The Winding Road to the Welfare State

The Winding Road to the Welfare State –

Economic Insecurity & Social Welfare Policy in Britain

By George R. Boyer

Princeton University Press – £38.00

The desire to protect oneself against income loss is not the same as the ability to protect oneself.

[…] Churchill called insecurity ‘’that great and hideous evil…by which our industrial population are harassed.

(‘Economic Insecurity and Social Policy’)

With the current spate of photographs currently circulating on social media regarding the present government’s quest to feed hungry children in the UK, well what can one possibly say? Shameful? Disgraceful? Pitiful? All three and a whole lot more besides?

Yes, a whole lot more besides, as the photographs – posted by everyday, struggling to make ends meet people amid the economic suffocation of the Covid lockdown – depict a few knackered carrots and apples, the seemingly cheapest loaf of bread that money can feasibly buy, a tin of beans and some other straggling bits upon which my sister commented ‘’wasn’t fit for a dog.’’

With Brexit now in full throttle and the greed obsessed, Boris Johnson at the helm of British politics, one can surely no longer deny the country is heading back to the Dickensian times of yore. An era in which struggle, insecurity and invariable hunger was the staple of the everyday; as perfectly depicted throughout George R. Boyer’s The Winding Road to the Welfare State – Economic Insecurity & Social Welfare Policy in Britain.

A book that wholeheartedly reiterates the degree to which how very little has changed throughout (British) history – both economically and socially.

Continuity does indeed, reign supreme.

To quote R. H. Tawney, the one fundamental difference being: ‘’the peasant is insecure, but he curses the weather, not social institutions.’’ Today, the working man blames immigrants and the European Union, not governmental institutions.

Simples.

Littered with graphs, facts, figures, substantiation, and an abundance of crystal clear investigation, these 310 pages (excluding Acknowledgements, References and Index) perfectly illustrate that which its title depicts.

It is admittedly very dry, but then given the subject matter, this is to be expected. All the more reason for Boyer perhaps having peppered the book with an assortment of quotes, which in themselves, account for much ideological food for thought. The latter of which is very much ours for the taking, rather than having first been skimmed off the top by wretched Tory donors (the aforesaid food packages cost a supposed £30.00 each, only £5 of which is actually spent on food).

If nothing else, The Winding Road to the Welfare State once again reminds us that history does very much repeat itself: ‘’We forget how terribly near the margin of disaster the man, even the thrifty man, walks, who has, in ordinary normal conditions, but just enough to keep himself on… The possibility of being from one day to the other plunged into actual want is always confronting his family’’ (Lady Bell, At The Works).

David Marx

Culture in the Third Reich

Culture in the Third Reich

By Moritz Follmer

Oxford University Press – £20.00

Outside the capital there were early signs of things taking a dangerous turn: from Weimar culture to ‘German’ culture.

The works of many celebrated writers such as Heinrich Heine, Bertolt Brecht, and Erich Maria Remarque and scientists such as Sigmund Freud and Albert Einstsein were thrown onto the bonfire. As they went up in flames, the books became yet another symbol of the power of the Nazis over the definition of what was German and what was ‘un-German’ culture.

(‘From Weimar Culture to ‘German’ Culture’)

If nothing else, Culture in the Third Reich could best be described as one of the most fervently ironic and reflective books currently available. Reason being, it perfectly describes what happened in Washington DC just a few days ago.

It reads as if a nigh repugnant replica thereof, might I add.

For what took place in Germany throughout the thirties, is exactly what the odious Donald Trump has sown within the Untied States over the last four years. The crass culmination of which actually took place inside the Capitol Building on Wednesday (January 6th): a warped mode of myopic, nationalistic, social chaos.

The literary likes and the violent trajectory of which were, and are, as dense, disturbing and dangerous, as any unleashed by that of a menagerie of deranged lunatics.

