Friday, December 18, 2009

Recent Reading: More War Stories from Iraq

Speaking of books (see previous post), it's time once again for an AT reading update.

Regular readers of AltTulsa will recall that we've been reading our way through Iraq war books this year. One of the best we've come across is Jon Lee Anderson's The Fall of Baghdad, published in 2004 by Penguin.

Anderson, who writes for The New Yorker, covers the same ground as two other Iraq books, Anne Garrels' Naked in Baghdad, and Richard Engel's A Fist in the Hornet's Nest. (See previous AT posts on both of these books.)

As you might expect Anderson's work goes deeper than these books, in part because Anderson takes the long view, a characteristic of his magazine. Anderson provides a more detailed and complex view of Iraq and the U.S. invasion, a qualities that give his reportage a more literary quality than either Garrels or Engel.

This makes Anderson's book an illuminating and useful guide to Saddam's Iraq and its people. In fact, The Fall of Baghdad prompted us to check out another highly praised Iraq book, Michael Kelly's Martyrs' Day. Kelly's book chronicles the first Gulf War, the one in which Saddam invaded Kuwait and caused George H. W. Bush to declare war on Iraq.

Like Anderson, Kelly is a fearless and highly observant reporter who documents the horrors of modern combat. Kelly is especially good at detailing the many crimes of Saddam and his cronies, facts that make plain the dehumanizing forces at work in a cult-like military dictatorship.

Taken together, Martys' Day and The Fall of Baghdad make interesting reading because they explain Saddam, Iraq and the United States involvement there at two critical points, one of which led to the dictator's demise.

One final (and sad) point: Kelly was the first journalist killed in the second Iraq war when the Humvee he was riding in came under fire and crashed. It's the public's loss.

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