BOOK REVIEWS: Blood and Thunder by Hampton Sides, Little, Brown. Pounds 20

Article excerpt

Byline: Reviewed by Shahid Naqvi

If you want to find the historical roots that paved America's road to Vietnam and Iraq, then Blood and Thunder is a good place to start.

The book rather under-sells itself with its cliched subtitle, How the American West Was Really Won - An Epic Tale of Shame and Glory. For in truth it is far more than just another retelling of the usual tale of the massacre and near extermination of America's native Indians.

In many ways, it's an allegory of modern America's foreign policy. The title itself evokes something of the macho swagger still dominating a country that brought us "shock and awe" and "Desert Storm".

In his highly-readable description of America's conquest of the Wild West, Hampton Sides recounts the United State's early belief in its "manifest destiny" to absorb new lands and advance "the great experiment of liberty".

It was a vision that inspired the Army of the West on its epic 2,000 mile journey to capture present day California which, in the mid 17th century, was Mexican.

According to one contemporary commentator, the new state was possessed of "a high moral sense and a conscious superiority over the Mexican people".

Not everyone agreed with the policy however. One war critic warned: "The United States will conquer Mexico, but it will be as the man who swallows the arsenic which brings him down in turn. Mexico will poison us."

Blood and Thunder provides an insight into the almost evangelical self-belief that shaped the most powerful nation on Earth. …