Category Archives: Historical Account
The name Idi Amin remains among the most infamous our world has ever known. Following the overthrow that removed Milton Obote (1925-2005) from power, the late despot ruled Uganda with relentless brutality as he enriched himself at the peril of hundreds of thousands of Ugandans. In January, 1979, the Ugandan National Liberation Army forced him into exile with the help of the Tanzania People’s Defense Force and former Libyan dictator Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi (1942-2011). Amin spent the last years of his life in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, where he died on August 16, 2003. Today, nearly fifteen years after his death, he is still reviled by those who remember a dark period in the history of Uganda.
Henry Kyemba (1939-) served under Amin in several high positions including Minister of Health. On a trip to Europe, he defected from Ugandan and was reunited with both of his wives and his children thereafter. He first wrote this book in 1977, shortly after he made his life changing escape from Amin’s domain. Twenty years later, the book was republished with a foreword by Godfrey Lule (Godfrey Binaisa, 1929-2010). This is Kyemba’s account his time serving under Amin and the nightmare that ensued. And what is contained in the pages of this book is a story that is not for the faint at heart and a critical inside look into the reign of the man who dubbed himself “The Last King of Scotland”. And for those familiar with Amin, the story is still fascinating and at times just mind numbing as Kyemba reveals the insanity that engulfed a doomed regime.
Kyemba begins this story by teaching us about Uganda’s history and the division of tribes that remains in place today. The names and places come together like a puzzle giving us a large image of the country. At first it may be challenging to follow along but as the story moves along, the reader will be able to remember the most important. He continues by introducing us to his life and his role under the administration under Milton Obote who is removed from power early in the story. From that point on, it is all Amin and the madness that came with him. Kyemba’s escape is the “happy ending” that can serve to uplift the spirit, but in reality, his heart and the hearts of others who escape Uganda bleed for the thousands who were brutally murdered.
The book is at times, tough to read and Kyemba does not sugar coat anything. Violence, racism and incompetence combined to for a cesspool from which many would never recover. Kyemba also discusses the major events that highlighted Amin’s rule including the death of his wife Kay, whose gruesome demise was documented in the film The Last King of Scotland starring Forest Whitaker, the death of Dora Bloch following the hijacking of Air France Flight 139 from Tel Aviv and the expulsion of Indians and Asians from Ugandan soil. In each case, Amin’s delusions and failure to grasp the situation, marked yet another tragic point in an already bizarre story. In one of the most touching moments in the book, Kyemba remarks on Bloch’s death and how it has stayed with him.
An extraordinary amount of courage was required to write a book of this nature. For Kyemba, Uganda will always be home and his memories will be with him for the rest of his days. For those of us who did not live under Amin, books like this give us an idea of what life was like under a regime that stood on the verge of spiraling out of control nearly every day. Amin escaped justice dying in his older years in Saudi Arabia. For thousands of Ugandans, his ability to avoid punishment and answer for his crimes is one of the true tragedies in the nation’s history. Dictators live in a world removed from reality with their power having blinded them to the reality of their situation. Amin was no different and in fact stood out for his relentless brutality and lack of comprehension of even the most basic government concepts. Kyemba’s story is similar to other survivors of murderous regimes but I assure even the most hardened readers will be moved. If you are curious about the notorious Idi Amin and his regime, this book will show you a side that needs to be shown.
October 10, 1967 – Argentine newspaper Clarin announces that Ernesto “Che” Guevara (1928-1967) has died in Bolivia on October 9 after being capture with a group of guerrilla fighters attempting to spread revolutionary ideology throughout Latin America. In Buenos Aires, his family receives the news of his death and is completely devastated. Juan Martin, his younger brother, races to his father’s apartment where his mother and siblings have gathered as they attempt to piece together the last moments of Ernesto’s life. Che was secretly buried in an unmarked grave and his remains remained hidden for thirty years before author Jon Lee Anderson convinced a retired Bolivian general to reveal the grave’s location. His remains were returned to Havana on July 13, 1997 where he was buried with full military honors on October 17, 1997. In death, Che’s legacy grew exponentially and even today in 2017, he is the icon of revolution around the world. But after his death, what happened to his family and where did their lives take them? Juan Martin, at seventy-two years old, has decided to tell his story and reveal to us many facts about the Guevara family that have sometimes been overlooked by history.
