Book reviews, health, hockey, publishing, music

Posts Tagged ‘military’

A Review of Secrets

Posted by Scott Holstad on October 21, 2012

Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon PapersSecrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers by Daniel Ellsberg

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was a lengthy but fascinating book to read. I’d had it for awhile, but had never opened it. Now I’m glad I did. Daniel Ellsberg was an analyst with the State Department, Department of Defense, was a Marine in Vietnam, and worked for the infamous Rand Corporation. He knew details about the Vietnam War that most did not, and in the late ’60s, he worked to uncover even more. Why? During his time in Vietnam, he had come to the conclusion that it was an immoral, unwinnable war, and he found in his research that it had largely been one war with first France and later America acting as the aggressors. Five — count ’em, five — US presidents lied to Congress and the American people about our involvement in the war and about the administration’s attempts to escalate, with Johnson being very bad and Nixon perhaps even worse. This war was fought in spite of good advice being available to these presidents. It’s personally perplexing to understand what was going through the minds of these bipartisan presidential efforts. What’s made clear is the South Vietnamese didn’t care about who won the war — they just wanted it over. They weren’t anti-communist, and the antipathy displayed by so many South Vietnamese turned it into an American war, one we never should have been involved in.

So the historical stuff is interesting, but the book picks up the pace to become a political thriller when Ellsberg starts copying what will become the Pentagon Papers he ultimately releases to the newspapers and the subsequent Watergate fiasco which resulted, in part. It was fascinating to read what he did when he went “underground” to avoid arrest by the FBI.

This book should be required reading for everyone today. It’s got important lessons to reveal, about US presidents, the government, the military, freedom of the press, the right of the people to know, American imperial aggression and much more. With the state of things today, it’d be great if Ellsberg would give lectures around the country to people very willing to listen and learn. This was a good book, and it might not merit five stars on its writing alone, but the subject matter takes it over the top and earns its five stars. Read it.

View all my reviews

Posted in Writing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

A Review of Dereliction Of Duty

Posted by Scott Holstad on October 1, 2012

Dereliction of Duty: Johnson, McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies That Led to VietnamDereliction of Duty: Johnson, McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies That Led to Vietnam by H.R. McMaster

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a very detailed and somewhat shocking book telling of how America sunk itself into the Vietnam war fiasco, and it’s truly a sorrow to read. I never knew Johnson, McNamara, the Bundy brothers and Taylor were such lying assholes, as well as Rusk, McNaughton and the other civilians in charge of planning the war. They lied to the Joint Chiefs, to Congress, to the American people and to the world (sounds like Bush, doesn’t it?) in order to downplay the role America was taking in Vietnam, all for varying agendas that sometimes met and more often didn’t.

The book starts with 1961 and Kennedy but quickly moves on to Johnson, who wanted his Great Society domestic program passed so badly that he literally flat out lied — continuously — to the Congress and America about his efforts to sink us into Vietnam — without any goals or exit strategies, I might say.

One thing the author, McMaster, hammered home really shocked me. We never thought we could win, never expected to win, and wanted to escape Vietnam just “bloodied.” Excuse me, but WTF??? Why delve into a war if you have no intention of winning? Idiots! From page 184:

“McNaughton, Forrestal, and William Bundy concluded that it would be preferable to fail in Vietnam after trying some level of military action than to withdraw without first committing the United States military to direct action against North Vietnam. They thought that the principal objective of military activities was to protect U.S. credibility…. Indeed, the loss of South Vietnam after the direct intervention of U.S. armed forces ‘would leave behind a better odor’ than an immediate withdrawal and would demonstrate that the United States was a ‘good doctor willing to keep promises, be tough, take risks, get bloodied, and hurt the enemy badly.'”

On page 237:

“For McNaughton the objective of protecting American credibility had displaced the more concrete aim of preserving a free and independent South Vietnam. Even as Rolling Thunder began and Marines landed at Danang, McNaughton continued to plan for failure. He concluded that to avoid humiliation the United States must be prepared to undertake a ‘massive’ effort on the ground in Southeast Asia involving the deployment of 175,000 ground troops. Even if the Communists won, McNaughton believed that the United States would have protected its international image.”

Isn’t that just batshit crazy? Johnson and McNamara didn’t listen to the Joint Chiefs, who wanted to ramp things up immediately and hit North Vietnam hard, because they were afraid if we went after Hanoi, China and/or the Soviets would come to their aid and it would become another Korean War.

