Displaying posts categorized under




Another great addition to the Cyrus Skeen series.

Product Details

Celebrity News: A Detective Novel of 1930 (The Cyrus Skeen Mysteries Book 26)
Mar 23, 2017
by Edward Cline

Sparrowhawk, Book Six: War
byEdward Cline
Brilliant, maybe provocative to some, this series of 6 books is a major achievement in historical fiction. With vivid, believable characters Cline envelopes the story of the American Revolution in an enlightening aura of intellectualism, fierce love and loyalty, and ultimate sacrifice for a cause even deeper than the birth of a country. And, yes, there are also despicable, hateful characters and plenty of others that are mere fodder for disdain. We all know that America prevailed in the end, but those that read this amazing book will also finally know the deeper roles and natures of Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson and the far greater intrigue of the Revolution that a mere dumping of tea. Long live Lady Liberty! Bravo, Mr. Cline!

Bruce Bawer’s Terrorism Thriller Tells the Truth About Islam in Europe An American in Amsterdam is swept up in a jihadist terrorist plot. Mark Tapson

The suicide bombing which slaughtered nearly two dozen concertgoers in Manchester last week demonstrates yet again that terrorism is indeed becoming “part and parcel,” as London’s Muslim mayor Sadiq Khan declared, of European life. And yet the continent’s elites continue to live in denial of the religious roots of that terrorism. Few are willing to tell the truth about Islam and its impact on Europe; even fewer have dared to tell that truth in the gripping way that only fiction can. Controversial French novelist Michel Houllebecq’s bestselling Submission, for example, recently struck a chord among readers with its chilling tale of Europe’s embrace of sharia. And then there is Bruce Bawer’s new novel The Alhambra.

Critic, essayist, and political journalist Bruce Bawer is the author of over a dozen books, most notably While Europe Slept: How Radical Islam Is Destroying the West from Within (2006), Surrender: Appeasing Islam, Sacrificing Freedom (2009), and The Victims’ Revolution: The Rise of Identity Studies and the Closing of the Liberal Mind (2012). He is a native New Yorker who has lived in Europe since 1998, and who continues to report on the continent’s decline and fall from the front lines. Full disclosure: I am honored to say that Bawer is a friend of mine.

FrontPage Mag readers are surely familiar with regular contributor Bawer’s incisive work. But some may not know that Bawer has just released a self-published international thriller that takes on the verboten topic of Islam’s infiltration and subversion of Europe. The Alhambra is set in early 2001, while America and Europe still slept, as Bawer put it in another book, prior to the September 11 attacks. It is the story of an American living in Amsterdam who overhears jihadists planning an act of terrorism, and finds himself caught up in the deadly intrigue.

Why did he decide to self-publish? As Bawer told me in an email, “My agent liked the book but thought the combination of gay characters and vile Islamophobia made it hopeless to try to place it [with a publisher].” The “vile Islamophobia” alone, of course, is enough to scuttle a novel’s chances with any traditional publisher, and of course Hollywood is far from likely to touch it either. But Bawer didn’t let that deter him from telling a story that needs to be told.

The novel’s protagonist is Steve Disch, a gay filmmaker pushing forty who moves impulsively to Amsterdam after his once-promising Hollywood career stalls out. He immerses himself in the city’s Old World charm but increasingly finds himself crossing paths with the city’s dark, threatening subculture of Muslim immigrants:

Block by block, the neighborhood grew shabbier. There was graffiti, garbage on the street. There were storefronts with signs in Arabic… He passed a group of men who looked like Arabs or Turks or Persians and who were standing on the sidewalk holding a loud, angry-sounding conversation in some Middle Eastern tongue. As he walked by, they all turned, every one of them, and gave him unfriendly, suspicious looks. One of them said something to him. He didn’t understand the words, but he could guess at the sentiment. Further down the street, he passed a woman in an Islamic head covering who was pushing a baby carriage and was flanked by two toddlers. Half a block later, he passed another woman, also covered; this one was pregnant and pushing a child in a stroller.

