Thursday, March 19, 2009

Book Review: Waiting for an Ordinary Day

Title: Waiting for an Ordinary Day: The Unraveling of Life in Iraq
Author: Farnaz Fassihi
Rating: ****1/2
Tags: iraq, war, insurgency, daily life

I wish every American would read this book. It is about the daily life of Iraqis from the time the U.S. invaded into 2006. The author is Farnaz Fassihi, an Iranian American journalist.who covered Iraq for the Wall Street Journal. She traveled around Iraq and told the stories of everyday Iraqis

If it an't broke, don't fix it. Iraq was broken, but it wasn't our responsibility nor in our power to fix it. Instead we brought death, sectarian violence, poverty, forced migration, loss of basics such as electricity, adequate hospitals and schools... and so on.

Fassihi shows the complexities of the situation. There were Iraqis who welcomed the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. For the Sunnis, though, Saddam's overthrow meant a loss of power and prestige. After the invasion, Iraqis knew that the U.S. Army protected only the oil ministries, and it led them to conclude the war was for oil. As their lives descended into chaos and terror, hatred for Americans grew. One particularly effective chapter imagined what New York would be like if it had gone through what Baghdad has.

Here's Fassahi's summary of her time in Iraq:

"I've borne witness as people's lives have unraveled around me. I recall a poignant quote from Martha Gellhorn, a pioneer female war reporter, from her book The Face of War: "War happens to people, one by one." War doesn't just happen to the military, whose soldiers are fighting, or to the government, who wages it. It happens to people, one by one, house by house, and family by family. I have not met a single Iraq whose life hasn't been touched by tthe war or altered because of everyday violence. I have heard this sentence from Iraqis, over and over, "until now, we are waiting". What are they waiting for, I wonder. Perhaps for just an ordinary day." (p. 272-3).

Too much war coverage in Iraq has focused on America, and seems to not consider Iraqis as important. They are. They are human beings who have suffered at our hands. We need to be reminded of that, whenever we thing we know what is best for the world, and whenever we think we have unlimited power to change the world.

Publication PublicAffairs (2008), Edition: illustrated edition, Hardcover, 304 pages
Publication date 2008
ISBN 1586484753 / 9781586484750

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