Riverbend is an Iraqi woman of 24 who “survived the war. That’s all you need to know,” she wrote on the first day of her Weblog, August 17, 2003. “It’s all that matters these days anyway.”
Throughout this vivid account of occupied Iraq, though—seen here in a literal transcription of her first year’s worth of blog entries—we learn a lot more: we learn that in Baghdad, you wake up either in a jolt, after a scream or a gunshot, or slowly, fuzzily, pulling out of a hazy sleep in which you struggled against some horrific specter; that our blogger can’t go outside her home without a male escort, unless she wants to be insulted, leered and jeered at, possibly kidnapped; and that though she practices Islam, she does not want an Islamic government. Riverbend excoriates Bush and the “puppets” he has put in place to rule Iraq. She comments on everything from the financing of reconstruction and the shenanigans at Halliburton to the feasibility of a Kurdish state and the impact of Islamic Shari’a law on women. She also charts an ordinary life—ordinary, that is, in decidedly unordinary circumstances. While en route to visit an aunt, for instance, she decides not to wear sunglasses, lest she attract “undue attention” at a checkpoint. Meanwhile, she’s determined to correct what she perceives as bigoted ideas about Iraq: Iraq is home to many engineers and other professionals, she insists; Iraqis have computers (apparently, when her blog first started, some naysayers charged that Riverbend couldn’t possibly be Iraqi, because Iraqis don’t have or know how to use computers, let alone how to write in Riverbend’s polished English), and Iraqis will happily watch American films and drink American sodas. They simply don’t want to die at American hands, or live under American rule.
Feisty and learned: first-rate reading for any American who suspects that Fox News may not be telling the whole story.