13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on 22 August 2013
I came to this book having watched the 10 hour excellent documentary series of the same title. I wasn't sure what to expect from such a relatively long book, however I found it a rivetting read, difficult to put down with many interesting moments such as at the views expressed, the retelling of many familar events from a new perspective or in greater detail, and some new information that filled in gaps in my knowledge. The book is told in 14 fairly long chapters and a long introduction that is essential to read to understand the view taken and how the narrative is constructed. The narrative is laced with many interesting facts and quotes, noting the sources and the position or job title of those whose views are being given. The narrative is basically chronological in order though it does contextualise some subjects in the light of recent events, in particular the recent financial crisis and so called war on terror. However much of the narrative stays based in each time period and gradually unfolds through each presidency noting in detail much to do with defence and foreign policy of the US government, though not exclusively, and their development down through the years. A structure which runs in parrallel with the documentary series. However the book is far more detailed and goes into greater depth on many of its subjects and is rather more academic than the somewhat breathless emotive and moralising documentary. I recommend the book as essential reading to anyone with a interest in world history from 1900 onwards. Some grounding in history of the period would help and possibly knowledge of more orthodox views as a balance not just to the views but a contextualisation of events. Certainly it would not just add balance but an interesting perspective on just where that orthodoxy comes from. Otherwise this book is definitely worth a read with its agenda setting views and knowledge rewarding informative narrative that can't be ignored.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 22 January 2014
This is a powerful socio-political history of the most powerful nation that has ever graced the planet. A country that will have us believe...and we would like to believe...that it is the bastion of freedom and democracy. This has been the 'American century' and this book tells us how they achieved this platitude. It is not I might add with any sort of diplomatic grace, humility or democratic panache. This book will outline to you how they got it so wrong?
The authors present a well referenced, researched and informed viewpoint that is hard to ignore. The evidence is overwhelming, the western world, with few exceptions, has been run by what can only be termed as a cacophony of self seeking, arrogant, racist, sub intellectuals for the last hundred years. That Regan used to fall asleep during his morning briefings just about sums up the quality! Those who have occupied that most esteemed of political offices over the last hundred years have left a US democratic legacy that is battered and bleeding, maybe mortally so. A legacy that has seen the ruin of their international reputation and that is also catapulting them into a financial meltdown. It is a story pitted with political, financial and military disasters on such a grand scale that it beggars belief.
I will say however that the fact that they also did a lot of good is hardly highlighted at all in the book. In any case, the good is totally overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of bad. They made decisions that left millions dead, destroyed entire countries and nullified what should be basic world commodities, that of a reasonable amount of world peace and stability without the threat or risk of an armageddon. The lies, deceit and sheer arrogance practiced by most of these historic figures (and administrations) belies belief. Here we find the true reasons behind the unlawful or unwarranted sovereign interventions in Korea, Vietnam, Panama, Grenada, Iraq and Afghanistan, the clandestine and bloody subterfuge involved in supporting rogue states and dictators, state authorised assassinations, the common use of torture by government agencies and the lack of conformity to domestic and international laws. In turn there are lost opportunities to shackle the growth of nuclear weapons, the eternal shame of their unnecessary use and the basic system incompetences involved in alleged near misses.
The list is endless and it makes very sad reading. Sad because most of us know that it is true and that the people of the US deserve better. Sadder still is that I could write the same review about the UK. A very comprehensive and authoritative book brilliantly researched that is superbly written. One of my best reads ever.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 26 March 2014
This is an eye-opening and at times depressing book. I consider myself reasonably well informed and politically aware but I knew virtually nothing of most of the events chronicled in this book. I had, sorry to say, swallowed the narrative of the USA as staunch defender of freedom and democracy. Not perfect - everyone makes mistakes - but fundamentally on the right side. This book exposes just how far from the truth that is. The history of America in the 20th century, with a few notable exceptions, is one of ruthless defence of the interests of the American elite (not the American people) and an anti-socialist paranoia that border on the insane. Overthrowing democratically elected governments at the behest of a fruit company is just one example.
The book is not perfect - the authors are much too indulgent of Stalin and other communist regimes - but the cold setting out of actions taken by the US government is a much needed antidote to the usual cheerleading. After 9/11, Americans asked why so many people in the world seemed to hate them. Being raised on the notion of America as a beacon of liberty, it's understandable that they were perplexed and concluded that the world must hate their "freedom". This book provides some of the true answer. You can't go around the world toppling governments and installing fascist puppets that go on to murder hundreds of thousands without generating a lot of hatred. And so many of those earlier acts - notably Iraq and Iran - have since come home to roost.