Before reading this book, I was already familiar with Che’s story, having read Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life, Remembering Che: My Life with Che Guevara and several others relating to the campaigns in Cuba, the Congo and Bolivia. But I was always curious to know how Guevara’s fame affected the lives of his family. A couple of months ago, I watched an interview with Juan Martin from Buenos Aires that appeared on the news station France24. And it was then that I learned of his book in which he reminisces about his famous older brother. And what I found in the pages of this book is a story that should be read by those who admire Che and even those who loathe him. I would like to point out that the book is not a glorification of his brother. Without question, they shared a special bond and he remembers him with fondness but admittedly, he was fifteen when Che died and did not have the decades long relationship with him that his parents and older siblings did. Nevertheless, he shares many great details about their lives, shattering long-held myths about the Guevara and Lynch names.
In death, famous people sometimes become larger than life and their stories are retold but often misinterpreted and sometimes outright distorted. It is well-known that Che was very close to his mother, but as Juan Martin shows, Ernesto even tested her patience at times and his relationship with his father was not as great as some have been led to believe. They had many battles and never completely saw eye to eye on various issues but it in the end the elder Guevara supported his son and benefited from his legacy.
To understand Che’s life, it is necessary to trace the family’s origins several generations back. Juan Martin provides a short biography to clear the record about the family name. What I found interesting is that their family life was far from upper class and was highly nomadic. Money was usually and issues and several moves between Rosario, Misiones, Alta Gracia and Buenos Aires proved to be a challenge for the family of seven. But incredibly, they maintained strong family bonds that were desperately needed following Che’s death. The events in Cuba would change the family’s life forever in more ways than one. What is often misunderstood is that while Che had enormous success in Cuba, his accomplishments received little to no acknowledgement in Argentina. And having been there myself, I can attest to the fact that you will not find monuments or murals to him rampant throughout Buenos Aires. And following his death, the family would have to fear for their lives as a brutal dictatorship under Juan Peron locked the country in a vice grip and leftist organizations were persecuted beyond belief. And it is this part of the story where Juan Martin’s life takes on a life of its own.
Juan Martin Guevara spent eight years in incarceration for suspected leftist activity. His wife Viviana was incarcerated for an equal amount of time. In fact, most of Che’s immediately family were forced to leave Argentina as the government initiated a crackdown on anyone suspected of being communist. And during that time, the Guevara name was suspect to immediate suspicion. He along with millions of other Argentines lived through the tragedy of the “disappeared” in which an estimated 30,000 Argentines are believed to have been seized and murdered by nefarious elements within the government. The Falklands War followed in 1982 and the country reached its breaking point under the government of Carlos Menem (1930-) when the convertibility system imploded and the Corralito was imposed on Argentine citizens limiting the amount of money people were allowed to withdraw from their bank accounts. Today he is still going strong, having lived through appendicitis, hepatitis and even a heart attack while in prison. Sadly, his older sister Celia, who he describes as being just like Che in many ways, has steadfastly refused to discuss her famous older brother, never recovering from his death and according Juan Marin, completely unaware he had written this book. His children grew up in Cuba and now live in Europe and other parts of the world. Four of Che’s five children still reside in Cuba where his daughter Aleida and son Camilo carry on their father’s legacy. And Fidel, who died on November 25, 2016 makes his presence felt in the book providing many gestures of good will for the Guevara family as they made a new life in Cuba.
Che will also be a controversial figure but with this book, Juan Martin has in fact shown more of the private side of Che and relayed the truth about what their family life was really like as they grew in Argentina. There are many parts of the book which are said and also shocking but necessary to understand the political climate that existed then and continues to plague Latin America. In the end, this is a fitting tribute from a younger brother to an older sibling, whom he misses dearly and idolized.
The resignation of Richard M. Nixon (1913-1994) as President of the United States on August 9, 1974, remains one of America’s darkest political moments. The revelation of the break-ins at the Democratic National Committee office in the Watergate complex and the subsequent attempted cover up, riveted American citizens and resulted in the downfall of a political icon. Through the years, myths and disinformation about the Watergate scandal have been propagated causing an aura of mystique over a crime of monumental proportions. I picked up this investigative account by Fred Emery to learn what really happened on June 17, 1972 and the process behind the scenes that led to Nixon’s resignation. And what I found is a book that dives deep into the Watergate scandal to show the reader what really happened from start to finish.
