Backgrounder: Aaron Glantz
Picture courtesy of Cody's Books.
© Cody's Books 2006.
“I don’t know if it’s possible to change the world,” said Aaron Glantz, in a March 25, 2006 phone interview with this reporter, “but you can keep people informed about what’s really happening.” As a war correspondent who has covered Iraq for Pacifica Radio and the Inter Press Service News Agency, Glantz, 28, is keeping his audience informed and, just maybe, changing the world in the process.
In April 2004, the war in Iraq became increasingly violent as the U.S. military launched a series of attacks, first on the holy Shiite city of Najaf, and then on Fallujah. During these assaults “the lethal toll among Iraqi civilians [was] a media abstraction,” according to media critic Norman Solomon. But Glantz filed reports like “Fallujah Cannot Even Bury Its Dead,” a story about residents using the local football stadium as a burying ground. Glantz’s daily dispatches, which aired on Pacifica Radio’s Pacifica Reports From Iraq, chronicled the ongoing struggles of Iraqi citizens as they dealt with the aftermath of U.S. attacks.
A lifelong San Franciscan, Glantz briefly attended the University of California at Berkeley. He left before graduating to begin his journalism career as a reporter for KPFA, Pacifica Radio’s flagship station. From 1998 to 2001, Glantz covered California state politics as KPFA’s state capital reporter.
“Sacramento isn’t a great town, but there are a lot of interesting stories,” Glantz told this reporter. Indeed, his coverage of Governor Gray Davis’s controversial relationship with the CEO of Pacifica Lumber Company, and the scandal that brought down State Insurance Commissioner Chuck Quackenbush, earned Glantz the 2000 California Journalism Award for daily news coverage.
In January 2000, Glantz and 42 other striking Pacifica News Network reporters - who accused the organization of censoring news content - launched Free Speech Radio News, a daily progressive radio newscast, which airs on Pacifica Radio. In addition to reporting on the Pacifica strike, Glantz covered larger events, such as the 2000 Democratic National Convention, in Los Angeles.
His experience as a national news producer inspired him to become an international correspondent. “The way I saw it, there was no reason that I couldn’t do the same kind of work on an international level,” Glantz said in a phone interview in March.
Glantz took his first trip to Iraq in 2003, immediately after the fall of Saddam Hussein. It was through interviews with “real people who have real opinions,” Glantz told this reporter, that he discovered that the majority of Iraqis supported American occupation. But when he returned in 2004, after the U.S.-led attacks on Fallujah, Glantz encountered a radically changed Iraq. People were terrorized, he noted; without electricity and other basic services, many of the Iraqis he spoke with had become virulently anti-American.
The striking contrast between his two visits compelled Glantz to write How America Lost Iraq (Tarcher/Penguin), a scathing indictment of the U.S. invasion, published in May 2005. He did several radio interviews to promote the book. “People called in and called me a traitor,” Glantz said by phone. “That doesn’t happen anymore.”
It took nearly three years for the mainstream media to take off its patriotic blinders and follow his lead in bringing back the painful truths of the ongoing conflict in Iraq, suggests Glantz. But he predicts that this trend toward exposing the grim realities of an Iraq wracked by the violence of the insurgency and, more recently, ethnic bloodshed, will continue. “People are hungry to know what is actually happening,” Glantz told this reporter.
- Free Speech Radio News. 24 March 2006. http://www.fsrn.org/history.html
- Glantz, Aaron. “Fallujah Cannot Even Bury its Dead.” Inter Press Service. 20 Apr. 2004. http://ipsnews.net/interna.asp?idnews=23398
- Glantz, Aaron. “Close Abu Ghraib, Stop the New Prison.” Common Dreams News Center. 23 June 2005. http://www.commondreams.org/views05/0623-24.htm
- Glantz, Aaron. Telephone interview. 25 March 2006.
- Solomon, Norman. “The Brave Posturing of Armchair Warriors.” Media Beat. 10 Sep 2004. http://www.fair.org/index.php?page=2426http://www.fair.org/index.php?page=2426