Disinformation : 22 Media Myths That Undermine the War on Terror
by Richard Miniter, published by 2005-10-24 (Regnery Publishing)
Buy now from Amazon.com for $27.95
Amazon rating of 3.5 out of 5, Amazon sales rank: 3461
It doesn't take a genius to be reasonably informed in todays age. With the advent of the internet providing us with source documents at everybody's computer screens we can easily gather a cornucopia of facts. The real questions is what do with these facts. Do we take them at face value and derive our opinions from them? Or do we take the lazy way out and let some talking head on TV or the radio give us a shallow and highly biased viewpoint of the world.
Unfortunately for many of those sitting on the fringe right or left wings of our political spectrum it seems that they choose to happily live in a altered state of reality; one whose whole existence and belief structure has been carefully crafted with DISINFORMATION.
Richard Minter tackles 22 media myths that seemed to be cherished by those on the right and the left. I can see however, how those on the extreme left would find this book unappetizing. Many of the myths that are easily put to rest are those that are cherished by leftists extremists. For example, is there any educated person (except for the extremist) who believed the following?
Myth #1 Bin Laden was trained or funded by the CIA
Myth #3 Bin Laden is on dialysis.
Myth #4 Before September 11, no one had heard of bin laden.
Myth #6 Warned by the Mossad, there were no Jews at the World Trade Center on September 11.
Myth #7 The post 9/11 world is more dangerous for Americans than ever before.
Myth # 8 The Iraq war is another Vietnam.
Myth # 11 There is no evidence that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.
Myth #16 Terrorism is caused by poverty.
Myth #18 Oliver North warned us about al Qaeda in the 1980's
There are of course the easy myths, I think virtually no-one believes, but Mr. Minter felt they had to be addressed.
Then comes the harder myths that he provides a vast array of data on and effectually destroys, they are as follows.
Myth #2 Bin Laden has a vast fortune and is able to finance terrorism out of his own pocket.
Myth #5 The U.S. government had many warnings about bin Laden prior to 9/11 but failed to act on them.
Myth # 9 The U.S. military killed 100,000 civilians in Iraq
NOTE: This is one of the best chapters in the whole book. Just learning about how that 100,000 number came about is shocking. The manipulation and downright fraudulent victim counting is a total embarrassment to anybody who quotes this.
Myth #10 Wolfowitz told congress that oil would pay for the Iraq war
Myth # 12-15 There is no connection between Iraq and al Qaeda.
Myth # 19 President Bush said Iraq was an "imminent threat" to America.
NOTE: Even I thought this one was true - but is not.
Myth # 20 Halliburton made a fortune in Iraq
Myth # 21 Racial profiling of terrorists works.
There were only two of his myths that I don't think he really made the case on.
Myth # 17 Suitcase nukes are a real threat
Myth # 22 The U.S. border with Mexico is the most likely place for al Qaeda terrorists to sneak into the homeland.
The main question is why do people delight in believing in myths in general? Mr. Minter answered that to
"The acceptance of a myth gives the believer a sense of superiority, a delight of being `in' on the secret gears driving larger events. It is most savored by those who feel left out.
This could perhaps be a insight as to how those of the fringe left seem to cling to such altered realities. They fell left out due to there extremist positions.
Overall the book is a very quick read and will help you better understand the truth of the world we live in.
Miniter does get some things not-quite-right here. Other reviewers have mentioned his inaccurate grouping of the Iranian insurgency calling itself "Mojaheddin-e Khalq" (MEK), as well as the Kurdish Workers' Party (an internal, ethnic insurgency in Turkey), with anti-Israeli/anti-Western Islamic terrorist organizations; and his somewhat confused presentation of the argument against easy availability or development of a nuclear "suitcase bomb."
Such errors are an irritant, because they can obscure the underlying truths that, for example, Saddam DID provide assistance to the MEK, and that an incendiary "suitcase" nuke is far less probable than a dirty bomb as a terrorist weapon. Miniter's main conclusions can be supported, but he detours into demonstrable error in producing them.
I would say, however, that his key failure is the following: like the purveyors of "disinformation" he decries, Miniter himself falls into the error of calling it falsehood when a different conclusion is drawn about the same data. Some people see another Vietnam in Iraq; others see instead a post-WWII Japan or Germany. Which model you see is a function of your political bent, but Miniter treats this question as the debunking of an anti-factual "myth" rather than the political argument it ultimately is.
This is too bad, because there's way too much of it going around already. It is neither a "fact" that Iraq is becoming another Vietnam, nor a "fact" that it is not. Either claim is the expression of an OPINION. Would-be myth-debunkers need to be very clear on the distinction.
Miniter is at his best when listing documented reports and events that amount to contra-indications of the "myths" he sets out to topple. I've given him his 4-star rating on the strength of some very diligent work done in this regard. I see quite a few reviews here calling him a liar and hypocrite, but virtually no proffering of contrary evidence.
I wish, again, that Miniter had taken an opportunity to clarify better what does and doesn't constitute "myth," and what exactly is being asserted or debunked. But in some cases he's very clear on that, one in particular being the association of Al Qaeda with Saddam Hussein. Miniter makes it crystal clear that he is not suggesting Saddam directed Al Qaeda's operations, but rather that Saddam offered the support of his regime to Al Qaeda terrorists in the forms of safe haven, training facilities, passports, and cash. This claim is supported by numerous reports from Arabic as well as "center-left" Western media, and in fact is not new -- the history on this reporting goes back to the early 1990s.
