Discouraging but observant Iraq memoir from an embedded British journalist.
In early 2003, as a foreign correspondent for the Daily Telegraph, Poole accompanied a U.S. Army invasion of Baghdad and wrote about it in Black Knights (2003), then left before returning a year later. Here, the author delivers an engrossing account of a working journalist’s life. Accompanied by a translator and eventually bodyguards, he roamed widely to report on the deteriorating situation. High-ranking officials remained relentlessly optimistic while American troops, deeply religious and fiercely patriotic, asserted that they were defending America and bringing freedom to an oppressed people. During the aftermath of the invasion, even Iraqis with little love for America expected it to use its vast wealth to improve their lives. Aware of the massive rebuilding announced even before victory, Poole searched Baghdad for construction cranes but found none. War damage appeared unrepaired, trash and sewage filled the streets and city services barely existed. Many readers will squirm as the author, writing for a British audience, explains that America remains obsessed with the war on terrorism and continues to interpret events in Iraq in that light. He adds that, while no faction loves America, the increasing chaos of 2005-07 was an internal affair energized by murderous sectarian hatred between Sunnis and Shias, but with a major contribution from tribal rivalries, turf battles between local political leaders, simple banditry and burgeoning organized crime.
There’s little good news, but Poole offers an insightful, sympathetic foreigner’s perspective on America’s misadventures in Iraq.