Strong on Travel and Chit-Chat, Weak on History and Reality,
December 10, 2001
When compared to the other book on Sudan that I read at the same time, “White Nile, Black Blood: War, Leadership, and Ethnicity from Khartoum to Kampala”, this book, while worth reviewing, is extremely disappointing. If this is the best our Department of State can do–if this bland account of endless repetitive meetings and meaningless demarches is the best that America can do in addressing the deep challenges of Sudan–then we need a whole new State Department.It struck me immediately, as I worked through the book, that it is the diary of someone who means well, but has only his personal experience from which to judge the situation. Not only are there no references to learned studies, but the short-sighted thesis of the author is summed up on page 136: “The cumulative combination of factors putting Sudan in such a bad light (with the U.S. Government) began with the military takeover in July 1989.” When one contrasts this statement with the rich 200-year survey provided by “White Nile, Black Blood”, one can only feel a deep sadness for the lower depths of our foreign service.
Early on in the book the author-ambassador confesses to not knowing Arabic and to having had six months training in Arabic before reporting. This demonstrates two things clearly: first, that the Department of State is incompetent in Arabic affairs if it does not have legions of qualified officers fluent in Arabic from whom it can select an Ambassador and second, that obviously the language is not considered critical to the job if six months will suffice–just enough to get to the toilet, not enough to accept directions across town.
This book is a travel diary. I have annotated page 148 with the note: “substitutes travel for thinking.” There is no analysis in this book, no grasp of history, no real grip on the regional realities (other than a passing reference to the fact that water is going to be a cause of war in the future–something well covered in Marq de Villiers “WATER: The Fate of Our Most Precious Resource”. Neither de Villiers nor Michael Klare’s “RESOURCE WARS: The New Landscape of Global Conflict” are cited by this book.)
At the very end there was a tiny glimmer of hope as the author began a chapter on working with the United Nations, and made it clear that the UN practice of allowing each of its agencies to appoint independent ambassadors to the same country, rather than subordinating all UN agencies to a single UN ambassador, was a big part of their problem. After three paragraphs, it became clear there was nothing else to be had from this chapter. I have the note “This is not a serious book.”
At one point in the book the author observes that neither Congress nor the U.S. public would allow the Administration to be more pro-active in Sudan. It immediately occurred to me that if this is true, then the Department of State has failed miserably, ignominiously, at informing the U.S. public of the true situation in Sudan, for any informed citizen would be sure to support extremely aggressive action against the (northern) Sudan despots and supporters of terrorism and genocide.
Predictable but Potent, Irritating But Illuminating,
December 10, 2001
Chomsky is somewhat predictable and irritating in his repetitive condemnation of all past and present U.S. interventions around the world, and he harps heavily on the U.S. being the only country in the world actually condemned for terrorism (against Nicaragua) by the World Court but one has to give him credit–his is one of the few credible voices seeking to enlighten the American people with respect to two major global realities: first, that America is violating others with impunity and regularity; and second, that we have no idea just how hated we are for these actions.There were a couple of tid-bits in this book that made me especially glad to have obtained it for reading and retention. His evaluation of the Sudan situation, and his detailed review of the impact on Sudanese reliant on the low-cost medicines from the factory bombed into oblivion on the now-disputed suggestion of the CIA, provides a perspective that needs more respect.
His lengthy discussion of the contradictory record of the United States on human rights–in favor when it does not interfere with business, actively obstructionist when it takes place in Saudi Arabia or Indonesia where financial equities (generally mining and energy company equities) are great, is disturbingly sensible.
I will always read Chomsky, for he provides a leavening of forthright candor and intellectual honesty that is too often absent from mainstream discussions. Indeed, as I was reading the bit on Sudan, it occured to me that we are long over-due for the next revolution in learned discourse–the digitization of all such books so that a reader can, to take Sudan as an example, see on their screen a “map” of Sudanese issues, and then select from across a range of competing viewpoints on any issue. One has to seek out Chomsky now–in the future it may be salutory to find him automatically served up as a side dish whenever the pundits wax too pontifical.
Brilliant, Compelling, Practical, Essential and Unnerving,
December 10, 2001
John G. Heidenrich
The author of this book not only completed graduate work with a direct focus on genocide, but spent over a year supporting the Office of War Crimes at the Department of State, each day creating an open source intelligence report on genocide-at the time he was engaged in this activity, there were eighteen (18) such active genocidal movements going on around the world.This is a brilliant and compelling book that is also practical and essential for anyone who desires to understand the complete inadequacy of the diplomats, the policymakers, the media, and the intelligence communities. It is unnerving in its calm and reasoned detailing of how genocide can take place, its survey of the millions upon millions of post-WWII holocausts taking place today–as the media and policymakers ignore these realities.
Citizen-voters, in my view, will benefit considerably from this book because it will help them understand that there are three worlds out there, and we as a nation are not dealing well with two of the three–the most dangerous two. There is the world of well-fed diplomats and businessman, traveling and negotiating in their warm safe buffer zones. There is the real world as experienced by normal people, many of whom are oppressed and poor and feel helpless in the face of dictatorial regimes and local warlords who may do as they wish absent the rule of law. And then there is the world of genocide, an underworld of such horrific pervasive violence and inhuman brutality that one can only wonder if we are all guilty of mass insanity for turning our backs on this murder of millions.
The author is a world-class scholar and ardent champion for informing the public and achieving informed policy in this vital area, and I can only hope that serious people put some money behind his thinking.
Most Inexpensive Deep Look at Real World Genocide,
December 10, 2001
This book is a perfect complement to the more scholarly and policy-oriented book by John Heidenrich on “How to Prevent Genocide: A Guide for Policymakers, Scholars, and the Concerned Citizen.” I strongly recommend that both books be bought and read at the same time.This book is a cry from the heart of a Congolese, it has explicit photographs, and you can get through it in half an hour–what you see and feel will be with you for the rest of your life.
It is a good thing when a book of this utility and importance can make its way from the lower depths of Africa and–with the help of amazon–into the mainstream world where anyone can learn of its availability. This is not a book that will be found in libraries or used in classrooms–it is a book that is at once so inexpensive and so horrifying, that any adult who in any way cares about the future of the international community, should buy it….at the same time that they get the Heidenrich book. Two men, world’s apart, with one mind and the same broken heart.
Insights into Workplace Terrorism and Network Corruption,
December 1, 2001
Novels by authoritative figures are a proven way of telling shocking truths without having to deal with lawyers. Richard Marcenko did this to U.S. Navy Special Operations with “Rogue Warrior”, Winn Schwartau did this for American’s vulnerability to anonymous electronic terrorism with “Terminal Compromise.”O’Reilly was written a fascinating novel, one that is not only a first-rate thriller in its own right, but that also lays out some of the really outrageous manipulative and corrupt behavior that is common among senior network managers. He introduces the concept of workplace terrorism (by managers), of “bigfooting” (the theft–plagarism–of good work by field reporters so that the pretty face names (both male and female) can be reinforced); and the falsification of market surveys for the purpose of slandering and firing really good people who refuse to be cowed by bad and unethical network managers.
This novel has it all–engaging truths, a solid plot, a sentimental love story, good police thread, and a dramatic climax. I ended up buying a used copy and am glad I took the trouble. If you ever wondered what traitors to our national intelligence community and some senior network managers have in common, read this book–O’Reilly has put a stake through their hearts.