And as much is substantiated time and again throughout this book’s 273 pages (excluding Notes, Glossary, Select Bibliography, Acknowledgements and Index) by Moritz Follmer – author and Associate Professor of Modern History at the University of Amsterdam: ‘’The political revolution seemed to fulfil the longstanding hope of religious renewal in a nationalistic spirit. For Joachim Hossenfelder, a pastor from the Kreuzberg district in Berlin and Reich leader of the German Christians, God had sent Adolf Hitler to rescue ‘the German nation from despair and to restore its faith in life.’ That, in turn, would lead to the creation of an ‘army of millions’ that could build on the self-sacrifice and the ‘heavenly sentry duty’ of the fallen of the World War and the SA’s dead.’’

Such preposterous thinking (‘’God had sent Adolf Hitler to rescue ‘the German nation from despair and to restore its faith in life’’’), is akin to Trump making America ‘great again’ and imploring his quintessentially deranged flock to ‘stop the steal.’

But wait, there’s (oodles) more, as Follmer continues: ‘’Using similar high-flown language, a pastor from Friedenau in Berlin described the first year of the Third Reich as ‘the victory of faith.’: The last year gave us back heroism and greatness. It made us all combatants on a common front, both externally and internally, and touched the very core of our lives.’’’

The use of the word ‘combatants,’ is surely aligned with the same gun-toting, red-neck yahoos who stormed the very epicentre of Democracy in Washington.

Having been coaxed into doing so by a shameless idiot.

Having been misguided into doing so by way of destabilising ‘’the victory of faith,’’

Indeed, the parallels between Hitler’s Germany and Trump’s America are both uncanny and unfortunate. The blueprint of which, with the exception of eighty or years, is herein brought to bear – hook, line and sinker.

If you don’t believe me, read Culture in the Third Reich (Culture in Trump’s America) for yourself. But beware: for as revealing as it is, it makes for troubled reading.

David Marx

Art Rebels

Art Rebels –

Race, Class, and Gender in the Art of Miles Davis and Martin Scorsese

By Paul Lopes

Princeton University Press – £25.00

Like many black musicians, Davis rejected the term jazz as defining his music past or present. As early as 1969, Davis told Rolling Stone, ‘’But I don’t like the word rock and roll and all that shit. Jazz is an Uncle Tom word. It’s a white folks word.’’ He told Melody Maker in 1970, ‘’I don’t want to be a white man. Rock is a white man’s word… Blues is a white man’s word. Jazz is a white man’s word.

(‘Davis Negotiating the Popular’)

As Scorsese told Rolling Stone’s Anthony DeCurtis in 1990, ‘’So the only criterion on the films I’m willing to take risks on is that it be truthful, that it be honest about your own feelings and truthful to what you know to be the reality around you or the reality of the human condition of the characters.

(‘Scorsese Rival Narratives’)

Startlingly well-researched and thorough beyond thorough, many might deem this book to be for aficionados only; but once one is caught within its captivating realm of investigative and artistic endeavour, it proves hard not to be intrigued by the subject matter.

A subject which, given the very title alone, Art Rebels – Race, Class, and Gender in the Art of Miles Davis and Martin Scorsese, is surely understandable.

How can one but not get ensnared within such an invitation?

The above opening quote in relation to Miles Davis alerts (or reminds) the reader as to the ever present mantle of racism that was to both divide and distinguish so much of the artist’s career. An issue that since his death in 1991, might be easy to forget, or at least, misplace.

Whether the author, Paul Lopes, intentionally or unintentionally set out to remind readers of the density and complexity of as much, is naturally open to debate.

Moreover, the mere fact that it is pronounced in Art Rebels, surely reiterates its resonance: ‘’For Miles Davis, more important than the negative views of white critics were accusations that the trumpeter was abandoning his commitment to race music with his new fusion jazz groups and performances […). And Davis had been criticized by black musicians and fans for his use of white musicians earlier in his career.’’

One cannot help but ask if such accusation is nothing more than reverse racism? Especially in the questioning of his use of white musicians ‘earlier his career.’

