Conversations with Terrorists
Middle East Leaders on Politics, Violence, and Empire
Publication Date: September 2010
Categories: Political Freedom & Security - Terrorism
Drawing on original research and firsthand interviews, Conversations with Terrorists offers critical portraits of six Middle Eastern leaders often labeled as terrorists: Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad, Hamas top leader Khaled Meshal, Israeli politician Geula Cohen, Iranian Revolutionary Guard founder Mohsen Sazargara, Hezbollah spiritual advisor Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Fadlallah, and former Afghan Radio and Television Ministry head Malamo Nazamy. Veteran journalist Reese Erlich offers them a chance to explain key issues and to respond to charges leveled by the United States. Critiquing these responses and synthesizing a broad range of material, Erlich shows that yesterday’s terrorist is today’s national leader, and that today’s freedom fighter may become tomorrow’s terrorist. He concludes that the global war on terror has diverted public attention from the war’s real goal—expanding U.S. influence and interests in the Middle East—and offers policy remedies.
Reese Erlich’s publications include Dateline Havana, The Iran Agenda, and Target Iraq, which he co-authored with Norman Solomon (introduction by Howard Zinn and afterword by Sean Penn). He reports regularly for National Public Radio, Latino USA, Radio Deutche Welle, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, and Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. He also writes for the San Francisco Chronicle and the Dallas Morning News. In 2001, he produced a one-hour radio documentary, “The Struggle for Iran,” which was hosted by Walter Cronkite.
He has received awards from Project Censored, the National Headlines Awards, the Society of Professional Journalists (Northern California), the Chicago International Film Festival, and other organizations. In 2006, he shared a Peabody Award for the radio series “Crossing East.”
Erlich has taught journalism at San Francisco State University and California State University, East Bay. He is listed in Who's Who in America and Who's Who in the Media.
"Erlich is not afraid of asking hard questions... he also believes the term "terrorist" is a dangerous distortion of reality that can turn a political conflict into a forever war."
—Conn Hallinan, Review: Talking With Terrorists, Foreign Policy in Focus, November 11, 2010
“One of the most courageous journalists I know.”
—Amiri Baraka (aka LeRoi Jones), Poet, Playwright, and Political Activist
Since I was present at two of these conversations with terrorists, I feel fully qualified to tell you that book you’re holding is true, accurate, thoughtful and eminently readable. I would expect no less of a man who would walk up to Khalil Meschal, the head of the military wing of Hamas at a Syrian embassy reception and ask for an interview. He got it. I traveled with Reese from the Souks of Damascus to the killing grounds of Al Sukariya, near Iraq where we investigated a secret US raid together. It was like traveling with a pit-bull who is trailing a truck of raw meat. Reese locks on to an objective and will not be deterred until he has unpacked and deconstructed it from at least seven angles. (Which are two more than I can conceive of.)
—Peter Coyote, Actor and Author of Sleeping Where I Fall
Reese Erlich, without romanticizing or apologizing for terrorism, gives us a perspective on the Middle East that might balance the propaganda we are daily fed by apologists for the violence of the American Empire and its wars.
—Rabbi Michael Lerner, Editor, Tikkun Magazine, and Chair, Network of Spiritual Progressives
“As usual, Reese Erlich is right on target.”
—James Abourezk, Former U.S. Senator, South Dakota
“This book cuts through the fog of ‘war on terror,’ providing readers with a searchlight to see beyond propaganda. The resulting clarity will transform views of what is—and what is possible.”
—Norman Solomon, Author of War Made Easy and Made Love, Got War
“What is terror? A word. What is in that word, ‘terror’? Reese Erlich introduces us to people whose names are associated with that word. He gives them the chance to speak. When we listen, we find ourselves provoked with unexpected insights and challenges to our stereotypes.”
“In an era when the Bush Administration has defined the world as good VS. evil, it's great to read a book that reminds you things aren't all black and white, but rather shades of grey. Conversations shows you that the term ‘terrorist’ is subjective and that one man's freedom fighter is another man's terrorist."
—Maz Jobrani, Comedian/Actor/American Citizen