Cool concept, but as you might guess, tweets don't make such a great book. I do follow some of the people in this book on twitter now though, which isCool concept, but as you might guess, tweets don't make such a great book. I do follow some of the people in this book on twitter now though, which is kind of cool....more
Darwish is probably my favorite late 20th century poet and this novel, the only novel he ever wrote, is incredible. It's more a prose poem than a noveDarwish is probably my favorite late 20th century poet and this novel, the only novel he ever wrote, is incredible. It's more a prose poem than a novel, taking place over a single day during the Israeli siege of Beirut in 1982. It's like Ulysses, only a fraction of the length and, well, good. Not to mention its about and a subject that matters!...more
Kapuscinski, ever the poetic journalist, has written a compelling little book here. This book is a convincing argument that the Shah was worse than thKapuscinski, ever the poetic journalist, has written a compelling little book here. This book is a convincing argument that the Shah was worse than the Islamic republic. I don't know that I've ever heard anything as bad as burning the eyelids off of a mullah in order to force him to watch his own daughter being raped. He gives a good sense of life under the shah, which is strangely the cynical opposite of Iran today: now hijabs are mandatory, before they for forbidden; now, turbans are a mark of power, then traditional clothing was banned as a sign of backwardness. The book also explains, though not in great detail, how Moahammed Reza Shah came to power: he was essentially installed by the British after his father (a nazi-sympathizer) refused to let the allies use the railway through his country in 1941. Reza Shah didn't give much of a damn about politics--he seemed more interested in the good life--so the democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammed Mosadegh became the de facto ruler, until he was deposed by a CIA-engineered coup in 1953.
What Kapuscinski does best is give us the little details that tell the whole. And in a book full of so much horror, he manages to write a beautiful poetic ending....more
This book was a great look at the internal politics of post-revolutionary Iran. It gave a good sense of the rifts between the "old guard" of the revolThis book was a great look at the internal politics of post-revolutionary Iran. It gave a good sense of the rifts between the "old guard" of the revolution and the "new right." Takeyh clearly illustrates the process by which Iran has become less democratic. He takes the reader through the internal struggle that has taken place since the revolution, which saw the hardliners take over the government in 2005, push out the reformists, and finalize their centralization of power. He also shows the ways in which Iranian politicians use "external threats" to manipulate internal politics. Takeyh can be a little naive about the U.S. side of things (he calls the US' invitation to the Shah to come to the country for medical treatment in '79 a humanitarian gesture!) Overall, a thorough and detailed study of Iranian politics since the birth of the Islamic Republic....more
Talk about crazy religious cults. Heavens Gate got nothing on this group of Wahabbi waccos! These bearded fellows stormed out of the desert and took oTalk about crazy religious cults. Heavens Gate got nothing on this group of Wahabbi waccos! These bearded fellows stormed out of the desert and took over the Great mosque in 1979. Complete with the appearance of the Mehdi, a burning American embassy in Pakistan, and a good old Saudi family disfunctionality. It's pretty wild when the Saudi royal family look like a bunch of liberals.
The book is a pretty straightforward journalistic account created over thirty years later by interviewing people across the Islamic world that either took part in the siege or were there when it happened. Trofimov did a good job piecing together the events and tracking the ripples they sent across the world. 79 was a crazy time. Islamic revolution in Iran, heavily armed Wahabis taking over Mecca, and the Arab nationalists threatening them both with the communist scare.
This is a pretty important part of history--the first significant Sunni fundamentalist uprising in modern history, setting the stage for a force that I find to be at least as bad as American involvement in the region: the spread of Saudi Wahabism. ...more
I knew the war was hatched by a fantasy driven cabal, but this book really laid it out in detail. It's an interesting contrast to another book I recenI knew the war was hatched by a fantasy driven cabal, but this book really laid it out in detail. It's an interesting contrast to another book I recently read, titled "Muqtada," by Patrick Cockburn. Cockburn's book deals with the Iraq almost exclusively from the standpoint of (anti-U.S.) Iraqi Shias. This book deals with the war almost exclusively from the standpoint of the U.S. crew than ran Iraq up until the elections in 2005. Both compliment each other well.
The gist of the book is that as soon as the war was started, a hand-picked bunch of neocons, or neocon sympathizers, were put in charge of administering Iraq. Most had no idea what they were doing. As Chandrasekaran describes it, many were true believers of the neocon fantasy of rebuilding Iraq to be a shining example of democracy and free capitalism in the Middle East. Douglas Feith, the neocon in charge of setting up the CPA, though it would be accomplished in 90 days. The Coalition Provisional Authority's viceroy, Paul Bremer, dropped all trade restrictions immediately and moved to privatize industry, which the old ministers of the state owned companies were happy to do to make a bunch of money...until their workers tried to assassinate them.
Chandraskaran gives a good sense of how much the CPA really believed they were revolutionizing Iraq and his examples of how they did it make a really interesting read. He talks about people hired to deal with traffic who went about writing traffic laws based on those of Massachusetts, a professor from Johns Hopkins University hired to reconstruct the university system who set his sites on creating academic freedom rather than rebuilding the bombed out buildings, and grand plans to create an area code system well before a constitution was even written.
To me, Chandraskran is operating a little too much within the official story--he says the occupation ended when sovereignty was handed over and at times suggests that a free market might not be such a bad idea--but it's his total immersion within their fantasy world that makes the book good. His illustrations of life inside the Green Zone, where people used water shipped from Kuwait and had their laundry done there too, are emblematic of US involvement in Iraq: they have their own little world, where they pat each other on the back for being pioneers of freedom, while hell reigns down around them....more
Cockburn is one of the few journalists writing on Iraq that is doing a good job of it. The first half of this book lays out the context for Muqtada'aCockburn is one of the few journalists writing on Iraq that is doing a good job of it. The first half of this book lays out the context for Muqtada'a rise to the top of the Shia resistance in Iraq, starting with the death of Imam Ali up to the horrid repression of the Shia under Saddam. Cockburn clearly lays out the context for Muqtada's ability to become the leader of millions of Shia underclass and the most formidable opponent to the U.S. regime. His reporting is even handed and detailed, which is impressive given the enormous complexity of Iraq today. One of the things I liked most about this book is that it deals with Iraq from the standpoint of Iraq, not the U.S., placing the current war in a continuum of Iraqi history. It shows the U.S. as one player in a complicated war with multiple sides and layers and delves into the Mehdi army, one of the groups within the waring groups in Iraq, and probably the most powerful. It is an excellent read and timely, ending with the U.S. "surge." Books on Iraq tend to expire after a year, but this is definitely the one for today....more
The British guy who wrote this book has lived in Old Sana'a for 20-30 years. I used to see him floating around every once in a while, walking to or frThe British guy who wrote this book has lived in Old Sana'a for 20-30 years. I used to see him floating around every once in a while, walking to or from the qat market....more
I only read the first half of this book, then I had to give it back to the guy I borrowed it from. I still want to track it down and read the rest. AsI only read the first half of this book, then I had to give it back to the guy I borrowed it from. I still want to track it down and read the rest. As far as I can tell, this is the decisive book on the Lebanon wars (excluding the July war, of course). Fisk is a great writer and tells the story well. The main problem with the book is keeping the chronology straight in your head, because he jumps around a lot....more