A British journalist’s firsthand account of fanaticism and bloodshed in the Middle East.
In his first book, Hider, the Middle East bureau chief for the Times (London), loosely examines the ways in which radical Islam and fundamentalist Christianity have continually warped and damaged an already difficult situation. In Iraq, writes the author, there has long existed a web of ludicrous superstition and delusion, nurtured by a dictatorship that cared little for objective reality. A lack of understanding about the many facets of Islam on the part of the invading American military, as well as the fog of its own myths, has resulted in a culture clash of terrifying complexity without a foreseeable solution. An atheist, Hider encountered the warring religious agendas of the Sunni, Shia, Jews and Christians as an outsider. He was a neutral recorder of the facts, albeit one with a wealth of experience, since he developed personal and working relationships with Iraqis of all descriptions during the course of several years. He shares stories of riding out with U.S. soldiers in a tank as they laid waste to cities, but also of interviewing leaders of the insurgency or gaining access to their camps, hair-trigger encounters that were tense and unpredictable at best, and which could turn menacing in an instant. Readers will marvel at the mix of resolve, purpose and just plain lust for adventure that made Hider return to the hellish carnage and turmoil. He and his girlfriend Lulu, also a British journalist, often chose to head toward danger rather than away from it. They traveled to Karbala for the massive festival of Ashoura because they anticipated—correctly, as it turned out—that large-scale violence would erupt. The author’s dense, vivid descriptions, frequently steeped in irony and humor, make for a slow but powerful read. For most of the narrative, Hider allows the nauseating, unbelievable events he witnessed and chronicled gnaw at the reader without overt analysis.
Horrifying true tales intelligently told.