The Wake of War: Encounters in Iraq and Afghanistan

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In the spring of 2003, acclaimed journalist Anne Nivat set off from Tajikistan on a six-month journey through the aftermath of the American invasion and occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq. As with her prizewinning work reporting the lives of ordinary Chechens during their war, Nivat felt compelled to meet and write about the lives of everyday people—not just the voices at the center of the conflict, but also those in small towns and along roadways.

She spoke to engineers and ...

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Overview

In the spring of 2003, acclaimed journalist Anne Nivat set off from Tajikistan on a six-month journey through the aftermath of the American invasion and occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq. As with her prizewinning work reporting the lives of ordinary Chechens during their war, Nivat felt compelled to meet and write about the lives of everyday people—not just the voices at the center of the conflict, but also those in small towns and along roadways.

She spoke to engineers and teachers, ex-military men and rising leaders, an actor and a former Taliban member; she stayed with Kurdish and Shi’a and Turkoman families; and all along the way, she recorded their stories. We meet Hamid, a prosperous engineer who rails against the United States and against Afghanistan’s passive cooperation with the superpower. A powerful warlord keeps an extraordinary rose garden in the midst of the desert, and an Afghani gynecologist, having devoted her life to the health of Afghan women, has never touched even the hand of a man. In Iraqi Kurdistan we learn that hummus is unknown and see the after-effects of Saddam Hussein’s policy of Arabization: one young Kurdish leader declares that "The Arabs are barbarians by nature, their culture is nothing but thievery, looting, and killing!” In Iraqi Kurdistand we learn that hummus is unknown and see the aftereffects of Saddam Hussein’s policy of Arabization: One young Kurdish leader declares that "the Arabs are barbarians by nature; their culture is nothing but thievery, looting, and killing!” But in Kirkuk, a Turkoman claims the Kurds behave "just like the dictator who oppressed them.” Near Basra we meet Adnan Karim Bhaya, an ex-admiral who proudly recounts his battles against the Iranians and later against British allied troops, but who now finds himself stripped of his military status and living on his wife’s salary.

Throughout, Nivat allows each person to speak in his or her own voice without interposing her presence on their words—words of hope, sadness, anger, and, above all, the uncertainty that fills their everyday lives.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
French journalist Nivat (Chienne de Guerre: A Woman Reporter Behind the Lines of the War in Chechnya) intersperses travel-diary descriptions with interviews of Afghanis and Iraqis to relate her impressions of what has happened since the 2001 penetration of Afghanistan by American forces and the April 2003 invasion of Iraq. In Iraq, she moves from north to south, recording the experiences of the Kurds in relation to the Saddam Hussein regime and the arrival of the Americans. She passes on to the impressions of the minority Turkomans and then treats Iraqis in Baghdad and southern Iraq. A shorter section similarly treats Afghanistan but is a bit less successful owing to the time that has passed since her stay there. Most, but not all, interviews were conducted with the well-educated of each nation. In the main, American presence and policy receive considerable criticism. Nivat adroitly allows those interviewed to provide the criticism, for which she adds little personal analysis. Recommended for public libraries. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
"Those who are not with us are against us." The words are familiar-but, writes French journalist Nivat, before they formed George W. Bush's slogan, they belonged to the Communist rulers of Afghanistan. The Communists were the enemy of the common people, according to many of the Afghans Nivat interviews in these pages. So, too, were the Taliban. So, too, are the American invaders, as they are in Iraq. Nivat opens in Iraqi Kurdistan, victim of an aggressive program of "Arabization" on the part of the Hussein regime, where the arrival of American liberators seems to have done little to improve the lot of ordinary people; says one bookish Kurd, "Arabs and Iraqi Kurds are waiting for Godot. . . . But Godot won't come because Godot doesn't exist, and the United States is not Godot." Remarks a Turkoman of Kirkuk, "We're grateful that they rid us of Saddam Hussein's regime, even though everyone knows they hadn't had weapons of mass destruction in ages, but now we don't want anything more from them!" And an Arab policeman in Baghdad remarks of the Americans, "They're extremely fussy and give orders we don't understand, either literally or figuratively." In other words, the invasion worked to unite previously disparate ethnic and religious groups in opposition. So it is that a Baathist soldier tucks his uniform into a closet and awaits the day when he might put it on again, another-a former bodyguard of Saddam's slain son Uday-"lives very discreetly, always resisting the temptation to contact his former companions," though the odds are good that he's now part of the resistance. Nivat travels to Afghanistan to find much the same resentment over the American occupiers, whose accommodation toputatively "moderate" elements of the Taliban contradicts all the official rhetoric about ferreting out the bin Ladens of the world. There's no thesis as such here, only voices of more or less ordinary people who have much to say about the conduct of an unwanted war.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807002407
  • Publisher: Beacon
  • Publication date: 10/28/2005
  • Edition description: None
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 6.38 (w) x 9.22 (h) x 1.16 (d)

Meet the Author

Anne Nivat is an award-winning journalist and author. She covered the Chechen war for the French daily Libération and is currently the Moscow correspondent for Ouest-France. Artist-in-residence at the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum in 2004, Nivat has written pieces for the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the International Herald Tribune and has appeared on NPR's Fresh Air, The Connection, and PBS's NewsHour, as well as other radio and TV programs. She holds a doctorate in political science from Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Paris, and she was a Fulbright Fellow at the Davis Center for Russian Studies at Harvard University. In 2001, she received the SAIS-Novartis International Journalism Award at The Johns Hopkins University. For her first book, Chienne de Guerre: A Woman Reporter Behind the Lines of the War in Chechnya, which won the Albert Londres Prize in 2000, Nivat disguised herself as a Chechen woman and traveled to the war-torn region despite a Russian ban on journalists. Also the author of The View from the Vysotka, Nivat lives in Moscow and travels extensively.

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