With God on Their Side: How Christian Fundamentalists Trampled Science, Policy, and Democracy in George W. Bush’s White House

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I remember reading an interview with Sara Diamond years ago where she said “that people on the left and progressives need to pay attention to and take seriously the influence of the Christian Right in America.”Diamond spent years documenting the rising influence of the Christian Right in US politics during the mid 80’s through the mid 90’s with books like Spiritual Warfare: The Politics of the Christian Right and Roads to Dominion: Right-Wing Movements and Political Power in the United States. Esther Kaplan has done the same important work for the current Bush administration.

Kaplan covers a broad range of issues that the Christian Right has organized around, like AIDS, homosexuality, abortion, sex education, the courts and foreign policy. She provides details of how Christian groups have mobilized their constituents in order to influence legislators and the policies they make. Kaplan follows in the footsteps of Sara Diamond’s work by engaging in the same investigation which includes reading the literature of the Christian Right, attending their events and speaking with them in person. While many on the left may find the ideas of religious conservatives, Kaplan’s assessment reveals that we should not be so quick to dismiss them.

With God on Their Side: How Christian Fundamentalists Trampled Science, Policy, and Democracy in George W. Bush’s White House is a text that compliments another good book written earlier in the year by PR Watch co-founders Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber entitled “Banana Republicans.” The latter book talks more about the funding and organizational elements of the GOP, where Kaplan’s book focuses specifically on the Christian Right, which she often calls the GOP’s base.

Kaplan’s book is important because it shows us how the current administration has appointed many religious conservatives to government positions at such a level that the Reagon administration could only have dreamed of. The book does spend time discussing George W Bush’s personal faith journey, much of which has been influenced by Billy Graham’s son, Franklin. However, the emphasis is primarily on how the current administration has been infiltrated by the Christian Right and it’s ideology. A proper emphasis, since the problem does not lie with the person of George W. Bush, rather with the administration as a whole.

To ignore this book and it’s analysis would be a mistake for those who want to challenge the policies of the current administration.

Esther Kaplan, With God on Their Side: How Christian Fundamentalists Trampled Science, Policy, and Democracy in George W. Bush’s White House, (The New Press, 2004).

The School of the Americas: Military Training and Political Violence in the Americas

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For those involved in Latin American solidarity work over the past 20 years, the School of the Americas has been a common enemy in the struggle for justice. This new investigation by Leslie Gill not only provides some new information, but raises serious questions for the movement that has been attempting to close this US-based terrorist training camp.

Gill begins with some new information on what forces were behind the school’s move to Georgia in the early 80’s. A successful lobby campaign was spearheaded by local business people, particularly Sal Diaz-Verzon Jr. and his sister, Elena Amos. Gill describes them as extremely anti-Castro immigrants who made a fortune in the insurance industry.”Elena was married to the founder of the insurance giant AFLAC and Sal Jr. was the company president from 1978-92. Working with the local Chamber of Commerce and several Georgia legislators, the AFLAC fortune had a great deal to do with the school relocating to Georgia. In many ways it makes sense that Anti-Castro Cubans who were incensed with the Sandinista victory in Nicaragua and the other insurgent campaigns of the early 80s would want to support an institution like the School of the Americas. So the next time you see that ridiculous AFLAC duck commercial, you have another reason to

turn the channel.

The book’s strength has to do with Gill’s ability to weave a great deal of interview material throughout the text. These interviews were conducted in recent years with former students, instructors and the current based commander. The commentary by many of the former students is instructive, in that it provides an insight into the mind of those who have continued to participate in the US-backed counter insurgency campaigns in Latin America. In many ways the interviews are the best element of Gill’s book and similar to the revealing commentary provided in Jennifer Schirmer’s book the Guatemalan Military Project.

