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Ronbo

Michael Rogin, 13 October 1988

Guts and Glory: The Rise and Fall of Oliver North 
by Ben Bradlee.
Grafton, 572 pp., £14.95, September 1988, 0 246 13364 3
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For the Record: From Wall Street to Washington 
by Donald Regan.
Hutchinson, 397 pp., £16.95, June 1988, 0 09 173622 6
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... National Security Adviser), but also supplied the President with what National Security Adviser John Poindexter called ‘plausible deniability’ by insulating him from the men like North who were actually implementing his covert operations. Split from one another and from Reagan himself, North and Regan were the doubles of the President they served. ‘I ...

On the imagining of conspiracy

Christopher Hitchens, 7 November 1991

Harlot’s Ghost 
by Norman Mailer.
Joseph, 1122 pp., £15.99, October 1991, 0 7181 2934 2
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A Very Thin Line: The Iran-Contra Affairs 
by Theodore Draper.
Hill and Wang, 690 pp., $27.95, June 1991, 0 8090 9613 7
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... Administration. The great cult film of all time in this respect is George Axelrod’s and John Frankenheimer’s The Manchurian Candidate, withdrawn from circulation after the Kennedy assassination but now available again in cassette form. And the great artistic and emblematic coincidence of the movie is the playing of the good guy by Frank Sinatra ...

Just one more species doing its best

Richard Rorty, 25 July 1991

The Later Works 1925-1953. Vol. XVII: Miscellaneous Writings, 1885-1953 
by John Dewey, edited by Jo Ann Boydston.
Southern Illinois, 786 pp., $50, August 1990, 0 8093 1661 7
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Dewey 
by J.E. Tiles.
Routledge, 256 pp., £35, December 1988, 0 415 00908 1
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John Dewey and American Democracy 
by Robert Westbrook.
Cornell, 608 pp., $32.95, May 1991, 0 8014 2560 3
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Beloved Community: The Cultural Criticism of Randolph Bourne, Van Wyck Brooks, Waldo Frank and Lewis Mumford 
by Casey Blake.
North Carolina, 370 pp., $38.45, November 1990, 0 8078 1935 2
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... have, I imagine, met those specifications. But the one who comes first to an American’s mind is JohnDewey: a man whose engagement in primary and higher education, and whose active participation in politics, were considerably more extensive than Russell’s – and, I should argue, more focused, intelligent and useful. Dewey was the most ...

The Fastidious President

David Bromwich: The Matter with Obama, 18 November 2010

... will be Obama’s choice of Robert Gates as secretary of defence. Gates worked under William Casey, the director of the CIA at the time of the Iran-Contra scandal. His nomination by Ronald Reagan to head the CIA was thwarted by suspicions of his complicity in covert operations in Nicaragua. The elder Bush later renominated him and got him through. Gates ...

Bites from the Bearded Crocodile

G. Cabrera Infante, 4 June 1981

... except in such recherché musical circles as the coterie around Nadia Boulanger in Paris or by John Cage’s epigoni everywhere. Roldan, also a remarkable conductor, died of a skin cancer in the face in his early thirties. Cruelly deformed, in his last performances he had to climb the podium wearing a silk mask. Caturla, a country judge who used to compose ...

Doctor Feelgood

R.W. Johnson, 3 March 1988

Reagan’s America: Innocents at Home 
by Garry Wills.
Heinemann, 488 pp., £14.95, February 1988, 0 434 86623 7
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... is exactly what happened. Reagan re-installed such Nixon stalwarts as Haig, Shultz, Weinberger and Casey, while Ed Meese and Larry Speakes gave imitations of John Mitchell and Ron Ziegler which had all but the cognoscenti fooled. This time, however, there were no residual concessions to the Eastern Establishment – no ...

At least they paid their taxes

Linda Colley, 25 July 1991

Nancy Reagan: The Unauthorised Biography 
by Kitty Kelley.
Bantam, 532 pp., £16.99, April 1991, 0 593 02450 8
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... Chief of Staff, has claimed that she influenced the sacking of Reagan’s campaign chairman, John Sears, in 1980; Larry Speakes has argued that she kept Lynn Nofzinger from becoming Press Secretary: while Donald Regan, the former Secretary of the Treasury, has accused her of a host of similar sins, including campaigning for the resignation of William ...