The story about Watergate, as we learn in the book, begins far in advance of the actual break-in and was rooted in retribution, paranoia, arrogance and greed. It shook the foundation of American politics and caused many to question their own Commander-in-Chief. Throughout the book, we are introduced to a steady stream of characters whose names became permanently etched in history due to their involvement in the Watergate affair. Many of them will be familiar to most readers but others forgotten over time. In the story at hand, they are resurrected with their deeds and mis-deeds on full display. The plot, crime and cover-up formed a complex nexus of covert activity that fit together like a jigsaw puzzle. Emery does a masterful job of putting the pieces together in a narrative that is easy to follow but deeply engaging. And throughout the book, there were times where I could not believe what I was reading.
It is well-known that Nixon recorded nearly all of his conversations in the oval office. The very tapes which he created would later be used to force his resignation and result in the indictments and convictions of several co-conspirators, several of whom will be known to those familiar with the secrets of the CIA and the administration of John F. Kennedy, who by this time had been deceased for nine years. Nixon’s obsession with Kennedy is deeply disturbing and raises more questions than answers. And as to why Nixon would record himself discussing the cover up of a crime is a secret he took with him to his grave. The tapes become the crux of the book as the battle between the White House and John Sirica evolves into clash of the titans. Incredibly, for all of the hours that are on the tapes that were released, there are thousands of minutes that have been hidden from the public. And perhaps it will never be known what they contain.
As the walls around Nixon began to collapse, attention shifted to John Dean (1938- ), who served as Nixon’s White House Counsel. He plays a prominent role in the story and the unavoidable fallout was largely the result of his decisions to cooperated with investigators. But as we see in the book, Dean was not the only person who realized what was at stake and decided to change their tune. Inadvertent comments, disgruntled operatives and eagle-eyed investigators combined to slowly peel the lid of the scandal turning Nixon’s fears into nightmares. And while Dean was in fact, largely responsible for the downfall of Nixon, there are many parts of the story that are either forgotten or ignored. In fact, the importance of Alexander Butterfield (1926-) cannot be overstated. He and Dean were just two members of a group of individuals who would eventually provide investigators with the facts that they needed to open Pandora’s box. And what they found changed the course of American political history. Nixon was eventually pardoned by his successor Gerald Ford, on September 8, 1974 but the damage had been done and he would live with the cloud of Watergate over his head until his death. His action and decisions remain somewhat mystifying and there are still many unanswered questions that will probably never be answered. And among all of them, the one that continues to stand out is what did the President know and when did he know it?
For anyone wishing to learn about the Watergate scandal and the sad ending of a President’s time in office, this is a great place to start. Highly recommended.
Dorothy, “An Amoral and Dangerous Woman”: The Murder of E. Howard Hunt’s Wife – Watergate’s Darkest Secret
On January 23, 2007, E. Howard Hunt died in Miami, Florida at the age of 88. Hunt is best remembered for his conviction as a result of his role in the Watergate scandal that helped end the presidency of Richard M. Nixon. Hunt was also a prime suspect in the murder of John F. Kennedy. His son St. John, spoke with his father prior to his death and their discussion is referred to as his deathbed confession about what he knew about the events in Dallas, Texas. In the years following his death, truths about his role in the Central Intelligence Agency and the events in Dallas disproving his claim to be just a ‘bench warmer” in the crime. Next to Hunt throughout the Watergate crisis was his first wife Dorothy who perished when United Flight 553 crashed on December 8, 1972 as it approached Chicago Midway Airport to make its landing. The NTSB attributed the crash to pilot error but researchers have long suspected sabotage in the crash and have alluded to a long number of disturbing facts surrounding the crash. On the surface, it seems to be just a tragic accident that killed a housewife en route to visit acquaintances. But upon deeper examination of the crash and her life as revealed by her son in this book, the real story of the life of Dorothy Hunt is nearly as intriguing as that of her husband.
St. John Hunt has made himself known in JFK assassination circles. His prior book. Bond of Secrecy: My Life with CIA Spy and Watergate Conspirator E. Howard Hunt, looks into the life of his father and the effects of his profession on their family. Here, the focus is on his mother and her untimely demise. No stranger to the world of covert operations, Dorothy also has a past with intelligence work, having been station in Europe on more than one occasion. Her marriage to the blossoming operative Hunt, was a bond between two intelligence assets deeply involved the back channels of Washington and tied to a president facing a dark fate.