Gill reveals that part of the indoctrination process at the School was to win over Latin American soldiers to the “idea” of the US. After experiencing the US through the lens of the School, students would act as recruiters to their fellow army members back home. A comment from Colombian General Alberto Gonzalez also reveals the 2-way benefits of students attending the School; “They learn many things, but that is really of second importance. The relations that they establish with others are at bottom the most important. The School also permits the US to have the future leaders of the Latin American armed forces in its hands.”

The book also deals with how the School has responded to the SOA Watch campaign to shut it down. The author spent a great deal of time with the base commander Glen Weidner. Weidner has taken an aggressive Public Relations approach to changing the School’s image and challenging the integrity of the SOA Watch campaign led by Fr. Roy Bourgois. Weidner’s position is very convincing and it raises some interesting points about the the SOA Watch campaign. One of those questions is if the School was not teaching torture techniques would the anti-School campaign still be opposed to its existence?” Here Gill does not pursue a larger issue which is, what is the real function of this School in the larger foreign policy agenda of the US. The author does acknowledge that some in the Anti-School effort do think that the School has “just made some mistakes.” It would have been more instructive to get at the heart of this question, since even if this School in Georgia was closed, it would have little impact on the overall military policy in the region.

The other area that this book falls short on has to do with the last chapter, which looks at the evolution of the SOA Watch movement itself. Gill does acknowledge that the movement has had to deal with the challenges of being a pre-dominantly faith based entity, which in recent years has seen more participation from student, labor and anarchist groups. SOA Watch has, according to the author, begun to allow affinity groups to plan their own actions outside of the official actions, but the author doesn’t really pursue it any further than that. There is no serious discussion about tactics, strategy, nor the campaign’s effectiveness. This would serve the movement greatly, since the military has been responding with their own tactics to the predominantly symbolic nature of the actions that take place every November in Georgia. These shortcomings aside, The School of the Americas is an important contribution to the struggle for justice in the Americas and could be an essential catalyst for new approaches to challenging US military hegemony in the region.

Leslie Gill, The School of the Americas: Military Training and Political Violence in the Americas, (Duke University Press, 2004).

Out of the Sea and Into the Fire: Latin American-US Immigration in the Global Age

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Quite often we hear it said that people migrate to the US looking for a better life. This sentiment not only de-politicizes the issue of immigration, it takes it out of context. Wars and counter-insurgency campaigns in Latin America have certainly forced millions of people north, but since most of the region, minus Colombia, is not engaged in any serious armed conflict why are Latin Americans coming north?

In Out of the Sea and Into the Fire: Latin American-U.S. Immigration in the Global Age, Kari Lydersen provides readers with one of the dominant factors for northern migration in recent decades…globalization. For Lydersen, the IMF imposed structural adjustment policies and the neoliberal economic programs, which have swept across most of Latin America, are the major cause of migration. Over the past several years the author traveled throughout the Americas reporting n the impact of these economic policies, with the hopes of putting a human face on those most affected. The book is divided into three main sections; Latin America, the Border, and the US.

In the first section Lydersen gives examples of current conflicts created by economic policies that have been imposed on communities throughout Latin America. She looks at the dollarization of Ecuador, Coke workers in Colombia, the Bolivian popular movement, fishing communities in Oaxaca, and indigenous communities in the Lacandon forest of Chiapas, Mexico. In each case people have been displaced by economic policies that involved very specific corporations. Whether it is Bechtel in Bolivia, Pemex in Oaxaca or Coca Cola in Colombia, each example highlights the over-riding messages of the book…corporate globalization negatively impacts most people and is at the root of contemporary migration from Latin America.

