LIVE FROM BAGHDAD: Gathering News at Ground Zero by Robert Wiener

LIVE FROM BAGHDAD: Gathering News at Ground Zero

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Bytes and bombs, bureaucrats and booze dominate Wiener's lively account of the six months he spent as the CNN executive producer in Saddam Hussein's Baghdad. When the veteran newsman--he previously covered the Vietnam conflict and the Romanian War--arrived in August 1990, Iraq and the non-Arab powers were inching toward war. Wiener soon discovered that working in the Iraqi capital was unlike any of his earlier assignments. For one thing, foreign correspondents were assigned Iraqi ""minders,"" functionaries whose job, according to the authorities, was to facilitate the news-gathering process but who were, in fact, little more than government informants. Setting up the CNN offices in the Al-Rasheed Hotel, Wiener and his staff managed, despite the obstacles placed in their way, to broadcast reports that accurately detailed conditions in the country. Government ministers were interviewed, and the local situation was analyzed on a day-today basis in such a way that the Iraqi powers-that-be gradually became more cooperative. (Wiener made it clear to them that he felt the Bush Administration's early handling of the crisis was provocative and bound to fail.) When war eventually broke out and most of the foreign press was expelled, Wiener and his crew were allowed to remain. The CNN news team--notably Peter Arnett and Bernard Shaw--were thus able to become the first in history to report on a conflict from behind enemy lines. Several vignettes here capture such personalities as Muhammad Ali, Jesse Jackson, and Carl Bernstein, all of whom visited the Iraqi capital during the crisis. Wiener views most of these emissaries with a jaundiced eye, finding their motives self-serving. According to the author, Bernstein was a moocher, Ali seemed punch-drunk, and Jackson received special treatment from the American embassy. A refreshingly candid memoir told with pride but also an often disarming flippancy.

Pub Date: Jan. 15th, 1992
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Doubleday