44 of 46 people found the following review helpful
Well-written look at truth,
This review is from: When Presidents Lie: A History of Official Deception and Its Consequences (Hardcover)
This book is a joy to read with clear, usually incisive and often very entertaining prose, and yet Alterman has kept an even hand by not focusing on Presidents of only one party.
I especially liked the brief section about Guatemala that is found within the larger section on Iran-Contra. Alterman recounts the facts often overlooked by so many: That in 1954 the CIA overthrew the democratically-elected Arbenz government, installed a dictator, and for decades thereafter supported dictators who killed 200,000 Guatemalan civilians. He even briefly mentions that the CIA overthrow resulted in major-league blowback in the form of radicalizing Dr. Ernesto Guevara, who was in Guatemala in 1954 and witnessed the overthrow, and as a result came to believe that only armed revolution could help the poor.
The irony of course is that those who are currently most vociferous about installing democracy in Iraq were those who had no problem with the U.S. support in the 1980s of Guatemalan dictators who directed the genocide of the Mayan Indians. It is the same cast of characters-- with Cheney leading the pack.
Alterman also impressed me in the Guatemalan subsection of his book with his reluctance to overstate. Alterman states that "one" of the reasons the CIA overthrew the Arbenz government was to please the United Fruit Company, which opposed Arbenz's economic policies. Well, that really was the main reason. United Fruit Company complained to two of its former lawyers who were high up in the U.S. government--the Dulles boys, John Foster who was Secretary of State, and Allen who was the head of the CIA. The result was quite helpful to the United Fruit Company.
The second area where Alterman pulls back a little is where he comments that because so many records are still being kept secret by the U.S. government, we don't know, beyond some verified CIA involvement, the extent to which the U.S. was complicit in the mass killings of tens of thousand of Mayans in the 1980s. Well, again, we do know a lot based on Department of Defense memoranda, State Department cables and CIA documents, which have been secured in part through the Freedom of Information Act. And the conclusion is not pretty. Of course the U.S. officials in the Reagan/Bush administrations knew about the butchery and yet continued to fund and train the butchers.
Alterman has convinced me of his evenhandedness. His incisiveness is wonderful to read.