At the beginning of every September, A&E takes a few hours away from 'reality' shows like "Duck Dynasty", "Storage Wars" and "Flipping (some American city hit hard by the Great Recession)" and shows actual reality - 9/11 documentaries, or somtimes, sanitized 9/11 docudramas. The History Channel sets aside "Ice Road Truckers" and "Ax Men" and returns to its roots and spends the weekend showing various aspects of 9/11, from a long interview of former New York Mayor Rudy Guiliani to a three hour show exploring conspiracy theories.
I don't watch those shows, but it's not out of sense of boredom or a misplaced sense of outrage that basic cable is exploiting the anniversary. 9/11 is history, and just like my father has had a life long fascination with World War II (he was alive for the bombing of Pearl Harbor) I have a fascination for what happened, and why, that beautiful September morning. The reason I don't watch the shows is first, I'm really primarily a reader/listener; second, "The 9/11 Comission Report" (2004) is so thoroughly researched and well written, it was a finalist for a National Book Award, and no non-fiction show compares to it; and, finally, I was watching CNN as the attacks happened. I don't have to see what happened on video again. I remember all too well.
I read the entire book on line in 2004, and every year since then, I listen to parts of this book. I've been doing this long before I joined Audible. Since the book has always been in the public domain, it's been available through Librivox for years. The Librivox version was read by 19? 20? volunteer readers, the year of its release, and the quality ranges from astoundingly good to mediocre, especially with pronunciation of The Middle Eastern names. After 10 years of war, we are all mich better at Arabi names.
The question is, isn't whether the book is worth the time. It most definitely is. It's like reading/listening to a Tom Clancy on steroids. So, then, is it worth it to buy on Audible a book you can listen to or read on line for free? It definitely was and is for me. I was able to easily download it to my iPhone, although it's 200 + mB, so make sure you're on WiFi when you do. It's well narrated, and the production quality smooth. The speed of the narration is a bit of an issue - one narrator is much slower than the others. Listen to that narrator at 1.25 speed, and it's fine.
Which leads me to why I listen or read, year after year. I worry that I'll forget. No, I'll never forget some things - like watching the second plane crash into the other tower, as it happened. But I worry that I'll forget the littler things, like Barbara Olson, the wife of then Solicitor General Theodore Olson, was on Flight 77 when it was hijacked and crashed into the Pentagon, and she called him during the hijack. Conservative Theodore Olson was fresh from successfully representing George Bush in Bush v Gore (2000). Theodore Olson subsequently turned to Gore's lawyer, David Boies, and together, they were responsible for overturning laws against same sex marriage. I wonder if somejow, that singular assault on democracy on 9/11 made Theodore Olson a formidable champion of civil rights for a group that hadn't been embraced by the political right.
This book also has the clearest explanation of Islam and the difference between Shi'ite and Sunni Muslims that I've found. It explains a Caliphate - which is even more relevant today than it was 10 years ago, when the report was published. The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (prosaically nicknamed ISIS) controls far more land than Osama bin Laden ever did.
I listen to remember; to think of how we all changed; and to keep trying to understand why.
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After the Arab Spring began, I wanted to know more of the history of conflict in that area of the world. I have paid careful attention to the news, but news is a snapshot of what is happening now. Without historical context, the “why” is elusive.
“Six Days of War” is a detailed history of The 1967 Six Day War/The June ’67 War and the 1973 Yom Kippur/October War. It gives the historical context that gave rise to the long running Arab-Israeli dispute that started even before Israel became a nation. Orem follows with a comprehensive, but brief discussion of conflict until 2002, when he wrote his book.
Syria triggered the 1967 war by a series of border skirmishes, and firing on an Israeli farming outpost. Six weeks later, after the Israelis and the Arabs gathered munitions; tried to convince the United States (Israel) and the Soviet Union (Egypt) to provide artillery and planes; nominally tried to resolve the situation peacefully at the United Nations; and mustered public support, the war began.
Oren avoids easy stereotypes about the military prowess – or lack thereof –on either side. It would be easy to minimize the Arab military preparations and tactics because they were completely overwhelmed in combat, but Oren pays careful attention to the factors that caused that. Those included Soviet military equipment unsuited for desert warfare; an overriding Arab distrust of Jordan’s King Hussein; Syria’s failure to fight until 4 or 5 days into the war; nepotism and cronyism in the Egyptian army that meant incompetent men were making battle decisions; and an overarching communications problem.
The Israelis had different problems and some spectacular failures. Because of mistaken identity, the Israelis bombed the USS Liberty, an American ship in international waters 25 miles off the coast of Egypt, killing 34 Americans. The USS Saratoga had planes in the area on a training exercise carrying nuclear armed missiles. Identities were established and resolved shortly before an accidental nuclear war started.
The book is light on the actual armaments used in the war, which was a bit of a disappointment. Tanks and artillery are covered pretty well. External fuel tanks were a real issue, and what happened to those tanks and crews is as obvious as it was unfortunate.
I liked the narrator’s voice, but he mispronounced words, which was annoying. He did well with the Yiddish and Egyptian, but he was hit-and-miss with the Arabic. Occasionally, some English words were wrong, which was jarring – it sounds like he is a native English speaker.
I am glad I listened to the book. I now have a much better understanding of what is happening now, and why.
This book asks a question which isn't answered: was Lincoln depressed because he was astoundingly empathetic, or was he empathetic because he was depressed? It's a question that can't be answered, at least at this point in time, but it's certainly worth the discussion.
I think that this book is worthy of the read, even without knowing much of Lincoln's background, although I can't vouch for that - I spent part of my childhood in Illinois, and I didn't even have to imagine Lincoln's Springfiled home. I just had to think back on a fourth grade field trip.
I was surprised to realize that severe depression - "melancholy" - was not hidden in Lincoln's time. His friends knew when he went into melancholy, and organized watches and care. It would be called "intervention" now, or maybe he'd be on a 5150 hold in California. It's interesting to think that one of the foundations of his personality was accepted in the 19th century, but so hidden and shameful now that he would never have become President. The stigma of severe depression is lifting somewhat now - for example Jesse Jackson Jr. was re-elected, even with the illness - but it hasn't happened yet.
I finished this book several months ago, and from time to time, I think over the unanswered question. That is the mark of a great book - one that stays in your mind long after it is done.
I do have a criticism of the author's style - sometimes Joshua Wolf Shrenk goes down a tangled, winding path in discussing the psychology, and it's easy to forget the point he is trying to make. I had to rewind several times to figure that out.
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