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Night Draws Near

Over the break I read Night Draws Near, Washington Post foreign correspondent Anthony Shadid’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book on the Iraq war and US occupation and, most interestingly to me, the lives of everyday Iraqis who have to live through it.

Shadid is a born and raised American, approximately my age but of Lebanese descent. He was not embedded with the troops and he could, at least somewhat, blend in. As a reporter, he had the advantage of being able to fluently read and speak Arabic, and his ability to speak to the man on the street, interview families, understand cultural norms and even just read graffiti put him miles ahead of English-only reporters.

The book weaves together a history lesson and a year-long series of interviews following several different families with the timeline of the invasion, war, and subsequent occupation, for good and for bad. He explains why we can’t just write off the insurgency to disgruntled Sadam supporters, how the United States lost the good will of the common Iraqi through its failure to provide security and basic necessities (food, water, electricity) to a country that had already been desperately weakened by decades of war and international sanctions, and how the heartbreakingly high expectations Iraq had for post-Saddam life have not materialized.

There are several reviews of the book online already (here’s one from Salon, and another from The Washingtonian), and several interviews with Shadid (here’s one from washingtonpost.com, and this link has a video segment of Shadid on Newshour) that give a far better picture of the tone and content of the book than I ever could. What I will say is that I certainly learned a lot from reading it and I highly recommend it to anyone who looks at the situation in Iraq and wonders how we ended up where we are.

You can listen to a sample of Shadid reading the book at Audible.com here.

4 comments to Night Draws Near

  • As a veteran of both Gulf wars with long ties to northern and central Iraq, I have to admit this book got to me.

    So much is what I saw and lived. My job was very close interaction with “local nationals” – from all religious and ethnic groups. So many wanted one thing – that step forward into a better life. The guys on the ground actually do try – and many Iraqis recognize this. It’s just hard – for both groups, the Iraqis and the troops – when they are hamstrung on high.

    Sorry, my little soap box. Off now.

  • As a veteran of both Gulf wars with long ties to northern and central Iraq, I have to admit this book got to me.

    So much is what I saw and lived. My job was very close interaction with “local nationals” – from all religious and ethnic groups. So many wanted one thing – that step forward into a better life. The guys on the ground actually do try – and many Iraqis recognize this. It’s just hard – for both groups, the Iraqis and the troops – when they are hamstrung on high.

    Sorry, my little soap box. Off now.

  • As a veteran of both Gulf wars with long ties to northern and central Iraq, I have to admit this book got to me.

    So much is what I saw and lived. My job was very close interaction with “local nationals” – from all religious and ethnic groups. So many wanted one thing – that step forward into a better life. The guys on the ground actually do try – and many Iraqis recognize this. It’s just hard – for both groups, the Iraqis and the troops – when they are hamstrung on high.

    Sorry, my little soap box. Off now.

  • As a veteran of both Gulf wars with long ties to northern and central Iraq, I have to admit this book got to me.

    So much is what I saw and lived. My job was very close interaction with “local nationals” – from all religious and ethnic groups. So many wanted one thing – that step forward into a better life. The guys on the ground actually do try – and many Iraqis recognize this. It’s just hard – for both groups, the Iraqis and the troops – when they are hamstrung on high.

    Sorry, my little soap box. Off now.