It has taken nearly 30 years to comprehend these events in their proper context, and Trofimov does excellent work in...

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THE SIEGE OF MECCA

THE FORGOTTEN UPRISING IN ISLAM’S HOLIEST SHRINE AND THE BIRTH OF AL QAEDA

Had there been no 11/20/79, there might never have been a 9/11/01: 20-20 hindsight meets solid journalistic and storytelling skills in this latest work by sometime Wall Street Journal correspondent Trofimov (Faith at War: A Journey on the Frontlines of Islam, from Baghdad to Timbuktu, 2005).

At the dawn of the 15th century, by the Islamic calendar, an armed gang led by radical Islamist Juhayman al Uteybi seized the Grand Mosque of Mecca, one of Islam’s most sacred sites, to protest the Saudi government’s corruption and illegitimacy as an ally of the West. The new year’s celebration was a day on which natives of the city mingled with foreign visitors, allowing the conspirators, among them Saudis, Pakistanis, Indians, Egyptians, Burmese, Afghans and even one American, fairly easy access into the holy precinct. There they holed up and battled a succession of Saudi military assaults, “a drawn-out battle that would drench Mecca in blood, marking a watershed moment for the Islamic world and the West.” These events were overshadowed by the seizure in Iran of the U.S. embassy, but it did not escape watchful militants in the Islamic world that the siege was finally broken when French special forces commandos entered Mecca—supposedly off-limits to infidels—and restored order. Saudis formerly loyal to the House of Saud were so shocked at the intervention that they became radicalized opponents of the regime; one such convert was Osama bin Laden, whose family was closely allied with the royals. These newly forged militants were also emboldened by the decision, under the Carter administration, to reduce the formal American presence in the Muslim world after Tehran and Mecca. Juhayman’s Islamist message, writes Trofimov, was in great degree the one Al Qaeda and its allies espouse today—and, as today, though Sunni in origin, that message is also turning Shiites to the cause of anti-Western jihad.

It has taken nearly 30 years to comprehend these events in their proper context, and Trofimov does excellent work in narrating them in that light.

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-385-51925-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2007

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No one’s mind will be changed by Karl’s book, but it’s a valuable report from the scene of an ongoing train wreck.

FRONT ROW AT THE TRUMP SHOW

The chief White House and Washington correspondent for ABC provides a ringside seat to a disaster-ridden Oval Office.

It is Karl to whom we owe the current popularity of a learned Latin term. Questioning chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, he followed up a perhaps inadvertently honest response on the matter of Ukrainian intervention in the electoral campaign by saying, “What you just described is a quid pro quo.” Mulvaney’s reply: “Get over it.” Karl, who has been covering Trump for decades and knows which buttons to push and which to avoid, is not inclined to get over it: He rightly points out that a reporter today “faces a president who seems to have no appreciation or understanding of the First Amendment and the role of a free press in American democracy.” Yet even against a bellicose, untruthful leader, he adds, the press “is not the opposition party.” The author, who keeps his eye on the subject and not in the mirror, writes of Trump’s ability to stage situations, as when he once called Trump out, at an event, for misrepresenting poll results and Trump waited until the camera was off before exploding, “Fucking nasty guy!”—then finished up the interview as if nothing had happened. Trump and his inner circle are also, by Karl’s account, masters of timing, matching negative news such as the revelation that Russia had interfered in the 2016 election with distractions away from Trump—in this case, by pushing hard on the WikiLeaks emails from the Democratic campaign, news of which arrived at the same time. That isn’t to say that they manage people or the nation well; one of the more damning stories in a book full of them concerns former Homeland Security head Kirstjen Nielsen, cut off at the knees even while trying to do Trump’s bidding.

No one’s mind will be changed by Karl’s book, but it’s a valuable report from the scene of an ongoing train wreck.

Pub Date: March 31, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5247-4562-2

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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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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