Jon Lee Anderson "The Fall of Baghdad"
Publisher: Penguin Press HC 2004-09 | 400 Pages | ISBN: 1594200343 | PDF
For every great historical event, seemingly, at least one reporter writes an eyewitness account of such power and literary weight that it becomes joined with its subject in our minds-George Orwell's Homage to Catalonia and the Spanish Civil War; John Hersey's Hiroshima and the dropping of the first atomic bomb; Philip Gourevitch's We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families: Stories of Rwanda and the Rwandan genocide. Whatever else is written about the Iraqi people and the fall of Saddam, Jon Lee Anderson's The Fall of Baghdad is worthy of mention in this company. No subject has become more hotly politicized than the toppling of Saddam Hussein's regime, and so a thick fog of propaganda, both from boosters of the war and its opponents, has obscured the reality of what the Iraqi people have endured and are enduring, under Saddam Hussein and now. For that reason alone, The Fall of Baghdad is a great and necessary book. Jon Lee Anderson has drawn on all of his reserves of stamina and personal bravery to create an astonishing portrait of humanity in extremist, a work of great wisdom, human empathy, and moral clarity. He follows a remarkable and diverse group of Iraqis over the course of this extraordinary time: from the all-pervasive fear that comes from living under Saddam's brutal, Orwellian rule to the surreal atmosphere of Baghdad before the invasion; to the invasion's commencement and the regime's death spiral down into its terrible endgame; to America's disastrously ill-conceived seizure of power and its fruits. In channeling a tragedy of epic dimensions through the stories of real people caught up in the whirlwind of history, Jon Lee Anderson has written a book of timeless significance.
The press coverage of the second Iraq war was notable for the American military's program assigning journalists to be "embedded" with specific military units. While this afforded more personal coverage, the reportage was inherently narrow, missing out on the larger perspective of a sprawling and complex situation and telling stories only from the American troops' point of view. Such is not the case in The Fall of Baghdad, journalist Jon Lee Anderson's harrowing account of the Americans' capture of the Iraqi capital. Anderson was not embedded but on the ground in Baghdad and recounts the increasing anxiety and dread of Iraqi citizens as they try to prepare as best they can for a seemingly inevitable invasion. Not only were the Iraqis fearing for their lives, dwelling as they did in what they knew to be the largest target city in the nation, they also lived in fear of Saddam Hussein while he was still in power and so projected a facade of desperate optimism and unfailing loyalty. Anderson chronicles the collapse of this feigned allegiance and the Iraqi people's joy of being free of Saddam but also reports hints of the kind of anti-American sentiment that would come to deadly fruition in the months following the end of conventional fighting. Additionally, Anderson tells of the journalists covering the war, who struggled with the conflict between their drive to tell the story of what was happening and their desire to stay alive. Anderson keeps the scope of his book limited to the situation within Baghdad, omitting any mention of the larger political issues related to the war, which means that the book is not only non-partisan and highly focused but also incredibly claustrophobic, capturing the feeling of being trapped in a city about to be devastated. --John Moe