The early parts of their lives reads like a great novel; two young adults, meet, fall in love, start a family and move from one country to the next as their father is reassigned from one post to another. Enter Watergate and the scandal that turned their lives upside down. It is at this point in the book that the rug is pulled right out from under our feet and the dark side of Richard Nixon and Washington politics is revealed. Those old enough to remember Watergate will not be surprised in what is contained in this book. In fact, the book is not a complete source on the investigation as St. John himself points out. This is purely what he saw his parents go through as his father faced criminal prosecution and the impact his mother’s dad had on his life and those of his siblings. What is evidently clear from taped conversations at the Nixon White House and St. John’s account, is that his father’s legal defense was being paid for by Nixon and the money was also intended to keep Hunt quiet. Following her death, Hunt ended up being convicted and served thirty-three months in prison for his role in the Watergate scandal.
The lives of St. John and his siblings would never be the same again. Fallout from Watergate and the loss of their mother caused splits between siblings as each struggled to put their lives back together and come to terms with what they had been through. I do not believe they will ever get over what happened but have learned to cope with it on a daily basis. It is clear that St. John, the first son of the family had a special bond with his mother. The heartache and grief he experienced is evident in the pages of this book. And through his words, her memory continues to live on.
At the conclusion of the book, there is a section on the crash itself and the investigation by Sherman Skolnick (1930-2006), a noted conspiracy theorist and activist who challenged the NTSB’s position of pilot error. This part of the book is an added bonus and reveals a ton of incredible and troubling information about the crash. And what was once believed to be an open and shut case is revealed to be far more complicated and sinister. While it is not inconclusively proven that Dorothy Hunt died as a result of homicide, there are dozens of deeply disturbing facts about the incident that should have raised the eyebrows of anyone investigating the crime. And next to 9/11, it is the only case I can think of where the FBI preempted an investigation by the NTSB, removing key evidence from the scene while preventing emergency personnel from completing their assigned tasks. The complete story of what really happened that day may never be known but what we do know is that many strange things were occurring that had nothing to do with pilot error.
JFK Assassination researchers may be looking for a smoking gun but it will not be found here. In fact, not much about Dallas is discussed. In St. John’s defense, that was not the purpose of the book. His intention was to bring his mother’s story to light which he succeeds in doing. And although he did get some factual information wrong, the story is still a good read about a family caught up in one of the greatest crimes in American political history.
On August 1, 1966, the citizens of Austin, Texas woke up to yet another brutally hot summer day. The heat was typical for the summer season but that day would be remembered for more than just the temperature. At 11:35 a.m., Charles Whitman (1941-1966), a former United States Marine and student at the University of Texas, ascended to the observation deck of the UT Tower and unleashed a deadly shooting assault on suspecting civilians below. In ninety-six minutes, Whitman murdered fourteen people and wounded at least thirty-one before he was shot and killed by responding law enforcement officers Houston McCloy and Ramiro Martinez who were joined by civilian Allen Crum. The shooting left the city shocked and ushered in a new concept in American history; the mass shooting spree.
Post-mortem, it was discovered that Whitman has a pecan sized tumor in his brain but whether it played in role in his actions of that day has not been conclusively determined. However there is strong evidence to believe that it did not as summarized concisely by Gary M. Lavergne (1955-) in this chilling account of Whitman’s life and his grisly crimes. The long standing question is why did Whitman do it? The truth shall never be known and went with Whitman to his grave. What we do know is that he carefully planned every step, in particular the murders of his mother Margaret and wife Katherine. Their deaths, combined with the rampage on the afternoon on August 1, left many who knew him in a state of bewilderment. The key to understanding a criminal is to study their past. Lavergne recounts Whitman’s life as we search to familiarize ourselves with Charles J. Whitman.
The book is thoroughly researched and reaches deep inside the dark side of Whitman’s mind. His childhood is explored and the system of chaos that ensued at home takes center stage as Whitman and his father become arch enemies. The elder Whitman could easily be the antagonist in the book but at no point does Lavergne attempt to cast blame on him for any of the actions of that day. He is spectator and so are we, to a father and son relationship driven by dysfunction and destined for destruction. And in a cruel twist of fate, the elder Whitman would outlive his wife and all three of his sons. Lavergne personally interviewed C.A. Whitman and even years after the tragedy he still came off as a most peculiar figure.
As we make our way to August 1 in the book, the suspense builds up and is enhanced by Whitman’s actions which are nothing sort of bizarre. Lavergne pulls no punches and all of the grisly details are relayed to the reader. And quite frankly, the remainder of the book is not for the faint at heart. The story approaches the verge of descending deeper into what could only be called hell on earth. With vivid detail and a play-by-play style of writing, Lavergne replays the events of that day in its entirety bringing the past alive. In fact, during the book, I found myself overcome with chills. Whitman’s ability to kill in cold blood and his deviously calculating mind have placed him high in the annals of American crime. However, his story would not be complete without the inclusion of the courageous officers who risked their own lives to put an end to the carnage. Lavergne has done a great service to former Austin Police Officers Houston McCoy (1940-2012) , Ramiro Martinez (1937-) and Billy Speed (1943-1966). None of them could have imagined that day would turn out as it did. And for Speed, he could not have imagined that it would be his last day on earth. In this book and the story of Whitman, their names live on.
