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bemildred Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Nov-10-11 10:20 AM
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Harsh light on history
Breaking the Rules by Alexander Casella

Reviewed by David Simmons

A cliche is a truism that is so apt so often that it becomes overused and worn out. But that very aptitude means that, on occasion, the cliche serves the purpose so perfectly that it must be resurrected.

"You can't judge a book by its cover" does double duty for Alexander Casella's Breaking the Rules. First, it is literally true: The cover, consisting of a dull photograph of a dark-colored 1980s Buick with a supposed United Nations flag on the fender, under an intro and, in type barely larger than that naming the publisher (as if it wished to call attention to itself), the title. But the reader who boldly ventures within is rewarded with a fascinating tale, a trove of information not easily found elsewhere, told with panache and featuring a cast of characters ranging from villain to saint, vividly and sometimes brutally portrayed.

Second, one of the themes of the book is that to assume that a humanitarian organization is either humanitarian or organized is to misjudge it, deceived by its cover story.

Casella, a longtime contributor to Asia Times Online, spent two decades with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). In that capacity he observed at close range - and played a role in - one of the pivotal events of modern Asian history, the end of the Vietnam War, the subsequent unification of Vietnam under the victorious communists, and the boat-people saga.
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