Read Shadow Warrior: William Egan Colby and the CIA by Randall Bennett Woods Free Online
Book Title: Shadow Warrior: William Egan Colby and the CIA|
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 23.92 MB
ISBN 13: 9780465037889
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Reader ratings: 7.5
The author of the book: Randall Bennett Woods
Edition: Basic Books
Date of issue: April 9th 2013
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At the end of this book, the author credits John Prados, and specifically the latter's earlier biography of the same subject, Lost Crusader: The Secret Wars of CIA Director William Colby, with "pav[ing] the way for this book. His superb research allowed me to start the project at a much more advanced stage than would otherwise have been possible.". This did not surprise me, since it was quite obvious throughout this book that Mr. Woods was relying heavily on the work of Mr. Prados. Mr. Woods may well be an excellent professor; I wouldn't know, having never attended a class he taught or, in fact, even heard of him at all prior to the publication of this book. It is made abundantly clear, throughout this book, that Mr. Woods both disagrees with many of the late Mr. Colby's choices and decisions during his career in government service, and also apparently dislikes him as an individual. Mr. Woods frequently takes the liberty of making disparaging comments about Mr. Colby at various points in the narrative. I don't know if the two men ever met, but I very much doubt it. In the interest of full disclosure, I would like to state for the record that I do not share this author's obvious disapproval & dislike of his subject. As a matter of fact, William E. Colby was a childhood hero of mine, and now that I am well into middle age he remains one of the very few public figures of the last half-century for whom I still have the utmost respect. Indeed, it was in emulation of Mr. Colby that I decided, roughly twenty years ago, to develop a secondary area of specialisation in the politico-military history of the Middle East, concentrating on the Levant (in addition to Indo-China, my primary area of study & interest, which has necessarily included a great deal of reading also in the areas of general military history since WWII, the wars of colonisation & decolonisation, insurgency/counter-insurgency, etc.).
I certainly don't expect, much less require, that the authors of books I read share my opinions and/or outlook on political or historical questions and/or the world in general. I do, however, expect that anyone qualified to hold the honorable title of "Professor" will adhere to the highest possible standards of scholarship. I have been forced in recent years to relax my level of intolerance for typographical & spelling errors due to a general decline in the competence of editors and proof-readers; in an era when even the front page of the New York Times is on occasion riddled with such errors, it would be ridiculous to hold anyone to a higher standard. Any individual who would do so is both a pedant and most likely an insufferable prick as well. Having said that, however, I absolutely refuse to lower my standards to the point which would render admissible actual errors of fact. This book is not by any means riddled with such errors, but even one is too much and inevitably calls into question the entire work. As a general rule, if I recognise in a scholarly work an error of fact off the top of my head, even before I check other sources, the author in question has fucked up pretty badly. I am for all intents and purposes a true auto-didact, with practically no formal education. To be quite blunt, the only reason I even possess a high school diploma is that a sympathetic school administrator at the last of the three high schools I attended made the decision to interpret my school records in a somewhat creative, though technically legal way. In the case of this particular book, the author's carelessness (or perhaps intellectual arrogance) is compounded by his using the notorious lunatic conspiracy theorist L. Fletcher Prouty as a source without indicating that there are very serious doubts about both his credibility and his integrity. This is made even worse by the fact that Prouty's name only appears in the notes at the end of the book. I have met very few individuals who scrupulously check foot-notes, much less end-notes, as a matter of course while reading a book, and cases like this tend to leave the impression that the author hopes no-one will notice that there are any difficulties with cited sources.
The main issue I have with this book is not even the sloppy scholarship, but rather the distinct impression I had while reading it that Mr. Woods considers Mr. Colby to have been at best an amoral, cold-blooded and callous bureaucrat who was blinded by patriotism and his own moral failings (very much like the "Alden Pyle" character in Graham Greene's The Quiet American; a charge which has also often been leveled at his contemporary and occasional colleague, Edward Geary Lansdale), and at worst a war criminal & abettor of murder. I adamantly and vehemently disagree with both characterisations, and I do not believe either one to be supported by the historical record.
I cannot, for the reasons stated above, whole-heartedly recommend this book to anyone. It is worth reading (at least as much as, perhaps even more than, the earlier work by Mr. Prados), but I would suggest that it is advisable to read both Mr. Colby's own memoirs (Honorable Men: My Life In The CIA & Lost Victory: A Firsthand Account of America's Sixteen-Year Involvement in Vietnam) and also to at least develop a general understanding of the history of the cold war era, particularly as pertaining to the role of the C.I.A., and even more importantly the history of U.S. involvement in the countries of former French Indo-China specifically, and South-East Asia generally after the Second World War. If that is not possible beforehand, one might simply wish to take the facts and conclusions stated in this work with, as the saying goes, a grain of salt...
In case anyone is interested, I am personally of the opinion that the circumstances of Mr. Colby's death were extremely suspicious. There are far too many unanswered questions and unexplained discrepancies surrounding both his death and the ensuing investigation thereof, and I tend to agree with the conclusions, limited though they are, reached by Zalin Grant. Mr. Grant was a longtime friendly acquaintance of Mr. Colby, and carried out his own quite thorough investigation of the latter's mysterious demise, which you can read about here: (http://www.pythiapress.com/wartales/c...).
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