Counter-claims that Al Qaeda had nothing to do with Saddam fall into the trap of changing the subject. All the energy goes into arguing that the famous meeting in Prague either didn't happen or was unrelated to 9/11, and that Arabic editorial opinion did not recognize Saddam as a natural ally of the religious extremists, and in many cases insisted that there was no link between them.
Neither of these lines of argument can logically be used to refute the long list of documented contacts adduced by Miniter. Nor do they have anything to say about his central point, which is merely that there were indeed contacts. I would have liked to see Miniter make THIS point, without miring himself, when treating other topics, in the error of mistaking tendentious conclusions for either bad facts ("myths") or valid ones.
That said, you'll find his actual facts thoroughly documented, and collated in a comprehensive way I haven't found elsewhere. Go ahead, read -- just be prepared to make your own mental distinctions between conclusion and documented fact. But I know you do that anyway...Great read. Very easy and not such a slog like Ghost Wars. Miniter does a great job picking apart all the myths repeated by the left and some repeated by the right. He is very fair and does his research. I disagree with Mr. Steele's review and don't see where he shows Miniter being incorrect or misleading. It is a bit expensive for such a short book.Don't EVEN waste your time with this Neanderthal fishwrap.If you've already made up your mind, don't waste your time and money tormenting yourself with new information.
The title of Richard Miniter's book excited me. I know something about the "War on Terror" and its place in the larger cultural civil war going on in America--but not everything. I wanted Miniter's opinion and I paid for it. In "Disinformation: 22 Media Myths That Undermine the War on Terror," Miniter not only puts himself in everybody's crosshairs, but he provides extensive notes on where he got his information. Yes, any decent researcher can "prove" anything by selecting sources that agree with the researcher's premise. So what? Do your own research and put yourself on the line!
For example, the Weapons of Mass Destruction issue has been decided--Saddam DID commit acts that would have resulted in his being convicted on WMD charges in American courtrooms. Check the US vs Evans, USDC, North District of Florida (2005) and US vs Frank Paco Guevara, both convicted under Title 18 USC 2332a of threatening to use a weapon of mass destruction, and both were sentenced to life in prison without parole. These were just two of the cases I found when I did a quick Google search--both men were serving prison sentences when they committed their crime. If this CNN standard seems too harsh for you--sorry! Tim McVeigh's Ryder truck bomb(called VBIEDs by our military in Iraq) and Richard Reid's shoe bomb were labeled WMDs by Clinton Administration officials and the news media. It depends upon what you mean. Of course, you could adapt the racially prejudiced position that if the Iraqis have it, it isn't a WMD.
That's just one issue. I liked Miniter's disproving of two conservative myths, #21 (racial profiling of terrorists works) and #22 (the US border with Mexico is the most likely place for al qaeda terrorists to sneak into the homeland.) Note that all BEHAVIOR profiling has been branded "racial profiling" by the media--for purpose of drawing eyeballs. Islam is not supposed to be confined to any one race or nationality or culture. As for the Mexican/US border--Canada has been the preferred infiltration route since at least 1926, with Prohibition and the ComIntern's war on America.
Suitcase nukes--Miniter is less than accurate. The SADM on display in New Mexico are late 1950's designs. In the 1970's, several different 155mm nuclear projectiles were developed for the US Army. I remember the warheads being classified in the 0.05KT to 0.1KT range and the weight of a standard 155mm projectile is something like 65 pounds--these pocket nukes are less powerful than the Trinity test device exploded in New Mexico on June 1945 (18 KT), the Hiroshima "Little Boy" (12KT), and the Nagasaki "Fat Man" (22KT) bombs of August 1945, and you can verify this with unclassified documents on the Internet or at a decent public library. The Hiroshima bomb had 50 kilograms (about 110 pounds) of enriched uranium and the two plutonium devices had 5 kilos (about 11 pounds) of nuclear material--the difference was in the triggering mechanism. Had the uranium bomb been of the implosion type, I think the little 5-kg ball would have been enough,and would have resulted in an explosion in the 20 kiloton range--but I'm no nuclear physicist. Check with the experts. Anyone with the means to produce nuclear weapons could produce a suitcase bomb mission-tailored in a few weeks--but look at the political fallout for the United States after Hiroshima and Nagasaki. the folks with the power don't want to lose prestige, and the folks without the power don't have the means. Suitcase nukes are not just small physically, but are limited in power. It is unlikely that a single 1 KT nuke would eradicate a small American city of 50,000--though it won't be a thrill for the city's inhabitants. The superpowers planned to use SADMs to blow specific mountain passes or ruin harbors. Only a few were made because the military utility was limited--and political consequences made their use unlikely.
There's more. Miniter taught me some new things, and his reference sections permit me to verify his facts. Can't ask for more than that, and cannot expect that much from bigots and other closed-minded pundits.
You Are Being Lied To: The Disinformation Guide to Media Distortion, Historical Whitewashes and Cultural Myths
Weapons of Mass Deception: The Uses of Propaganda in Bush's War on Iraq
Abuse Your Illusions : The Disinformation Guide To Media Mirages And Establishment Lies