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Book Reviews

The Sword of the Prophet

The Sword of the Prophet

by Serge Trifkovic, 312 pp., Regina Orthodox Press, ISBN: 1928653111 (2002)

I have read several books on militant Islam since the September 11 attacks and this is the best of the bunch. Serge Trifkovic pulls no punches — deserving one of the bylines of the book, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam. The first two chapters deal with the life of the Prophet Mohammed and the origins of Islam's major two texts, the Koran and the hadiths. In others he describes the military conquests of Islam, the appaling treatment of women, non-believers, and slaves, and debunks the myth of an Islamic Golden Age. The last two chapters deal with Western appeasement and Jihad's Fifth Column in the West, multiculturalism, which claims that all cultures are equally valid and good. He warns that the liberal immigration policies of Europe may one day result in another onslaught of Islam.

Trifkovic contends that militant Islam, like Communism and Nazism, is a totalitarian ideology that cannot be accommodated — it must be defeated. He is holding out little hope that Islam, like Christendom before it, can reform itself. Islam does not tolerate the separation of mosque and state and, according to the Koran, peace is only possible when Islam rules everywhere.

Trifkovic is a naturalized US citizen of Serb origin, which may explain his rather pessimistic outlook. For centuries, the Balkans has been on the frontline of the struggle between the Christian West and the Islamic East. Trifkovic was one of the sharpest critics of the NATO intervention in Kosovo. He accused the United States and Europe of exaggerating the extent of Serb massacres while ignoring the atrocities committed by the KLA. Trifkovic has been fiercely attacked for his pro-Serbian stance, but, if anything, history proved him right. One highly publicized Serbian war crime was the dumping of countless thousands of murdered Albanian civilians at the Trepca mining complex. French investigators dispatched to the site after the war were unable to find any trace of the alleged events.



Militant Islam Reaches America

Militant Islam Reaches America

by Daniel Pipes, 256 pp., W. W. Norton & Company, ISBN: 0393052044 (2002)

I am a regular reader of Daniel Pipes' personal web site and subscriber to one of his mailing lists. Pipes studied the Middle East for more than 30 years and is one of the very few individuals who warned of the dangers of militant Islam long before September 11, 2001.

The Booklist, review journal of the American Library Association and premier acquisitions guide for public and school libraries, denounced the book as a "polemic against political Islam" and "there's nothing here that hasn't been said by Ann Coulter or Buchanan or their ilk." The thrashing by the ALA may be the highest recommendations that the book has received. After all, this is the organization that did everything in its powers to frustrate the federal government in investigating possible terrorist threats.

The book is an excellent introduction for anyone interested in the subject — and everybody should be. Pipes is respectful of Islam, the religion, but wary of the rise in Islamic militancy. According to him, militant Islam is the greatest threat to Western civilization in our times and, in a way, has replaced the waning ideologies of Fascism and Communism. The solution to radical Islam, Pipes argues, is not the West, but moderate Islam. Of course, we should fight militant Islam wherever and whenever we can, but lasting victory will only be possible when moderate Muslims win the battle against the militants in their own societies.



Defying Hitler: A Memoir

Defying Hitler: A Memoir

by Sebastian Haffner, 320 pp., Picador, ISBN: 0312421133 (2003)

I read the German version of Haffner's wonderful little book, which was published by the Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag under the name Geschichte eines Deutschen (Story of a German). In it, Sebastian Haffner takes his personal life story to describe the inexorable march of the German people towards the catastrophe of the second World War, the path that would lead to the Final Solution — the Holocaust of the European Jews.

His unfinished memoirs cover the time from the onset of the Great War in 1914 until the end of 1933, the year of Hitler's Machtergreifung. Eleven years of the Third Reich remain untold, but already in 1933 all that follows appears to be inevitable. Terrifying to read how easy it was for the Nazis to seize power, how quickly the Weimar Republic disintegrated. In the span of a few weeks, political parties were verboten, individual civil rights and freedoms suspended, and the concentration camps had opened their gates.

