

In this intriguing study, Kinzer (The True Flag: Theodore Roosevelt, Mark Twain, and the Birth of American Empire, 2017, etc.) shows how U.S. officials drew on the findings of Nazi experiments on human “specimens” during World War II, which were exposed in the Nuremberg Trials, as well as notorious Japanese military trials that injected bacteria into and conducted lab tests on “expendable” humans. The U.S. enlisted many of these perpetrators to beef up postwar intelligence work. With the enemy now the Soviet Union and Red China, the U.S. needed to develop drugs that could be used as weapons of covert action. The 1947 National Security Act created the National Security Council and the CIA, and the new program to study chemical and biological agents was called Bluebird—supposedly to “make prisoners ‘sing like a bird.’ ” In the early 1950s, the program was taken over by Sidney Gottlieb, a Bronx-born scholar of agricultural biology who had been studying pharmaceuticals and agricultural chemicals at the Department of Agriculture when his academic mentors—e.g., Allen Dulles—lured him to the work of what Kinzer characterizes as “medical torture.” This meant dosing unwilling patients with potent drugs like LSD and mescaline in an attempt to find some kind of “truth serum.” Eventually renamed MK-ULTRA, the program was run strictly by Gottlieb, “America’s mind control czar.” The author engagingly examines various facets of this bizarre program, which led to LSD experimentation within the scientists’ social circles, resulting in instances of overdose and even suicide. After a decade of research into mind control, Gottlieb and his colleagues were forced to “face their cosmic failure.” Ultimately, readers will feel Kinzer’s frustration that Gottlieb, after a late-life conversion and being hauled back to Washington, D.C., for two rounds of Senate hearings, maintained his “victimization” and never truly had to answer for the crime of “laying waste to other people’s minds and bodies.”

A valiantly researched study that resurrects a troubling episode in American history.

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-14043-2

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: July 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 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...

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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