In 1975, MGM Television aired The Deadly Tower starring Kurt Russell as Charles Whitman. Russell does a good job of portraying Whitman but regrettably, the producers of the film took several liberties that are in no way accurate to the real life story. Regardless, the film stands as the big screen adaptation of Whitman’s murder spree. Since that dreadful day in Austin more than fifty years ago, there have been other mass shootings in the United States that have cause nationwide grief and renewed the debate about the gun laws in America. The names of Columbine, Orlando and Sandy Hook have become embedded in the minds of Americans as reminders of the deadly consequences of mentally unstable and hateful individuals in the possession of weapons designed to kill. In the future, it is hoped that our response to such acts are swift and effective. The Austin police department found itself unable to accurate respond to a previously unknown threat on American soil. As we moved forward, it is imperative that history does not repeat itself. This is the story of Charles J. Whitman and one of America’s darkest days.
November 22, 1963 remains a day seared into the minds of millions of people around the world. Known informally in the United States as the day Kennedy died, each year it reminds of the tragic events of that day in Dallas, Texas. The spirit of John F. Kennedy has remained with America and today, decades after his death, his legacy continues to gain in strength. The debate regarding his accomplishments while in office has raged continuously. But what cannot be denied is his impact of the conscience of the United States and his status as a symbol of hope for an entire generation. When he died, he left behind not only a widow and two children, but millions of fans, friends and his personal secretary of twelve years, Evelyn Lincoln.
Kennedy’s administration, named “Camelot” by the press, has been the source of inquisitive researchers and those enamored with his charm and intellectually sharp personality. In this book, Lincoln has recorded her memories of what it was like for the mythical and tragic young president. Some readers may be familiar with her other book Kennedy and Johnson, her memoir regarding the relationship between Kennedy and Vice President Lyndon Johnson. In comparison, Johnson is not seen frequently in this book. In fact, he is hardly mentioned but only a handful of times. This book is strictly about the relationship between Kennedy and his secretary who devoted twelve long years of her life in service to him.
The book begins as she reflects on the aftermath of the trip to Dallas. But it should be noted that this book is not about his murder and there is no smoking gun in the book. Researchers and assassination buffs will not find anything of value in here. Where the book does shine however, is showing Kennedy’s personal side. In stark contrast to the clean-cut and smooth image presented in public, behind the scenes, the senator and later president is revealed to be as forgetful as the next person, unorganized as most businessmen and as kind as some of the greatest people I have ever met in life. Lincoln’s book does an excellent job of showing how and why so many people were inspired to work with and for him. Furthermore, it adds to his prestige as one of the most different individuals to ever occupy the oval office.
I am sure that some readers will find it interesting that she makes no mention of any of Kennedy’s major shortcomings, particularly his extramarital affairs. For some it will be hard to accept that his secretary who surely would have been privy to such knowledge makes no mention of it at all. I firmly believe it was not needed and was not the point of her book. Similar to Arthur Schlesinger, she makes note of her working relationship with Kennedy which was the goal of the book. And on this level, she succeeds without question. The book was published in 1965, roughly two years after his murder. I can only imagine the amount of grief she endured at the time and the challenge she faced in writing this memoir. Its publication and existence are a testament to her will and are a fitting tribute to the slain leader.
Anyone who has ever worked as a secretary will appreciate this book. I personally have worked as a secretarial assistant and found myself nodding my head at times during the book when she relates one of Kennedy’s quirks. All bosses have them and in all different forms. But their quirks are also what helps to make the unique and unforgettable. Kennedy and Lincoln are both deceased but they shared a time together that stands out in American history both for great reasons and unfortunately for tragic reasons. Her tribute to her former boss is heartfelt and will be warmly received in any library about the life and political career of John Fitzgerald Kennedy.
The reputation of Christopher Columbus and his actions continue to be re-examined as more cities throughout the United States pay homage to the nation’s Native American population. His arrival in the Caribbean in 1492 set off a chain of events critical to development of the area as we know it today. It is common knowledge that many atrocities were committed during Columbus’ voyages to what was called the New World. As the Spanish colonized the Caribbean, the native Indian population began to decline and was nearly non-existent by 1524. We know them by the name Taino but their history and significance is still widely understated. But just who were the Tainos and how did they come to inhabit what is today the Spanish, British, Dutch and French West-Indies?