This is not an autobiography. Haffner's tale of growing up in Germany provides the backdrop for the rise of an unspeakable evil, Nazi Germany. Hauntingly, the German character that made it so easy for the Nazis to succeed, may still be alive and well.



Politics of bad faith

The Politics of Bad Faith

by David Horowitz, 224 pp., Free Press, ISBN: 0684856794 (2000)

The book is a compilation of six essays, with some of the material well known to readers of his other books listed here, Destructive Generation and Radical Son.

Of the three, this is perhaps the least compelling to read, mainly because the essays lack cohesion and fail to build on each other. The most controversial chapter, A Radical Holocaust, is also the best. In it, Horowitz describes how the radical ideology of gay liberation resulted in an epidemic of AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases within the gay community. Progressive politicians and liberal judges obstructed public health measures, such as the closing of gay bathhouses, because doing so was perceived as discriminatory. While non-gay bathhouses that played no role in spreading the disease were closed down, gay bathhouses remained open — with devastating consequences.

Wes Wynne has written an excellent review of the book which you may want to peruse before rushing out to buy it. As one reviewer at Amazon pointed out, you can buy the book for very little money there as used.



Redneck Manifesto

The Redneck Manifesto

by Jim Goad, 272 pp., Simon & Schuster, ISBN: 0684838648 (1998)

Rednecks are the only minority in the country that you can make fun of as much as you want and still be politically correct. If hillbillies would be an endangered species, PETA would drive you to the Appalachian mountains and hand you the rifle to shoot them with. And you know what you get when you drag a $20 bill through the trailer park: White Trash.

It was about time that somebody from the redneck tribe, a.k.a. White Trash Nation, stands up and fights back. Not that there is no truth in what people say about rednecks — no racial or ethnic group is perfect in every way — but they are the only ones whose character, way of life, and intelligence can be maligned with near impunity. And did I mention discrimination? A dirt-poor Appalachian kid with perfect test scores has a lower chance of being admitted to Harvard than a kid with middling qualifications born to a rich Harlem lawyer.

So, I would like to thank Jim Goad for goading me a little to think afresh about race and ethnicity. Not that I agree with all he says and believes in, but I deserve most of what he is throwing my way. Entertaining and easy to read.



Word Myths

Word Myths: Debunking Linguistic Urban Legends

by David Wilton, 221 pp., Oxford University Press, ISBN: 0195172841 (2004)

I stumbled upon this little book while looking for the origin of the word Redskin. While Wilton does not address this question, he debunks many other urban legends, including the myth that Kennedy called himself a jelly doughnut. In addition, he informs us where the words bunk and okay come from, restores the prevailing winds of the Windy City, and cuts the number of words that Eskimos use to describe snow from 500 to four.

The book is very amusing and hard to put down once you start reading. Wilton helps us understand why people want to believe in linguistic legends — some advance a political agenda, others lampoon the high and mighty, still others are just good entertainment. Unfortunately, not all words and phrases can be traced back to their origins, and even in cases where this is possible, it is doubtful that word myths, once established, can ever be dispelled.



Liberty Incident

The Liberty Incident

by A. Jay Cristol, 295 pp., Potomac Books, ISBN: 1574885367 (2003)

I admit that I am biased. I have a hard time to believe that Israel's Defense Forces would knowingly attack, and almost sink, a ship of Israel's best friend and ally, the United States. Anyone who wants to convince me of this has a high hurdle to overcome — a very reasonable doubt.

To show that the attack on the USS Liberty was intentional, enemies of Israel have concocted stories that boggle the mind. James Bamford, for one, argues that the IDF wanted to prevent the ship from observing a massacre of Egyptian prisoners of war on the Sinai Peninsula. There is no evidence that the IDF knew that the Liberty was a spy ship, nor is there any evidence for a massacre. Also, the ship was not in a position to record radio communications from the Sinai and none of the foreign language specialists on board knew Hebrew.

