Thursday, August 28, 2008

Book Reviewing 101

What follows, boys and girls, is a purported book review that appeared this past Sunday in The Daily Oklahoman, a rag of such unspeakable repulsiveness and low quality that you wonder how any civilized people could stand it. And then you remember: oh, yes, this is Oklahoma we're talking about. The author of this so-called review, one each David W. Lee, is pictured at the right, caught on camera during a Idiot Pride Day parade recently.

The authors of the book, Collateral Damage: America's War against Iraqi Citizens, are Pulitzer Prize-winner Christopher Hedges and Laila Al-Arian, a respected veteran journalist. Amy Goodman interviewed Hedges and Al-Arian on "Democracy Now" not long ago. You can listen here for a little more insight than the purported review gives. And you can check the reviews at Amazon.com. The Publisher's Weekly review there describes the book as a "slight polemic" and faults it for "flawed methodology," but in the context of at least an attempt at balance. (Interesting to note also that the two readers who absolutely panned the book did not dispute the truth of the events recounted there.)

I know a little something about book reviews, and the POS below is so bad that I will not take the time to critique in detail. Read it yourself and see. I will simply observe that a nation capable of torturing people, abusing its prisoners, holding innocent people in prisons without charges for years is perfectly capable of mistreating a civilian population. I don't doubt for a second that what's being reported here is actually happening. The alternative understanding, according to the certified genius Mr. Lee, is that the authors of this book and the "only 50 combat veterans" who witnessed these crimes simply made all of this up. Oh, yeah. That's impeccably logical. We begin with the fair and balanced title of the review:

Writers rail against U.S. military

"Collateral Damage: America's War Against Iraqi Citizens” (Nation Books, $22.95)
by Chris Hedges and Laila Al-Arian is exactly what it proclaims: a screed against our American soldiers serving in the dangerous and difficult war in Iraq.
(As opposed to safe and easy wars.)

Published by the far-left The Nation magazine, the book announces in its beginning, "The war in Iraq is now primarily about murder,” and "American Marines and soldiers have become socialized to atrocity.”

The book's theme is that American military conduct in Iraq is similar to that of German soldiers in World War II. The authors refer to the murderous conduct of the infamous Nazi Reserve Police Battalion 101, who committed unspeakable atrocities against Jews in Poland. The authors suggest that American soldiers in Iraq are morally comparable.

The book contains anecdotes of U.S. soldiers who profess to have witnessed Americans acting with criminal recklessness and somewhat murderous (Isn't this like being "somewhat pregnant"?) intent when killing Iraq civilians. Americans are portrayed as those who "opened fire on children throwing rocks.” The claim is made that "many” Americans "have in effect declared war on all Iraqis.” (Just what happened in Vietnam, something that has been thoroughly documented. Why would soldiers in Iraq be any different?)

However, the authors reveal that their sources consist of interviews with only 50 combat veterans, one of whom was a deserter. Nineteen interviews were in person; the rest were by phone. (Duh. What would be the appropriate number of witnesses? Wouldn't you think that for the 50 that talked there are hundreds that didn't? And we all know that interviews aren't valid if you do them over the telephone.)

The authors declare that "it was not uncommon to alter the scene of a shooting,” quoting a total of two soldiers to support this outrageous accusation. (How many soldiers would have to be quoted to make it true?) In the course of this smear of American fighting men and women, the authors quote one of their interviewees as saying, "every good cop carries a throwaway (gun),” meaning police officers in America are always ready to plant evidence on a suspect. (This is something totally unknown, right?)

The authors often engage in unattributed accusations of malfeasance (Just what does this mean? "Unattributed"? "Often"? By a pair of seasoned journalists? A Pulitzer winner? I seriously doubt it. Show me. Give example[s].) by our soldiers, once stating that "(t)roops also quote a sergeant who says that he ‘routinely witnessed Iraqi men ... being beaten by American troops,'” without stating when this happened or why this soldier should be believed. (Utter nonsense. As if that would make any difference to him.)

The rules against soldiers stealing from civilians were "often broken.” And the purported message of this book is best expressed by its statement that "a lot of” American soldiers believed that "if they don't speak English and they have darker skin, they are not as human as us.” (Oh, yeah. I'm sure it's only one or two that believe this. Again, this was true of U.S. troops in Korea, Vietnam, in WWII with the Japanese, against the Mexicans and Native Americans in our own country, and--dare I say it?--this statement is true of "lots" of Americans towards the black and brown and yellow populations of the country today. Soldiers reflect the society they come from.)

This book is an insult to Americans who are fighting and who have died in Iraq for American principles. (Don't even get me started. American principles are perfectly illustrated in this book.)

— David W. Lee

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