Lopes continues: ‘’But now the criticism was more glaring as Davis performed before huge white rock audiences at such famous venues as the Fillmore East, Fillmore West, and the Isle of Wight festival. White critic Leonard Feather, a longtime acquaintance, quickly came to Davis’s defence in Down Beat. ‘’Nobody who has ever known Miles Davis, has read his acidulous comments through the years, is aware of his constructive militancy and his basically humanistic, non-racist attitude, can possibly believe such scurrilous absurdities. For Eddie Harris or Jet or anyone else to level charges of this nature with any justification, positive evidence would have to be abduced that there was a sinister motive in hiring of these musicians.

Sinister racism? Racist sinisterism?

This is just one of the many aspects brought to bear on Miles Davis amidthe 197 pages of Art Rebels (excluding Acknowledgements, Notes and Index), which, all things considered, already makes for interesting if not inflammatory reading.

With regards Scorsese, there’s an interesting point made early on in the aforementioned chapter ‘Scorsese Rival Narratives,’ where the cultural critic D. K. Holm asks: ‘’Can filmmakers ever be truly independent within the context of commercial cinema?’’

The answer can luckily, and only be yes by way of Scorsese himself.

An absurdly definitive and absolutely brilliant filmmaker, who, has without any question, bequeathed modern cinema audiences with an array of some of the finest films in recent years (Mean Streets, Taxi Driver and Raging Bull to name but three).

Regardless of the fact that ‘’’Auteurs’ don’t come from Elizabeth Street.’’

Realising as much, and with his usual panache for down-to-earth honesty in his 1996 documentary on American cinema, ‘’Scorsese again commented on his outsider-insider status: ‘’Even today I still wonder what it takes to be a professional or even an artist in Hollywood. How do you survive the constant tug of war between personal expression and commercial imperatives?’’’’ (‘Scorsese Rival Narratives’).

For many writers and directors, this is a mighty tough question to answer, but Scorsese – along with his New York cohort, Woody Allen – has clearly managed to juggle the two imperatives with relative ease. An admirable quality that Lopes reiterates earlier in the chapter: ‘’Scorsese would certainly consider this one of the defining questions of his career – a question he constantly argued was answered in the various films he has made over the years.’’

Anyone remotely interested in ‘’independent, innovative, outspoken and successful’’ art rebels, will definitely be inspired by and enjoy this book, which to a certain degree, is something of a liberation.

David Marx

Estonia, Latvia & Lithuania

Estonia, Latvia & Lithuania

By Anna Kaminski, Hugh McNaughtan & Ryan Ver Berkmoes

Lonely Planet – £15.99

Let’s be honest here, when going on holiday, one doesn’t often think of dashing off to any of the Baltic nations, but as is made evidently clear throughout Lonely Planet’s Estonia, Latvia & Lithuania, the sheer amount resonating history and diversity that is ever present throughout the entire region, is something to truly behold.

As much is already made explicitly clear on page four, under the altogether succinct heading, Teensy but Diverse: ‘’ Estonia, Latvia & Lithuania are tiny. Yet in this wonderfully compact space there are three distinct cultures – with different languages, traditions and temperaments. Take, for example the three unique yet equally compelling capitals: flamboyantly baroque Vilnius, chic-art nouveau Riga and majestically medieval Tallinn. Or explore their traditional and contemporary art scenes – from the carving of crosses in Lithuania to the latest gallery installations across the Baltics. When it comes to cultural mileage, the Baltic is a fuel-efficient destination.’’

It does undoubtedly appear so, replete with unique and inviting architecture, crumbling castles, soaring dunes, more than enchanting forests and shimmering lakes – all of which are simply drenched in history. A history (given the three countries respective positioning) that has always been somewhat influenced, if not dominated by neighbouring Russia – or before the essential collapse of communism in the early nineties – the former USSR. Take Lithuania for instance: ‘’Immediate resistance to the reoccupation of Lithuania by the USSR, in the form of the partisan movement ‘Forest Brothers,’ began in 1944. Between 1944 and 1952 250, 000 Lithuanians were killed, arrested or deported, as patriotic spirit and thought were savagely suppressed’’ (‘Understand Lithuania’).

But times have indeed changed, and it does need to be said that all three countries have wholeheartedly embraced the trajectory of modernity in a B-I-G way.

