A Preview of Long-Awaited Anthony Shadid Book on Iraq

By: E&P Staff

The long-awaited book on Iraq by Anthony Shadid, the Washington Post’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Baghdad correspondent, will be published Sept. 7 by Henry Holt, E&P has learned. The book is titled ?Night Draws Near: Iraq’s People in the Shadow of America’s War.?

In an advance copy received by E&P, Shadid explains that it is based on his many visits to Iraq, starting in 1998 (for the AP), then 2002 (Boston Globe) and finally 2003 to the present day (for the Post).

At the start, Shadid poses this question: ?How does one cover war from a professional distance when, as someone reporting from a city under siege, one has no distance?? He answers it this way: ?Perhaps we simply surrender to the ambiguities?Perhaps we simply tell stories.?

Shadid, a Lebanese-American from Oklahoma, reveals that he always feels ?more Arab in America, more American in the Arab world?.I find it almost impossible to bring coherence to the contradictions of my own heritage?.?

He notes that President’s Bush’s rhetoric about a democratic Iraq sounds “idealistic to Western ears, reminiscent of century-old colonialism to a Third World audience.”

The book closes, after the hope of the national elections this past January, with the reality of what Shadid calls the return of ?religious revival, growing militancy, and hardening sectarianism.? Shadid admits, ?I comprehend Baghdad less than I thought I did when I first encountered it? in 1998.

Finally, he discloses his post-election ?thoughts of thwarted ambitions, of the failure of occupation, of a grim future inherited by men with guns and the culture they bring. But there is also a resilient hope among Iraqis, a tenacious refusal to surrender their country to the forces of violence and chaos.?

The book also offers close-up profiles of vivid characters, many of whom find little comfort after the U.S. invasion. They include a Baghdad psychiatrist, a well-known artist, and more ordinary citizens.

Cover blurbs from the book come from Seymour Hersh, Samantha Power, and Post colleagues Steve Coll and Rick Atkinson.

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