Reese Erlich, Oakland-based foreign correspondent, and Norman Solomon, America’s best-known progressive media critic, returned from Iraq a few months ago.
Their new book, “Target Iraq: What the News Media Didn’t tell you,” examines the role of the U.S. mainstream media in promoting war and empire. The pentagon and the press are, as Solomon puts it, co-producers of illusion.
In plain, conversational language, we get a glimpse of the media in relationship to many issues: the brutality and inhumanity of U.S.-British sanctions in Iraq (more than 500,000 children have died from sanction-produced disease and malnutrition, according to UNICEF); false claims that Saddam Hussein kicked out U.N. inspectors, when they were actually withdrawn during Clinton’s air-blitz called “Operation Desert Fox;” the tragic aftermath of depleted uranium use in the First Gulf War; the backroom deals at the Security Council, where U.S. officials bribe and blackmail U.N. delegates for votes; the slippery standards in the interpretation of terrorism and political violence; U.S. espionage under cover of impartial U.N. inspections; the militaristic record of the “moderate” Colin Powell; and the imperial premises that underlie media coverage of world affairs.
“Target Iraq” is not about any media conspiracy. It contains no personal attacks on working journalists. On the contrary, Erlich describes the huge pressures-the rewards and punishments, and the rigorous military censorship-under which mainstream journalists are forced to work. “Target Iraq” is really about the ideology of empire in American journalism, the structure that sustains it, and the human consequences of war propaganda.
In response to the glorification of high-tech weaponry on our nightly screens, “Target Iraq” presents a fascinating chapter entitled: “Depleted Uranium: America’s Dirty Little Secret,” where Erlich uncovers the environmental toll of America’s celebrated weapons. Much of U.S. ammunition and armor is made out of depleted uranium, radioactive material that may well disable U.S. veterans and Iraqi civilians years after wars are over.
Depleted uranium is a residue collected from the processing of nuclear fuel. It’s much denser than lead, and it remains radioactive for billions of years. Iraqi doctors and Western scientists attribute the rise of disease and birth defects in today’s Iraq to U.S. and British uranium from the first Gulf War. DU gets into the ground water, the soil and food chains. According to Dr. Doug Rokke, former U.S. Army depleted uranium project director, “U.S. military leaders knew that using DU would cause health and environmental problems.”
It is ironic that the war on Iraq is framed in terms of halting arms proliferation, while the same region is becoming a testing ground for new U.S. technologies of death.
A moving preface by Howard Zinn, an afterword by Sean Penn, combined with the analytic power of the authors, make “Target Iraq” a timely book. And the conversational tone-it’s like having a cup of coffee with the authors, who just returned from Iraq-make the information about the human costs of war and propaganda all the more convincing.