One example has to do with the indigenous communities in the Lacandon forest in Mexico. For years US-based environmental groups like Conservation International have been denouncing the influx of people into the Chiapas rain forests. They claim that the indigenous communities are the main source of deforestation in that state. The author contests that what the Mexican government has been doing is using groups like Conservation International as an attempt to remove indigenous groups, particularly those tied to the Zapatistas, in order to develop the region for eco-tourism. To underscore this point Lydersen tells readers about what the Isuzu corporation did in 2002. In order for Isuzu to gain access to the rain forest for its annual auto race (the Isuzu Challenge), the company gave cell phones and “satellite systems to aid forest rangers and local authorities in searching, locating and preventing tree theft.” Here Isuzu was employing an increasingly common tactic known as Greenwashing. Companies can cause all the environmental damage they want but if they promote themselves as environmentally friendly they can win over public opinion. As I write this review, the indigenous communities of Montes Azules in the Lacandon forest are being displaced due to economic interests.

The second section of the book moves to the US/Mexican border. Here the author looks at the impact of the maquiladora industry on the Mexican side and anti-immigration realities on the US side of the border. Many of the people displaced in Central America and southern Mexico have ended up in the industrial zones of Mexico’s northern border. Lydersen provides griping testimony from people who work in sweatshops, where labor and environmental conditions have taken it´s toll. She also addresses in one chapter the sobering story about hundreds of Mexican women who have been murdered in recent years in border cities like Juarez.

The third section of the book looks at the growing population of Latin Americans in cities across the US, from the Immokalee workers in Florida to meatpackers in Nebraska, and mushroom pickers in Illinois. These are mostly undocumented workers , men and women who in most cases do the work that most of us in the US won´t do. Many of us have heard of the Immokalee workers in Florida, because of their high profile campaign against Taco Bell, but fewer have heard about the mushroom pickers in Illinois. In the same way that Taco Bell is one of the largest users of Florida picked tomatoes, Dominos Pizza is the primary recipient of mushrooms picked by migrant workers in Illinois. Ironically, as Out of the Sea and Into the Fire demonstrates, the wealth that is generated by these migrant workers, often ends up in the hands of the same transnational corporations that lobby for the so-called “free trade agreements,” the very agreements that force Latin American to leave their communities to come to the US “seeking a better life.”

Lydersen closes the book with 3 personal profiles of Latin American now residing in the US. The following comments from Alexy Lanza, a Honduran immigrant, underscores why I think this is an important book to read, especially for those involved in campaigns against corporate

globalization.

“When immigrants come to this country, we have two choices. We can lose our identity or we can make it stronger. You lose it when you see all the wealth here and you think I want to have a big car, a nice house, this and that. You start forgetting little by little where you came from. But you have to remember that all of these riches are made from the poverty of our countries, from what was taken from us. When you realize that, then your roots become strong. My roots were strong already. But they truly became strong here.”

Kari Lydersen, Out of the Sea and Into the Fire: Latin American-U.S. Immigration in the Global Age, (Common Courage Press, 2005).

The Turning: A History of Vietnam Veterans Against the War

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Andrew E. Hunt’s The Turning: A History of Vietnam Veterans Against the War is an incredibly important book for students of the social movements of the 1960s and 1970s, as a study of Vietnam Veterans Against the War presents an essential counterpoise to all of the literature that attacks those movements as consisting primarily of the children of the elite.

Vietnam Veterans Against the War were one of the most visible anti-war organizations in the United States after the break-up of Students for a Democratic Society and the People’s Coalition for Peace and Justice. While SDS was an organization made up of largely radical students and campus intellectuals, and thus easy for the Nixon White House to dismiss, Vietnam Veterans Against the War was an organization made up entirely of veterans. These veterans had seen the horror of Vietnam and as a result of their experiences, came back opposed to the war and increasingly radicalized. While many members were radicalized by their post-Vietnam experience–the failure of the Democratic Party to end the war, the unresponsiveness of politicians to the veterans’ lobbying, and the other movements of the period–there was always a tension between the traditionally “liberal” members and the more radical members. Nevertheless, by the end of the war, the group was denouncing sexism, racism, imperialism, and capitalism and understanding the Vietnam War within the framework of global capitalism and imperialism.

