Longtime antiwar activist Reese Erlich passed away on April 6 after a long battle with cancer. He was 73.
Reese was most recently a bi-weekly columnist at a number of publications, including Antiwar.com. He wrote his last column two weeks ago saying goodbye to his friends and readers.
I met Reese in 1980 when we worked together in the Bay Area Mobilization Against Militarism and the Draft.
Reese was arrested in 1969 as part of the “Oakland Seven,” for organizing anti-draft demonstrations. His arrest and trial (resulting in his acquittal) are the subject of a documentary, Movement on Trial: The Oakland Seven.
Reese worked as a staff writer and research editor for Ramparts, a national investigative reporting magazine published in San Francisco. His magazine articles appeared in Vanity Fair online, San Francisco Magazine, California Monthly, Mother Jones, The Progressive, The Nation, and AARP’s Segunda Juventud.
Erlich’s book Target Iraq: What the News Media Didn’t Tell You, co-authored with Norman Solomon, became a best seller in 2003. His book The Iran Agenda: the Real Story of U.S. Policy and the Middle East Crisis was published in October 2007 with a foreword by Robert Scheer. In a San Francisco Chronicle book review, Ruth Rosen wrote, “Some people are treated as pariahs when they tell the truth; later, history lauds them for their courage and convictions. Reese Erlich is one of those truth tellers.”
Reese also published Dateline Havana: The Real Story of US Policy and the Future of Cuba in 2009, Inside Syria: the Backstory of Their Civil War and What the World Can Expect in 2014, and The Iran Agenda Today: the Real Story from Inside Iran and What’s Wrong with U.S. Policy in 2018.
Reese worked with Walter Cronkite on four public radio documentaries. Cronkite has written, “Reese Erlich is a great radio producer and a great friend.”
His passing is a great loss to the antiwar movement. He will be missed.
Reese Erlich, a prolific writer who brought a unique sensibility to the coverage of politics in the United States and throughout the world, including many years of contributions to The Progressive, died April 6 after a six-month battle with cancer. He was seventy-three
“Like so much in his life, Reese battled to the end,” said his son Jason in a message today to his father’s many friends and fans.
On March 26, The Progressive published what sadly proved to be Erlich’s last
Foreign Correspondent column, to which we gave the optimistically equivocal headline,
My Last Column? In this column, he described his grim prognosis due to Stage 4 prostate cancer and reflected on a career that spanned seven decades.
“I hope I’ve helped explain some complicated world issues you might not otherwise have understood,” he wrote. “I hope the activism earlier in my life and my writing and speeches later have helped bring about progressive change.”
Born and raised in Los Angeles, Erlich became involved as a student in the protests against the Vietnam War. In 1967, he and others organized a Stop the Draft Week, for which they were arrested, becoming known as the “Oakland Seven,” and ultimately acquitted of all charges.
The following year, Erlich visited Cuba for the first time, beginning a lifelong association that would culminate with the 2009 publication of his book Dateline Havana.
In the late 1960s, Erlich became a staff writer and research editor for the renowned left investigative magazine Ramparts, published in San Francisco. His magazine articles have also appeared in Vanity Fair, San Francisco Magazine, California Monthly, Mother Jones, The Nation, and, of course, The Progressive.
Erlich was the author of several books. In addition to Dateline Havana, these included The Iran Agenda: the Real Story of U.S. Policy and the Middle East Crisis (2007), Inside Syria: the Backstory of Their Civil War and What the World Can Expect (2014), and The Iran Agenda Today: the Real Story from Inside Iran and What's Wrong with U.S. Policy (2018). He worked with Walter Cronkite on four public radio documentaries, including
The Russia Project, and won numerous journalism awards including a Peabody.
Beginning in 1995 and continuing until recently, Erlich produced a program called
Jazz Perspectives for public radio stations and online through Jazz Corner, showcasing the work of jazz, blues, and Latin musicians.
What follows are some of the many pieces that Erlich wrote in recent years for The Progressive, both in the magazine and on our website, Progressive.org. We trust that this will give some sense of his humanity and greatness, and the enormity of our collective loss.
To my knowledge, Reese Ehrlich was never at Stanford, but many of us worked with him — particularly in preparation for Stop the Draft Week. And we enjoyed his reporting from a distance.
Stop The Draft Week in Oakland, which Reese and others organized, was my first street protest. It was sort of a field trip for Steve Smith’s Stanford freshman seminar on the New Left. I had never seen so many cops acting like thugs against thousands of nonviolent protesters. I was already anti-war, having attended an LA Vietnam War protest and UCLA teach-in while in hIgh school in LA and between Steve’s seminar and goings on at Stanford. But Stop the Draft Week amped up my political consciousness quite a bit.
A few years later, for a reason I can’t remember but probably some class paper, I met with one of the trial attorneys for Reese and the other Oakland 7 and read the trial transcript. No wonder they were acquitted and it provided still another vision for how a lawyer could help the movement.
Thank you Reese.
Reese Ehrlich was a really great guy, with lots of courage, heart, commitment, and talent. I will really miss him...
Antiwar Activist Reese Erlich Dead at 73, by Eric Garris, April 9, 2021, Antiwar.com Blog. Link
In Memory and Celebration of Reese Erlich, April 9, 2021, The Progressive Magazine. Link
Reese Erlich, Wikipedia. Link
Reese Erlich, Author & Journalist, Center for Iranian Diaspora Studies, May 29, 2019. YouTube. Link
Reese Erlich Speech, Commonwealth Club of San Francisco, August 13, 2002, Hoover Institution Library & Archives Digital Collections. Link
Reese Erlich Papers, c. 1931–2001, Stanford Libraries Special Collections Link
The Official Website of Reese Erlich, reeseerlich.com. Link
Reese Erlich Foreign Correspondent, Facebook. Link