Irving Rouse was an archaeologist on the faculty of Yale University and conducted extensive work on the history of the Taino population. In this phenomenal account of the history of the Taino Indians, he meticulously reconstructs the history of the region and explains the long and intricate evolution of the mysterious natives. Tragically, their language was never officially recorded and scare parts of it remain today. No written records are in existence regarding their daily lives to give researchers insight into their culture. As a result they are forced to rely on artifacts found during excavations. But incredibly, we are able to trace their origins back to 4000 b.c.. Rouse thoroughly explains the paths taken by the original inhabitants of South America and their journeys north towards the Caribbean. The histories of the Casimiroid, Ortoirnod , Saladoid and Ostionoid people come to life through Rouse’s analysis and the ethnic groups of the Guanahatabey, Taino, Igneri and Island-Carib are further analyzed during the period between 1492, the arrival of Columbus and 1524, the last official year for their existence.
Today, Christianity is the dominant religion in the Caribbean. The acquisition of territory by Spanish invaders resulted not only in occupation of native land but the forced conversion of the natives to a new faith. Rouse takes great strides to show us that the Tainos had their own religion and gods which they believed served many purposes in life. Similar to the Greeks and Romans, the Gods and Goddesses were integral to Taino society, influence everything from childbirth to inclement weather. Their significance is explained giving the reader greater insight as to how Taino society operated during their time. Without written records, the religions artifacts are critical to understanding the beliefs held during archaic times.
The legacy of Christopher Columbus continues to be debated hundreds of years following his death. The now prevailing view is that he was a genocidal maniac whose sole purpose was to exterminate the native Indians. But as Rouse shows us, the commonly held view of Columbus suffers from many faults and he was not quite what he is made out to be. His four voyages to the Caribbean had a range of effects but the reality is that the majority of horrific acts of violence that transpired, did so at the times when he was absent from the region, having returned to Spain to assess the progress of the Spanish expeditions. A gifted navigator and explorer, his lack of management and planning served as a catalysts for the unspeakable acts of horror that were committed by those under his command left in charge to enforce the will of the Spanish government. Columbus died only 12 years following his first visit to the Caribbean and two years following his fourth voyage, so he did not live to see the extermination of the Taino people. And while he did not “discover” America, his voyages did develop a new connection between Europe and the Americas. He was not the first to make the trip to North America, coming in second to the Viking explorers, but he did provide a highly critical link between two continents. And although he was searching for a new passage to Asia, fate took him to the Caribbean, the place where he and his brothers Diego and Bartolome would make their names known. But for all of his successes, his biggest failure was his inability to protect the native Taino population resulting in their gradual decline and complete extermination by violence, marriage and even disease.
As of late, there has been a resurgence of Taino heritage and pride and thousands of Spanish-speaking inhabitants of the Caribbean proudly exclaim their Taino routes. The story of the mysterious race of people who dominated the Caribbean is being retold in its entirety but there is much that still needs to be said. And each October as we look back on the life of Columbus, we should also look back on the people that he encountered and their tragic history.
Circle of Six: The True Story of New York’s Most Notorious Cop Killer and the Cop Who Risked Everything to Catch Him-Randy Jurgensen
April 14, 1972-The New York City Police Department’s 28th Precinct receives a ten-thirteen, the code for an officer in distress. Units are dispatched and responding officers enter the location given by the caller, West 116th Street and Malcolm X. Blvd. The building is the Nation of Islam’s Muslim Mosque No. 7, then under the control of Minister Louis Farrakhan. The officers are locked inside, beaten severely and Officer Philip Cardillo is mortally wounded in the sternum and later dies from his wounds. The responding officers are ordered out of the mosque by superiors and members of the Nation of Islam begin to clean the building, contaminating crucial evidence and rendering future investigations nearly impossible. Cardillo’s killer remained hidden for several years and it seemed as if his identity would never be known. However one New York City Police Detective refused to give up and risked his entire career to see the killer brought to justice. This is the story of Det. Randy Jurgensen (Ret.) and his never-ending efforts to catch the murderer of Philip Cardillo.