The tactics of Vietnam Veterans Against the War were often dramatic, and consequently, the group was able to draw a considerable amount of media and popular attention. They staged a multiple-day guerilla theatre march through Pennsylvania, dubbed “Operation RAW” in which veterans dressed in military uniforms and carried fake M-16s and reenacting the “search and destroy” missions of Vietnam. At another demonstration they threw their medals on the steps of the capitol in Washington DC and denounced the war. They held highly visible investigations of atrocities in Vietnam and organized veterans to speak at the investigations. They tried to organize services for veterans, and while they lacked the infrastructure to do so, they were one of the earliest groups to make the effort. They tried to directly organize veterans returning from Vietnam by obtaining exit rolls, but the military denied them access while providing the lists to the VFW and the American Legion, and instead Vietnam Veterans Against the War was left to the lengthy process of contacting veterans by word of mouth.

The Turning is essential reading for students of the social movements of the sixties and the Vietnam War. While the ruling class and its media outlets have tried to rewrite the history of the antiwar movement, portraying it as hostile to soldiers and the working-class, The Turning refutes this argument by chronicling the history of a group that consisted of soldiers and primarily members of the working class.

Andrew E. Hunt, The Turning: A History of Vietnam Veterans Against the War, (NYU Press, 2001).

The Black Panthers Speak

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This is a reprint of Foner’s 1970 collection of documents from the Black Panther Party. Of course, given the date of publication there is a good amount of material from the Panthers that is not included, but this is nevertheless an excellent resource for anyone interested in the Black Panthers as it does something that most books do not do–allow the Panthers to speak for themselves. One does not have to deal with either critics convinced that the Panthers were going to cause the breakdown of American society, nor does one have to deal with white leftists who have an almost fetish-like fascination with the Panthers. There are theoretical essays and other writings from a number of well-known Panthers including Huey P. Newton, Fred Hampton, Bobby Seale, and David Hillard; selections from their newspaper, The Black Panther; a collection of writings by female Panthers; and writings about the various social programs they instituted.

Ishmael Reed is quoted on cover of the book as saying that the book is ìa rebuttal to [the current] organized attempt to destroy the Panthersí legacyîóa statement that is indicative of the importance of this book. The Panthers are generally portrayed as a group of armed racist separatists that wanted to violently overthrow the government of the United States, and as one learns from this book, such a portrayal is fraught with inaccuracies. The Black Panthers, while armed, did so for reasons of self-defense, believing it was the only way to protect their communities from the racist police that patrol the ghettos. Moreover, the Black Panthers were not racist separatists; rather they were willing to work with oppressed peoples of all colors as a way of building a movement of international solidarity. The Panthers were committed Marxist-Leninists who sought the replacement of capitalism with the dictatorship of the proletariat which was a theoretical threat to the state and ruling class in the United States.

The Black Panther Party saw themselves as the vanguard of the black movement in the 1960s, but rather than merely issuing proclamations and presenting their “line” to the masses, the Panthers made it their goal to get out into the community and help people by talking to them and finding out what it was that they needed. The Black Panthers initiated a number of programs in response to their conversations with the black communities–free breakfast programs, health clinics, and education classes–all of which are discussed in the book. These programs are what is left out in many books on the 1960s or the civil rights movementóthe fact that the Panthers tried, and had success, in addressing the needs of the people in the black community, does not fit in with the image of the Panthers as gun-toting racists bent on the destruction of the United States.

This is essential reading for anyone interested in the Civil Rights Movement or the radical movements of the 1960s and 1970s. With so much of the New Left’s later theoretical orientation being influenced by the Black Panthers, it would be impossible to understand their decisions without being familiar with the Panthers’ ideology and praxis.

Philip S. Foner, ed., The Black Panthers Speak, (Da Capo Press, 2002).