The Islam In Islamic Terrorism Ibn Warraq’s new book unveils what really motivates Islamic terrorists today. Hugh Fitzgerald

Ibn Warraq, the celebrated apostate, author of Why I Am Not A Muslim and of scholarly works on the Koran, Muhammad, and early Islam, as well as polemical works in defense of the West, has now written The Islam in Islamic Terrorism, showing, in the words of the Islamic fundamentalists (or, more exactly, revivalists) themselves, what really motivates Islamic terrorists today, and what has motivated them since the time of the Kharijites in the first century of Islam: the belief in the need to recover the pristine Islam of the time of Muhammad, by removing all innovations (bid’a), the further belief that it is the duty of Muslims to wage Jihad against all Unbelievers until Islam everywhere dominates, and to bring about the resurrection of the caliphate, and the imposition of Islamic Law, or Sharia, all over the globe.

Ibn Warraq’s The Islam In Islamic Terrorism is a brilliant series of reported echoes down the corridors of Islam, where the same complaints about bid’a, the same insistence on regulating every area of a Believer’s life, the same refusal to allow freedom of religion or thought, the same duties of violent Jihad and Commanding Right and Forbidding Wrong, the same demands for a return to the same pristine Islam of Muhammad, the same virulent antisemitism, the same quotes from the Koran and Hadith, the same hatred of Infidels, the same insistence that “we love death more than you love life,” the same call for bloodshed and Muslim martyrdom, the same dreary fanaticism, are thoroughly described and dissected, and above all the various violent manifestations of this revivalism over the centuries are linked to one another, as Ibn Warraq brings to bear the massive research he has been conducting over many years, in primary and secondary sources, and here deploys to splendid effect.

Ibn Warraq has performed a service for all those who are at last ready to look beyond the present platitudes about socioeconomic and other putative “root causes” of Islamic terrorism — Israel, the Crusades, European colonialism, American foreign policy, all held up for dissection and dismissal one after the other. He cites the studies that reveal Muslim terrorists to be both better off economically, and better educated, than the average Muslim. Most of the terrorist leaders have received solid educations in Islam, giving the lie to those apologists who claim that only those “ignorant of the true Islam” become terrorists.

He notes that Jihad against the Infidels started more than 1300 years before Israel came into existence, that the Muslims paid little attention to the Crusades until very recently, and that American foreign policy has often favored the Muslim side, rescuing Arafat from Beirut when he was besieged by the Israelis, supporting Pakistan despite its collusion with terrorists, looking away when Turkey invaded Cyprus, putting troops in Saudi Arabia to protect that kleptocracy from Saddam Hussein, and lavishing hundreds of billions in foreign aid on Muslim countries, and more than four trillion dollars on military interventions and “reconstruction” in Iraq and Afghanistan, in the hope, likely forlorn, that those countries could be made less barbarous than before.

MacArthur’s Spies: The Heroes of the Philippines By Elise Cooper

MacArthur’s Spies by Peter Eisner recounts how three individuals played a significant role in the resistance against the Japanese occupation in the Philippines during World War II. The book shows how heroes come from many backgrounds: a singer, a soldier, and a spymaster. As the Greatest Generation dies off, written accounts such as this are a reminder of how ordinary people can become extraordinary by putting themselves in danger to help others survive and achieve victory.

The emphasis of the book is on the American singer Claire Phillips, who opened a nightclub in Manila catering to Japanese officials and officers. She and those who worked for her gathered information that was passed on to the allies. In addition, she provided food, supplies, and medicine to many of the allied POWs and citizens interned in the camps. Given the code name “High Pockets,” she met with guerrilla fighters to inform them of Japanese military plans, and by all accounts, she gave credible intelligence reports.

Another contributor was U.S. Army corporal John Boone, one of the first to start a guerrilla organization against the Japanese. He had to evade not only the Japanese, who would kill him on the spot, but also homegrown Communist Filipinos and turncoats. After the Japanese overran the forces in Bataan, they demanded that the Americans surrender. Although the majority did, Boone was one of the few who disobeyed orders by refusing to surrender, and he fled into the jungles, where he aided in foiling the Japanese. Through sabotage and disruption, he and his men helped pave the way for General MacArthur’s return. Readers will enjoy how Eisner intertwines the resistance with the battles fought in and around the Philippines.