In his book The Liberty Incidence Judge Jay Cristol debunks this and other conspiracy theories about the incidence. The book is the result of fourteen years of research, culminating in a doctoral thesis. Cristol filed a lawsuit based on the Freedom of Information Act, which forced the NSA — the National Security Agency — to release transcripts of tapes that contained conversations of Israeli helicopter pilots who were looking for survivors. The tapes prove that the IDF thought it was an Egyptian vessel and, only then, realized that it almost sank a friendly ship.

Initially, the IDF believed that the ship was a destroyer firing on forces in El Arish. Later, the Liberty was identified as an Egyptian freighter, the El-Quseir. For a while, they feared that the ship was Russian, only to realize in the end that she was American. This does not mean that the IDF is blameless. In fact, they made mistakes that even in the fog of war cannot be excused. Nor is the US military leadership without fault. It was a terrible decision to send the boat into a war zone, without protection and without letting the warring parties know of her presence.

Cristol's book is the conclusive text on the subject.



In Defense of Internment

In Defense of Internment

by Michelle Malkin, 416 pp., Regnery Publishing, ISBN: 0895260514 (2004)

In this carefully researched book, Michelle Malkin dispels the myth that the Japanese internment camps of World War II were the result of wartime hysteria and racial prejudice, lacking any national security justification.

Knowing that Japan would not be able to mount a large-scale invasion of the Pacific coast, the internment of Japanese Nationals during WW II was — with perfect hindsight — an unnecessary military measure that disrupted the life of more than 100,000 Japanese Americans. In 1988 Congress decided to pay reparations to persons of Japanese ancestry who had been interned and President Reagan issued an apology for the injustice done to them in the name of the American people.

The unprecedented decision to pay reparations was based on findings of a blue ribbon commission charged with investigating President Roosevelt's relocation and internment order. Malkin argues convincingly that the commission was stacked with internment critics, failed to take into account information available to the political and military decision makers of the time, and almost completely ignored secret Magic decrypts which revealed that Japan was trying to build a network of spies and saboteurs with the objective of thwarting the American war effort.

Malkin's defense of internment runs counter to what, by now, is an article of faith for American schoolbook writers. I cannot imagine that she will make much of a dent in public perception, but I respect her for trying it so valiantly.





by Jean-François Revel, 176 pp., Encounter Books, ISBN: 1893554856 (2003)

While in Miami for a sabbatical in 1977-78, friends would sometimes ask me why America is hated so much, especially in Europe. I tried to explain that this is the price they have to pay for being a superpower and that, by historical standards, America is still loved by many. After all, the Romans were hated when they ruled the world, although the citizens of the Roman Empire enjoyed peace and prosperity.

The trouble with this argument is that, even after winning the Cold War, America did not build an empire. Sure, the United States has many allies, but having friends doesn't make an empire. The superpower argument also fails to explain the ideological nature of the hatred. America is despised for what it stands for — free markets, individual freedom, and a liberal society.

Europe's anti-Americanism is especially galling because, if it were not for the United States, the continent would still be ruled by the Nazis or Soviets. After acknowledging that America came to France's rescue in World War II, Charles de Gaulle once famously observed that she showed up tardily. Maybe, we should have waited longer.

Revel's book is a scathing indictment of the anti-Americanism rampant among European elites. While writing from a French perspective, he spares no Europeans and includes others as well. Revel argues that much of the hatred is due to a refusal to be better informed. Ideological beliefs trump the facts. Second, he thinks that the French and European dislike for everything American is based on an inferiority complex. The very fact that the United States today is the only remaining superpower reminds them of their own shortcomings.

Finally, Revel exposes that much of the criticism leveled against America is dishonest, given that those making the charges often are guilty of the same sins, or even worse. An excellent book, an easy read!


The Skeptical Environmentalist

The Skeptical Environmentalist

by Bjørn Lomborg, 540 pp., Cambridge University Press, ISBN: 0521010683 (2001)

Bjørn Lomborg, Danish environmentalist and statistician, set out to measure the real state of the world and discovered—against his original preconceptions—that the world around us is improving, rather than going down the drain. The book is full of excellent graphs, tables and provides original citations for all of his claims. A must read for everyone who thinks that environmental policies should be based on scientific facts and rational arguments, and not on myths and irrational believes. Highly recommended!

