Those of us who remember the Vietnam War recall such terms as "light at the end of the tunnel," "stay the course," "quagmire," "credibility gap." Administration officials and senior military officers used the first two terms to indicate that a US victory was in sight. Critics of the war used "quagmire" to describe what the US had gotten itself into, and "credibility gap" to portray our government's refusal to be honest about the Vietnam fiasco. Now, "quagmire" has reappeared in Iraq although we don't hear Bush officials and senior military officers confidently claiming to see the light at the end of the Iraqi tunnel. Even some Republicans, including North Carolina's conservative US Rep. Walter Jones, are urging the Bush administration to start planning for US military withdrawal.
Glantz's book focuses on the dysfunctional US occupation of Iraq. He shows how one of the US's biggest failures was when we allowed mobs to loot Iraq's arms caches; Glantz describes an open-air machine gun market where no one asked where the looted Kalashnikovs had suddenly come from. American authorities also allowed the universities to be looted, and watched from the sideline as crime quickly became a serious problem. As a result of US non-management, "Almost a year after the fall of Saddam Hussein, official statistics put the unemployment rate in Iraq at over 75 percent." Electricity and clean water continue to be problematic even today.
One of the most important sources of Iraqi hostility to the occupation is the continuing practice of US troops breaking into civilians' homes. In the meantime, civilian casualties continue to mount. Glantz maintains that the US military doesn't do anything positive in Iraq, which is an obvious overstatement. But it is doubtless true, as he says, that such American practices as arresting civilians and incarcerating them in places like Abu Ghraib have made armed resistance an increasingly attractive option to regular Iraqis.
Peter Lamal is Emeritus Professor of Psychology at UNC-Charlotte.
The Road to Esmeralda by Joy Nicholson (St. Martin's Press hardback). A man and woman from LA drive to Mexico to escape the tensions of post-9/11 America and to enliven their torpid lives. The result, though, is a gradually deepening nightmare. Resort guests lambaste the couple for being "imperialist Americans," so they move farther south and wind up at Gasthaus Esmeralda, a walled-in chalet resort run by a rather disquieting German couple. The American pair's naïve visions of tropical paradise fall apart in a foul wave of drugs, greed, conspiracies and other dark goings-on. Nicholson's characterizations and portraits of human motivations are masterful and she brings the sweaty heat and seediness of Esmeralda to life. A great beach read if you can handle the darkness. — Dana Renaldi
Bonjour Laziness: Jumping Off The Corporate Ladder by Corinne Maier (Pantheon hardback). Maier hit a deep vein of anti-corporate feeling in Europe with this humorous but serious book, a huge bestseller on the continent. Maier offers spot-on scrutiny of corporate execs' bullshit pieties and hypocrisy, misuse of workers' talents, faddish marketing "strategies," and abuse of everyday language. But mostly, she urges workers to rebel by psychologically disengaging from the job and gliding through work while doing as little as possible and taking advantage of every possible benefit. Since this isn't exactly foreign behavior to many American workers (who already enjoy fewer benefits than their European counterparts), Maier may strike gold here, too. — John Grooms
Prince Edward by Dennis McFarland (Picador paperback). McFarland's eloquent, powerful novel takes place during the summer of 1959 when Virginia's Prince Edward County closed its public schools rather than integrate (yes, it really happened). McFarland garnered rave reviews for his subtle, beautifully observed picture of the South at a pivotal moment, seen through the eyes of a 10-year-old white boy whose family and friends are deeply affected by the region's wrenching changes. Head and shoulders above what passes these days for a "Southern novel." — Dana Renaldi