Charles “Chick” Parsons was called MacArthur’s spymaster. An American businessman who was in Manila during the Japanese advance, he convinced the enemy that he was a Panamanian diplomat. They never found out he actually was a U.S. Navy intelligence officer, and they allowed him to depart the Philippines. Having convinced MacArthur to have him return, in March 1943, he arrived back via submarine. He eluded detection by operating off the grid and became the chief aide in organizing and supplying the guerrillas, including making sure the intelligence network was successful.

The book also discusses the faceless American heroes, those captured by the Japanese. Although much is known about the Nazi atrocities during World War II, the Japanese also had their share of brutality. Citizens in Manila would have to bow and show their subservience to the Japanese or risk being slapped, kicked, and beaten. One of the worst was the Bataan Death March, where starving and thirsty American prisoners were forced to trek for miles in the wilting sun.

Eisner noted, “This march was a horror show of inhumanity. The Americans and Filipinos who fought with them were brutalized and slaughtered. When some stopped because of exhaustion, they were bayoneted on the spot. Another example occurred just after the surrender, where the Japanese mowed down the allied forces with rifle and machine gun fire. This continued throughout the war and came to a head when in August 1944 the Tokyo High Command issued a secret kill order.

“At the Palawan POW camp, prisoners became slave laborers and were forced to build an airfield. In December, under the guise of a supposed air raid, the POWs were told to go into the trenches for shelter. Suddenly, the Japanese guards dumped gallons of gasoline into the trenches and torched them.

Sean O’Callaghan The Real Heroes of a Dirty War

I took up William Matchett’s splendid book as someone who, in August, 1974, murdered Inspector Peter Flanagan of RUC in a County Tyrone public house. I am deeply ashamed of that act. Like many young Irish republicans before me I thought I was fighting for Irish freedom. I was not.

Secret Victory: The Intelligence War That Beat the IRA
by William Matchett
William Matchett, 2016, 272 pages, about $30

Some might regard the title of this book as making a grandiose claim. Others may deride it, or ignore both title and book, choosing instead to believe that whatever fragile peace Northern Ireland enjoys today is a blessing bestowed by Tony Blair, Gerry Adams, Bill Clinton and an assortment of peaceniks, chancers and conflict resolution groupies. Many such people have lined their pockets by grossly inflating their influence in the “peace process” and exporting their inanities to gullible audiences worldwide.

In reality they reaped the harvest of peace that others had sown in a long intelligence war, and William Matchett’s book is the perfect antidote to their delusions. The author is a former senior officer in the Special Branch of the Royal Ulster Constabulary who fought the IRA (and their loyalist counterparts) for a quarter of a century and who has gone on to advise police forces across the world on counter-terrorism. He describes with the familiar understated practicality of the North’s Protestant-Unionist majority how he and his Special Branch colleagues were able to win a war of intelligence within the civil law.

One experience of mine in Crumlin Road Jail in Belfast in 1989 confirmed for me—not that I needed much convincing—the absolutely central and critical role that RUC Special Branch played in degrading the Provisional IRA, and forcing it to end its campaign of murder and intimidation against the people of Northern Ireland. I was being led, in the company of seven IRA members, through the tunnel from the jail to the courthouse, each of us handcuffed to another prisoner. I happened to be handcuffed to a senior and long-standing member of the IRA from Dungannon, County Tyrone, named Henry Louis McNally. I knew him quite well from my days as an IRA operative in the mid-1970s in County Tyrone. He was once named, by Ken Maginnis, an Ulster Unionist MP in the House of Commons, as being directly responsible for the murders of seventeen members of the security forces. He had been arrested, charged, and later convicted of the attempted murder of British soldiers travelling by bus to their base in Antrim.

McNally was a very canny, experienced and long-term senior IRA man who followed his own timetable, operating in his native County Tyrone for going on sixteen years, interrupted only by one spell on remand. I was curious as to why this cautious man was operating far from his normal stomping ground. I asked him, and the answer I received in that tunnel was this: “Special Branch have us in a vice-like grip in Tyrone and it is just too difficult to operate, so like a fool I finished up going to Antrim to get some kills and ended up here.” Out of the mouths of babes and killers … McNally had no love for the Special Branch, but he had good reason to be realistic about them as formidable and professional enemies forged in a very unforgiving fire.