My own environmental epiphany came in 1995 while I was visiting friends and family in Germany. The biggest news event at the time was the Brent Spar, a decommissioned oil drilling platform that was supposed to be disposed of by towing it to a deepwater site in the Northeast Atlantic and sinking it there. Shell which operated the Brent Spar for a consortium of other oil companies, including the Exxon daughter Esso AG, had opted for deep sea dumping instead of dismantling it on or near land because of environmental concerns and because it was the much cheaper solution.

Greenpeace activists who had boarded the oil platform to prevent it from being towed to its final resting place also organized a boycott of Shell gas stations in Europe to force the company to dispose of it on land. In part because of a concern for their people—service stations in Germany had been fire bombed and shot at—and the devastating impact of the consumer boycott, Shell gave in and dismantled the platform at a site off of the coast of Norway.

At the time, Greenpeace argued that the platform contained huge amounts of un-recovered oil and that drilling sludge left in the ballast tanks was highly radioactive, both claims that were vigorously disputed by Shell and later found out to be false. What I couldn't quite understand was why anyone would want to bury radioactive waste that came from the bottom of the sea on land, close to places where people live, and not bring it back to where it was coming from? Are the environmentalists not concerned about the safety of humans?

On green web pages, the Brent Spar incidence is celebrated as one of their biggest successes, certainly not as an embarrassing mistake. Indeed, the fact that a small group of activists was able to win the public relations battle against a big oil company is an amazing feat in itself, regardless of whether it was helped by distortions and lies. Moreover, Greenpeace, which in 1995 was a relatively obscure activist group, today is one of the largest environmental organizations in the world.



Wealth of and Poverty Nations

The Wealth and Poverty of Nations

by David S. Landes, 650 pp., W W Norton & Co, ISBN: 0393040178 (1998)

Taking a cue from Adam Smith's "The Wealth of Nations," David S. Landes recounts how the West ascended to become the World's leading economic power and why other cultures have failed in comparison. Stressing the importance of a civil and open society that values work and knowledge, he shows how seemingly small inventions such as eye glasses and the mechanical clock provided medieval Europe with a competitive advantage over other civilizations, even those that were, at the time, far more advanced. Refreshingly politically incorrect, the text is well written and easy to read.

For an in-depth review of the book, see Bradford DeLong.



Black Book of Communism

The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression

by Stephane Courtois et al., 858 pp., Harvard University Press, ISBN: 0674076087 (1999)

Definitely, a must-read for everyone interested in the history of the 20th century.The text, penned by a group of French historians, reveals the criminal nature of Communism,right from its very beginning, based on documents that have only become available after the breakdown of the Soviet Union and the demise of her satellite states. After reading the chapter about Castro's Cuba, I began to understand why Elian's Miami relatives don't want to send him back.



Knowledge and Decision

Knowledge and Decisions

by Thomas Sowell, 448 pp., Basic Books, ISBN: 0465037380 (1996)

This is a reprint edition of the 1980 book of the same title with a new foreword.Then, as it is still today, a landmark text about the workings of the free market economy.You can't go wrong buying just about anyone of Tom Sowell's books, but his one is probably the best to get introduced to the author's thinking.On the back cover, Nobel laureate Milton [Friedman] states: "This is a brilliant book.Sowell illuminates how every society operates.In the process, he also shows how the performance of own society can be improved."Well said.



Conflict of Visions

A Conflict of Visions

by Thomas Sowell, 273 pp., William Morrow and Co., ISBN: 0688079512 (1998)

When I was "young and dumb," I thought that mixing individual rights with socialist ideals might create a more perfect society. Since then, I learned that equality of results and individual freedom just don't mix, like lemon juice and milk.

I am not sure that reading Thomas Sowell's book about the origins of political struggle would have brought me faster along on the way, but reading it now makes my realize what direction my travel has taken — away from the unconstrained vision of man towards a more constrained vision.

