A well-delineated excavation of yet another dark corner of American history.



A veteran international correspondent uncovers the highly disturbing history of a mid-1960s “apocalyptic slaughter” in Indonesia, Latin America, and beyond, undertaken as part of America’s aggressively anti-communist foreign policy.

As Bevins, who covered Southeast Asia for the Washington Post, describes, this particular era of U.S. foreign policy began to take shape after World War II, eventually leading to the Cold War standoff between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. The main thrust of the author’s certain-to-be-controversial thesis revolves around U.S. government intervention in Indonesia. In the 1960s, after shrugging off the yoke of Dutch colonizers, the island nation “was home to the world’s largest Communist Party outside the Soviet Union and China.” Adding to the threat, according to anxious American political and military leaders at the time, Indonesia, with the sixth-largest population in the world, was also “the world’s largest Muslim-majority country.” After the U.S. played a significant role in ousting Indonesia's communist leaders during the early part of the 1960s, the new, virulently anti-communist leaders initiated a frighteningly widespread murderous cleansing. “In total,” writes the author, “it is estimated that between five hundred thousand and one million people were slaughtered, and one million more were herded into concentration camps.” As Bevins continued his research beyond Indonesia, he identified nearly 20 other nations targeted by the U.S. for mass murders of alleged communists and ancillary troublemakers seen as anti-capitalists. Other than Indonesia, the focus is most heavily on Brazil, but he at least touches on the other countries affected by American actions, creating a shocking portrait that few readers will forget. Bevins is convinced that most Americans today are aware of this particularly bloody era of U.S. foreign policy, and he’s likely right. Although his conclusions will be treated as unbelievable or exaggerated by some, his research is solid and his conclusions convincing.

A well-delineated excavation of yet another dark corner of American history.

Pub Date: May 19, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5417-4240-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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A top-notch political memoir and serious exercise in practical politics for every reader.

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In the first volume of his presidential memoir, Obama recounts the hard path to the White House.

In this long, often surprisingly candid narrative, Obama depicts a callow youth spent playing basketball and “getting loaded,” his early reading of difficult authors serving as a way to impress coed classmates. (“As a strategy for picking up girls, my pseudo-intellectualism proved mostly worthless,” he admits.) Yet seriousness did come to him in time and, with it, the conviction that America could live up to its stated aspirations. His early political role as an Illinois state senator, itself an unlikely victory, was not big enough to contain Obama’s early ambition, nor was his term as U.S. Senator. Only the presidency would do, a path he painstakingly carved out, vote by vote and speech by careful speech. As he writes, “By nature I’m a deliberate speaker, which, by the standards of presidential candidates, helped keep my gaffe quotient relatively low.” The author speaks freely about the many obstacles of the race—not just the question of race and racism itself, but also the rise, with “potent disruptor” Sarah Palin, of a know-nothingism that would manifest itself in an obdurate, ideologically driven Republican legislature. Not to mention the meddlings of Donald Trump, who turns up in this volume for his idiotic “birther” campaign while simultaneously fishing for a contract to build “a beautiful ballroom” on the White House lawn. A born moderate, Obama allows that he might not have been ideological enough in the face of Mitch McConnell, whose primary concern was then “clawing [his] way back to power.” Indeed, one of the most compelling aspects of the book, as smoothly written as his previous books, is Obama’s cleareyed scene-setting for how the political landscape would become so fractured—surely a topic he’ll expand on in the next volume.

A top-notch political memoir and serious exercise in practical politics for every reader.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6316-9

Page Count: 768

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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