The Freedom: Shadows and Hallucinations in Occupied Iraq
A review by Anna Godbersen
While Christian Parenti is embedded with American troops in Iraq, a soldier from a largely Republican squad asks him if The Nation, for which he is writing, is a Republican magazine. 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. His title is intended in a darkly ironic sense instead, and many of the Iraqis he talks with conjure the phrase to refer to the lack of basic services, jobs, safety, and order since the invasion. 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. There are drugs and prostitution, explosions and Islamic prayer hanging in the background. There is the stifling heat and the unrest among civilians who live in constant fear. Parenti spends time with soldiers, and reveals their frustrations and their gallows humor; what Kellog, Brown & Root serve them for dinner; and where they masturbate. He describes the scene at the budget Hotel Agadeer, where Parenti lives for a time, home to freelance writers, shady characters, and Iranian pilgrims. He also gives a portrait of his translator, Akeel, who goes from hating to being nostalgic for Saddam as the occupation wears on. Parenti relates these scenes in a hardened tone, but each one reads like a striking and disturbing reminder of the horrors of war.
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