Ethnic Cleansers

Stephen Smith, 8 October 1992

Four Hours in My Lai: A War Crime and its Aftermath 
by Michael Bilton and Kevin Sim.
Viking, 430 pp., £17.99, May 1992, 0 670 83233 2
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Tiger Balm: Travels in Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia 
by Lucretia Stewart.
Chatto, 261 pp., £10.99, June 1992, 0 7011 3892 0
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... of Calley taking the air outside the store, looking unaccountably like the late CIA chief William Casey. There is a chilling sighting of Calley’s comrade Vernado Simpson, who went to Vietnam a 19-year-old, and perpetrated 25 of the killings in My Lai less than four months later. He didn’t just despatch his victims, who included women and children: he also ...

Time Longer than Rope

Greil Marcus, 16 November 1995

... off the ground. This is a train you want to board, but like so many trains in American song, from Casey Jones’s Illinois Central 638 to the 16-coach cannonball in the Carter Family’s ‘Worried Man Blues’, it’s a train that could be easier to get on than get off.The train runs smoothly even as the rhythm pulls against itself: first stop San ...

Diary

Patrick Cockburn: The 1956 Polio Epidemic, 7 May 2020

... telephone had become a casualty of some particularly dire financial emergency.I was examined by John Gowen, an Englishman with a small practice in Youghal, who drove up to Brook Lodge a couple of hours later. The epidemic had begun in July – polio was sometimes called the ‘summer plague’ – and he can’t have had much doubt about what the diagnosis ...

Get over it!

Corey Robin: Antonin Scalia, 10 June 2010

American Original: The Life and Constitution of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia 
by Joan Biskupic.
Farrar, Straus, 434 pp., $28, November 2009, 978 0 374 20289 7
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... Elena Kagan, Barack Obama’s nominee to replace the retiring Supreme Court justice John Paul Stevens, is scheduled to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee in late June. Before she is confirmed by the committee, she will have to answer questions about her views on the constitution and her lack of judicial experience ...
... viewed with dismay the lack of restraint and caution in O’Donovan Rossa’s violent rhetoric. John Devoy, one of the leaders of Clan na Gael, the main Irish nationalist organisation in America, believed, as Kenna writes, that O’Donovan Rossa ‘had given the British ample warning of his plans through a desire for notoriety and theatricality, thus ...

Terrorism

Ian Gilmour, 23 October 1986

Britain’s Civil Wars: Counter-Insurgency in the 20th Century 
by Charles Townshend.
Faber, 220 pp., £14.95, June 1986, 0 571 13802 0
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Terrorism and the Liberal State 
by Paul Wilkinson.
Macmillan, 322 pp., £25, May 1986, 0 333 39490 9
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Terrorism: How the West can win 
edited by Benjamin Netanyahu.
Weidenfeld, 254 pp., £14.95, August 1986, 0 297 79025 0
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Political Murder: From Tyrannicide to Terrorism 
by Franklin Ford.
Harvard, 440 pp., £24.95, November 1985, 0 674 68635 7
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The Financing of Terror 
by James Adams.
New English Library, 294 pp., £12.95, July 1986, 0 450 06086 1
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They dare to speak out: People and institutions confront Israel’s lobby 
by Paul Findley.
Lawrence Hill (Connecticut), 362 pp., $16.95, May 1985, 0 88208 179 9
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... observing the law – ‘lest terrorists win by inducing a kind of bunker terrorism’. John O’Sullivan emphasises the need to deny them publicity. In the best piece in the book Leszek Kolakowski discusses legitimacy and terrorism, pointing out that the armed struggle of the underground partisans against the Nazi occupation was perfectly ...

Irangate

Edward Said, 7 May 1987

The Jaguar Smile: A Nicaraguan Journey 
by Salman Rushdie.
Picador, 171 pp., £2.95, January 1987, 0 330 29990 5
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Turning the Tide: US Intervention in Central America and the Struggle for Peace 
by Noam Chomsky.
Pluto, 298 pp., £5.95, September 1986, 0 7453 0184 3
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... thousand deaths), it comes to seem probable that the geo-political opening undertaken by William Casey, McFarlane, North and company was nothing less than an attempted coup whose goal was either the fomenting of prolonged instability in Iran or the accession to power of some person or group less hostile to the US and Israel. The man publicly identified with ...

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