A chilling, often depressing read that merits attention, if only for the other “perfect soldiers” who may be waiting out...

PERFECT SOLDIERS

THE HIJACKERS: WHO THEY WERE, WHY THEY DID IT

Is there any reason why we need to know more about the 19 hijackers who attacked America on 9/11?

Actually, there is. Los Angeles Times reporter McDermott concedes that none of these young, robotlike religious fanatics were particularly remarkable or even interesting. Indeed, they were tedious company for everyone but the like-minded. But therein lies McDermott's cautionary point. The fact that the hijackers were “fairly ordinary men” makes them more ominous, easily replaceable by any one of thousands of similar human drones presumably waiting in the wings. This account focuses primarily on three of the hijackers: Mohammed el-Amir Atta, Marwan al-Shehhi and Ziad Jarrah. It follows them from separate mundane childhoods in the Middle East through their student days in Hamburg to the final months of preparation in the United States. In the process, we witness their evolution from pious Muslims into radical jihadists, along with the growth of the loosely conceived plot that outwitted U.S. security largely through its sheer simplicity and insanity. McDermott never really fulfills the promise of his subtitle to explain why they did it, aside from offering the standard bromide that they saw themselves as martyrs in a holy war. But his extensive research and well-organized narrative does better in showing just who these misguided killers were and how they eluded suspicion by simply keeping their heads down. The story carries several lessons. Not the least is the repeated failure of U.S. and German authorities to prevent the catastrophe, although they were often achingly close to doing so, even days before Sept. 11. Another lesson is that despite the near-preternatural reputation Al Qaeda acquired following 9/11, the group’s small core was composed of men in many ways as bumbling and error-prone as your local Mafia crew. Tragically, it was American inattention and carelessness that allowed them to succeed.

A chilling, often depressing read that merits attention, if only for the other “perfect soldiers” who may be waiting out there.

Pub Date: May 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-06-058469-6

Page Count: 336

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2005

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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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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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