I You We Them: Walking into the World of the Desk Killer

Farrar. Jul. 2020. 1,104p. ISBN 9780374174378. $40. POL SCI
I You We Them is a creative and personal exploration of what Gretton calls “desk killers,” the government and corporate bureaucrats whose decisions and actions are behind genocide and other mass atrocities. Gretton’s focus is worldwide. He includes lengthy sections on the victims and perpetrators of the Holocaust, with briefer histories of the massacre of the Herero people in Namibia in the early 20th century, and the execution of Nigerian activist Ken Saro-Wiwa in 1995. The death of Saro-Wiwa is part of an examination of corporate responsibility for environmental damage and massive disruption of people in oil-producing regions, often with tragic outcomes. Gretton, an activist and educator, takes a deeply personal approach to this book. This is in clear contrast to the ways that the mass murderers he writes about use abstract language to dehumanize their victims. Gretton’s autobiographical asides are often lengthy digressions, but they have the effect of making him an empathetic guide through difficult histories.
VERDICT Readers looking for a traditional history will not find it here. This account is recommended for readers who have the patience to accompany the author on his journey of discovery to understand the motivations behind people who commit mass atrocities. [See Prepub Alert, 9/9/19.]
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