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Book Review

The Ruses for War:
American Intervention Since World War II

by John Quigley

Reviewed by:
William Hoynes

To everyone familiar with the sociopolitical writings of Noam Chomsky--from American Power and the New Mandarins (1969) to World Orders Old and New (1994)--the unspeakable horrors visited on third world peoples by the U.S. military and CIA are fairly well known. In those writings Chomsky describes and documents U.S. war crimes ranging from our brutal occupation of the Philippines in 1898 to our direct support for Central American death squads a century later; and he covers as well virtually everything in between.

But those accounts are dispersed throughout his books. For a single narrative account of U.S. military (mis)adventurism abroad since the beginning of the not-so-cold war, The Ruses of War is highly recommended. It is clearly and simply written, well documented, and describes cogently: (1) events leading up to the U.S. overt and/or covert intervention in twenty-six countries; (2) the cost in lives and freedom that resulted from those interventions; (3) the knowing lies put forward by the government -- especially presidents -- to justify those interventions; and (4) the complicity of the popular media in spreading those lies.

None of the thirty-seven chapters comprising the book are more than fourteen pages long, and each of them narrates a sordid tale concisely. Some of the materials are fairly well known -- MacArthur's aggression in Korea, the Tonkin Gulf "incident" -- other are less so. Quigley describes, for example, that what saved Liberia from invasion in late 1990 was almost surely the fact that the flotilla and the troops there were going to be needed imminently for the more important invasion of Iraq.

Here is a typical example of saying much, quietly but effectively in brief compass (from the beginning of Chapter 6):

Guatemala's president in 1954, Jacobo Arbenz, had come to office in 1950 by a free election and was peacefully in control of the country. With thousands of peasants unable to make a living because they owned no land, Arbenz nationalized uncultivated fields belonging to the U.S.-owned United Fruit Company. Although the nationalization did not affect United Fruit's current operations, it did take two-thirds of the land it owned in Guatemala. Arbenz offered compensation at the value United Fruit had declared its land worth for tax purposes, but the Eisenhower administration, which quickly rose to take up United Fruit's cause, demanded twenty-five times that amount.

Clearly this book can be an effective tool for antimilitarism, Latin American, and peace and justice grassroots organizing groups; and it has uses for classroom and study groups as well.

Unsurprisingly, The Ruses for War has not attracted much attention from the media, liberal or conservative. Their complicity in the slaughter and subjugation of third world peoples is made too obvious in it. At the same time, the book makes equally obvious how (unintentionally) appropriate is the symbolism of the U.S. flag patches most of the far-right paramilitary groups are fond of sewing on their uniforms: Heaven help those who would curtail the freedom of real Americans to do what they please.



The Ruses for War: American Intervention since World War II by John Quigley. 310 pp. Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Press, 1992. $25.95 cloth.

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