FEET TO THE FIRE: The Media After 9/11, Top Journalists Speak Out (Prometheus Books).

By: Kristina Borjesson  (Prometheus Books, Oct. 18, 2005)


The book is a collection of interviews with 21 of America's most distinguished journalists and news executives involved in areas of reporting most germane to pre-Iraq war and war reporting.  FEET TO THE FIRE provides an unprecedented and disturbing insider's look at how the nation's arena of political power has been interacting with the press since 9/11.  The book is divided into five sections:


In EXECUTIVE IMPRESSIONS, star network correspondent Ted Koppel and Peter Jennings'  executive producer Tom Yellin explain how Americans, as news consumers, are in large part to blame for vapid news and being so ignorant about what's going on in the rest of the world.  Koppel and Yellin also talk about the vise they live in, pressuring them to get ratings on one side and to present deadly serious news in an entertaining fashion on the other.  The independent publisher of the highly respected Harpers magazine, John MacArthur, provides a scathing account of corruption in the U.S. press and the willingness of its members to go along with the U.S. government's pretexts for war.  Tom Curley, who is president and CEO of the Associated Press, which reaches more than two billion eyeballs a day, talks about the responsibilities and challenges his global press operation faces on a daily basis, including choosing stories that will sell over stories that are more important but less marketable. 


THE ARENA OF POWER provides enlightening looks at the people and events at the highest echelons of the U.S. government.  Helen Thomas, the grande dame of the White House press corps, talks about how asking politically incorrect questions earned her persona non grata status.

In his chapter, "Inside the House of Power: A Gatherer of Unmanaged Glimpses," journalist Ron Suskind provides stunning psychoanalytical profiles of Bush, Rove and Cheney and explains their respective roles as members of a tiny team that often eschews the advice of experts when deciding policy and that, at times, de facto constitute this nation's entire policymaking machine.  New York Times columnist Paul Krugman explains his view of how virtually the entire American population refuses to recognize that the Bush administration is a revolutionary government that is currently dismantling the system that it used to assume power to create a new government that is more theocratic and similar to certain Latin American governments.


NATIONAL SECURITY AND INTELLIGENCE- The Washington Post's Walter Pincus examines how the relationship between the executive branch and the press changed long ago to one where the White House expects coverage, particularly of highly sensitive issues (in this administration's, case, the "war on terrorism" and the reasons for going to war in Iraq), to amount to records of packaged messages and statements.  He also discusses how the press' ignorance about how government works has led to generally hostile and inaccurate perceptions and coverage of government institutions and activities.  Barton Gellman discusses why investigative reporting on sensitive issues and events (like the pre-war era and the reasons given for going to war) that would include accountability rarely occur in a timely fashion.  CBS's Pentagon correspondent, David Martin talks about the almost untenable challenges he faces, including living among the people he covers and knowing when to keep their secrets and when to expose them.   Awardwinning national security and intelligence reporter, James Bamford, talks about how pretexts for war were engineered and what roles Cheney, Bush, George Tenet and Colin Powell played.  Knight Ridder reporters Jonathan Landay, Warren Strobel and John Walcott talk about their conversations with mid-level CIA intelligence analysts who were actually reviewing raw field data and writing the intelligence reports that were sent to the upper levels of the White House, where they were either ignored or distorted.  These analysts told them, among other things, that Cheney knowingly lied to the American people about Saddam's WMDs.


THE MIDDLE EAST: HISTORY AND CONTEXT  Blogger, historian and Middle East expert, Juan Cole and star Washington Post correspondent, Anthony Shadid, explain the history and current impact of the U.S. presence in the Middle East. They explore in depth the cultural and political misunderstandings the American people and government have about the region and Iraq in particular.


In THE WAR CORRESPONDENTS section, world famous television correspondent Peter Arnett, independent war correspondent Jon Alpert and former New York Times war correspondent Christopher Hedges all have very long experience covering wars and are brutally no-holds-barred about the various dimensions of ugliness and duplicity involved when America goes to war. The last two war correspondents, Hannah Allam and Tom Lasseter of Knight Ridder, are young gen-Xers.  Their accounts have a stark, unjaded immediacy to them, like people seeing a gruesome spectacle for the first time.  Arnett, who lives in Baghdad and Allam, who until very recently was Baghdad bureau chief for Knight Ridder, both say Iraq is engaged in a civil war.