Tough Sell: Fight­ing the Me­dia War in Iraq

Tom Basile John R. Bolton, con­trib­u­tor

Foreword Reviews - - Reviews Adult Nonfiction -

Po­tomac Books Hard­cover $32.95 (320pp) 978-1-61234-900-8

This book mas­ter­fully blends mil­i­tary his­tory with pol­i­tics and me­dia stud­ies.

Tom Basile’s Tough Sell is an ode to the many men and women who worked for the Coali­tion Pro­vi­sional Au­thor­ity dur­ing the early days of the Iraq War. The book also of­fers a cri­tique of me­dia and of the ways the Ge­orge W. Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion failed to com­mu­ni­cate its po­si­tions.

Through­out Tough Sell, Basile con­sis­tently por­trays him­self as an Amer­i­can ev­ery­man—a New Yorker and a Catholic. How­ever, Basile also re­minds read­ers of his ex­cep­tional po­si­tion. From at­tend­ing a meet­ing of the Eco­nomic Club (which Basile un­der­plays as “one of the old­est and most ven­er­a­ble in­sti­tu­tions for the wealthy and suc­cess­ful”) to dis­cussing his pre­vi­ous po­si­tion as a mem­ber of the EPA, Basile is clearly a Wash­ing­ton in­sider.

How­ever priv­i­leged Basile may have been, his heart­break and frus­tra­tion come through clearly. Tough Sell chron­i­cles the heady days be­tween the spring of 2003 and the win­ter of 2004, when Bagh­dad’s Green Zone be­came dan­ger­ous and the mis­sion to re­build Iraq went side­ways. Basile, along with his fel­low civil­ians en­sconced in Bagh­dad, rou­tinely faced mor­tar and rocket at­tacks and kid­nap­ping threats.

From Basile’s per­spec­tive, the threat posed by Amer­i­can me­dia was even worse. Tough Sell is re­plete with un­flat­ter­ing por­tray­als of me­dia fig­ures and net­works. In Basile’s ren­der­ing, most jour­nal­ists ei­ther couldn’t be both­ered to leave Bagh­dad or re­fused to be­lieve any story that did not con­form to their po­lit­i­cal (see: lib­eral, an­ti­war) world­views.

It is im­por­tant to rec­og­nize that Basile was a true believer—a man who sup­ported Bush, the Iraq War, and “fur­ther­ing demo­cratic re­forms” in or­der to bridge the “free­dom de­fi­ciency” in the Mid­dle East.

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