Night Draws Near: Iraq's People in the Shadow of America's War

Night Draws Near: Iraq's People in the Shadow of America's War

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by Anthony Shadid

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From the only journalist to win a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting from Iraq, here is a riveting account of ordinary people caught between the struggles

of nations

Like her country, Karima--a widow with eight children--was caught between America and Saddam. It was March 2003 in proud but battered Baghdad. As night drew near, she took her

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From the only journalist to win a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting from Iraq, here is a riveting account of ordinary people caught between the struggles

of nations

Like her country, Karima--a widow with eight children--was caught between America and Saddam. It was March 2003 in proud but battered Baghdad. As night drew near, she took her son to board a rickety bus to join Hussein's army. "God protect you," she said, handing him something she could not afford to give--the thirty-cent fare.

The Washington Post's Anthony Shadid also went to war in Iraq although he was neither embedded with soldiers nor briefed by politicians. Because he is fluent in Arabic, Shadid--an Arab American born and raised in Oklahoma--was able to disappear into the divided, dangerous worlds of Iraq. Day by day, as the American dream of freedom clashed with Arab notions of justice, he pieced together the human story of ordinary Iraqis weathering the terrible dislocations and tragedies of war.

Through the lives of men and women, Sunnis and Shiites, American sympathizers and outraged young jihadists newly transformed into martyrs, Shadid shows us the journey of defiant, hopeful, resilient Iraq. Moving from battle scenes to subdued streets enlivened only by the call to prayer, Shadid uses the experiences of his characters to illustrate how Saddam's downfall paved the way not only for democracy but also for an Islamic reawakening and jihad.

Night Draws Near--as compelling as it is human--is an illuminating and poignant account from a repoter whose coverage has drawn international attention and acclaim.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Born in Oklahoma and fluent in Arabic, journalist Shadid (Legacy of the Prophet) has the gift of a caricature artist, capturing personality in a few deft lines. In this set of reportage-based profiles from Baghdad pre- and post-March 2003, we meet Amal, a 14-year-old girl who moves from faith to fear to gallows humor in her diary; a long-married couple who bicker affectionately (the husband says George Bush is his hero; the wife wants to talk only about the lack of electricity); a Muslim cleric in Sadr City who has "the kind of swagger that a pistol on each hip brings." The portraits are intimate, often set in people's homes, and are rendered with such kindness they fall just short of sentimentality. Yet Shadid does not shy from the ugliness of violence, rendering the swollen corpse of a child left in the sun and the disarray of a bombed house, its front gate "peeled back like a can." The book, which moves among scenes and characters like a picaresque novel, is not only a pleasure to read but a welcome source of information. Shadid offers just enough history and context to orient the reader, and he includes the kinds of details-adages, prayers, lyrics from pop songs-that make a place come alive. In the end, Baghdad is the character he mourns most. Agent, Robert Shepard. (Sept. 7) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Foreign Affairs
Winner of the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for international reporting for his work in The Washington Post, Shadid, an Arabic-speaking American of Lebanese ancestry, offers a gripping account of just what the subtitle describes. His is not so much the story of why and how the United States got into this war, nor of the political dynamics in Iraq before and after Saddam Hussein. Those matters are there in the background, but Shadid's subject is the people of Iraq — what they thought and how they responded to their situation in the last days of Saddam's brutal reign, during the short, successful American invasion, and thereafter into the turbulent and insecure period of occupation. To tell such a story well one must be embedded in and accepted by the host society while being able to pick up its cultural cues. This Shadid accomplishes. He is wary of drawing lessons, coming closest in bemoaning "the inevitable divorce between war's aims and its reality." At least one other lesson is surely implicit: an alien invasion to overthrow even the worst of tyrants will not long be welcomed if the ensuing occupation cannot provide at least minimal public security.
Library Journal
Shadid, a Pulitzer Prize-winning correspondent for the Washington Post, brings to Baghdad a fluency in Arabic and an Arab American's perceptive understanding. Shadid's skill and sympathy thoroughly convey all levels of Iraqi opinions about Saddam Hussein, fellow Iraqis, and the American occupation. Yet the book provides much more than a collection of inspiring and sometimes tragic vignettes. Shadid's explication of political Islam is compelling. He interprets the "personality cult" of Shi'ite cleric Muqtada Sadr and the "Mahdi Army," along with Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the "one man who stood in his way." Shadid concludes amid the sheer confusion and violence during the elections of January 2005 in Baghdad, "a city where promise seems unending and loss keeps unfolding." Highly recommended for all public and academic libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 5/1/05.] Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Sharp-edged profiles of ordinary Iraqis, many of whom, tired of awaiting democracy, are practicing resistance. An Arabic-speaking Lebanese-American from Oklahoma, Washington Post reporter Shadid found it comparatively easy to move among the civilian population of Iraq, and among people who have been careful to guard their thoughts from officials of whatever uniform. Heralds of unintended consequences, American occupation forces in Iraq have made the country "an unwilling participant, drafted into a fight that it did not solicit"; the fall of Saddam, Shadid remarks, ushered in not the "liberation" that the administration held as a mantra, but instead confusion and indeterminacy. One bit of confusion is voiced by a bright Shiite woman named Yasmine, who wonders how it could be that the Donald Rumsfeld who came to Baghdad in 1983 full of praise for the Baathist regime of Saddam could return 20 years later with news that Saddam was a font of evil in the modern world. "Why didn't the American officials see Saddam for what he was years earlier?" Shadid writes, voicing her wonder. Saddam Hussein was widely loathed and reviled, and few in Iraq had problems with his absence per se; still, the longer American boots remain on Iraqi ground, the more the Iraqi resistance grows, and Shadid charts some unlikely alliances among Iraqis divided along every possible axis but who agree that the occupiers must go. Says one, a sheik often at odds with the regime and often imprisoned as a consequence, "When I was in jail, we thought about how Saddam could be overthrown. I told the other prisoners, ‘If Bush gets rid of Saddam, I'll paint a picture of him and hang it in my house.' " He adds that he will now do soonly when he is certain that the Americans are liberators, not occupiers-as no one now seems sure, with no end in sight to the fighting, and no resolution of all that confusion. Solid, eminently readable reportage that offers no comfort for readers on the lookout for that light at the end of the tunnel.

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Holt, Henry & Company, Inc.
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On the road to Diyala, the exodus had begun before dawn, as American troops broke through Iraqi defenses near the Shiite holy cities of Najaf and Karbala. Into rickety flatbed trucks, battered orange-and-white taxis charging sixteen times their usual fare, beat-up Volkswagens and minibuses plastered with signs that read, “God is greatest,” people piled the artifacts of broken lives. There were colorful mattresses and coarse blankets, pots and pans. There were bulging
suitcases and black-and-white televisions.

There were sacks of flour, jerry cans filled with gas, and ovens for baking bread perched precariously in trunks. Most abundant, there were the long gazes out windows, as thousands leaving Baghdad stared out the windows of their vehicles at their uncertain city. Long before dawn, the procession had snarled the main road out of Baghdad to northern Iraq, with bumper-to-bumper traffic stretching as many as five miles. Most people were headed to Diyala, a relatively tranquil province of farms irrigated by a river that shares its name and renowned for its groves of oranges. Many said they would find houses, hotels or share space with relatives already there. How long before their return was a question no one was willing to answer.” When it’s calm, we’ll come back,” Osama Jassim told me, his face drawn. “Maybe tomorrow, maybe a week, maybe a month,” he said when I asked him when he expected to go home.
“It all depends on God.”

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