If newspaper readership is plummeting, maybe it's because readers are turning elsewhere to catch a glimpse of the causes behind the official story. Recognizing this, some book publishers courageously are using their printing presses to bring interpretive reporting to the reading public. Here are a dozen books Americans need to read as they paint a realistic picture of how our government's policies are inflicting needless suffering at home and globally.
"Legacy of Ashes: The History of The CIA"(Anchor) by New York Times Pulitzer Prize-winner Tim Weiner, contains some sweeping, but accurate, generalizations, such as this one: "By 1970, the CIA's influence was felt in every nation in the Western Hemisphere, from the Texas border to Tierra del Fuego." Weiner spotlights how the spy agency's operatives exerted more influence than the State Department. "In Mexico, the president dealt exclusively with the station chief, not the ambassador, and he received a personal New Year's Day briefing at his home from the director of central intelligence. In Honduras, two successive station chiefs had privately pledged the support of the United States to the military junta, in defiance of the ambassadors they served." Weiner doesn't mince words about how President Kennedy, who once said he was proud to be a liberal, "first approved a political-warfare program to subvert (Salvador Allende) more than two years before the September 1964 Chilean elections" when the CIA pumped $3 million into the pockets of his political opponent.
In "Free Lunch" (Penguin Books), Pulitzer Prize-winner David Cay Johnston, writes, "Over the past three decades the rules affecting who wins and who loses economically have been quietly and subtly rewritten," and "In the past quarter century or so our government has enacted new rules that have created not only free markets, but rigged ones." One outcome of these policies is that, in 2005, "the 300,000 men, women, and children who comprised the top tenth of 1 percent had nearly as much income as all 150 million Americans who make up the economic lower half of our population."
"The Three Trillion Dollar War"(W.W. Norton) by Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes charts the true costs of President George W. Bush's tragic aggression against Iraq, a war waged with borrowed bucks. Noting the total cost to American taxpayers "will turn out to be around $3-trillion" the famous economist and Harvard government finance expert, respectively, write large in their Preface: "Miserable though Saddam Hussein's regime was, life is actually worse for the Iraqi people now. The country's roads, schools, hospitals, homes, and museums have been destroyed and its citizens have less access to electricity and water than before the war. Sectarian violence is rife."
"Armed Madhouse"(Plume) by Greg Palast, is subtitled "Sordid Secrets & Strange Tales of a White House GONE WILD" and contains much factual data about how the members in good standing of the military-industrial complex are profiting from the Iraq holocaust. "For the first time in its (General Dynamics) history, (profits are) exceeding a billion dollars a year. Lockheed Martin is doing even better, scoring a record $2.5 billion. I know that with weaponry profits bouncing off the clouds, you're concerned that the firms will have a huge tax bill. Not to worry. In 2004, just before the election, the Bush Administration slipped a special provision into tax legislation to cut the tax on war profits to an effective 7% compared to the 21% paid by most U.S. manufacturers."
In "House of War"(Houghton Mifflin), winner of the National Book Award, James Carroll writes, "The Pentagon is now the dead center of an open-ended martial enterprise that no longer pretends to be defense. The world itself must be reshaped. Nothing less than evil must be vanquished. Its good intentions heavily armed, its scope extending from 'prevention' to something called 'operations other than war,' the Pentagon has, more than ever, become a place to fear."
"The Sorrows of Empire"(Henry Holt) by Chalmers Johnson, also tackles the issue of the Pentagon's spreading hegemony: "Overseas bases, of which the Defense Department acknowledges some 725, come within the scope of the peacetime standing army and constitute a permanent claim on the nation's resources while being almost invariably inadequate for actually fighting a war. The great enclaves of bases, such as those in Okinawa or Germany, have not been involved in combat since World War II and are not really intended to contribute to war-fighting capabilities. They are the headquarters for our proconsuls, visible manifestations of our imperial reach." Johnson is also the author of the national bestseller "Blowback"(Henry Holt), in which he relates how the CIA intervened in the Afghan civil war and the ensuing cataclysm "turned Kabul, once a major center of Islamic culture, into a facsimile of Hiroshima after the bomb," words President Obama might ponder as he prepares to inject more warriors into that luckless nation.