As America begins to send troops to South Vietnam to start conducting offensive operations for the first time while refusing to mobilize the reserves, General Harold Johnson, the JCS in charge of the Army, “was to preside over the disintegration of the Army; a disintegration that began with the president’s decision against mobilization. Harold Johnson’s inaction haunted him for the rest of his life.”

McMaster really throws Johnson and McNamara under the bus, but apparently for good reason. He paints the JCS as little more than stooges kept out of the loop of actual military planning. It’s not until the book’s epilogue does he place some blame on the JCS, writing “the ‘five silent men’ on the Joint Chiefs made possible the way the United States went to war in Vietnam.” His ultimate conclusion can be found on page 332:

“Over time the maintenance of U.S. credibility quietly supplanted the stated policy objective of a free and independent South Vietnam. The principal civilian planners had determined that to guarantee American credibility, it was not necessary to win in Vietnam. That conclusion, combined with the belief that the use of force was merely another form of diplomatic communication, directed the military effort in the South at achieving stalemate rather than victory. Those charged with planning the war believed that it would be possible to preserve American credibility even if the United States armed forces withdrew from the South, after a show of force against the North and in the South in which American forces were ‘bloodied.’ After the United States became committed to war, however, and more American soldiers, airmen, and Marines had died in the conflict, it would become impossible simply to disengage and declare America’s credibility intact, a fact that should have been foreseen.”

The only reason why I’m giving this book four stars instead of five is that it stops at July 1965. I would have liked to read more about what went on after inserting troops for offensive operations, how things escalated, what Johnson, McNamara and the rest did in educating America on what was happening (or not), etc. In other words, I think the author cut the book short and that was disappointing. Otherwise, it was a fascinating, while sobering, read and should be required reading of all active politicians to ensure we never repeat the stupid mistakes made during the ’60s regarding Vietnam.

View all my reviews

Posted in Writing | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

A Review of Innocent Blood

Posted by Scott Holstad on July 7, 2012

Innocent Blood : A NovelInnocent Blood : A Novel by Christopher Dickey

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I think this is an excellent novel, very well written, well told. Dickey easily takes us from Kurt’s Kansas upbringing to his times as a US Ranger to later visiting the former Yugoslavia, the land of his parents, to his essentially becoming a Muslim jihadist, and he makes it really believable. I don’t know how the author was able to get into the mind of an American terrorist like he did, but it’s entirely believable. The events leading up to the book’s climax would make one possibly feel the need for a “big bang” type finish, and I was prepared for a letdown, but Dickey pulled off a nice finish with aplomb. I was fascinated to note that this book was written before 9/11. It seems so fitting post-9/11. This is definitely a page turner. I’m glad I picked it up.

View all my reviews

Posted in Writing | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Eyes Right

Posted by Scott Holstad on March 28, 2012

I’m a big fan of Tracy Crow, a former Marine who was a grad school pal of mine. She’s come out with a new book on her times in the Marines, and it’s doing well. I lifted this post from her blog a few minutes ago. I encourage all to pick this book up for a read. Good stuff…



My interview about EYES RIGHT with editor Mary Akers

By now, you’ve probably heard the book is out there. Yes, even in Barnes & Noble, no less. Some are finding EYES RIGHT placed with new releases, and some of us are finding it in the military section.

But this morning, I answered a few questions for editor, Mary Akers. Here’s the entire interview.

LinkPosted by Tracy Crow at 2:01 PM

via Eyes Right.

Eyes Right

Posted in Publishing | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Cafe Book Bean

Talk Books. Drink Coffee.

Simple Living Over 50

Defining Life's Changes

The Book Review Directory

Over 160 Book Reviewer Bloggers Listed

Chaos Inc.

18+M/s-D/s DD/lg the life of a polyamorous sexually active "little" brat who doesn't give a flying squirrel fart what others think

A.D. Martin

writing - novels - film - television - video games - other stuff

In My Words

Life in my own words, my thoughts, my daily happenings, whatever....

Ravings of a Madman

(and other assorted things)

Crumpled Paper Cranes

Fumbling by Leisure, Singing to Cake

My Blog News And Blues Reviews


I Read Encyclopedias for Fun

The official blog of Jay Dee Archer. Exploring new worlds, real and fictional.

Piece of Mind

Everything in my blog is sprinkled with wizard dust.

Kiss My Glass Boston

Wine, cocktails, whatever.

My Preconceived Life

trying to add another person to the planet


- a creative lifestyle blog -

Lynette Noni

Embrace The Wonder

Tropical Affair

Observations of the illusion through the eyes of wonder...

Daily (w)rite

For lovers of reading, writing, travel, humanity


children's author