In the introduction to his book Matchett describes his first days as an eighteen-year-old recruit in the RUC, stationed in the IRA heartland of South Armagh:

At 18 it was a rude awakening to the reality of armed conflict. I was shot at, caught in roadside bombs and mortared. I lost some good friends. I would lie if I said I was not afraid. I knew the IRA men who were doing this, we all did, but we could not prove it.

This was Northern Ireland in 1982, not Beirut or Afghanistan, but a part of the UK situated on the island of Ireland. It is I think worth taking a moment to ponder those lines. The border was but a stone’s throw away and mostly the IRA simply scooted across the border into the Irish Republic where Matchett and his colleagues could not follow. And so it went on—year after bloody year. A police force that had been utterly demoralised and demonised by the events of 1969 took years to recover some sense of mission and purpose. It wasn’t until police primacy in law enforcement and intelligence gathering was restored in 1976 that a revamped and reinvigorated RUC really took on the slow and deadly task of taking back control of IRA-controlled areas of Belfast and Derry. Slowly but surely the rule of law began to assert itself. The centre of IRA activity began to retreat more and more to the rural heartlands bordering the Irish Republic. Eventually towards the end the IRA was on its knees, its last stronghold in South Armagh on the verge of collapse.

It would of course be wrong to downgrade the huge role and sacrifice undertaken by the British Army, particularly in the early 1970s. Without the Army holding the line in those difficult years the RUC, and Special Branch in particular, would almost certainly never have had the breathing space to re-organise. Matchett recognises the debt of gratitude to those soldiers who served and were injured or murdered when he writes simply, “The Army prevented Ulster from unravelling.” Of course one of the primary differences between the police and the Army was that police knew the ground where they were born, went to school, got married, had children and worked and socialised. They were of the soil, as their enemies in the IRA were, and they proved more resolute, determined and fearless in protecting their children, homeland and way of life than those who opposed them. They were often frustrated by having to observe the rule of law—but it proved the right way. They were determined to outwit and outlast the IRA—and they did. Matchett sets out in clear, precise words the operational strategies and tactics Special Branch adopted to defeat a well-armed and vicious terrorist group.

David Isaac: A Review of Tuvya Tenenbom’s “The Lies They Tell”—–De Tocqueville He’s Not!!!!

“America I find is not the America I wished to find. It is racist, it is hateful and its citizens are bound to destroy themselves.” This is Tuvia Tenenbom’s cringe-worthy conclusion in The Lies They Tell, a chronicle of his wanderings through America to find out what makes it tick. But Tenenbom doesn’t appear to know a thing about America—despite living in New York for 15 years—and seems unable to learn.

What makes this more astonishing is that Tenenbom’s Catch the Jew!, his previous book, was as insightful as his latest is muddled. That book, a gutsy exposé of European funding of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Israel, with the complicity of some Jewish groups, was the first hands-on, direct-contact revelation of what these NGOs were up to, i.e. undermining Israel’s legitimacy. Israel’s government seems to have awoken to the danger. Recently, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refused to meet with Germany’s foreign minister after he conferred with anti-Israel NGOs.

Tenenbom understood what he was talking about in part thanks to his unusual background. Groomed to be a rabbi in Bnei Brak, an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood in Israel, he broke away to pursue secular studies, formed the Jewish Theater in New York, wrote numerous plays, and became a columnist for the Jewish daily The Forward. Fluent in German, he also writes for the German paper Die Zeit. Unfortunately, none of this gives him special insight into America. Tenenbom admits that the rest of the country is to him a blank. “Like many New Yorkers, I don’t know much about the other forty-nine states that make up America,” he writes.

Catch the Jew! had the added benefit of being Tenenbom’s idea, something that can’t be said of his latest effort. As he notes in his introduction, “Following the success of the two books, [I Sleep in Hitler’s Room, on Germany, and Catch the Jew!] my devoted editor, Winfried Horning, asked me to add another book to the series. . . . Winfried thought that the time had come to have a book about America as well.”