Jurgensen was one of the many officers that responded to the scene and gives us a play-by-play description of the events as they transpired. He was critically wounded himself that day and the encounter between the police and the NOI nearly resulted in a complete riot. Upon his recovery he is tasked with investigating Cardillo’s murder, but as we see in the book, it was nearly an impossible feat as he faced obstruction on all fronts and incredibly, within the NYPD. Political aspirations and social concerns resulted in NYPD brass instituting strict controls over the ensuing investigation and a potential mutiny by patrol officers with the backing of the PBA, threatened to bring New York City to a complete halt. The submission of power by the NYPD and public officials to the NOI under Farrakhan’s control served to demoralized the detectives pursuing Cardillo’s killer and the officers that stood near his side on that tragic day in April, 1972.
Jurgensen purposely changed the name of some of the individuals in the book for obvious reasons. But their actions and the wall of stone he encounters throughout the book will cause the reader to question the value placed upon those who put their lives on the line every day in service to the City of New York. A brush with death is sometimes hidden behind the next corner and every call has the potential to be the last. But nonetheless, the men and women of the NYPD continue to do their Jurgensen refuses to give up and his efforts pay off in the apprehension of Cardillo’s killer. The arrest and subsequent trial are bittersweet moments highlighting the precarious nature of a jury in trial with strong racial overtones. We are forced to examine ourselves and our beliefs towards law enforcement and the concept of right and wrong. The end result may not be what the reader will expect but shining moment in the book is the truth surrounding Cardillo’s murder being revealed at last. It is a moment that will cause pride to surface in the heart of every New York City Police Officer. Today the City hardly resembles its 1972 version. The Nation of Islam is still prevalent but the Muslim Mosque No. 7 has since relocated. Minister Louis Farrakhan continues to remain the in the public light although he has advanced into his senior years. Randy Jurgensen entered Hollywood following his retirement and worked as a technical consultant on ‘The French Connection’, ‘The Cruiser’ and ‘Donnie Brasco’. He continues to honor Cardillo’s memory and has pushed for the renaming of a street in the late officer’s name. Jurgensen will even make a return to Hollywood as this book is set to be adapted by the silver screen. Cardillo will never been forgotten and for Jurgensen, Farrakhan and the others present on April 14, 1972, the events of that day will remain firmly implanted in their memories until their last day. This is an invaluable part of New York City history as told through the incredible story of the circle of six.
August 19, 1953-Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh (1882-1967) is removed from power in a coup engineered by British MI6 and the United States’ Central Intelligence Agency under the control of Kermit Roosevelt. Mohammad Reza Shah (1919-1980) returns from exile in Rome to reestablish himself as the nation’s highest authority. The Shah proceeds to place the country in an iron grip, enforcing dictatorial rule for the next twenty-five years before his abdication in 1979 resulting in the seizure of power by the Ayatollah Khomeini setting Iran on a path of radical Islamic rule highlighted by the administration of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The coup in 1953 and the actions of U.S. President Jimmy Carter in 1979, permanently changed the relationship between the United States and the once promising Islamic Republic.
A little more than one year ago, the United States in conjunction with several other allies, reached a formal agreement to limit Iran’s ability to manufacture and stockpile nuclear weapons. The agreement has been both lionized and criticized by the far right and far left. It is assumed by many that Iran is a sworn enemy of the United States and seeks to destroy all that America stands for. Islamophobia and ignorance have allowed the belief that Iran is a threat to peace in the western hemisphere to proliferate exponentially. Christianity still holds the record for the largest number of followers. But that might change sooner than we might believe. The Pew Research Center has projected that Islam will hold the title of the world’s largest religion by 2070. The overwhelming majority of people who believe in Islam are very peaceful and sincere individuals. Fanatical believers unafraid of committing extremist acts have cast a dark cloud over the faith, breeding fear and suspicion that have resulted in a surge in hate crimes against those of the Muslim faith. But was Islamophobia the sole reason for the actions of August, 1953?
Stephen Kinzer revisits Iran in 1953 in this investigative account of the origins of the coup, its implementation and consequences which continue to haunt Iran and the world to this day. The life of Mohammad Mossadegh, the charismatic voice of democracy and liberty who gained a following as he chartered his course with the purpose of transforming Iranian society, is examined in detail. Free speech, open elections and personal freedom became staples of his rule giving hope and optimism to thousands of believers. But as we learn in from Kinzer’s investigative efforts, foreign influences, economic restrictions and domestic threats embarked on a collision course that dealt Iran a blow from which it has never fully recovered.
