Sunday, January 18, 2009

Crimes Against Nature or Secrets

Crimes Against Nature

Author: Jr Robert F Kennedy

In this powerful and far-reaching indictment of George W. Bush's White House, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., the country's most prominent environmental attorney, charges that this administration has taken corporate cronyism to such unprecedented heights that it now threatens our health, our national security, and democracy as we know it. In a headlong pursuit of private profit and personal power, Kennedy writes, George Bush and his administration have eviscerated the laws that have protected our nation's air,water, public lands, and wildlife for the past thirty years, enriching the president's political contributors whilelowering the quality of life for the rest of us.

Kennedy lifts the veil on how the administration has orchestrated these rollbacks almost entirely outside of public scrutiny -- and in tandem with the very industries that our laws are meant to regulate, the country's most notorious polluters. He writes of how it has deceived the public by manipulating and suppressing scientific data, intimidated enforcement officials and other civil servants, and masked its agenda with Orwellian doublespeak. He reports on how the White House doles out lavish subsidies and tax breaks to the energy barons while excusing industry from providing adequate security at the more than 15,000 chemical and nuclear facilities that are prime targets for terrorist attacks. Kennedy reveals an administration whose policies have "squandered our Treasury, entangled us in foreign wars, diminished our international prestige, made us a target for terrorist attacks, and increased our reliance on petty Middle Eastern dictators who despise democracy and are hated by their own people."

Crimes Against Nature is ultimately about the corrosive effect of corporate corruption on our core American values -- free-market capitalism and democracy. It is about an administration, the author argues, that has sacrificed respect for the law, public health, scientific integrity, and long-term economic vitality on the altar of corporate greed. It is a book for both Democrats and Republicans, people like the traditionally conservative farmers and fishermen Kennedy represents in lawsuits against polluters. "Without exception," he writes, "these people see the current administration as the greatest threat not just to their livelihoods but to their values, their sense of community, and their idea of what it means to be American."

Interesting book: Cisco CallManager Fundamentals or PowerPoint for Teachers

Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers

Author: Daniel Ellsberg

In 1971 former Cold War hard-liner Daniel Ellsberg made history by releasing the Pentagon Papers-a 7,000-page top-secret study of U.S. decision-making in Vietnam-to the New York Times and Washington Post. The document set in motion a chain of events that ended not only the Nixon presidency but the Vietnam War. In this remarkable memoir, Ellsberg describes in dramatic detail the two years he spent in Vietnam as a U.S. State Department observer, and how he came to risk his career and freedom to expose the deceptions and delusions that shaped three decades of American foreign policy. The story of one man's exploration of conscience, Secrets is also a portrait of America at a perilous crossroad.

Howard Zinn

If our nation could absorb its lessons we might all face a better future.

Seymour Hersh

It is a chilling tale of life at the bureaucratic top, and what profound compromises it takes to stay there.

Daniel Schorr

This is an honestly and lucidly told narrative by someone who single-handedly changed the course of history.

John Kerry

[Ellsberg's] story reminds us that to fulfill the responsibilities of citizenship is to always ask questions and demand the truth.

Washington Post - Ben Bagdikian

...written with breathtaking excitement...

Martin Sheen

The most important expose of Washington since the Pentagon Papers themselves, Secrets is essential reading for any American who wants to understand true patriotism.

A. J. Langguth


Publishers Weekly

Ellsberg's transformation from cold warrior and Defense Department analyst to impassioned antiwar crusader who released the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times in June 1971 makes a remarkable and riveting story that still shocks 30 years later. Avoiding, for the most part, self-justification and self-aggrandizement, he clearly relates the experiences that led him to reject as arrogant lies the premises six presidents presented to the public and Congress to secure support for the Vietnam War. He describes the disjunction between what he saw during visits to Vietnam in the early and mid-'60s, driving through dangerous Viet Cong-held territory, and what was told to the press and public. And he recalls his first reading of the classified documents later known as the Pentagon Papers, which exposed the motives, in his view unprincipled, behind American involvement in Vietnam. Ellsberg creates page-turning human drama and suspense in both his descriptions of his early experience accompanying U.S. combat missions in Vietnam and his days spent underground evading an FBI manhunt after the Times's publication of the Papers. Another strength of this memoir is Ellsberg's vivid recollections of meetings with prominent policymakers, from Henry Kissinger to Senator William Fulbright, that re-create the deep tensions of the Vietnam era. Ellsberg raises serious ethical questions about how citizens, politicians, the press and officials act when confronted with government actions they consider immoral and perhaps illegal. Ellsberg's own answer is history. (Oct. 14) Forecast: Broad and prominent review coverage is guaranteed, and boomers, especially those who opposed the war, will grab this. But it remains to be seen whether a post-Vietnam generation will be similarly moved.

