Desert Storm: The War In The Persian Gulf, by Time-Life Books
One of the funniest aspects of this book is emblematic of the failure of contemporary journalism in the United States in the way that the press likes to make books about the press. This is ostensibly a book about the Gulf War, and contains a fair amount of information about the war. But in reality, the driving aim of the authors is something far less essential to the war and more emblematic of the concerns of the author and publisher of this work, and that is the sad life of a journo during the Gulf War. Imagine that you a journalist and it is your job to cover one of the most notable beatdowns of military history. Do you a)suck up your pride and accept life as a pool reporter trying to get scraps of information like all of the other plebs, or b)whine about how the press had much less privilege to sabotage the American war effort with defeatism and fearmongering than in previous wars and whine about how unpopular the press was with the American people? If you picked a, you are worthwhile reader of this book and probably a decent enough person. If you picked b, you are probably one of the authors of this book or its ideal audience.
This book is between 200 and 250 pages and it is full of a lot of photographs. The book begins with a discussion of how victory brings a glow of righteousness. After that there is a look at how the United States got into the war. This is followed by a look at the massive attack from sea and sky that marked Desert Storm and then after that by the 100 hours of victory in the ground war. This narrative account of the Gulf War takes up about 100 pages of the book, nearly half of the material. At this stage the book changes its approach, and instead of giving the overall narrative as it did previously, it starts looking at the various personalities and stories that the authors want to focus on for whatever reason. There is a discussion of maps and charts that show the progress of the war. After that there is a series of personal profiles on Colin Powell, General Schwarzkopf, an Saddam Hussein. This is followed by a look at the story of conquest, chaos, and revenge in Kuwait, where the Palestinians faced a grim fate for their supposed collaboration with Iraqi soldiers, as well as a look at Israel’s restraint in the face of provocation and attack. After that there is a look at stealth and smart bombs, the cruel fate of civilians in war, the media war, and the cost of the war, as well as the problems solved and unsolved. The book ends with a look at soldiers returning home as well as the usual index.
Perhaps unexpectedly, this book is a solidly entertaining read despite being obvious propaganda for a press corps that is worth holding in contempt. The whining and complaining about the press about the lack of information it had and the slender links that journalists had with what was going on in the war, with only a couple of reporters being able to stay in Baghdad and report on what was going on there, along with the meager offerings given to the press of news of the war on the coalition side is music to my ears, because the worse the war is for the American press, the better the war is likely to be for the American army. What this book is a useful reminder of is the fact that the press has been the enemy of the American people and the American military for a lot longer that is often viewed to be the case, and has been recognized as an enemy far longer too. While the press seeks to imagine that it will have glory days like the times of the Vietnam war when it could sabotage America’s efforts abroad nearly effortlessly, instead the press is treated here like a child in a 19th century orphanage asking for news like seconds of gruel, and getting denied just like they deserve. And it is a pleasing and invigorating feeling to see the press complaining about getting their just desserts in such a fashion.