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Crusade: Chronicles of An Unjust War    by James Carroll order for
by James Carroll
Order:  USA  Can
Metropolitan, 2004 (2004)

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* *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

Crusade is a compilation of essays by columnist James Carroll, published in the Boston Globe from September 15, 2001 through March 16, 2004. These essays question values and beliefs. From-the-heart, powerful and passionate, they flow from the 9/11 tragedy. Carroll renders a 'critique' of the war on terror, and a protest against, and analysis of, George W. Bush and his administration's stance. His essays touch on religion, supremacy of world powers, the cold war, effects on treaties, threats of nuclear war, the death penalty, and the astronauts who died in the Columbia in 2003.

The book has three parts -- 'Onward Christian', 'Soldiers Marching', and 'As To War', subdivided into sections such as 'Holy War' and 'Moral Memory'. Essay titles include 'Advent in a Time of Terror', 'America the Fearful', and 'State of the Union'. In his essay 'Law Not War' dated September 15, 2001, Carroll states, 'Do the rhetoric of war and the actions it already sets in motion really serve the urgent purpose of stopping terrorism? And is the launching of war really the only way to demonstrate our love for America?' Most insightful for me is the author's essay entitled 'The Last Year' (December 31, 2002) in which he states, 'What if we could know for certain that the coming year would be the world's last year? …What would the known limit of time mean to us ... Only one more year to let the world know what the American dream really amounts to ... Seeing the world through a lens defined by human need instead of by mortal threat'.

Carroll writes of Gandhi's life and philosophy; of Mel Gibson's movie as 'An Obscene Portrayal of Christ's Passion'; of presidents Lyndon Johnson, John Kennedy, and Richard Nixon; of Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King, and activist Philip Berrigan. Carroll calls attention to a double standard of government policy 'use and abuse', noting the seven thousand Taliban and al Qaeda fighters taken prisoner, of whom six hundred were transferred to the custody of the United States. U.S. administration 'asserted that Geneva POW protocol did not apply to them'. Yet, when Americans were taken prisoner by the Taliban, the administration 'demanded (and got) observance of Geneva Convention standards'. And over two years later, six hundred captives from forty countries are still being held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba 'in violation of international law and American tradition'.

James Carroll presents persuasive arguments, stands up for his beliefs, raises questions, and makes valid points. For these alone, the book is well-worth reading. It's interesting, informative, and its subject matter is timely. I have my agreements and disagreements with its content. After all, isn't that what freedom of the written word is all about? Some books are written for entertainment and others to provoke thought. Crusade succeeds in the latter.

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