It Didn’t Happen Here: Why Socialism Failed in the United States

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It Didn’t Happen Here: Why Socialism Failed in the United States should be essential reading for anyone that has ever been frustrated by the lack of a substantial left movement in the United States, as it offers a detailed historical and sociological study of socialism’s failure. Among leftists and academics there has been much discussion about why the United States never developed a substantial radical movement, although much of this talk is often based on hypothesis rather than the more detailed analyses put forth by Lipset and Marks.

The two authors take the most frequently cited arguments for why socialism failed in the United States–American exceptionalism, the electoral system, the relationship with the labor movement, the relationship with immigrants, sectarianism, and political repression–evaluating each argument with both analysis of movements within the United States and comparative analysis with socialist and left movements in other countries. This methodology works well and helps move the analysis beyond the hypothesizing of many others who have discussed the question.

Their approach illustrates the fact that there was not one reason why socialism failed; rather there are numerous explanations for its failure. Some of the reasons have to do with the socialists’ approach–they were overly dogmatic and unwilling to compromise in order to build a mass organization, socialism was perceived as a “foreign” doctrine brought by immigrants (although at the same time, “old” immigrants did not make a significant appeal to “new” immigrants because of perceived superiority), and they failed to connected with the mass of working people in the United States. Other reasons for socialism’s failure had to do with external circumstances–an electoral system that has an entrenched two-party system that is adept at absorbing and neutralizing radical movements, government repression, and the limits of Marxist theory.

I was not convinced by some of their claims–that the American Federation of Labor had syndicalist leanings and that Americans are characterized by an “antistatist” outlook (I do not equate skepticism of the federal government with antistatism) and that consequently anarchism had more of an appeal, but those were minor details. Overall, It Didn’t Happen Here is a thought-provoking that presents a detailed analysis of a question that has been asked by many and rarely answered so thoroughly. Understanding the failure of socialism in the United States is essential to understanding the failure of the general “left. However, I was left with one question after reading the text: in light of the failure of socialism, what will emerge as the viable alternative to capitalism and how can we avoid making the same mistakes?

Seymour Martin Lipset and Gary Marks, It Didn’t Happen Here: Why Socialism Failed in the United States, (W.W. Norton, 2000).

Beyond the Barricades: The Sixties Generation Grows Up

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This book is a study of activists involved in radical politics during the movement of the 1960s, centered on a group of students at the University of California at Santa Barbara. The authors selected a core group of students who were arrested for their role (or presumed role) in a series of riots in the city of Isla Vista, one of which culminated in the burning of the local branch of the Bank of America. The authors believe that this group, by virtue of their actions, can be considered radicals, and from that premise, Whalen and Flacks interviewed the students over a period of about fifteen years to determine how radical politics influenced their lives and how involved they were in politics as they grew older.

The book was written to examine whether the common belief, that hippies and student activists grew up and became yuppies and conservatives was accurate. According to Whalen and Flacks, the belief is a myth–most activists, while less politically active than during the 1960s, are still influenced by the radical politics of their youth. Most of the activists remained politically active, although their politics shifted to more local issues with the lack of a national “left” movement in the United States. In addition, the authors also interviewed sorority and fraternity students as a point of comparison, using these two groups as a way of contrasting how the former activists and non-activists lived. Not surprisingly, the non-activists were more likely to support conservative candidates and work for large corporations.

While this study is dated, it is an interesting look at how a group of student radicals confronted the end of a social movement and how they struggled to remain active. I would like to see if these people are still active, especially in light of the anti-globalization movement and the international movement against the recent invasion and continued occupation of Iraq, as these two movements provide many opportunities to get involved.

Jack Whalen and Richard Flacks, Beyond the Barricades: The Sixties Generation Grows Up, (Temple University Press, 1989).

Put Your Bodies Upon The Wheels: Student Revolt in the 1960s

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Heineman begins his short 226 page history of the student movement of the 1960s with the statement that the book is “not a celebration of the 1960s New Left and the violent confrontation written by a participant turned scholar–nor is it an attack on every social reform movement that arose in the sixties.” Instead, he says that he has “tried to be evenhanded but cleareyed,” although it does not take long to realize that Heineman is quite biased against the student movement (xi).

