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God’s Godfather

Douglas Johnson, 6 October 1983

God’s Banker: An Account of the Life and Death of Roberto Calvi 
by Rupert Cornwell.
Gollancz, 260 pp., £8.95, September 1983, 0 575 03351 7
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A Man of Honour: The Autobiography of a Godfather 
by Joseph Bonnano and Sergio Lalli.
Deutsch, 416 pp., £9.95, September 1983, 0 233 97609 4
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The Biggest Game in Town 
by A. Alvarez.
Deutsch, 186 pp., £8.95, September 1983, 0 233 97521 7
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... the inevitable Henry Kissinger, Mr Moon, Vice-President Bush and the President of the World Bank, Robert McNamara. More serious was the realisation that the antique-dealer, Deverini, who was accused of having helped Gelli to enter Monaco illegally, had earlier been accused of murder. It was remembered, too, that a Colonel Salvatore Florio, who had once ...

The Pink Hotel

Wayne Koestenbaum, 3 April 1997

The Last Thing He Wanted 
by Joan Didion.
Flamingo, 227 pp., £15.99, January 1997, 0 00 224080 7
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... table in the main dining-room where Douglas Dillon and his wife and George Ball and his wife and Robert McNamara and Arthur Schlesinger are sitting (not eating, no dinner has arrived, no dinner will arrive), the pale linen curtains in the main dining-room blowing out, the rain on the parquet floor, the isolation, the excitement, the tropical storm. In ...

Why the hawks started worrying and learned to hate the Bomb

John Lewis Gaddis: Nuclear weapons, 1 April 1999

The Gift of Time: The Case for Abolishing Nuclear Weapons 
by Jonathan Schell.
Granta, 240 pp., £9.99, November 1998, 1 86207 230 2
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... diverse group with impressive credentials: for example, the former US Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara; Lord Michael Carver, the former chief of the British Defence Staff; Bruce Blair, who has written extensively about nuclear command and control issues; Fred Iklé, who headed the US Arms Control and Disarmament Agency under President ...

Diary

Rory Stewart: In Afghanistan, 11 July 2002

... such as food aid and education, were inadequately related to the situation in the villages. Robert McNamara attributed the failure of the US in Vietnam to ‘a profound ignorance of the history, culture and politics of people in the area’. On these grounds a military disaster might have been expected in Afghanistan last year. Britain seemed ...

Batsy

Thomas Karshan: John Updike, 31 March 2005

Villages 
by John Updike.
Hamish Hamilton, 321 pp., £17.99, February 2005, 9780241143087
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... his mortality.’ It was 1967. Walt Rostow averred: ‘Victory is just around the corner.’ Robert McNamara, not sure this was so, resigned the office of secretary of defense to become head of the World Bank. H. Rap Brown claimed of the black riots in Newark and Detroit that they were a dress rehearsal for revolution. Stalin’s daughter, Svetlana ...

The Hagiography Factory

Thomas Meaney: Arthur Schlesinger Jr, 8 February 2018

Schlesinger: The Imperial Historian 
by Richard Aldous.
Norton, 486 pp., £23.99, November 2017, 978 0 393 24470 0
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... of Kennedy’s best and brightest, which was meant to balance out the number-crunching prowess of Robert McNamara and the Whiz Kids. In his dozens of books of American history – several of which remain indispensable – Schlesinger was among the chief assemblers of the King James Version of American liberalism. His Cold War manual, The Vital Center, is ...

Like a Ball of Fire

Andrew Cockburn, 5 March 2020

... never left the drawing board. The Dyna-Soar was cancelled in 1963 by the then defence secretary, Robert McNamara. But the dream never died, lingering on in obscure budgetary allocations over ensuing decades, none of them yielding anything of practical use. Despite the bombast on both sides of what we have to call the New Cold War, current efforts will ...

I figured what the heck

Jackson Lears: Seymour Hersh, 27 September 2018

Reporter 
by Seymour M. Hersh.
Allen Lane, 355 pp., £20, June 2018, 978 0 241 35952 5
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... driven them into the arms of the deep state, whose prevaricating representatives – in particular Robert Mueller, who before being appointed as special investigator into alleged Trump-Russia collusion was the longest-serving director of the FBI since J. Edgar Hoover – have been transformed by the mainstream media into paragons of integrity. Why these people ...

Who’s in charge?

Chalmers Johnson: The Addiction to Secrecy, 6 February 2003

Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers 
by Daniel Ellsberg.
Viking, 498 pp., $29.95, October 2002, 0 670 03030 9
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... Security Affairs, to join him in the Pentagon as his special assistant. The Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara, had given McNaughton responsibility for co-ordinating strategy towards Vietnam, and he wanted Ellsberg to take charge of the day-to-day details. Ellsberg, then 33 years old, was appointed at the exalted civil service grade of ...

Newtopia

Christopher Hitchens, 24 August 1995

To Renew America 
by Newt Gingrich.
HarperCollins, 260 pp., £18, July 1995, 9780060173364
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... which was radical in 1965, is uncontroversial today and we now know that it was even held by Robert McNamara at the very time he was ordering the carpet-bombing of Vietnam. Now here’s the interesting thing. Gingrich opposed the war and took a draft deferment every bit as opportunist as Clinton’s. He also supported the Martin Luther King ...

