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Blinded by the Sunlight: Emerging from the Prison of Saddam's Iraq
Synopses & Reviews
For eight terrifying days in March, while Baghdad was ablaze with bombs, Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Matt McAllester and four other Westerners were imprisoned in Abu Ghraib, the most horrific prison in the Middle East. Crashing from his adrenaline-filled days of reporting the war from the streets of Baghdad and the roof of the Palestine Hotel, McAllester quickly found himself sleeping on a dirty blanket and scrounging cigarettes from guards who had just beaten other prisoners senseless. He ceased being a reporter and became the same as thousands of other innocent Iraqi civilians whose lives had come to an abrupt and violent halt when the Mukhabarat — Saddam's secret police — came knocking.
But this is not just a book about a private trauma. McAllester also brings his unsurpassed perspective to bear on the stories and struggles of ordinary people in the brutal world of Iraq under Saddam — the violence, the paranoia, the endless cycle of repression. In vivid and evocative prose, and illustrated with the powerful photographs of his Newsday coworker and prison mate Moises Saman, he examines Iraq before, during, and after the war, often exposing truths previously hidden by the regime's relentless censorship and obfuscation.
From the excavation of the mass graves in Muhawil to the aspirations of Iraq's first English-language boy band, McAllester explores the reality of living a life paralyzed by fear and punctuated by hope. He describes what it is like to be a torturer and also the tortured. And, finally, he writes painfully of his return to Abu Ghraib and his meetings with men who spent years, not days, inside its walls, and of his obsessive quest to find his interrogatorand to turn the tables on him.
As the Western world grapples with the daunting task of helping Iraq to repair itself, we are faced most of all by our lack of understanding of what exactly it is we are trying to fix. Blinded by the Sunlight gives a rare and honest insight into Saddam's terrifying kingdom, from one of the few Westerners who know firsthand what lay behind the facade.
"A penetrating record of the last days of Saddam's Iraq....A memorable addition to the literature of modern war." Kirkus Reviews
"McAllester has produced a fascinating look at life in one of the most repressive regimes on earth." Publishers Weekly
Book News Annotation:
McAllester, a Pulitzer-winning reporter covering the start of the Iraq War for Newsday, was thrown into Abu Ghraib prison for eight days with four other Westerners by Saddam Hussein's secret police. Though the story he tells here turns on their eye-opening time in the horrific prison, it's also a chronicle of Iraq before, during, and after the war, and how Iraqi society came to be dominated by the violence, paranoia, repression, and censorship that marked Saddam's rule. Sixteen plates at the middle of the text reproduce color photographs by Newsday photographer Moises Saman, one of McAllester's cellmates. The volume has no index.
Annotation ©2004 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
About the Author
Matthew McAllester won a Pulitzer Prize in 1997 for his coverage of the TWA flight 800 crash. He currently serves as Newsday's United Nations Bureau Chief and as a foreign correspondent covering the Middle East. McAllester is also the author of Beyond the Mountains of the Damned: The War Inside Kosovo.
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