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 so only 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.