A Hole in the World: An Unfolding Story of War, Protest and the New American Order

Jonathan Schell, Author
Jonathan Schell, Author Nation Books $13.95 (208p) ISBN 978-1-56025-600-7
Reviewed on: 05/01/2004
Release date: 05/01/2004
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The noted left-liberal public intellectual Schell copes with the trauma of September 11 and the Bush administration's militarized response in this hard-hitting collection of essays, reprinted from Schell's ""Letter From Ground Zero"" columns in The Nation. The selections, which are arranged chronologically, cover the period from the terrorist attacks to March 2004, and the author's tone correspondingly shifts from shell-shocked foreboding (""we seem to be gliding in a glassy calm toward a multitude of horrors"") to increasingly exasperated denunciations of ""the brutal, unilateral, hegemonic war"" in Iraq. Schell made his name as a reporter in Vietnam and later penned the anti-nuclear weapons manifesto The Fate of the Earth, and it is through these two lenses that he views the current crisis. Many of the essays harp on what Schell deems the wrong-headedness and hypocrisy of Bush's doctrine of pre-emptive war, which Schell contends encourages nuclear proliferation in countries like North Korea and Iran rather than curbing it. Meanwhile, his sharp-eyed analysis of the deepening quagmire in Iraq notes that, as in Vietnam, the original discredited rationales for war are being abandoned for an imperialist logic of ""credibility."" Schell's preoccupation with themes of nuclear annihilation and the folly of empire give the essays a grim, at times apocalyptic mood-""a monster, driven mad by righteous fury and dizzy with its own power, is rising out of the ashes of September 11 to bellow destruction to the world""-only occasionally lifted by hymns to the anti-war movement and calls for nuclear abolition. But his many prescient observations-""countries that aren't into nation-building are ill-advised to get into nation-toppling,"" he wrote, when Operation Iraqi Freedom was but a gleam in Donald Rumsfeld's eye-lend credence to a challenging critique of American policy.
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