Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Picking the Bones

Never got round to plugging one of the better books I've read on the subject of politics and Iraq; Picking The Bones by Geoffrey Regan. The brief review which I wrote for the Amazon site is reproduced below. For anyone who is interested in the historical precedents and parallels in Bush and Blair's 'crusade', it's essential reading.

"The political influence, democratic soundness and wisdom of waging war in Iraq by George Bush and Tony Blair has provoked a seemingly endless stream of comment, debate, and books. But Picking The Bones takes a different approach to the likes of Dude, Where's My Country and Weapons of Mass Deception by examining the way in which political rhetoric has exploited a revisionist and highly selective kind of history in order to justify war.

America is, we are told, 'land of the free', 'where all man are created equal'. Yet America's history is awash with bloodshed, tainted by racism, and shamed by slavery. When Americans talk about freedom, what do they mean? Native and African Americans, the people of Hiroshima, Vietnam, the Philippines and Grenada (not to mention Iraq) have all been on the receiving end of America's military might and suffered from the savagery of war. Some, it seems, are more equal than others. Regan points to British atrocities too, skewers the myth that the French are 'cheese eating surrender monkeys' and demonstrates with remarkable clarity the historical precedents for America's 'War on Terror'.

If the book has a failing it is that it provides what feels like a surfeit of information; as the book progresses Regan demonstrates countless war crimes, lies, and double standards to the point where the reader reels from the facts. But when the author, at the book's close, nails American history as American myth-making, he makes his point astutely, having already given more than enough examples to back himself up.

This rhetorical power aside, he writes wittily and accessibly, with much evident enjoyment, articulating the threat which America, as much as any of Bush and Cheney's 'Axis of Evil', poses to world stability. His book is the historian's counterpart to Graham Greene's description of The Quiet American, who is "as incapable of imagining pain or danger to himself as he [is] incapable of conceiving the pain he might cause others".

No comments: