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The Freedom: Shadows and Hallucinations in Occupied Iraqby Christian Parenti
"Parenti's book on occupied Iraq, The Freedom, is not without a political slant, and as you might have guessed, he is not in line with the party where freedom reigns....But Parenti's book is not an analysis of, or argument against, a particular war. Like the best war reporting, it describes a chilling and surreal war-torn landscape, and so reads like a condemnation of war in general....Parenti relates these scenes in a hardened tone, but each one reads like a striking and disturbing reminder of the horrors of war." Anna Godbersen, Esquire (read the entire Esquire review)
Synopses & Reviews
Last year, the most superbly equipped fighting force on the planet was led into the only type of war for which its experts deemed it unprepared: a highly politicized urban counterinsurgency. As the casualties mount, American troops discover there is no plan B, only an ad hoc set of tactics cobbled together and called a strategy. The Freedom provides a fearless and unsanitized look at how the war is unfolding.
We enter Baghdad as most journalists do — in a convoy of GMC Suburbans racing 95 miles an hour in tight, side-by-side formation. Once in the city, we encounter a relative of Saddam's who's scraping by while his father feeds money to the resistance; a former Fedayeen fighter who loves Limp Bizkit and Michael Bolton; the underage prostitutes who service U.S. soldiers and are hunted by religious vigilantes; the freshly minted MBAs who run the Coalition Provisional Authority's projects on privatization; the somnambulant American press corps and its fierce counterparts from al Jazeera and al Arabia.
Finally, we are embedded with U.S. troops, the unworldly, working-class kids left holding the bag, forced to die for a war many of them don't support.
"This collection of dispatches from in and around Baghdad emerges from Nation reporter Parenti's time embedded with U.S. soldiers as well as ventures out on his own. The book's main interest is that it provides access to people not heard from often enough: with a translator, Parenti interviews sheikhs, hospital staff, young prostitutes, aid workers and the families of civilians killed by American troops or disappeared into prisons like Abu Ghraib. The results make what's happening on the ground significantly more vivid and disturbing than most conventional news reports. Parenti also describes incompetence and corruption in reconstruction efforts, as well as killings and humiliations of Iraqi citizens that work to push young men into the ranks of the insurgency. He talks to American soldiers in the barracks and on patrol who hope that (but aren't sure if) they are doing the right thing. Over Parenti's three trips to Iraq from December 2003 to June 2004, relationships between all aspects of the U.S. military and Iraqi society become further entrenched in violence, hatred and chaos, all exacerbated by a lack of potable water and a still disabled electrical grid. It's a grim story, and it feels real." Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Book News Annotation:
When magazine journalist Parenti (currently a visiting fellow at the City U. of New York Graduate School's Center for Place, Culture, and Politics) asked his 26-year-old translator, Akeel, about life in Iraq following the US invasion, he replied, "Ah, the freedom. Look, we have the gas-line freedom, the looting freedom, the killing freedom, the rape freedom, the hash-smoking freedom. I don't know what to do with all this freedom." Needless to say, this is a perspective one rarely encounters in the hallucinatory reporting of the US corporate media, but luckily we have Parenti to bring it to us, along with the voices of many other Iraqis, US soldiers, and Coalition Authority officials, as well as his own observations of the chaotic disaster of Iraq under its first year of occupation. In the course of his reporting, Parenti embedded with US troops and with fighters resisting the occupation, and investigated many aspects of the occupation that those who started the war would prefer to remain hidden, including the mass detentions, the sky-rocketing corruption, the incompetence and ignorance that rules the so-called Green Zone in Baghdad, and, of course, the daily lethal violence.
Annotation ©2004 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
The Freedom provides a fearless and unsanitized look at how the war in Iraq is unfolding. Readers enter Baghdad as most journalists do — in a convoy of GMC Suburbans racing 95 miles an hour in tight, side-by-side formation.
Consistently compared with the work of Hunter S. Thompson and Michael Herr, The Freedom provides a fearless and unsanitized tour of the disastrous occupation of Iraq, in all its surreal and terrifying detail. Drawing on the best tradition of war reporting, here is a rare book that “embeds” with both sides—the U.S. military and the Iraqi resistance.
Acclaimed journalist Christian Parenti takes us on a high-speed ride along treacherous roads to the centers of the ongoing conflict in Fallujah, Ramadi, and Sadr City through the first year of the occupation. He introduces us to relatives waiting anxiously outside the holding fortress of Abu Ghraib and takes a night drive around Baghdad with the insurgents. He recounts the military’s use of drugs and prostitutes, the imperial buffoonery of the Green Zone, and the religious ecstasy of the Shiites. And he allows us to witness, close up and in riveting detail, the cataclysmic violence, rampant gangsterism, and quotidian heroism that is today’s Iraq.
As predicted by the San Francisco Bay Guardian, when “historians of tomorrow start writing, they will doubtless have copies of The Freedom close at hand.”
About the Author
Christian Parenti is the author of The Soft Cage and Lockdown America. He is a visiting fellow at the CUNY Graduate School’s Center for Place, Culture, and Politics, and his articles appear regularly in The Nation. He lives in New York City.
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