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Bestseller success for anti-US war books

Ed Vulliamy, New York
Sunday April 20, 2003
The Observer

Beneath the uniformity of a US media high on victory in Iraq, a wave of books of a heretical flavour is flooding the bestseller lists.

At number five in the New York Times bestsellers and climbing Amazon's chart is The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, a collection of essays by journalist Greg Palast, one of a triad known as the 'Angry White Men' - a play on the title at number six in the chart, Stupid White Men by film director Michael Moore, with 500,000 sales.

The third in the 'axis of anti' is Noam Chomsky, whose controversial 9/11 - in which he calls America 'a leading terrorist state' - has 205,000 copies in print.

The books are comfortably outselling titles which might seem at first to better reflect the zeitgeist, such as Hatred's Kingdom: How Saudi Arabia Supports the New Global Terrorism and similar.

Concluding his recent book tour, Moore said: 'I look out into the auditorium or gymnasium and I see Mr and Mrs Middle America, who voted for George W Bush and believed in the American dream as defined by the Bushes and Wall Street. Then they woke up to realise it was just that, a dream.'

On Iraq, a number of fast-selling books have joined British writer Con Coughlin's Saddam: King of Terror with less conventional attacks not on the fallen tyrant but on America's war. They include Targeting Iraq: Sanctions, Bombing and US Policy by Geoff Simons and Gore Vidal's Dreaming War: Blood for Oil and the Bush-Cheney Junta .

Palast's book - published by Pluto Press in Britain last year - is the latest to appear in America. Subtitled The Truth About Globalisation, Corporate Cons and High Finance Fraudsters, Moore endorsed it with an enthusiastic 'Read this book'.

The essays include Palast's investigation into vote-rigging during the Florida campaign that won Bush the election and into the place where Americans fear to tread: alleged close ties between the Bush and bin Laden families.

Once Palast's book was published in America, the media took a cue from Tony Blair's aide Alastair Campbell, who issued a political health warning on the author in Britain.

Plans by CNBC television to have him as a commentator on the Phil Donahue chat show were reversed after one performance, following an internal company memo recommending against guests who were 'sceptical of the Bush administration' when 'other networks are taking every opportunity to wave the flag'.

But his book is selling without the name recognition or marketing behind Moore and Chomsky.

'Michael Moore was the battering ram through the media Berlin Wall,' he said, 'and Chomsky and I are rushing through.

'There is a whole number of Americans who have been hypnotised, propagandised, and short-changed, who know something is wrong. Apparently the moment has come for the awful truth.'


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