This is something the three respective authors of this rather splendid travel guide have managed to capture magnificently. Each of its 439 pages (excluding Behind the Scenes, Index and Map Legend) are simply brimming with facts, information and a menagerie of maps.

Not to mention an assortment of captivating colour photographs at the outset.

Needless to say, the guide offers all the usual sections one has come to expect from Lonely Planet, such as ‘Need to Know, What’s New, If you Like, Month by Month and Itineraries etc; but what separates this from some of its literary brethren is the segment Top 17 (as more often than not, said sections normally consist a Top 10). Of particular note is number four, Tartu (itself, thoroughly brought to life in the pages immediately following that of 105): ‘’Tartu is to Estonia what Oxford and Cambridge are to England. Like those towns, it’s the presence of a centuries-old university and its attendant student population (with associated high japes and insobriety) that endows it with its special character. There’s a museum on nearly every corner of Tartu’s elegant streets and, it seems, a grungy bar in every other cellar. When the sun shines, Toomemagi hill is the place to best observe those eternal cliches of undergraduate life: earnest pratting, hopeless romancing and enthusiastic drinking.’’

That’s clearly the place for me then…

When this whole wretched period of Covid imprisonment is finally over, you might want to consider Estonia, Latvia & Lithuania – both as a book and a travel destination.

David Marx

Some Trees

Some Trees

By John Ashbery

Yale University Press – £14.99

And that night you gaze moodily

At the moonlit apple-blossoms, for of course

Horror and repulsion do exist! They do! And you wonder,

How long will the perfumed dung, the sunlit clouds

Cover my heart?

The Orioles’

In the Foreword of Some Trees, W. H. Auden reminds us that ‘’The real man speaks in poetry.’’

Might we assume this to be considered as self-evident as the statement ‘’Men really speak in prose’’ today? Surely, herein lies some sort of resistance to that which many take for granted betwixt the magic of poetry, prose and philosophy – the three subjects that can either make or break, wholly bequeath or deny.

After all, to once more quote Auden: ‘’A marriage may often still seem a significant ceremony, but what gives it significance, what makes it ”holy,” is for us not any special public status of the couple but the subjective relation between them, that they are in love.’’

Indeed, with perhaps special emphasis being placed on the word ‘subjective’ as opposed to ‘love,’ a quality that throughout these thirty-five wrought and partially spangled poems, appeared to be second nature to the American poet and critic, John Ashbery who died in 2017.

A prime example being the line ‘’He gathers deeds’’ in the poem ‘A Long Novel,’ or ‘’Too simple even to be despised’’ in ‘The Mythological Poet.’

A case might even be made for the nigh stream of consciousness found in ‘The Young Son,’ that takes us all on an all too, non-expectant journey: ‘’The screen of supreme good fortune curved his absolute smile into a celestial scream. These things (the most arbitrary that could exist) wakened denials, thoughts of putrid reversals as he traced the green paths to and fro […]. Yet now a wonder would shoot up, all one colour, and virtues would jostle each other to get a view of nothing – corners and the bustling forest ever preparing, ever menacing its own shape with a shadow of the evil defenses gotten up and in fact already exhausted in some void of darkness […].

It should come as no surprise that Ashbery’s work has been translated into no less than twenty-five languages; especially when we remind ourselves that the ever great Auden concluded his Foreword with: ‘’It is not surprising […] that many modern poems, among them Mr. Ashbery’s entertaining sestina ‘The Painter,’ are concerned with the nature of the creative process and with posing the question ‘’Is it now possible to write poetry?’’

Now there’s a question to ponder upon.

David Marx

Hitler – A Life

Hitler – A Life

By Peter Longerich

Oxford University Press – £30.00

He succeeded in putting people into a trance like a primitive tribe’s medicine man.

(Carl Zuckmayer – ‘Joining the Party’)

The regime’s ’structures’ are inconceivable without Hitler and Hitler is nothing without his offices.

Thus, a biography of Hitler also produces a history of his regime.

(Introduction).

Thorough, detailed, meticulous, readable, believable, outstanding.

