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Riding the Night Winds

Ron Ridenhour, 22 June 1995

Derailed in Uncle Ho’s Victory Garden: Return to Vietnam and Cambodia 
by Tim Page.
Touchstone, 248 pp., £14.99, April 1995, 0 671 71926 2
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In the Lake of the Woods 
by Tim O’Brien.
Flamingo, 306 pp., £5.99, April 1995, 0 00 654395 2
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In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam 
by Robert McNamara.
Random House, 432 pp., $27.50, April 1995, 0 8129 2523 8
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... grunt Tim O’Brien, face the darkness squarely. The third, former US Secretary of Defence Robert McNamara, merely pretends to. In his own way, however, each writer tells the story of a quest or a flight, a search for redemption and understanding, a search for the truth, or an escape from it. Each, in his own way, is likewise a cipher for the ...

To Stop the World from Ending

Frederick Seidel, 11 September 2014

... him. The Commander in Chief sat on the toilet, shitting and shouting, and it was grim, Which made Robert McNamara make things up and gag. Airlines, doctors, concerts, restaurants – and politics and girls – Are balmy tropical topics which, while counting the tiles, a traveller enjoys. The King’s College Chapel Choir, emitting ethereal ...

Sterling and Strings

Peter Davies: Harold Wilson and Vietnam, 20 November 2008

... like the word “dissociate”’, the vice president, Hubert Humphrey, and the defence secretary, Robert McNamara, confirmed that ‘the prime minister’s position was well understood’ and ‘there would be no hard feelings.’ As the war in Vietnam progressed, however, opposition among the public and inside the Labour Party increased, and by late ...

Those Genes!

Charles Wheeler, 17 July 1997

Personal History 
by Katharine Graham.
Weidenfeld, 642 pp., £25, May 1997, 9780297819646
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... that Johnson was in the picture angry black delegates and labour leaders rushed to protest to Robert Kennedy, who flatly denied the story. John Kennedy waited until the nomination was safely behind him before he approached Johnson directly. LBJ, whose advisers were telling him to turn down the offer and stick to his job as majority leader in the ...

Breaking the banks

Charles Raw, 17 December 1981

The Money Lenders 
by Anthony Sampson.
Hodder, 336 pp., £7.95, September 1981, 0 340 25719 9
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... of America, a man called Tom Clausen, lurks in the background. Since he has now taken over from Robert McNamara as chief of the World Bank, he would almost certainly have taken a more prominent role in Sampson’s book but for one thing: he was the only top banker who could not find time to see Sampson – an extraordinary decision for a man who told ...

Arty Party

Hal Foster: From the ‘society of spectacle’ to the ‘society of extras’, 4 December 2003

Relational Aesthetics 
by Nicolas Bourriaud, translated by Matthew Copeland.
Les Presses du réel, 128 pp., €9, March 2002, 2 84066 060 1
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Postproduction 
by Nicolas Bourriaud, translated by Jeanine Herman.
Lukas and Sternberg, 88 pp., $19, October 2001, 0 9711193 0 9
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Interviews: Volume I 
by Hans Ulrich Obrist.
Charta, 967 pp., $60, June 2003, 9788881584314
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... platforms, some dotted with information about a famous person from the past (Erasmus Darwin or Robert McNamara), as though a documentary script were in the making or a history seminar had just finished. Or, finally, a kiosk cobbled together from plastic and plywood, and filled, like a homemade study-shrine, with images and texts devoted to a ...

Levittown to Laos

Thomas Sugrue: The Kennedy Assassination, 22 July 2010

The Kennedy Assassination: 24 Hours After 
by Steven Gillon.
Basic Books, 294 pp., £15.99, November 2009, 978 0 465 01870 3
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... aided by Kennedy holdovers – among them, the enormously influential secretary of defence, Robert McNamara. By 1968, with more than half a million American troops stationed in the former French colony of Indochina, his massive military expenditure began to starve his Great Society. And second, although he presided over imperial America’s ...

Cuba or the Base?

Piero Gleijeses: Guantánamo, 26 March 2009

Guantanamo: A Working-Class History between Empire and Revolution 
by Jana Lipman.
California, 325 pp., £17.95, December 2008, 978 0 520 25540 1
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... that with hindsight, if I had been a Cuban leader, I think I might have expected a US invasion,’ Robert McNamara, Kennedy’s defence secretary, confessed in 1989. ‘I should say, as well, if I had been a Soviet leader at the time, I might have come to the same conclusion.’ Lipman offers a new and compelling angle on the crisis by examining what was ...

