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Target Iraq exposes Washington's lies
Saying anything to sell their war

Review by Adam Turl | March 21, 2003 | Page 9

BOOKS: Target Iraq: What the News Media Didn't Tell You. Norman Solomon and Reese Erlich, introduction by Howard Zinn and afterword by Sean Penn, Context Books, 2003, 208 pages, $10.95.

EVERYTHING GEORGE W. Bush and his media flunkies say to justify a war on Iraq is a lie, half-truth or rank hypocrisy. Target Iraq, by media critic Norman Solomon and foreign correspondent Reese Erlich, illustrates how the media is set up to hide the truth.

For example, stories detailing the impact of United Nations (UN) sanctions on Iraq--which have killed over 1 million Iraqis--are routinely shelved as "old news" while editors "never tire of reworking old stories about corruption and repression in Iraq" that seem to bolster the U.S. case for war.

While editors nix stories critical of the U.S., they usually don't have to. Erlich observes that he "didn't meet a single foreign correspondent in Iraq who disagreed with the notion that the U.S. and Britain have the right to overthrow the Iraqi government."

By the time reporters climb the corporate ladder and land coveted foreign posts, they've learned to censor themselves. As the authors argue, "you don't win a Pulitzer for challenging the basic assumptions of empire"--like assuming the war is about weapons of mass destruction.

Solomon observes that even former chief UN weapons inspector Richard Butler couldn't escape the contradictions of his old job. Butler remarked last year that his "toughest moments in Baghdad were when Iraqis demanded I explain why they should be hounded for their weapons of mass destruction, when just down the road, Israel" with its 200 nukes, "was not." Comments like these don't get much play on Fox News.

The authors pour derision on last November's UN Security Council resolution on disarming Iraq. "To get the Good War Making Seal of Approval," Solomon writes, "the Bush administration handed out major plums while flexing Uncle Sam's muscles." The plums included promises to work out oil deals in post-war Iraq. The muscle flexing included threatening to cut the U.S. aid to poorer nations.

Solomon and Erlich argue that hoping that the UN could avert war was a mistake and that the November resolution actually paved the way for war. This view was much like the hopes of "liberal commentators" who believed that Colin Powell--now, clearly one of Washington's chief warmongers--would stay the administration hawks was a dangerous pipe-dream. Powell "didn't tell the President not to go to war; he told him how to go to war in a politically correct way" as Washington Post columnist Mary McGrory put it.

Despite the media's regurgitation of the administration's lies, 22 percent of Americans--according to a December New York Times poll--think oil is the most likely explanation for Bush's war plans. The idea that the world's most powerful country might go to war for the world's second-largest proven oil reserves--some 112 billion barrels--is, as the authors note, "subject to mockery in Washington and much of the major media outlets."

But as one oil analyst gushed, "If you get regime change…The spigots will be opened and it will be a lot harder for OPEC to control prices." Not to mention, as Elrich does, "squeezing the competition" of major economic rivals in Europe.

Target Iraq is a quick, good overview of the war, in particular the attempt to hoodwink us into supporting it. The weakest part is the afterward by actor Sean Penn--an open letter to President Bush which amounts to a patriotic appeal that flies in the face of much of what Erlich and Solomon lay out. For example, calling to "introduce inspectors" when the book basically proves that they are a cynical front for Bush's war.

Still, Target Iraq provides activists some good tools to demolish the administration and the media's lies.

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