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Disinformation: 22 Media Myths That Undermine the War on Terror, by Richard Miniter

Washington, DC: Regnery Publishing, 2005. 275 pp. Append., notes, biblio, index. $27.95. ISBN:0-8-9526-006-9.

As with any war, myths tend to spring up, often while the fighting continues to go on. Often, they tend to obscure the situation and make things more difficult in fighting a war. In the case of the war on terror, a number of myths have created misconceptions about what is going on, and as a result, they have undermined the war on terror. Richard Miniter has come forward to explain the facts in this book.

Miniter does a great job for the most part. He provides excellent reporting in refuting the myths (most of which have come from those opposed to the war on terror – but some of which came from supporters), some of which are poisonous (like the myth that Mossad warned Jews to stay away from the World Trade Center). In each case, this myth-busting is heavily footnoted. Some of his myths dispelling (such as the claim that Saddam’s regime had no connection with al-Qaeda) is redundant when compared with efforts like those of Stephen F. Hayes, but Miniter’s dispelling of the myth is concise, and lays down bullet points showing the extent of the relationship. Miniter’s reporting leads to some better-than-expected news about bin Laden’s finances (his pockets are not that deep), but bad news regarding his health (he is not on dialysis). He also covers the urban legend surrounding Ollie North – the bulk of that chapter is devoted to Lieutenant Colonel North’s effort that set the record straight.

Miniter pursues other myths that have come from the political right. This willingness to do so speaks well of him, since these myths have been perpetrated in various Internet forums. The two myths he focuses on undermine the war on terror by engendering support for things that distract from proven methods of fighting the enemy. He demolishes the myth that the situation on the Mexican border has anything to do with the war on terror. In fact, the real threat is to the north – Canada is known to give welfare and asylum to the Islamic extremists who are likely to carry out attacks – and often gives way when pressure is applied by groups like Amnesty International. Mexico has not done any of these things. The time, money, and effort spent on pursuing illegal immigrants from Mexico (and other Central American countries) could be better spent chasing al-Qaeda terrorists. Miniter also demolishes the myth surrounding racial profiling. While some profiling is effective, it should be noted that al-Qaeda has involvement outside the Middle East (Chechnya, Indonesia, and the Philippines readily come to mind). The other inconvenient fact of “racial profiling” is that it would miss homegrown terrorists like Johnny Walker Lindh. Other forms of profiling – like those used by West Germany to catch Red Army Faction terrorists, will work, though, and should be used.

Disinformation is a superb book that will provide a reader with a solid background on the war on terror that is based on facts. This book is a must-read for anyone who seeks to know the straight story as opposed to media myths. <

Reviewer: Harold C. Hutchison   

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