Vijay Prashad, Washington Bullets: A History of the CIA, Coups, and Assassinations

AuthorWilliam J. Jones
Published date01 January 2022
Date01 January 2022
Subject MatterBook Reviews
International Studies
59 (1) 97 –98, 2022
© 2022 Jawaharlal Nehru University
Reprints and permissions:
DOI: 10.1177/00208817211060916
Book Review
Vijay Prashad, Washington Bullets: A History of the CIA, Coups,
and Assassinations (LeftWord Books, 2020), $5.50, 162 pp. ISBN:
This review begins in a somewhat backward form; beginning with an overall
assessment of the book’s strengths and critical weaknesses and then proceeding to
its content. First, the strengths. Dr Vijay Prashad has managed to make a broad
topic covering an enormous scope of history for easy to access, easy to read and
most importantly, both compelling and forward-looking. The book uses accessible
terminology mixed with a writing style similar to journalism. This allows any
reader the ability to grasp the central argument of the book with clarity and
crispness. The book allows readers to look forward by grounding the argument
historically whilst reminding them that this is part of a continuum of American
foreign policy which, if they live in the developing world, may have already
influenced their country and society and, if not, may very well in the future.
The only drawback or weakness of the book is its complete lack of referencing.
While the author raises this point in the end of the book, clearly stating that ‘listing
all the books and articles would surely make this book double its current size’ (pp.
155). The lack of bibliographic sources is important in that students and scholars
should be able to easily identify and draw upon the resources Dr Prashad uses for
the book. Furthermore, it is understood as an academic necessity to back one’s
words and assertions with clearly documented evidence. This is in no way
asserting that Dr Prashad’s work is not grounded on facts but merely a statement
for academic clarity. Washington Bullets: A History of the CIA, Coups, and
Assassinations does not attempt to add to the extensive literature on CIA operations
but rather situate a broad historical view of the CIA’s involvement at the behest of
American corporate and political interests. The situating of the text allows readers
to understand in broad-brush terms the motivations of a great power and continuity
of policies in the context of maintaining international primacy.
That being said, the central premise of Washington Bullets: A History of the
CIA, Coups, and Assassinations is that American foreign policy in the post
Second World War world has been to seek power and be the pre-eminent world
power in all spheres of influence. This is evidenced by the raw edge of American
imperialism as evidenced in Guatemala, Chile, Iran, Vietnam as among the overt
interventions. Along with the overt are the less well-known covert interventions
of Thailand, Japan, Brazil, Bolivia and others. The author is able to demonstrate
that American foreign policy has evolved over time to use different techniques to

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