Tenenbom decided the best way to “portray the character of the country and its people” was to go out and meet people. He tours the states, but without a reason (apart from a book contract) or theme his wanderings appear aimless, even to himself. While in Cleveland, he writes, “I ate. I walked. Time to rest. Tomorrow I drive. Where to? Detroit. Why? Because there’s nothing more American than Detroit. How do I know? I just made it up.” The book is filled with this sort of empty trivia.

Tenenbom travels for six months, chatting with a racially diverse cast of Americans. He pesters them with questions about politics, religion, and race. Not surprisingly, they’re reluctant to answer. Maybe in Germany and Israel strangers love arguing about politics with strangers, but in this country, starting in on politics with someone you’ve just met is considered rude. Author Robert D. Kaplan, who made a similar trip, writes in his Earning the Rockies, “If you ask people straight out about such things as politics and foreign policy, they will often as not adopt a pose: after all, they don’t know you, and they may be uncomfortable about being quoted in public.” Tenenbom doesn’t entertain the possibility that the people he buttonholes don’t want to open up to him; instead, he decides they’re frightened. Americans, he concludes, are “afraid to share their political and religious views with strangers. In the Land of the Free, the Brave are quiet.” This peculiar idea becomes a major pillar of his book.

Nonie Darwish’s “Wholly Different” Half her life in Egypt, half her life in the U.S. — an insider’s insights on Islam and the West. Danusha V. Goska

Nonie Darwish’s 2017 Regnery Faith book, Wholly Different: Why I Chose Biblical Values over Islamic Values, is a wide-ranging, reader-friendly view into the thinking of an Egyptian, Muslim woman who immigrated to America at age 30 and began to compare and contrast the values she was steeped in to those found in Judeo-Christian-influenced, Western culture.

Darwish was born in 1949 in Cairo, Egypt. She grew up in Egypt and Gaza. Her father, Mustafa Hafez, created and oversaw an anti-Israel terror group. When Darwish was eight, her father was assassinated by Israel. Egyptian President Nasser praised Darwish’s father as a shahid, or martyr. Darwish immigrated to the US in 1978, and she has lived here ever since. She converted to Christianity.

Wholly Different is part memoir, part sociological observation, and part prophetic clarion. Darwish’s style is cozy and conversational. Her sentences are short and easy to read. Darwish paints a vast, impressionistic landscape comparing the Muslim world to the West. She makes a series of thought-provoking points in a rapid style. She quotes relevant passages from Islamic scripture and shows how that scripture plays out in modern societies. In contrast, she quotes important Biblical passages and demonstrates how those have influenced the West.

Darwish combines the maternal love one might find in a wise grandmother, the kind who bakes cookies and contains a storehouse of folkloric wisdom, with the stripped-to-the-bone truth-telling and no-time-to-waste urgency of an Old Testament prophet. With every sentence, Darwish conveys the deep care she feels for every reader with an insistence on being heard, and heard for every last syllable.

As is often the case, this book by a former Muslim is more fearlessly blunt than many a counter-jihad statement by someone who has never been a Muslim. “Islamic values versus Biblical values is a bloody collision waiting to happen. The West must be warned,” she writes. Darwish has seen jihad up close and personal. She knows what is at stake, she has taken the measure of the wolf at the door, and her call bursts forth like a trumpet. Just one example of the kind of unique insights she can offer: in thirty years of living as a Muslim in the most populous Arab state, she never heard anyone question why Mohammed, at over fifty years old, took a six-year-old as his wife.

“A fish doesn’t know it is in water,” goes the old saying. Perhaps nothing dramatizes this point so vividly as Western women who marry Muslim men, travel with those men to their natal countries, and are shocked to discover that rights they took for granted as universal ceased to exist once they stepped across a border and put their Western homeland at their back. One can see one such woman, Stephanie, sobbing in a 2016 EXMNA video. “I was certain that I was going to find a way to bring my daughters back, so I bought them a bunch of clothes, but they haven’t had a chance to wear them yet,” Stephanie says, with unbearable poignancy. The camera shows Stephanie’s slender fingers fondling princess dresses she had purchased for her daughters, dresses that her daughters will never wear.