This bias is not necessarily a problem, as there is much to criticize in the politics of the student movement’s adoption of Leninist ideology, a lack of work to develop a strong base of support outside the student and counter-cultural ghettos, and a late embrace of women’s liberation–just to name a few. However, Heineman is not particularly interested in criticizing the student movement for its political and tactical mistakes, rather he is intent on portraying the movement as one made of upper-class “radicals” who were out of touch with the opinions of most in the United States, and more damning, were against the “working class” and using their class status to avoid fighting the Vietnam War. In other words, he presents a typical right-wing argument.

Heineman has an interesting thesis, and there may indeed be something to it, but he never really moves to the level of analysis, instead choosing to state the thesis at a number of different points in his text without establishing the necessary level of support. Moreover, the book does not feature a single footnote–quite the feat for a professor of history writing a history of the student movement with a rather controversial thesis! While I realize that oftentimes works of historical synthesis forego the use of footnotes, I believe a failure to use footnotes is inexcusable, especially when Heineman makes a number of questionable statements:

  • He quotes Robert Timberg, a reporter from the Washington Post, who relates the media myth that student activists spit on returning veterans (18). This myth has been refuted in detail in Jerry Lembcke’s The Spitting Image: Myth, Memory, and the Legacy of Vietnam.
  • He argues that professors were more enthusiastic than students in supporting the New Left, a statement “supported” by some undocumented statistics about radical faculty in the university while stating that “barely a quarter of [students] participated in antiwar demonstrations on a regular basis,” a point that Heineman never tires of making (20). Almost every time he discusses a protest, he cites statistics stating that most students either supported the war or were indifferent–a fact that may be true, but sources are never provided.
  • Malcom X, whom Heineman dubs “a secular saint of the New Left,” A-frequently called Jews parasites, slum lords, and leaders of the pre-Civil War slave trade,” while he also “dismissed the Nazi Holocaust, arguing that the Jews had it coming (42).” Perhaps this is true–I have not read much by Malcom X, but it is a statement one needs a footnote to verify.
  • When discussing the Black Panthers, Heineman says that “nearly all the Panthers were habitual criminals” and that “their two-thousand well-armed members included killers, drug dealers, rapists, and extortionists” and that their criminal histories was one of the main motivation for wanting white police out of black communities (46). Again, this is a statement that raises a flag and needs a footnote for clarification, but of course, there is not one.
  • According to Heineman, “[University of] Wisconsin SDS members believed that anyone who show up at their meetings wearing a wedding ring had to be a police spy in needs of a beating (151).”

The problem with the preceding statements is that they cannot be verified easily, and when history cannot be verified, it is easy to manipulate it to fit one’s own interpretation, something Heineman should certainly know as a professor of history.

In addition to statements that seem questionable, there are also inaccuracies in his book, which renders the aforementioned statements even more suspect. He claims that SDS liberated Timothy Leary, but SDS had nothing to do with that action, it was the Weather Underground that participated in Leary’s escape from prison–SDS was no longer a group at the time (181). Such sloppy history is always inexcusable, but with a rather bitter conflict still raging between partisans of “the Left” and “the Right” over the legacy of the Vietnam War and the protest movements of the 1960s and 1970s, it is even more important to provide accurate and well-documented history.

Kenneth J. Heineman, Put Your Bodies Upon The Wheels: Student Revolt in the 1960s, (Ivan R. Dee, 2001).

Hegemony or Survival: America’s Quest for Global Dominance

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Hegemony or Survival: America’s Quest for Global Dominance is a scathing indictment of George W. Bush’s “war on terror” and the United States quest for global dominance. As always, Chomsky brings an unparalleled knowledge of US foreign policy to the table and provides a detailed refutation of the idea that the United States’ actions are “humanitarian interventions” designed to protect the world from terrorism. Instead, Chomsky provides a plethora of information showing that most actions conducted by the United States are forms of state terrorism designed to maintain the United States’ position in the world at all costs.

