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BOOK REVIEW: Greg Palast's Armed Madhouse, new edition

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Amy Fried, Ph.D.
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Greg Palast is a rare breed, at a crucial time in history. As a former “forensic economist,” (and former Cambridge University lecturer), his academic background adds a unique dimension to his investigative journalism. But in the newest edition of Armed Madhouse: From Baghdad to New Orleans - Sordid Secrets & Strange Tales of a White House Gone Wild, Palast adds to that understanding, an indefatigable and clever ability to found out what the “ruling class” doesn’t want us to know. Secret documents “fall out of the sky” and onto his desk; conversations with unguarded elites are captured, and Palast just plain has the chutzpah to ask the questions that need to be asked.

But perhaps what’s most remarkable about Palast, is his dedication to getting the truth out. When the U.S media refused to print his stories about our election fiascoes, he packed up his family and moved to Great Britain, to get the truth out. He continued to report what our mainstream media wouldn’t, with The Guardian newspaper, and BBC. What other journalist has gone to such lengths?

All of these qualities make the new Armed Madhouse a treat, even for hardened cynics on the Left. Voracious consumers of liberal news and opinion are used to hearing about the theft of the last two presidential elections. But Palast asks:, in our justified paranoia, have we concentrated on the wrong culprits - human and machine?

From the moment we began the invasion and occupation of Iraq, anti-war activists have talked about it being “all about the oil.” Palast says, “OK, but what about the oil?”

Armed Madhouse addresses such questions as:

* Why did we really invade Iraq, and why are we still there?

* How much power does Dick Cheney really wield in the Bush Administration?

* What goals do George W. Bush and Osama bin Laden share?

* Why were 28 pages missing from the 911 Commission report?

* Why did televangelist Pat Robertson call for the assassination of Hugo Chavez?

* How did a company contracted to help with Homeland Security, affect elections in this country and abroad?

* How did $8.8 billion get lost in Iraq?

* How is China “the other Saudi Arabia?”

Perhaps the hardest part of reading Armed Madhouse is keeping up with Palast’s agile mind. It isn’t just that he tackles such a vast depth and breadth of issues, but that he shows how it all fits together. His forensic approach takes us from Afghanistan to Venezuela, from 1927 to 2008. And he gets movers and shakers - and their henchmen (and women) to spill their guts. I don’t know how he does it, but I hope he can keep it up.

Palast’s style is sardonic and cynical. But like many liberals, his cynicism belies an underlying idealism.

After being presented with such a devastating case for corruption on such a massive scale, it may be tempting for the reader to give up the fight for justice. Palast addresses that as well, telling us how we can “steal back” the 2008 election, before it happens.

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Amy Fried applies her Ph.D. in Organizational Behavior to writing and activism on church-state separation, feminism, reproductive rights, corruption, media and veganism.

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