Not a lot of cant or opinion; just an incredible amount of detail and precise if not painstaking investigation into events that led to Adolf Hitler becoming the Adolf Hitler of undeniable, tragic nightmare.

Hitler – A Life traverses a seemingly wide cleavage of social and political apparition, not hitherto examined to quite the same, elongated extent.

With a veritable tsunami of (very good) books already written on Hitler, many scholars and students of history might well surmise to readily know all there is to know, although given these 965 pages (excluding Acknowledgements, Abbreviations, Notes, Bibliography, List of Illustrations, and Index), it would indeed seem Peter Longerich has managed to shed assorted yet new light.

Just one instance being the widely held assumption that Hitler relied upon and delegated to a menagerie of obsequious lackeys and underlings during the early apparatus of Anton Drexler’s National Socialist German Workers Party.

As the following clearly illustrates, such was most definitely not the case: ‘’Contrary to a widely-held view, our present-day knowledge of National Socialism is by no means complete or even close to being complete. Historical research into National socialism has developed many specialized branches and is constantly bringing new knowledge to light on a very wide range of aspects of the movement and the regime. One thing becomes clear from looking at a cross-section of these studies, namely that Hitler was actively involved in the most disparate areas of politics to a much greater extent than has hitherto been generally assumed. He himself created the conditions in which this could happen, by bringing about the step-by-step fragmentation of the traditional state apparatus of power into its component parts, ensuring that no new and transparent power structures developed, and instead giving far-reaching tasks to individuals who were personally answerable to him. This consistently personalized leadership style gave him the opportunity to intervene largely at will in the most diverse areas, and, as the scholarship of the last two decades in particular has demonstrated, he made liberal use of these opportunities.’’

Such consistency of ‘’personalized leadership’’ aligned with his hands-on approach was to trigger and retain a thunderbolt of mass adulation throughout Germany.

Indeed, to such an unequivocal extent, that his altogether warped and outright cantankerous belief that Judaism was to blame for almost all of Germany’s woes (his appalling ‘’claim that in the end the ‘evil enemy of humanity’ would be overcome,’’ stated in the chapter ‘The Trial and the Period of the Ban’); as horribly biased and utterly unbalanced as it was, was wholly accepted if not embraced: ‘’For in the intoxication of speaking and thanks to the ecstatic response of his audience, Hitler was reconfiguring reality in his mind, and this process was an experience many listeners took with them from his speeches’’ (‘Joining the Party’).

It was a process by which many a politician has thwarted many a populace away from both the truth and reality. The superciliousness of Benito Mussolini comes to mind. As does the congenital, bumbling heresy of Boris Johnson with regards Brexit, and the terrible rantings of Donald Trump with regards (the whole of) humanity.

Moreover, in relation to Hitler, the following was clearly a technique that undoubtedly worked wonders: ‘’This mixture of hurt, blind fury, and a megalomaniacal refusal to accept reality – the expression of his psychological disposition – was evidently essential to his impact as a speaker. Here was someone who was openly displaying to the astonished public how he was struggling to come to terms with his shock at the prevailing conditions. He began hesitantly, with awkward gestures, searching for words. But then he got going, using crude accusations to provide simple explanations, and finally giving hope to his listeners by opening-up the prospects of a glorious future. But he gripped his audience above all through the effort that he was clearly putting into it – grimaces, exaggerated gestures, uninhibited bellowing and screaming, interrupted by interludes of sarcasm and irony, the whole performance producing vast amounts of sweat, running down his face, sticking to his hair, and soaking his clothing. (‘Joining the Party’).

Divided into seven distinct parts (‘The Public Self,’ ‘Creating A Public Image,’ ‘Establishing The Regime,’ ‘Consolidation,’ ‘Smokescreen,’ ‘Triumph’ and ‘Downfall’) amid forty-four chapters, Hitler – A Life traverses such a wide psychological terrain, it’s hard to imagine the sheer number of hours the author must have spent within the dense, dour walls of investigation. As much is underlined by the writer Thomas Weber (author of Hitler’s First War and Becoming Hitler) where he writes: ‘’In Hitler – A Life, Peter Longerich, a brilliant historian at the top of his game, turns common wisdom on its head. Challenging the long-time near consensus of Hitler as a puppet of abstract administrative forces as well as of the will of the people, Longerich puts Hitler squarely back at the centre of the story… In doing so, he has written the perfect parable for our times.’’