The book is easy to read, although, at times, it seems a bit repetitive. I wholeheartedly agree with the assessment given on the back cover of the book that "A Conflict of Vision will become a classic of a very special kind" — I believe, it already is.

The first edition of the book was published in 1987.

For a more detailed review, see David M. Stewart.



Radical Son

Radical Son

by David Horowitz, 496 pp., Free Press, ISBN: 068482793X (1997)

In this book, aptly subtitled "A Generational Odyssey," David Horowitz describes how he, a radical of the 60's, became disillusioned with the Left and turned into social conservative. A son of communists parents, Horowitz joined the radical student movement in Berkeley, hoping that he might find a third way between the failures of Communism and the perceived injustices of Capitalism. As a well published Neomarxist book author and editor of Ramparts, he soon becomes a leading figure of the New Left.

A close friend of Huey Newton, he initially sees in the Black Panthers the vanguard of the second American revolution.Only after a series of incidents, among them the murder of a coworker by the Panthers, does Horowitz realize that the New Left is bound to repeat the errors of the Old Left and that the Black Panthers are nothing but a street gang that puts up the front of a political movement to cover up their criminal deeds. Painfully slowly, Horowitz does a complete turnabout and becomes a vocal critic of his former comrades.

Radical Son also is an account of Horowitz' personal life.All three of his marriages fail, but he maintains that he was a good father. A lesser biographer of his own life than that of others (Rockefeller, Kennedy), one begins to suspect that, here, Horowitz is too close to the subject to write well.



Destructive Generation

Destructive Generation

by Peter Collier and David Horowitz, 398 pp., Free Press, ISBN: 0684826410 (1996)

Peter Collier and David Horowitz team up to pen the (so far) definite book about the New Left and the Sixties.Easy to read, almost like a crime story, it reveals the foibles of the anti-war movement, Sandinista and Castro sympathizers, new-style Communists, and the whole pathetic bunch that today wields power in American colleges and news rooms. An equally fitting title might have been "It Takes Only a Few Idiots."

A classic. Buy it!



It takes a village

It Takes a Village, and Other Lessons Children Teach Us

by Hillary Rodham Clinton, 320 pp., Simon & Schuster, ISBN: 0684818434(1996)

If you are worried about Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton ever becoming President of the United States, read this book: you will sleep better.

The book is a short, mostly insignificant PR piece, listing her many accomplishments as child advocate, professing her core political convictions (always left), mixed in with a few personal observations. At times, it is funny — for example, when Hillary admits hitting the panic button because she had no idea how to go about breast-feeding Chelsea.

Considering that she was First Lady at the time she wrote this, the book is astonishingly poorly researched. In one place she claims that 135,000 kids bring guns to school each day. The number bandied about by anti-gun activists is 100,000 per year (not per day) — and even this number is grossly exaggerated.

In the aftermath of the 1999 Columbine High School shooting, Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro mentioned the 100,000 figure in a speech to the House.When asked where she got the number from, her staff pointed to the National Education Association as the source. A spokesman of the NEA, however, denied ever having published such a number, adding that "The 100,000 figure is way too high and totally erroneous."

Based on the few school systems around the country that actually have compiled such data, the number of africa that bring guns to school is most likely between 1 and 5 each day.



Not out of Africa

Not Out of Africa: How Afrocentrism Became an Excuse to Teach Myth As History

by Mary Lefkowitz, 240 pp., Harper Collins, ISBN: 046509838X (1997)

In this reprint edition of the 1996 hardcover published by Basic Books, Lefkowitz easily dispels the silly myth that Black Africa is the root of Western civilization and that her contribution to civilized society have been falsely attributed to the Greeks. An Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities at Wellesley College, Lefkowitz knows what she is writing about; protagonists of African American studies obviously don't.

Unfortunately, the original edition is no longer in print.Its cover was much more to the point!

