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Saturday, July 07, 2007
Department of Book Reports
Posted by SeattleDan
Tim Weiner has written a horror story, scarier than anything I’ve read this side of the early Stephen King. Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA (Doubleday $27.95) is a devastating overview of our prime intelligence agency. Deftly weaving in its history with the history of the Cold War and beyond, Weiner describes an institution that has bungled most of its duties throughout those years.
At the onset, CIA was troubled by a dual mission. Was it to be an intelligence gathering agency, or one that attempted to write history and subvert other countries and peoples by covert action? CIA attempted both, and did neither very well. It continually handed money over to liars, double agents; attempted coups, with no success except for the dubious ones in Iraq and Guatemala; parachuted spies and agents behind the Iron Curtain, only to have them captured and executed, betrayed by moles.
Without any real oversight, the Agency did what it wanted. But due to its lack of information on any nation it subjected its gaze upon (not having a clue as to Stalin’s plans, or what would happen after he died; or who is this Castro guy, anyway; or how many missiles the USSR had trained on the US in 1960; CIA claimed over 500; there were two), it could not plan or co-ordinate any project with any practical or effective way.
The Agency was riddled with alcoholics and virtual psychotics at its highest levels. And even worse, it was led by men who were immune to the facts, driven only by ideology. Ah, the more things change…Weiner brings to light many new facts from recently declassified documents, including internal CIA histories., further elucidating the bungling and ineffectiveness of our “intelligence” gathering. How we ever won the Cold War with this crew is astounding. Apparently we did in spite of them.
Truth be told, I haven’t finished this book quite yet. It is 702 pages long, of which there are about 120 pages of annotated notes. But the story moves fast due to Weiner’s fine writing skills. Weiner, now a reporter for the New York Times, won the 1988 Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting while writing a series on a secret Pentagon budget used by the government in sponsoring defense research and an arms build-up while writing for the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Legacy of Ashes is available at Jackson Street Books and other fine independent bookstores.
This in from democommie™™™™®©: I think the next time you do a book report you might say that due to my wonderful pharmaceuticals I was hallucinating about doing a book report on a new book I thought I read called "George W. Bush and the Attack of the Killer Pretzels", it's a little "salty".
Special Secret Ops Alert! SeattleTammy will be representing the Seattle Mystery Bookshop at the Pioneer Square Fire Festival, in which we celebrate all things Fireman. Local author and Seattle Fire Lieutenant Earl Emerson will be at the booth at 1pm, if he hasn't been called out to put out a fire that these idiots with left over ammo are still shootin' off....
If you're in town, come on down and peruse the fine selection of "mystery books that have a fire in the plot or flames on the cover!"