But just how did the coup happen and why was it initiated? The answers to those questions, found in this book, are key to understanding the tragic results of U.S. and British involvement in the nation’s domestic affairs. Greed, oil, British embarrassment and the fear of communism, were just a few ingredients in a stew that served as the catalyst for Mossadegh’s removal. The lack of appreciation for Iranian history and the complicated relationship between the Shiites and Sunni Muslims, allowed intelligence operatives from abroad to engage in a deadly plot resulting in one of the darkest moments in Middle Eastern history. Today it is difficult to believe that the coup affects present day events. But as we learn through Kinzer, destabilization and political turmoil that ensued giving rise to fierce anti-western ideology, is directly tied to the coup. The attack on the U.S. Embassy in 1979 and subsequent events further complicated matters. War with Iraq and the emergence of international terrorism pioneered by radicals such as Osama Bin Laden continued to amplify aggression on both sides. The nuclear arms restriction deal came as a result of long hours of discussion, assurances and acts of faith by all involved. Agreements reached with the deal, have given way to the first steps on the road to reconciliation.
We have much ground to cover as we continue to reconcile with Iran. Many wounds have yet to fully heal and will require more patience and understanding on both sides. The first step, which has already been taken, is to admit wrongdoing. Governments can apologize but its citizens can and do sometimes remain defiant and unconvinced of any form of complicity. In order for us to understand Iran and remove our fear of Islamophobia and our destruction, we must first learn why their feelings exist. Only then can we begin to untangle our complicated coexistence and move forward in a harmonious and promising direction.
“Those who are at war with others are not at peace with themselves.”- William Hazlitt
“There is nothing new in the world except the history you do not know ” – President Harry S. Truman
In comparison to many countries around the world, America is still a young nation. Our history dates back several centuries which is far shorter than the thousands of years of history claimed by countries such as Greece and China. However, in the short time the United States has been in existence, the world has witnessed its development and transformation into a world superpower. The image that is projected is of the land of the free and the home of the brave. The battle for independence against Great Britain and the Declaration of Independence are considered to be hallmark moments that defined the future course of the United States. But if we take time to examine our history here, we will find that much of what we have learned is not only wrong but has also caused many of us to live in ignorance, unaware of how our country became what it is today.
In two days, Columbus Day is upon us yet again. In New York City, the Columbus Day Parade will march down 5th Avenue. On October 4, the city of Denver, Colorado did something no other state has ever done before when the city council voted 12-0 to remove Columbus Day as an official holiday. The city has renamed the day Indigenous People’s Day. Denver joins several other cities that have taken similar measures to pay homage to the plight of America’s Native American ancestors. As a kid, I was taught that Christopher Columbus “discovered” America and without him, America would not exist. I continued to believe that as I grew up until several years ago when I came across an article that revealed the truth surrounding the arrival of Columbus, his brother Diego and their entourage in the Caribbean. As the truth became clearer and the veil of deceit was lifted, I was forced to think not only about the myth of Columbus but about hundreds of other things I learned in history classes throughout the years. My brother, aware of my love of history, picked up this book for me by James W. Loewen. The cover alone is enough to provoke interest and suspicion but what’s inside the book is truly invaluable.
The idea that a teacher has lied about a historical event sounds preposterous to some. But as I made my way through this book, I began to see that the failure of teachers to teach the truth about America’s past is a small part of a larger problem, a system wide defect that has plagued classrooms for decades. The poor vetting of information contained within history books and the desire to show our history in the best light possible has resulted in generation after generation being misinformed. In fact, there are times at which our knowledge of our own history is so inferior that foreigners have a deeper wealth of knowledge as to how America was founded. Our patriotism and sensitivity to criticism has caused many of us to automatically reject any notion that what we have been taught in school could possibly be completely wrong. But if we are to learn the truth, then the first step is admit that we have been wrong. And with this book, James W. Loewen leads the way.
I cannot imagine that a book of this nature was easy to write for a number of reasons. But I have always felt that true patriots love their country but never excuse its wrongdoings. Just as we take to task our siblings and friends for their transgressions, we bear the responsibility to ourselves and our fellow citizens to acknowledge that our past has not always been glamorous and has a very dark side. The demographics of America continue to change and we truly are a nation of immigrants. However class division, racial discrimination, genocide and domineering foreign policy became staples of the foundation of the United States. Acknowledging this does not make any of us less patriotic but it helps us to understand how are we have come and how far we still have to go. All Americans should read this book and I belive it would be highly beneficial to make this book mandatory reading in all schools. And even for those who are not American, it might confirm what you already knew or enlighten you to other things you do not yet know