A bell-clear, powerful indictment of the debacle of recent Middle Eastern war policy.
Since 9/11, Los Angeles Times Moscow bureau chief Stack has been covering the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Lebanon, and her account illustrates the senseless destruction and carnage wrought in the region by the United States and Israel. The author spoke with a diverse range of people involved, including Afghani warlords waiting on American guns in order to fight the Taliban, and probably allowing al-Qaeda fighters to escape into Pakistan for a fee; terrorist victims in Megiddo, Israel; Iraqi refugees from the American invasion; the pampered community of Americans at the Saudi Aramco compound; a Yemeni high-court judge espousing his methods of “theological redemption”; angry young demonstrators in Beirut in the aftermath of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafic Hariri’s assassination; and Egypt’s pious Muslim Brotherhood, who attempted to proceed with elections in spite of the Mubarak government’s “dirty tricks.” “Somewhere between Afghanistan and Iraq,” writes Stack bitterly, “we lost our way.” What she saw in her travels clearly indicates that America—the idea of America—was held up as a model. But after the bombings, invasions and Abu Ghraib, America has deeply disappointed the people in these devastated regions. Stack’s writing is visceral and intensely personal, as many of the people she knew and interviewed were killed—maybe even because she “took a chance with their lives” by being seen talking with them. “Countries, like people,” she writes movingly, “have collective consciences and memories and souls, and the violence we deliver in the name of our nation is pooled like sickly tar at the bottom of who we are.” Despite the war to bring democracy to the region, Stack observes, very little has changed, except a hardening, an acceptance of the seemingly endless condition of war.
A scathing look at the human costs of war.