1) Can you tell ZNet, please, what your new book is about? What is it trying to communicate?
The book is primarily an assessment of key lies and omissions in the U.S. government’s push toward war on Iraq. The subtitle — “What the news media didn’t tell you” — may be overly ambitious, since it would take many books to cover all such relevant ground. But this book, which I co-wrote with foreign correspondent Reese Erlich, focuses on central aspects of the propaganda campaign that gradually made it possible for the Bush II administration to be able to unleash a huge murderous assault on people in Iraq. The book is trying to communicate that the Bush team’s media blitz in the United States was fueled by selective (mis)information, and that the mainstream U.S. media generally participated in the manipulation. Along the way, “Target Iraq” focuses on the pivotal role of Colin Powell, who was praised in the fall of 2002 by many people who should have known better. Overall, the war on Iraq has been made possible by pervasive mendacity from Washington and by go-along-to-get-along reflexes in major media. To put the consequences in human context, the book includes descriptions of what Reese and I saw and heard during our visits to Iraq in late 2002.
2) Can you tell ZNet something about writing the book? Where does the content come from? What went into making the book what it is?
Reese Erlich and I traveled to Iraq together in September 2002. There were official meetings with Tariq Aziz and other high-ranking Iraqi functionaries, visits to a children’s hospital and more informal gatherings. Reese traveled elsewhere in Iraq — he’s a very thorough journalist and keeps asking questions everywhere he goes — and in the book he does a lot of original reporting on the effects of sanctions, the grim aftermath of the Pentagon’s use of depleted uranium during the Gulf War in 1991, and attitudes among “ordinary” Iraqi people out of earshot of Saddam Hussein’s regime. I returned to Baghdad in December 2002, traveling with Sean Penn, and incorporated information and experiences from that visit into the book just before it went to press. The book includes a lot of content analysis of the U.S. media spin during the crucial pre-war months — in counterpoint to other available information and the firsthand knowledge that we gained while visiting Iraq.
3) What are your hopes for “Target Iraq”? What do you hope it will contribute or achieve, politically? Given the effort and aspirations you have for the book, what will you deem to be a success? What would leave you happy about the whole undertaking? What would leave you wondering if it was worth all the time and effort?
I hope the book provides intellectual and emotional support for stopping the U.S. war on Iraq. We need to build an extremely strong antiwar movement in a very short time. I think the “Target Iraq” book can combine with other work, being done by many people, to help create massive nonviolent resistance to Washington’s war machine. Nothing would please me more than seeing the book used as a tool to impede and stop the Pentagon’s activities of mass murder ordered by President George W. Bush. The book was written in the spirit of a quote that appears in the first chapter, from Albert Camus: “And henceforth, the only honorable course will be to stake everything on a formidable gamble: that words are more powerful than munitions.”