Chomsky argues that President George W. Bush’s “new” “war on terror” is an extension of the policies undertaken during the Regan presidency. During the Regan administration, the United States government supported nefarious dictators, Islamic jihadists, and others as a way of confronting Regan’s “terrorists.” Chomsky cites numerous cases where these allies either committed great atrocities with the tacit approval of the U.S. government (East Timor and Colombia) or became “enemies” when they acted in a manner contrary to the United States’ wishes. Chomsky also discusses Regan’s elusive definition of terrorism where it was applied only to the actions of others and never the actions of the United States–just as is the case in Bush’s “war on terror.”

Taking the definition of terrorism presented in the U.S. legal code, Chomsky cites numerous examples of the United States engaging in terrorism in Cuba and Central America, demonstrated by the World Court’s condemnation of the United States for “unlawful use of force” (which Chomsky says is a synonym for international terrorism). With the continuity of officials between the two administrations, it is not much of a stretch to see the Bush administration’s foreign policy as a continuation of Reagan’s policies, but the Bush administration’s policy does differ in a significant way–it completely throws out any possibility that the United States might comply with international law, instead presenting a new legal justification through the new National Security Doctrine that states the United States has the right to act to maintain its position as the global superpower. However, the crux of the analysis is that the United States government’s position has been to secure its domination at all costs since 1950 and that US foreign policy must be seen within that context.

As with all of Chomsky’s works, Hegemony or Survival’s strengths are its meticulous documentation and readability. While the book does not offer anything “new” to most people coming from a perspective critical of the new US imperialism, it has plenty to offer liberal critics of the recent military actions against Iraq who saw them as just an isolated event.

Noam Chomsky, Hegemony or Survival: America’s Quest for Global Dominance, (Metropolitan Books, 2003).

Lies Across America: What American Historic Sites Get Wrong

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Lies Across America: What American Historic Sites Get Wrong is James W. Loewen’s second book criticizing the way history is written in the United States, with the first being his Lies My Teacher Told Me.

Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong examined US history textbooks used in high schools across the United States and came to the conclusion that students are presented with an engineered version of history that leaves out key aspects of past events by excluding “troubling” details such as information that tarnishes the reputation of Christopher Columbus, demonstrates the racism and sexism of the “founding fathers,” and is critical of the actions of the United States government. Moreover, in Lies My Teacher Told Me, Loewen argued that the way textbooks were written turned people away from history, with most students that continue on to college choosing not to take classes in United States history because of the way history was presented to them in high school.

Lies Across America shows why the lack of study in history is problematic. Outside of academia the history most people are likely to encounter is incredibly flawed. Popular history, conveyed through historical landmarks across the nation, is more concerned with presenting a history in which the state is never wrong rather than getting at the truth of what happened. This idea that the state is never wrong, in addition to the veneration of elites and military campaigns by historical landmarks, provide a type of history that functions as an ideology in which the US is always right. This non-critical history is like that presented in textbooks and serves to reinforce the same ideology, perhaps more effectively, because it provides people with the means to encounter the past directly, although few people realize that their encounters with the past are being meditated by landmarks which more often than not, are a product of the emotional (and ideological) needs of the time in which they were constructed. Most ideologies make use of history to legitimatize their positions and it is no different in the United States–just look at all of the landmarks that try to explain slavery as economic necessity.

The book is organized into four parts–a series of opening essays in which Loewen presents a couple excellent essays examining how the way in which events are memorialized affects the popular perception of said events, a state-by-state survey of historical landmarks, a concluding section with another essay on landmarks and public memory, and an appendix with a list of the worst landmarks as well as a list of questions people should use when evaluating historical landmarks.

After reading through Loewen’