Stephanie was born in Canada and married a Muslim man. She had two children by him. She convinced herself that she and her Libyan husband could create a Canadian version of Islam. She could prevent her husband from forcing hijab on her daughters, allow the girls to listen to music, and take gymnastics. “We can mix both and be happy,” she thought. Islam, though, she said, demanded that her husband “protect” his children from Stephanie; indeed, to protect Stephanie from herself. Her husband, over the course of eighteen months, hatched a plot to convince Stephanie to put her daughters on a plane so that he could attend grad school in Europe. This was a lie. He had no plans for a European PhD. He lured Stephanie into Libya, at which point she had no rights whatsoever. Stephanie says that in Islamic terms, her husband was kind – because he had the right to kill her, and he did not. It’s five years later, and Stephanie has not seen her children since. She may never see them again.

Power, Faith, and Fantasy: America in the Middle East: 1776 to the Present by Michael B. Oren (Feb 17, 2008)

EXCERPT:It’s death by a thousand cuts, or inch-by-inch as some refer to it, and most Americans have no idea that this battle is being waged every day across America . By not fighting back, by allowing groups to obfuscate what is really happening, and not insisting that the Islamists adapt to our own culture, the United States is cutting its own throat with a politically correct knife, and helping to further the Islamists agenda.
Sadly, it appears that today America’s leaders would rather be politically correct than victorious.

by Michael B. Oren
When Thomas Jefferson saw there was no negotiating with Muslims, he formed what is the now the Marines (sea going soldiers). These Marines were attached to U. S. Merchant vessels. When the Muslims attacked U.S. merchant vessels, they were repulsed by armed soldiers, but there is more.The Marines followed the Muslims back to their villages and killed every man, woman, and child in the village. It didn’t take long for the Muslims to leave U.S. Merchant vessels alone. English and French merchant vessels started running up our flag when entering the Mediterranean to secure safe travel.

Why the Marine Hymn Contains the Verse “… to the shores of Tripoli .” This is very interesting and a must read piece of our history. It points out where we may be heading. Most Americans are unaware of the fact that over two hundred years ago,the United States had declared war on Islam and Thomas Jefferson led the charge!

At the height of the 18th century, Muslim pirates (the “Barbary Pirates”) were the terror of the Mediterranean and a large area of the North Atlantic . They attacked every ship in sight and held the crews for exorbitant ransoms. Those taken hostage were subjected to barbaric treatment and wrote heart-breaking letters home, begging their government and family members to pay whatever their Mohammedan captors demanded.

These extortionists of the high seas represented the North African Islamic nations of Tripoli, Tunis, Morocco and Algiers – collectively referred to as the Barbary Coast – and presented a dangerous and unprovoked threat to the new American Republic.

Before the Revolutionary War, U.S. merchant ships had been under the protection of Great Britain. When the U.S. declared its independence and entered into war, the ships of the United States were protected by France. However, once the war was won, America had to protect its own fleets.

 How the U.S. Army Came of Age In the early 20th century, the U.S. Army’s ‘Root reforms’ transformed the service by institutionalizing professional military education and creating a general staff. By Mackubin Thomas Owens

In June 2007, at a seminar at the U.S. Military Academy, I spent a pleasant evening speaking with a young Army captain who was completing his Ph.D. in history at Duke University, working on a topic of great interest to me: the Root reforms of the U.S. Army in the early 20th century, which “professionalized” the service by institutionalizing professional military education and creating a general staff.

That officer was J. P. Clark, and his research has culminated in this magnificent new book, Preparing for War: The Emergence of the Modern U.S. Army, 1815–1917. In this work, Clark shows us how history ought to be written — not only illuminating the past but providing a useful way to think about the future.

Clark set out to address this question: What were the main drivers of the Root reforms, “arguably the most far-reaching in the history of the U.S. Army”? The scholarship of military transformation offers three broad theories of change: 1) Some external impetus overcomes recalcitrant military conservatism; 2) internal forces, e.g., competition for resources, create change from within; and 3) external shocks, such as defeat or the emergence of new technology, compel change.