Brief Shining Moments

Christopher Hitchens: Donkey Business in the White House, 19 February 1998

Pillar of Fire: America in the King Years 1963-65 
by Taylor Branch.
Simon and Schuster, 746 pp., $30, February 1998, 0 684 80819 6
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‘One Hell of a Gamble’: Khrushchev, Castro and Kennedy, 1958-64 
by Aleksandr Fursenko and Timothy Naftali.
Murray, 416 pp., September 1997, 0 7195 5518 3
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The Dark Side of Camelot 
by Seymour Hersh.
HarperCollins, 497 pp., £8.99, February 1998, 9780006530770
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Mutual Contempt: Lyndon Johnson , Bobby Kennedy and the Feud that Defined a Decade 
by Jeff Shesol.
Norton, 591 pp., £23.50, January 1998, 9780393040784
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The Year the Dream Died 
by Jules Witcover.
Warner, 512 pp., £25, June 1997, 0 446 51849 2
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Without Honor: The Impeachment of President Nixon and the Crimes of Camelot 
by Jerry Zeifman.
Thunder's Mouth, 262 pp., $24.95, November 1996, 9781560251286
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The Kennedy Tapes: Inside the White House during the Cuban Missile Crisis 
edited by Ernest May and Philip Zelikow.
Howard, 740 pp., £23.50, September 1997, 0 674 17926 9
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Lyndon B. Johnson’s Vietnam Papers: A Documentary Collection 
edited by David Barrett.
Texas A & M, 906 pp., $94, June 1997, 0 89096 741 5
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Taking Charge: The Johnson Whitehouse Tapes 1963-64 
edited by Michael Beschloss.
Simon and Schuster, 624 pp., £20, April 1998, 0 684 80407 7
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Abuse of Power: The New Nixon Tapes 
edited by Stanley Kutler.
Free Press, 675 pp., $30, November 1997, 0 684 84127 4
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The Other Missiles of October: Eisenhower, Kennedy and the Jupiters, 1957-63 
by Philip Nash.
North Carolina, 231 pp., £34.70, October 1997, 0 8078 4647 3
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... the McCarthy hearings, in Dallas, in Vietnam, over Watergate and in the discovery (celluloided by Robert Redford in Quiz Show) that the TV contests in the Eisenhower era were fixed. This list is not exhaustive. Innocence, we were recently and quakingly informed, was lost again at the bombing of Oklahoma City. Clearly, a virginity so casually relinquished is ...

Touch of Evil

Christopher Hitchens, 22 October 1992

Kissinger: A Biography 
by Walter Isaacson.
Faber, 893 pp., £25, September 1992, 0 571 16858 2
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... lie look ashamed. Henry does it with style.’ All over today’s Washington there are men – Robert McNamara, William Colby of the CIA, George Ball of the State Department – who have written memoirs and given interviews which try to atone for past crimes and blunders. Kissinger, no doubt, would regard even the smallest exercise in atonement as ...

Khrushchev’s Secret

Neal Ascherson, 16 October 1997

We Now Know: Rethinking Cold War History 
by John Lewis Gaddis.
Oxford, 425 pp., £25, April 1997, 0 19 878070 2
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... new sort of assessment was growing fashionable in the West. Comparing missile and warhead totals, Robert McNamara warned, was no longer useful; the point was that overwhelming slaughter and destruction would be caused if only a tiny fraction of an enemy’s missiles got through. How do you use a weapon which can neither be fired against an enemy nor ...

From Soixante-Huit to Soixante-Neuf

Glen Newey: Slack-Sphinctered Pachyderm, 29 April 1999

Collected Papers: Technology, War and Fascism 
by Herbert Marcuse, edited by Douglas Kellner.
Routledge, 278 pp., £25, March 1998, 0 415 13780 2
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The Contract of Mutual Indifference: Political Philosophy after the Holocaust 
by Norman Geras.
Verso, 181 pp., £15, June 1998, 1 85984 868 0
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... LaRouche, the real ‘existentialist’ honchos on the boardwalk aren’t Adorno or Arendt, but Robert McNamara and the Kilgorean figure of William Westmoreland. This volume bears little sign of the bourgeois deviationism to which Marcuse fell prey in the Forties, though it may be coming in one of the promised sequels. These were, after all, the years ...

Take a bullet for the team

David Runciman: The Profumo Affair, 21 February 2013

An English Affair: Sex, Class and Power in the Age of Profumo 
by Richard Davenport-Hines.
Harper, 400 pp., £20, January 2013, 978 0 00 743584 5
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... discovered the scandal was about to break. How had Macmillan allowed things to reach this point? Robert McNamara, the secretary of defence, was especially appalled, knowing what he did about the access Profumo had been granted. Davenport-Hines doesn’t acknowledge either that the Americans were at it themselves. A home-grown sex and spies scandal was ...

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