Suffice to say, said literary parable also addresses the nigh insatiable fallibility of history. A case in point being Hitler’s repetitious and almost unreadable book, Mein Kampf, wholeheartedly wrought apart within the chapter ‘The Trial and the Period of the Ban.’

And rightly so: ‘’[…] his lack of ability to give his ideas a systematic focus and his tendency to engage in monologues produced a conglomeration of flattering autobiography and political tirades that was hard to unravel. The result was confused and unreadable. The second volume of Mein Kampf was largely written in the seclusion of Berchtesgaden. In it Hitler, for the moment a failed politician, adopted the role of a political visionary with a programme containing a set of ideas of world historical importance. In doing so, he was once again escaping into his typical overblown fantasies and megalomaniacal dreams, now designed to help him come to terms with the shame of November 1923 […]. What emerges clearly from Mein Kampf is that the main goal of a future Nazi foreign policy was to be the conquest of living space in eastern Europe.’’

A visionary endgame, so undeniably barbaric and downright murderous, it was still nevertheless aided and abetted by what Professor Fritz Lenz prophetically referred to as Hitler being the first politician in possession of ‘’considerable influence, who has recognised that racial hygiene is a crucial political task and is prepared actively to support it.’’

In placing Hitler at the very epicentre of his own nauseous narrative, Peter Longerich has herein revealed a dictator who was unquestionably driven by those two socio-politico aphrodisiacs: power and control. For which, one ought to fundamentally read: power and control on an almost unprecedented scale.

Thus resulting in that which we already know, this altogether tremendous book, and a whole lot more besides (such as reading this alongside Sir Ian Kershaw).

David Marx

My Lai

My Lai

Vietnam, 1968, and the Descent into Darkness

By Howard Jones

Oxford University Press – £22.99

Calley’s first encounter with the Vietnamese villagers led to what he remembered as a sharp disagreement with Medina, and it was over children. Calley expected his platoon to hate the children as much as he did. While he and his men guarded a bridge, hundreds of Vietnamese kids milled around, excitedly begging for gifts and offering to do laundry for pay. ‘’All the men love them,’’ Calley declared with disgust. ‘’Gave the kids candy, cookies, chewing gum, everything. Not me: I hated them.’’ OCS instructors had warned that kids put explosives in gasoline tanks or in GI’s hooches. ‘’I was afraid of prostitutes too… but I was more afraid of Vietnamese kids.

(‘Pinkville’)

Upon coming to grips with this study of the My Lai atrocity which took place during the harrowing Vietnam War, one realises almost immediately that the author Howard Jones has no qualms placing it into a most fraught if not dense perspective. A quality which no doubt makes for a fine writer; thus accounting for this most daring, courageous and altogether, truly powerful book.

The term ‘powerful’ of course, will to many readers, resonate with a tingling trajectory of its very own design, for in the Prologue of My Lai – Vietnam, 1968, and the Descent into Darkness, Jones already writes: ‘’During the long course of the war in Southeast Asia, other atrocities occurred, perpetuated by all sides in what was, after all, a brutal civil war, one that long preceded 1968. But none came close to My Lai in either the number of victims or the deeply personal – the murderously intimate – nature of their killing. The Vietnam War ground on until the ceasefire in January 1973, nearly five years after My Lai, followed by the withdrawal of the last U.S. troops more than two years later. But for many Americans, My Lai had laid bare the war, revealing that it was unwinnable and that, in the process of fighting for democracy and a way of life, America had lost its moral compass.’’

The last line, ‘’America had lost its moral compass’’ resonates with a particular- urgency, especially when one takes into account more recent events in America.

A nation almost at war with itself.

If not a nation that has been dangerously close to imploding from within.