"Destroying World Order"(Clarity) by international law authority Francis Boyle, includes his petition on behalf of the children of Iraq that charges the U.S. with genocide for the economic sanctions imposed by the first President Bush that led to "death, disease, malnutrition, starvation, and extermination." Some say up to half a million kids perished. Yup, years before the second President Bush attacked Iraq: "Malnutrition has become severe and widespread…since imposition of the embargo and the war due to severe food shortages and the inflation of food prices of up to 1000%, which has effectively priced many Iraqis, especially the poor and disadvantaged, out of the food market."
The Presidents' Bush cannot be considered to have delivered a one-two punch against Iraq, because President Clinton, sandwiched between them, also attacked Iraq. So American intervention there has really been a one-two-three punch. Andrew Bacevich, Director of the Center for International Relations at Boston University, in his "The New American Militarism"(Oxford University Press), writes: "Over the course of his eight years in office, he (Clinton) clung to the Bush policy of containing Iraq while ratcheting up the frequency with which the United States used violence to enforce that policy. Indeed, during the two concluding years of the Clinton presidency, the United States bombed Iraq on almost a daily basis, a campaign largely ignored by the media and thus aptly dubbed by one observer 'Operation Desert Yawn.'" The chapter that quote is extracted from is titled, "Blood For Oil." Bacevich, a West Point graduate who served in Viet Nam, also writes, "Whether considering George H.W. Bush's 1992 incursion into Somalia, Bill Clinton's 1999 war for Kosovo, or George W. Bush's 2003 crusade to overthrow Saddam Hussein, the growing U.S. predilection for military intervention in recent years has so mangled the concept of common defense as to make it all but unrecognizable."
Author Boyle, cited above, is also the author of "Biowarfare and Terrorism"(Clarity), in which he terms the anthrax attacks of 2001 "the greatest political crime" in U.S. history and asks the question: "Could it truly be coincidental that two of the primary intended victims of the terrorist anthrax attacks---Senators Daschle and Leahy—were holding up the speedy passage of the pre-planned USA Patriot Act after the terrible tragedy of 11 September 2001---an Act which provided the federal government with unprecedented powers in relation to US citizens and institutions?"
"Rulers and Ruled in the US Empire"(Clarity Press) by political scientist James Petras ranges over many topics from the worsening plight of American workers to the hardships inflicted on Palestinians by Israel's leaders. On the former: "Between 2000 and 2005, the US economy grew 12 percent, and productivity rose 17 percent while hourly wages rose only 3 percent. Real family income fell during the same period. According to a poll in November 2006, three quarters of Americans say they are either worse off or no better off than they were six years ago." (Need to know why the 'housing bubble' burst?) On the latter issue, Petras writes: "The Israeli-Palestinian genocide is a continuing process that is gaining momentum: daily military assaults, execution of leaders and murder of civilians, continued extension of colonies, non-recognition of elected Palestinian leaders and above all a total blockade of finances and basic food and medicine---a Nazi style 'encirclement of ghettos' and 'starvation to surrender' strategy."
In "Rogue State"(Common Courage Press), investigative journalist Bill Blum catalogues CIA interventions around the world and throws light on how the so-called National Endowment for Democracy, set up under President Reagan, "meddles in the internal affairs of numerous foreign countries" to "do somewhat overtly what the CIA had been doing covertly for decades." Blum notes NED "successfully manipulated elections in Nicaragua in 1990 and Mongolia in 1996; helped to overthrow democratically elected governments in Bulgaria in 1990 and Albania in 1991 and 1992, and worked to defeat the candidate for prime minister of Slovakia in 2002 who was out of favor in Washington." Blum's reporting is the sort readers are not getting from the mainstream outlets and proof that books such as his represent one of the last outposts of veracity in the print media.
(Sherwood Ross is a Miami-based writer that formerly reported for the Chicago Daily News and The New York Herald-Tribune. His by-lines have appeared in major dailies from The Washington Post to the Los Angeles Times. Currently, he runs a public relations firm for worthy causes. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org)