An urgent, in-the-trenches report on the dire humanitarian crisis in U.S.-occupied Iraq by a freelance Alaskan journalist.
Jamail’s time in war-torn Iraq began in November 2003, seven months after the U.S. invasion, when the author—who had previously worked as a mountain guide on Mt. McKinley while also doing social work and freelance writing—arrived from Amman, Jordan, into ravaged Baghdad to see for himself what was going on. Jamail was not an “embedded” journalist—that is, one tied to the Pentagon-sponsored “embed” program—but he aimed to “look for stories of real life and ‘embed’ myself with the Iraqi people.” He stayed nine weeks, but returned to Iraq in April of the next year. Through various journalist connections, he secured drivers to take him around the desperate city, from hospitals, where he viewed the grisly carnage from car bombings, American snipers and shootouts with resistance fighters; to Samarra, after an ambush on American soldiers; to entrée into civilians’ homes to hear the truth about American military aggression and the lack of basic human services, such as water, medicine, electricity and gasoline. In the course of his travels, he was constantly confronted with angry Iraqis who were stunned by American brutality as well as their lack of compassion and respect for human dignity. Jamail was continually reminded of suicide bombs and the fear of being kidnapped, and he observed daily the deterioration of conditions and ached for the people’s general lack of health and freedom. Shortly after his return, he witnessed the worst resistance fighting around Fallujah as the Americans retaliated against the murder of four Blackwater mercenaries. While the author provides many significant, eye-opening observations, the prose is pedestrian, and he offers scant historical context.
Mechanics aside, an important eyewitness testimony.