As almost forty years later, it would indeed seem America has once again, almost ‘’lost its moral compass.’’

In less than three weeks time, one will be able to determine to what degree this is the case, when its current President, the (ever despicable) Republican, Donald Trump, steps down and Democrat, Joe Biden takes over. Hopefully, the latter will be able to re-introduce a certain depth of morality, not to mention democracy, into the very thinking and psychology of the Un-united States, which, within the last four years, has sunk unto some sort of all circumnavigating, similar depravity, as actually described herein.

The correlation between now and then of course, fundamentally stems from those at the helm of command. On January 20th, it will become abundantly clear that since 2016, America has been led by a conglomeration of deplorable, misogynist, racist gangsters. The very sort of chain of command Jones very quickly sheds light on within this book’s Prologue: ‘’Almost from the start, the U.S. Army realized that everything hinged on the question of orders – the chain of command. That was without question why the army kept the massacre quiet until the press and other news media made it public knowledge in November 1969, principally due to the investigative efforts of the American journalist Seymour Hersh, whose prize-winning articles on My Lai and the cover-up provided the basis for headlines around the country and around the world.’’

To be sure, no stone is left unturned. It’s all here, horrific, war induced warts n’all.

In fact, some of the trajectorial imagery due to the honest depiction of what actually occurred, does make for some disturbing reading. Not so much that it took place (which is bad enough), but that soldiers of the then most wealthy country on the planet, could actually do what they did to powerless villagers – many of whom were indeed (old) women and (very young) children.

This may partially explain the author’s Note to Reader right at the very outset of My Lai (even before the Contents page): ‘’The words ‘’My Lai’’ have become synonymous with the atrocities committed by U.S. soldiers in Son My Village, South Vietnam, on March 16, 1968. Indeed, the Viet Nam News in Hanoi in March 2008 referred to ‘’My Lai (now Son My)’’ in describing the commemorative events on the fortieth anniversary of the ‘’My Lai Massacre.’’ In truth, however, four massacres occurred on that day – in the sub-hamlets of My Lai 4, My Khe 4, Binh Tay, and Binh Dong. No one can know what happened in those places without knowing what happened in each one. To grasp the full measure of these events, the following account is graphic and detailed.’’

Such it invariably is, but it’s also exceedingly well researched, well written and perhaps above all, a paramount piece of work on the Vietnam War, as William Thomas Allison, of Georgia Southern University and author of My Lai: An American Atrocity in the Vietnam War testifies:‘’Howard Jones’s My Lai is one of the most important books of the past decade on the Vietnam War. He has masterly peeled away the complexity of the My Lai Massacre and its cover-up to reveal more clearly than ever the dark horror, wilful deceit, and moral incompetence of this mass killing and its aftermath.Thanks to Jones, we now have a deeper understanding of My Lai and Vietnam.’’

That its 353 pages (excluding Acknowledgements, Editor’s Note, Abbreviations, Notes, Bibliography and Index) are divided into three sections Part I (Pinkville), Part II (Aftermath and Cover-Up) and Part III (My Lai on Trial), not only makes for clear and decisive reading, but compartmentalizes the atrocity in such a way as to make it more understandable. Not least that with which the author finally illustrates and penetrates in the book’s Epilogue (The My Lai Story Continues): ‘’HOW SHOULD WE LOOK AT MY LAI NOW, nearly fifty years after the events? For most Americans, it was a rude awakening to learn that ‘’one of our own’’ could commit the kind the of atrocities mostly associated with the nation’s enemies in war. Even to those who defended the American soldier, his image changed from citizen-soldier to baby killer – from poster boy hero and virtuous protector of the defenseless to cowardly murderer and rapist. It seemed impossible to reconcile My Lai with the concept of the United States as a chosen nation – an exceptional nation – built on republican principles and predestined by God to spread freedom throughout the world. In his memoirs after he had left the presidency, Nixon expressed the opinion of many Americans when he called it an aberration, unrepresentative of our country.’’

And these words were spoken by the only impeached American President.

Could you imagine Trump uttering words of a similar persuasion?

David Marx