The Crumbling of Camelot

Peter Riddell, 10 October 1991

Kennedy v. Khrushchev: The Crisis Years 1960-63 
by Michael Beschloss.
Faber, 816 pp., £18.50, August 1991, 0 571 16548 6
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A Question of Character: A Life of John F. Kennedy 
by Thomas Reeves.
Bloomsbury, 510 pp., £19.99, August 1991, 0 7475 1029 6
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... Cuban missile crisis held in the late Eighties, which included key participants like Rusk, Bundy, McNamara, Gromyko and Dobrynin. He is therefore able to offer insights into the thinking of both sides. His thesis is that, while Kennedy showed considerable skill in handling the main foreign crises of his Presidency, he was responsible for creating many of them ...

Will the INF Treaty do any good?

Philip Towle, 21 January 1988

... which can only end in disaster. On the right, commentators such as Lord Carver, Enoch Powell and Robert McNamara have argued that deterrence means that nuclear weapons would never be used even if war broke out. Thus the threat to unleash them is increasingly incredible. As Mr Powell put it, ‘the crucial question is whether there is any stage of a ...

Orchestrated Panic

Yitzhak Laor: The Never-Ending War, 1 November 2007

1967: Israel, the War and the Year That Transformed the Middle East 
by Tom Segev, translated by Jessica Cohen.
Little, Brown, 673 pp., £25, May 2007, 978 0 316 72478 4
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... did Helms introduce him to senior figures in the CIA, but he set up a meeting between Amit and Robert McNamara, then the defense secretary: McNamara found Amit’s arguments persuasive, and he conveyed them to Johnson the same evening. The president understood that Israel was going to act; he set up a special task ...

Deadly Embrace

Jacqueline Rose: Suicide bombers, 4 November 2004

My Life Is a Weapon: A Modern History of Suicide Bombing 
by Christoph Reuter, translated by Helena Ragg-Kirkby.
Princeton, 246 pp., £15.95, May 2004, 0 691 11759 4
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Army of Roses: Inside the World of Palestinian Women Suicide Bombers 
by Barbara Victor.
Robinson, 321 pp., £8.99, April 2004, 1 84119 937 0
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... could possibly identify. But apart from being evasive, this is inept. In the film The Fog of War, Robert McNamara presents the first of his 11 rules of war: ‘Empathise with the enemy.’ Suicide bombing kills far fewer people than conventional warfare; the reactions it provokes must, therefore, reside somewhere other than in the number of the dead. It ...

And after we’ve struck Cuba?

Thomas Powers, 13 November 1997

The Kennedy Tapes: Inside the White House during the Cuban Missile Crisis 
edited by Ernest May and Philip Zelikow.
Harvard, 728 pp., £23.50, October 1997, 0 674 17926 9
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‘One Hell of a Gamble’: The Secret History of the Cuban Missile Crisis 
by Aleksandr Fursenko and Timothy Naftali.
Murray, 420 pp., £25, September 1997, 0 7195 5518 3
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... leaders privy to these extraordinary reports. The Americans, too, had unruly fears. In June 1962 Robert Kennedy asked a Russian confidant whom he rightly thought to be an officer in the KGB: ‘Tell me Georgi, is there anyone in the Soviet leadership who advocates a decisive clash with the United States?’ The meeting and the question were reported to ...

National Treasure

Christopher Hitchens, 14 November 1996

Jacqueline Bouvier: An Intimate Memoir 
by John Davis.
Wiley, 256 pp., £14.99, October 1996, 0 471 12945 3
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... at a discount. And then I read a memorial interview with that old self-server and mass-murderer Robert McNamara. He recalled an occasion, quite early in the Lyndon Johnson presidency, when Jackie had come up to him at a reception in New York and beaten her fists on his chest, calling on him to stop the killing in Vietnam. Of course, one could object ...

Pure Vibe

Christopher Tayler: Don DeLillo, 5 May 2016

Zero K 
by Don DeLillo.
Picador, 274 pp., £16.99, May 2016, 978 1 5098 2285 0
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... When​  Libra came out in 1988, the American writer Robert Towers said that it had made Don DeLillo the ‘chief shaman of the paranoid school of American fiction’. ‘Paranoid school’ doesn’t get you very far – Pynchon and Mailer, both broad-brush comparisons, were the other faculty members Towers had in mind – but there’s mileage in the notion of DeLillo as a shaman ...

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