43 of 46 people found the following review helpful
on 20 June 2013
My name is Nikita. I was born in South America in a country called Guyana. My father was a leftist having raised himself out of poverty by exceling in his studies. I grew up with Indians and Blacks with names like Dimitri, Vladimir and Mikhail. The country I was raised in was ruled by a right wing dictator and was propped up by the Carter government. My family fled the country with nothing after my father was beaten up and my family threatened.
Why am I telling you all of this? Because this book tells the story of the injustices committed against my people and the peoples of the world.
It is not an anti American book it is a critical evaluation of the last 100 years of US hegemony. It has laid bare the truth that the government exists only to serve the needs and imperialistic ambitions of the right wingers, corporations and the military industrial complex.
Americans should definitely read this book and be angry...very angry as it is only you..the voting peoples of the American republic that can change the course of the United States of America.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 24 January 2014
I have been lied to my who life. That's how it feels after reading this book. I thought I was fairly aware of the fact that successive American governments in my life time, were not the good guys that they, and quite often the press, would have us believe. However in truth I had no idea how devastating American foreign policy was for the World. How many people have died, directly and indirectly, so that the Right Wing and American corporations can fulfil their agendas. How many democratically elected Governments around the World were deposed with support from the CIA, to be replaced by brutal regimes that tortured, murdered and robbed their own people, so that American corporations could monopolise industries there and the American government had a friendly regime they could deal with. Also it appears that increasingly the civil liberties of Americans themselves have been eroded away, and continue to be. Which clearly shows that this very small but inordinately powerful group of people care for nobody except themselves.
I hope the 99% protest that started with 'Occupy Wall Street' does not go away. It needs to keep pushing and protesting and voting so that there is a fundamental shift to who holds the power in the States.....because it isn't ordinary Americans.
A very well written book that gives you the facts to see clearly yourself what is really going on. More Americans need to read this or watch the TV series and not have the blind faith that many of them seem to have about their leaders.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 10 August 2013
Stone lays down the underhand machinations of US politics and history and its so amazing you think this cannot be true, but deep down you you know it almost certainly is! Must watch with the TV series!!
35 of 39 people found the following review helpful
on 20 April 2013
There were a few times I put this book down and didn't want to pick it up again. I did because I felt like that guy in the Dirty Harry movie ' I just gotta know' that the most powerful handgun in world might finally be running out of bullets.
The book is relentless in its message and being hit with facts and figures, personalities and events with machine gun repetition becomes depressing, not so much for how its written but for what its revealing,page after page.
For a UK reader some political figures are unknown and it's hard to put things into context or understand their relative importance and influence. The book isn't ' balanced ' It's got something to say and it's going to say it and what it says is hugely important to our understanding of where we are today.
To anyone remotely interested in history and politics this book is an essential and compelling read. You just gotta find out for yourselves.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
This is a carefully researched, well written and very readable work by Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick. Since I'm old enough to have lived through all that is described in this work except for chapters 1 and some of 2, I was encouraged to find that both the descriptions and the assessments of the history of this period are much as I remember them. Among my earliest memories are the Silver Jubilee in 1935 and the Abdication in 1936. 'Abdication' was one of the first long words I learned to spell along with reciting the multiplication tables. In those days we learned all the tables by rote right up to 12 x 12 = 144 and to recite the alphabet by the time we were six years old. I can also recall the old people saying that we were not ready to go to war in September 1939 and that we wouldn't really help the Poles very much by so doing. I can also remember how, after war was declared on 3 September, my father told me that, right or wrong, we must be loyal to king and country and that things that could be said publicly in peacetime must not be spoken openly in wartime.
When what was then the USSR invaded Finland people all over the UK were knitting gloves and balaclavas for the brave Finnish soldiers who were fighting so valiantly against the Russian communist bullies. Then, when Hitler invaded Russia, we were told that the Finns were now bad because they supported the Germans and that we must send help to Uncle Joe and his brave Russians. Later on, when the Americans entered the war and their soldiers, known as GIs, began to arrive in the UK the answer to the question: 'What is wrong with the Yanks?' was: 'They're overpaid, overfed, oversexed and over here.' Later on, when black American soldiers began to arrive, they were amazed at how kindly they were treated by the British people. We all knew that the Montgomery led victory over the Germans at El Alamein marked a turning point in the war and that after the Russian victory at Stalingrad the defeat of Nazi Germany was certain. This is the kind of thing that is brought out so accurately in this interesting book. As I read it I felt I was reliving the past 70 years and more. I kept saying to myself: 'Yes! That's just how I remember it.'