Clark argues that although elements of each cause were present during the late 19th century, none by itself can explain the transformation of the U.S. Army during this period. Superficially, the Root case seems to suggest an external cause. A civilian outsider (Secretary of War Elihu Root) took the ideas of an unconventional military thinker (Emory Upton) regarding such issues as professional military education and a general staff and imposed them on a recalcitrant military (embodied by the commanding general, Nelson Miles). But, as Clark shows, the situation was much more complex.

When Clark started to examine the factors underpinning the Root reforms, he attempted to shoehorn the small, pivotal group of reformist officers at the time into the traditional binary taxonomy of “conservatives vs. reformers.” However, he soon came to understand that the real divisions within the officer corps were generational, resulting in confusing cross-currents that could not fit adequately into that binary.

The attitudes of the Root-era reformers were the result of forces at work when they were commissioned. Too young to have served in the Civil War, they were nonetheless profoundly influenced by that conflict:

This generation had not led corps or divisions in pitched battles but companies and batteries patrolling the frontier or guarding the coasts. Torn between dreams of grand campaigns and the reality of leading small, dusty detachments, that generation was further buffeted by the social, cultural, and technological dislocations that marked the transition from the 19th to the 20th century. Like others of the Gilded Age, they were on the cusp of great change but not ready to abandon old notions.

George Thomas: Encouraging the Unwell

Being smart doesn’t make psychiatrists, as a body at least, immune to irresponsibility and foolishness. One of author Tanveer Ahmed’s pet peeves is the way every mental affliction, from sadness upwards, is being medicalised, labelled a condition and therefore in need of treatment.

Fragile Nation
by Tanveer Ahmed
Connor Court, 2016, 212 pages, $24.95

Tanveer Ahmed demonstrated his commonsense optimism in his memoir The Exotic Rissole (2011). That book ended with his success, on the third attempt, to convert his medical degree into qualifications to practise as a psychiatrist. Fragile Nation is his report on the mental state of the nation, based on his subsequent professional experience.

The first and most obvious thing about the book is that it is surprisingly cheerful and hopeful. Ahmed is fascinated by people and by the challenges his work presents. His predominant theme is that his patients are not helpless victims, no matter what the cause of their suffering, but people who have somehow lost the ability to live fully. He sees his task as guiding them to ways of rediscovering the ability to cope with life’s vicissitudes.

He finds that such guidance, offering a proper balance of sympathy and firmness, and reminding his patients of the rewards and penalties that are the consequences of their behaviour, leads in most cases to satisfactory improvement and allows his patients to get on top of their problems and resume normal life. He attributes their recovery to “their extraordinary courage and grace in the face of tremendous adversity” and their “wide variety of responses to crafting a meaningful life”.

He does not claim to cure his patients. He can only show them how to cure themselves; which is where the courage is required. This is one crucial way in which psychiatric medicine differs from medicine more generally. Physical ailments are cured largely by following medical advice and waiting. Recovering from psychiatric ailments takes courage.

The courage psychiatric patients need is not the passive courage they may have used to try to put up with their troubles, or the destructive courage they may have used to lash out wildly in desperation, but the positive courage that draws on their virtues and recovers their full humanity. It must be truly encouraging to people at the end of their tether to be shown how they can make their way forward again using their own inner resources.

Ahmed recounts a wide variety of his cases, across a range of social classes, ethnic groups and geographical areas. He approaches each patient as an individual with unique circumstances. He is not bound by theory. While he has studied and read widely and continues to do so—the fifty or so references in the book would supply a year or two of fascinating and instructive reading to most of us—he does not try to fit his patients to his theories, but rather uses his theories where they can help each patient.

He explains, for example, that while the usefulness of prescription drugs has its limits, drug therapy can work in many cases. Patients suffering from their own damaging behaviour brought on by anxiety can often be treated with anti-depressants. Where their anxiety has led to bad mental habits—severe neuroses, we might have said in the past, but Ahmed does not use that term—and the bad habits in turn have intensified the anxiety, a course of anti-depressants can take away the anxiety, and the bad habits, for a few months while Ahmed brings his patients to an understanding of where they have been going wrong and how they can avoid relapsing in future. A bad habit can be extremely difficult to break, but an encouraged person who has broken a bad habit and understands its dangers can avoid a relapse relatively easily.