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So Wrong for So Long: How the Press, the Pundits -- And the President -- Failed on Iraqby Greg Mitchell
Synopses & Reviews
In early 2003, Greg Mitchell was one of the few mainstream journalists to seriously question the stated reasons for invading Iraq. In the years since, he has repeatedly challenged the media to probe the conduct of the war and its toll on our troops. Now, after five years of war, he traces the conflict — from the "runup" to the "surge" — and the media's coverage of it, in this important collection of commentaries with significant new additions: an original introduction and dozens of pages of fresh material that unify the essays.
If a free press is the watchdog of democracy, then Greg Mitchell must be the watchdog of the watchdogs, tracking the performance of the media at Editor & Publisher, the influential magazine of the newspaper industry. Over the past five years, in his widely read column, "Pressing Issues," he has repeatedly been ahead of the curve in intensely scrutinizing both the president and the press–and the controversies swirling around Donald Rumsfeld, Pat Tillman, "Scooter" Libby, Ann Coulter and numerous other figures.
His book is a unique history of the entire war — and as topical as today's headlines. Whether writing early warnings that anticipated a long and bloody war, analyzing Stephen Colbert's in-his-face mockery of George W. Bush, or imagining the president confessing his sins to Oprah Winfrey, Greg Mitchell explores how we got into the war in Iraq — and why we just can't seem to get out. With tens of thousands of American troops still in Iraq, debate over the war continues to rage on TV news and across editorial pages. Against this backdrop of controversy, Greg Mitchell is the rare journalist who has seen it all with clear eyes. In So Wrong for So Long, he can finally tell the whole story.
"In this pertinent but ego-driven compilation of writings on the Iraq War, Mitchell, editor of media industry magazine Editor & Publisher, argues that, from the outset, the press did not adequately question the reasoning behind American operations in Iraq. Quoting his publication, Mitchell condemns the press's tendency 'to accept the military's word first and ask questions later,' citing specific examples like the media's blind approval of Secretary of State Powell's Feb., 2003, speech favoring a call to arms. Mitchell describes incidents like this as a symptom of the media's 'failure of will' to probe matters of national security. His thesis-that a weak press deserves blame for the Iraq quagmire-is hard to argue with, but it's not exactly news. Still, he provides a valuable roundup of media reactions from across the spectrum, and his grievances are substantial. Ultimately, though, Mitchell is difficult to distinguish from the one-sided, single-minded figures he rails against; readers will learn a great deal about the media politics behind the Iraq war, but will have to decide for themselves how trustworthy a pundit Mitchell really is." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"With the tragic war in Iraq dragging on, and the drumbeat for new conflicts growing louder, this is more than a five-year history of the biggest foreign policy debacle of our times — it's a cautionary tale that is as relevant as this morning's headlines. Greg Mitchell makes it clear that Iraq is a case study in bad judgment, from the misguided moves of an administration blinded by its zealotry to a complacent media that too often acted as an extension of the White House press office. Read it and weep; read it and get enraged; read it and make sure it doesn't happen again." Arianna Huffington
"The profound failure of the American press with regard to the Iraq War may very well be the most significant political story of this generation. Greg Mitchell has established himself as one of our country's most perceptive media critics, and here he provides invaluable insight into how massive journalistic failures enabled the greatest strategic disaster in the nation's history." Glenn Greenwald, Salon.com columnist and author of A Tragic Legacy and How Would a Patriot Act?
"Anyone who cares about the integrity of the American media should read this book. Greg Mitchell asks tough questions about the Iraq war that should have been asked long ago, in a poignant, patriotic, and thoughtful dissection of our war in Iraq. Mitchell names names and places blame on those who've blundered. Examining the most complex issue of our time, he connects the dots like no one else has." Paul Rieckhoff, Executive Director, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America and author of Chasing Ghosts
"Greg Mitchell has given us a razor-sharp critique of how the media and the government connived in one of the great blunders of American foreign policy. Every aspiring journalist, every veteran, every pundit — and every citizen who cares about the difference between illusion and reality, propaganda and the truth, and looked to the press to help keep them separate — should read this book. Twice." Bill Moyers
"Worthy of shelving alongside the best of the Iraq books." Kirkus Reviews
Book News Annotation:
It took the New York Times nearly a year to account for its faulty reporting on weapons of mass destruction in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq (and even then only in what was aptly labeled by radio journalist Amy Goodman as a "kinda culpa"), only to promptly return to its old habits as it reported on the "progress" of the occupation. To be fair to the "Old Gray Lady," most of the rest of the "mainstream" media has been just as bad or worse. In contrast, Mitchell (as editor of Editor & Publisher) was on the job long before and long after, scrutinizing in regular columns the failures of the media to act as a true fourth estate and diligently investigate the many dubious claims of the Bush administration concerning Iraq. Eighty of those columns are collected here, chronologically ranging from January 2003's ruminations on press self-censorship regarding the impending attack through October 2007's questioning of the lack of coverage of the growing number of "non-hostile" deaths among American soldiers in Iraq. Annotation ©2008 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
About the Author
Greg Mitchell is the editor of Editor & Publisher, the journal of the newspaper business which has won several major awards for its coverage of Iraq and the media. He has written eight books, including Hiroshima in America (with Robert Jay Lifton) and The Campaign of the Century: Upton Sinclair's Race for Governor of California and the Birth of Media Politics, and his articles have appeared in dozens of leading newspapers and magazines. He lives in the New York City area.
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