The Japanese, Korean and Vietnamese wars are carefully reviewed and the American blunders that so many of us were only too well aware of at the time, including their ignominious defeat by the Vietnamese, are carefully analysed. The most encouraging thing about this book is that, precisely because it exposes the mistakes and weaknesses of the various presidents and their governments, it has the effect of bringing the reader closer to the American people who are just people after all and not some Holywoodised super race incapable of ever being in the wrong. We may be forgiven for supposing that Tony Blair actually believed that they must indeed be infallible, otherwise he would not have supported either the Afghan war or the second Iraq war., both of which can now be seen to have been disastrous mistakes, all of which is carefully evidenced and explained in this well written book.
This carefully researched work also exposes how unnecessary it was to drop the atom bombs on both Hiroshima and Nagasaki since the Japanese had already decided to surrender, which was being held up mainly because of deciding how to treat the Japanese emperor, a problem that could have been solved without the bombs. Since Christianity is very much a minority religion in Japan, it was ironic that Nagasaki, a city with the largest Christian minority in the country, was chosen as the target for the second atom bomb with the result that, not only was the cathedral destroyed, but thousands of Japanese Christians also perished. These are just a few examples of how good this book is.
One of the most interesting aspects of this work is what it has to say about Jimmy Carter. It shows how, although a blundering president, he accomplished a whole host of good things both before and after he was president. This work reveals the American people as human beings much the same as the rest of us and not as some kind of super-beings especially adapted for world leadership and always right about everything. A great nation, yes; but certainly not faultless.
55 of 63 people found the following review helpful
This is a socio-political history of the United States of America in the 20th and 21st centuries, but not as its leaders would like. Instead, it is a searing indictment of how, in the name of the people, they have engaged in a string of disastrous wars, in South America, Asia, and elsewhere, often launched in violation of American laws, that have cost trillions of dollars and have led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of civilians; the imprisonment without trial, and the torture and abuse, of numerous prisoners, contrary to both American and international law; the killing of alleged terrorists by drone attacks, regardless of the `collateral' deaths of civilians; and the establishment of more than 1000 military bases worldwide. At the same time, it is a country with an enormous disparity between the rich and the poor, increasing because of advantageous tax laws, where the former own a huge fraction of the wealth of the country, out of all proportion to their numerical size; where vast sums of money can be legally contributed to political campaigns in order to win power and influence; but where the national infrastructure is collapsing and educational standards are low; where there is no national health service (unique among developed countries); whose economy is in severe deficit and life can continue as it is only because China is still willing to buy US Government bonds. It is a story of lies and deceit, bullying smaller nations, including threats of nuclear war, and sheer arrogance. It is not an edifying story, but Stone and Kuznick tell it brilliantly.
The format is chronological, with each chapter focusing on the President then in power, and the collective of political and military people gathered around him. It is a constant source of wonder that for a country with several hundred million inhabitants, the President has so often turned out to be a nonentity, often without any real understanding of world politics, economics, or just about anything that a President should know about (including sometimes even elementary geography). All too often, they have taken actions that were clearly wrong from the evidence of history. An example is the disastrous invasion of Afghanistan, when the experience of Vietnam showed that a war against a peasant force, fighting on its homeland and unafraid to die, is unwinnable. The hypocrisy of successive administrations is staggering. High sounding speeches about `nation building', saving American lives etc., have been used to cover the true reasons of many American interventions, which are hysterical anti-Communism and the wealth that comes from control over natural resources, oil and minerals principally. Even Obama, who came to power full of promise that things would change, has turned out to be as repressive as his predecessors in both military matters (increasing troop numbers in Afghanistan before finally deciding `enough was enough') and just as weak in his resolve to tackle fundamental problems at home (for example, the failure to establish a health service, downgrading the aims of gun control legislation, and the harsh pursuit of `leakers' of embarrassing truths).
There are errors in the narrative and some positive things that should have been there are not (the sections on WW2 concentrate on the role of the atomic bomb), but if only a fraction of what it does contain is true, and I have no reason to believe it is not (there are over 100 small-type pages of references to back up practically every statement) this is a book everyone interested in learning from recent historical events (and that should be everyone) should read. The photo on p599 of a five-year old Iraqi girl, crying desperately on the ground just after her parents were killed in error by an American patrol when the family were driving at night, with the boots and rifle of a soldier standing over her visible, says it all.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 20 March 2015
Very Informative and enjoyable book to read. I tried William Blaum's Killing hope which is a fantastically well researched book on similar subject matter but to be honest I was finding it a bit of a slog and tried this instead which I flew through. I'll go back to kiling hope a bit at a time I think.
This along with the T.V. series gives a great insight into some of the very questionable U.S. actions over the years. Probably because of sheer laziness I think I had fallen victim to the myths perpetuated about the U.S.A.
Put simply I always assumed The U.S. were 'the good guys' in world affairs. After reading this book I am much more skeptical about the motivation behind U.S. actions on the world stage.