Foreign Affairs

Ellsberg's memoir recounts the story of how he came to leak the Pentagon Papers (the history of the American intervention in Vietnam) to The New York Times in 1971 and how his subsequent trial unfolded. Ellsberg draws attention to the need for public servants to guard against government mendacity and speak out against reckless policies instead of confining their doubts to safe internal channels. The bulk of the book, however, is a candid and detailed account of Ellsberg's own involvement in the Pentagon's policymaking during the critical years of the Johnson administration and the early deliberations of the Nixon administration. He paints a striking picture of intelligent people persevering and tinkering with a war policy that could never be successful, given the inherent limitations of the U.S. military and its South Vietnamese ally. He also describes the complex interaction between the various forms of opposition to the war as it continued under Richard Nixon, and how the president's fury with Ellsberg's own act of dissent led to Watergate and to the added bonus — in addition to Ellsberg's own acquittal — of Nixon's resignation.

Library Journal

Before leaking the Pentagon Papers, which documented U.S. foreign-policy failures and deceit in Vietnam from 1945 to 1968, Ellsberg was a gung-ho advisor to the State and Defense departments. One fascinating part of this story is his growing disenchantment with the war during these years. He came to believe that leaking the top-secret papers and other classified documents was a patriotic act that could help end the war. Other fascinating aspects of this account include Ellsberg's frustrated attempts to find a member of Congress who would accept and use the papers to build a case against the war as well as his growing role in the antiwar movement. President Nixon failed in his strong-arm tactics to discredit Ellsberg, and the case against him was dismissed because of the illegal break-in at the office of Dr Lewis Fielding, Ellsberg's psychiatrist. Interestingly, Ellsberg speculates that the break-in by Nixon's "Plumbers" was as much an attempt to blackmail Fielding as it was a gambit to stop Ellsberg. The book suffers somewhat from the overabundance of detail and repetition that also flawed Tom Wells's Wild Man: The Life and Times of Daniel Ellsberg. However, Ellsberg's autobiographical account provides insight into the disturbing abuses of presidential power that plagued the Vietnam/Watergate era. Recommended for public libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 7/02.]-Karl Helicher, Upper Merion Twp. Lib., King of Prussia, PA Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

Kirkus Reviews

A well-crafted, windmill-tilting autobiography by the famed cold warrior turned antiwar activist. A former Marine officer and civilian employee in Vietnam, Ellsberg knew early on that the war would lead to heartache for America; as early as the fall of 1961, he recalls, he believed "that nothing we were trying to do was working or was likely to get better." Armed with "go-anywhere" clearance and allied with the likes of John Paul Vann (the subject of Neal Sheehan's A Bright, Shining Lie, 1988), Ellsberg had ample opportunities to prove himself right. What is more, he writes here, just about everyone in the American command knew full well that the Vietnam War was a senseless slaughter, the product of think-tankers' fond wishes and blind faith in American might and technological prowess; still, the habitually blundering leadership ignored clear signs of disaster, and when it did, Ellsberg writes, "I foresaw very strong tendencies to try to recoup early failures and break out of a stalemate by expanding the war still further." Determined to bring this folly to a conclusion, Ellsberg, by the late 1960s an analyst for the Rand Corporation, decided to expose more than 7,000 pages of secret material that provided "documentary evidence of lying, by four presidents and their administrations over twenty-three years, to conceal plans and actions of mass murder." When portions of the so-called Pentagon Papers were released by the New York Times and other publications, he writes, sitting president Richard Nixon at first seemed happy to have support for his don't-blame-me argument, then worried that secret documents from his own administration would be leaked to the media-which, Ellsberg writes, set inmotion the chain of spying that ended in the Watergate affair and Nixon's resignation. Throughout, Ellsberg is convinced of the justice of his cause-as will be many of his readers, on seeing the evidence amassed here of the criminality of our recent politics. Thoughtful, full of righteous indignation-rightly so-and likely to be of great interest to students of the Vietnam War and domestic resistance thereto.

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