August 24, 2019

Book Reviews by Jerome Wilson

IN THE GARDEN OF BEASTS

Love, Terror and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin

By Erik Larsen

William E. Dodd was a little known Chairman of the History Department of the University of Chicago, when he accepted President Roosevelt’s invitation to become the U.S. Ambassador to Hitler’s Germany. Dodd was appointed to this post, because the President could not find anyone more prominent to take it.

Although there were strong pressures, both in Berlin from the German government and from Dodd’s bosses at the U.S. State Department, to ignore the enormous evils being perpetrated by the Nazi regime, Dodd refused to go along. In fact, he frequently criticized the treatment of German Jews and elements in German society that supported Hitler’s regime, and in doing so doing exhibited the best of American democratic values.

For example, Dodd refused to attend Hitler’s monstrous Nuremberg rallies, and allied himself with the ambassadors from other nations, such as Great Britain, that were critical of the Nazi regime. Ultimately, after close to four years, the go-along-with-Hitler crowd at the U.S. State Department succeeded in forcing Dodd to resign. Roosevelt withdrew his support from Dodd as well.

Dodd’s replacement, Hugh Wilson, immediately after his  appointment  pledged to the Nazi Foreign Minister, Joachim von Ribbentrop, that if  Germany began a war in Europe, he would do everything in his power to keep America out of the conflict.

 

 WE MEANT WELL  

HOW I HELPED LOSE THE BATTLE FOR THE HEARTS AND MINDS OF THE IRAQI PEOPLE

By Peter Van Buren

This book argues the futility of the American effort to gain acceptance in Iraq by building hugely expense construction projects. In the author’s view it was an impossible mission in the first place, made even more impossible by the gross incompetence of those building the projects, both American and Iraqi. The author came to these conclusions after spending a year in Iraq as a U.S. State Department official managing projects to rebuild the country.

Among projects that failed, according to the author, was (1) a brand new highway built by a U.S. Army contractor, which ended up being used by Iraq insurgents as a transit route for nighttime attacks on U.S. installations; (2) a new hospital in Baghdad, paid for by U.S. dollars, that was left roofless and abandoned, because the Iraqi government could not afford to complete its construction; (3) a $40 million Iraqi prison, paid for by the U.S., that after completion never opened; (4) a $104 million U.S. funded, and failed, sewer system in Fallujah; and (5) a $171 million U.S funded hospital in southern Iraq that Laura Bush “opened” in 2004, and which to date has never seen a patient. One estimate of this “legacy of waste” in U.S. projects came in at $5 billion, according to the author.

The author also relates that at the time he wrote the book, 4,471 United States military personnel had been killed in Iraq, and of that number 913 were suicides.

 

TO END ALL WARS

A STORY OF LOYALTY AND REBELLION, 1914-1918

By Adam Hochschild

World War I was one of the world’s most tragic wars, until of course the even larger tragedy of World War II. The German Kaiser effectively started World War I, and France and England, in spite of enormous losses were about to lose it, until two million of Woodrow Wilson’s U.S.  Troops turned the tide, and ultimately forced a Germany armistice.

In addition to a general history of this tragic conflict, the book includes an extensive portrayal of the peace movement in England and the many conscious objectors, a subject not generally found in books about wars.

The book also portrays the erosion of popular support for the war in England, as the enormity of English casualties began to sink in among the general population.

Share