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Sep 14, 2008 10:34 pm


Murray Polner: Three Books You Shouldn't Miss



Jane Mayer’s The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned Into a War on American Ideals (Doubleday) --- together with Ron Suskind’s 2007 book, The One Percent Doctrine (Simon & Schuster) --- is the most incisive, dramatic, revealing and thoroughly documented book about the Iraq War and the damage U.S. reliance on torture has done to our country. Despite widespread silence in our mass media and the Congress, torture has been the order of the day, while some principled FBI agents and other brave souls inside the government and military have refused to have anything to do with the CIA’s policy of “rendition,” the practice of outsourcing the torture of alleged suspects to governments specializing in the practice. Who these nations are and who sent them is, of course, highly classified, the government’s way of hiding the dark and ugly world of state terror from the American people. Concluding, Mayer has Philip Zelikow, former Executive Director of the 9/11 Commission and Condoleeza Rice’s assistant, comparing the use of torture with FDR’s internment of the Japanese in WWII. Said Zelikow: “Fear and anxiety were exploited by zealots and fools.” The saddest thing is that no one was held accountable then and no one will be held accountable now when and if the Iraq war ever ends.

Yizhar Smilansky, who used the pen name of S. Yizhar, was a veteran of the 1948 war, a writer, and member of the Knesset who published Khirbet Khizeh ( reprinted by Ibis Editions, POB 8074, German Colony, Jerusalem, 2008; www.ibiseditions.com) in 1949. Though highly controversial among some Israelis, for decades this memorable, slender novella has been read in Israeli high schools. Never before translated into English (here by Nicholas de Lange and Yaacob Dweek), Yizhar portrayed Israeli soldiers expelling Palestinians from their fictional village and destroying their homes during the 1948 war. While this is happening, the soldier-narrator watches as women, children, and the maimed flee the invaders. Upset, he tells his readers, “We came, we shot, we burned; we blew up, expelled, drove out, and sent into exile. What in God’s name were we doing in this place?”

Norman Mailer’s Miami and the Siege of Chicago, reprinted with a new Introduction by Frank Rich (New York Review of Books, 2008) is a splendid example of Mailer writing in the third person, New Journalism-style, while he was reporting for Harper's. Here he covers the tumultuous 1968 Republican and Democratic conventions against the backdrop of the Vietnam War when Nixon and McGovern were nominated. Mailer, with his exquisite use of language and keen observations, vividly portrays the major and minor actors within the convention halls but also in the open warfare that raged in Chicago parks and streets. He concluded with the unsettling thought, “We yet may win, the others are so stupid. Heaven help us when we do.”




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Murray Polner Polner - 9/15/2008

Mea Culpa. Of course it was Hubert Humphrey in '68 and not George McGovern.


Paul Notley - 9/15/2008

Actually, it was Humphrey who was nominated in 1968. McGovern was nominated in 1972.