From the book jacket of the hardcover edition:
"Not Out of Africa" combines a learned demolition of various politically correct historical fantasies with a thoughtful inquiry into questions of historical method and of academic freedom. Anyone perplexed by multicultural education should read it. [review by Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.]




Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News

by Bernard Goldberg, 232 pp., Regnery Publishing, Inc., ISBN: 0895261901 (2002)

No doubt, Bernard Goldberg is a liberal soul — a journalist working in one of the most liberal news outlets in the country: CBS News. So why did he write a book about media bias that turned him into a pariah among peers and shattered his career as a journalist?

Well, it's a long story that began with Hurricane Andrew and striking up a friendship with Jerrey Kelley, a chain-smoking contractor from Enterprise, Alabama. One day Goldberg received a phone call from Kelley in which he asked him whether he had seen the evening news with Dan Rather that night. Goldberg had not, but he got a tape of the show and watched it. The rest is history, as they say, written down in a Goldberg's first book, aptly titled Bias.

The book is no scientific study about bias in the media, just a collection of personal experiences which led Goldberg to the realization that he and his fellow journalists are biased in favor of a view of the world that is out of touch with mainstream America. The elite that he belonged to may not even know that they are biased: they just don't know anybody who has a thought different from their own. When Richard Nixon won the presidency in 1972, New Yorker's film critic Pauline Kael famously observed: "I can't believe it. I don't know a single person who voted for him." Nixon won the election in a landslide, carrying 49 states, McGovern just one.

A powerful, fun to read book. An insider story that needed to be told.





by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, 368 pp., Free Press, ISBN: 0743289684 (2007)

This is an intimate story of a young African woman, her family, and the rules of Islam. Ayann Hirsi Ali, our protagonist, tells about her "section," the mutilation of her outer and inner labia. Her family has to flee from Somalia to Saudi Arabia where her father has found political refuge. Arriving at the airport, the family has to wait until a guy from her clan picks them up: without a male guard, women are not allowed to leave the airport.

Live in Saudi Arabia proves difficult. She is stuck inside with no freedom to move around. So it comes as a relief when her father is banned from Saudi Arabia because of his political work. Moving to Kenya, she goes to school in Nairobi and almost got herself beaten to death by an Islamic preacher. After a short stay in Mogadishu, she returns to Kenya, fleeing the chaos of the civil war in Somalia. Finally, her father marries her off to a Canadian Somali, very much against her will.

Following her husband to Canada, she makes a stopover in D¸sseldof, Germany. Here she decides to go to Holland and apply for asylum under a changed name and with a false story. The rest is well-known. She becomes a Dutch citizen, gets elected to Parliament, and collaborates with Theo van Gogh for a short movie on the plight of women in Islam, the title is "Submission." Van Gogh ignores her pleas for personal protection and dies a horrible death at the hands of an Islamic fanatic. Ayann now lives in the United States.

The book is praiseworthy for her insights into Islamic upbringing. Her criticism of Islam is personal and true.

For an excellent review in National Review Online click here.



Black Rednecks

Black Rednecks and White Liberals

by Thomas Sowell, 355 pp., Encounter Books, ISBN: 1594030863 (2005)

This book is a compilation of six individual essays by Thomas Sowell. The title is based on the first of these essays.

The book claims that the culture of today's large city ghetto blacks originated from the redneck culture of Southern Whites. However, this is not where the heart of Sowell's argument lies. You can tell very easily that his heart is with the Dunbar High School, a shining example of succesful black education in Washington, D.C. His heart is bleeding when he chronicals the demise of the black school due to educational experimentation at the beginning of the Fifties.

Sowell rightly blames liberal school boards for losses in educational opportunities for blacks. He criticizes the Brown vs. Board of Education Supreme Court decision that ruled that segregated education represents unequal education. There was no evidentiary standard for the decision at the time and more recent educational research has shown that the decision was a grave mistake.

The book, in true Sowell style, takes no prisoners. It is breathtaking in its view that the education of blacks, or any other minority group for that matter, is poorly served by today's emphasis on multiculturalism.


Revised 5/16/07