Edit of 21 Dec 07 to add links.
This book is a real gem. It outlines a tale of both corruption and ideological mendacity within the White House, and of ignorance and unprofessionalism with the Directorate of Operations in the Central Intelligence Agency. As one who served on the Central American Task Force at the time, and as a clandestine case officer focused on these matters, I find it especially fascinating that I, from the inside, was truly unaware of the degree to which we were engaged in direct support to a band of contras characterized by drug-running, money-laundering, corruption, rape, torture, routine murders, and perhaps worse of all, total incompetence and ineffectiveness.
There are two aspects of this book that truly stand out for anyone who is committed, as I and most CIA employees are, to the concept that "the truth shall make you free."
First, as the title suggests, there is a "lost history" that is unavailable to the American people. The author is not alone in making this charge. The editors of the history of the Department of State have on several occasions complained, both publicly and privately, that an accurate history of the foreign relations of the United States of America cannot be written without more complete disclosure of our various covert operations. Indeed, Derek Leebaert's book The Fifty-Year Wound: How America's Cold War Victory Has Shaped Our World, Jim Bamford's book Body of Secrets: Anatomy of the Ultra-Secret National Security Agency, and Sterling and Peggy Sterling's book Gold Warriors: America's Secret Recovery of Yamashita's Gold, among a number of others books but these three reviewed by me on Amazon and being the most recent and best documentary efforts, all show that America has paid a *huge* cost, a cost running to trillions of dollars in deceitfully mis-spent dollars and lives, for clandestine and covert activities that have inspired enmity, often nurtured environments of genocide and war crimes (Sudan today, for example, given a "bye" for its nominal counter-terrorism support), and spawned vast war profiteering enterprises at the same time that we nurture and encourage dictatorships such as those in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, both of which are protecting Bin Laden, his family (which we allowed to escape from the US rather than taking them hostage--a White House accommodation to its Saudi paymasters), and other terrorists. America needs to understand the truth about such matters, and this book helps.
The other major value of this book is its examination of how the White House, first under Reagan and now under Bush junior, and personified in the activities of one Otto Reich (Reich and Rove are exemplar representatives of the neo-Nazi and neo-conservative aspects of the Cheney-Bush regime), has violated various US laws and values by running psychological operations and media campaigns against its own public. Especially distressing has been the manner in which the National Public Radio (NPR) has been "brought to heel" by threats to cut off its federal subsidies if it fails to accept the lies of the Administration and actually reports truthfully to the public. The Associated Press (AP) is also shown in this book to have subverted the truth and conformed to the falsehoods and propaganda line being purveyed by the Reagan Administration against the American people. The New York Times is specifically cited, on several occasions, and publishing false and misleading information, not because its employees lack ethics (as has recently been the case) but because the NYT is part of the "establishment" and all too eager to betray its readers by publishing the party line from a corrupt White House.
Usefully, the author documents a General Account Office decision on 30 September 1987 that the "white propaganda" of Otto Reich and the Public Diplomacy Office in the Department of State amounted to "prohibited covert propaganda activities" against the US media and the US public. Under Bush Junior the Administration has added blatant lies and manipulated intelligence to its repetoir, and continues to manage covert propaganda against the American people.
Among the most interesting sub-themes the author documents are how Richard Nixon undermined the Vietnam peace talks in order to prevent Johnson from successful resolution, and how Reagan's team undermined the Iran hostage negotiations to prevent Jimmy Carter's ability to resolve that in time for the election. In both cases the Republicans violated the law and engaged in actions that amount to treason--to a betrayal of the public trust. Now fast forward to the recent stories about how Richard Perle was a principal in the Bush Administration's refusal to accept an offer from Saddam Hussein to help in the war on terrorism, allow full US inspection teams, and otherwise give us everything we wanted except his head and the right to loot Iraq. American soldiers are dying today--and a bill we cannot pay is being run up--in Iraq because of Republican treason and Republican lies and Republican propaganda against the American people.
Another important point that this book documents is the sorry reality that CIA analysts cannot trust the CIA clandestine operators to tell them the full truth, and that the US public cannot trust the White House to tell it the full truth (apart from blatant propaganda). The truth in America has been subverted, distorted, and *buried*. As others have documented (see my review of Sheldon Rampton & John Stauber, Weapons of Mass Deception: The Uses of Propaganda in Bush's War on Iraq), the American people are, if they are avid searchers for the truth, able to see only 10% of the facts and undistorted information available to Europeans and Asians.
The book has some flaws--a rotten index, some repetition caused by integrating old and new material--but I rank it as essential reading for anyone who would like to understand how we got ourselves into an unjust war with Iraq, how an extremist Republican Administration was able to do Goering proud by manipulating the American Congress and the American people and the United Nations with a "platform of lies." We have lost history, we have lost ethics, and we are on the verge of losing America and that for which it stands.
Other recommended books, with reviews:
Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA
Dark Alliance: The CIA, the Contras, and the Crack Cocaine Explosion
The Crimes of Patriots: A True Tale of Dope, Dirty Money, and the CIA (Touchstone Books (Paperback))
Vice: Dick Cheney and the Hijacking of the American Presidency
A Pretext for War: 9/11, Iraq, and the Abuse of America's Intelligence Agencies
9/11 Synthetic Terror: Made in USA, Fourth Edition