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30 review for War Journal: My Five Years In Iraq

  1. 5 out of 5

    Doreen Petersen

    Excellent book! The author tells it like it is in Iraq. This was a war the US could never win much like Vietnam. The US should never have invaded Iraq on faulty information that Washington believed was true. This is a must read.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jim

    An outstanding account of reporting in Iraq. It comes off as being honest, and critical, and forthright about events in the country. He does not seem to have written the typical breast-beating memoir, but a frank account. Some of the events he describes are horrific and heartrending (a father allowing his daughter to die at the hands of her kidnappers because she was raped; a child stuffed and roasted in order to send a message to his parents and the Shiite community; etc). Not a book for the sq An outstanding account of reporting in Iraq. It comes off as being honest, and critical, and forthright about events in the country. He does not seem to have written the typical breast-beating memoir, but a frank account. Some of the events he describes are horrific and heartrending (a father allowing his daughter to die at the hands of her kidnappers because she was raped; a child stuffed and roasted in order to send a message to his parents and the Shiite community; etc). Not a book for the squeamish. I think he correctly critiques the conservative mouthpieces who criticized the press for not sending back feel-good stories. This was the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time, and we will pay for it financially and diplomatically for decades. This would be a good book for anyone who thinks they might want to report from such an area.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Daniel

    This book peels back the layers of the Iraq conflict. War Journal shows the Bush invasion of Iraq, and the internal events that followed, from an eyewitness perspective. Engel, an NBC News correspondent, lived in the Middle East for many years before going into the country just before the invasion. He experienced the lead-up to the war, the "shock and awe," the insurgency, and the surge. The reader not only gets a vivid, sometimes graphic, view of the war from the inside, but also how Engel deal This book peels back the layers of the Iraq conflict. War Journal shows the Bush invasion of Iraq, and the internal events that followed, from an eyewitness perspective. Engel, an NBC News correspondent, lived in the Middle East for many years before going into the country just before the invasion. He experienced the lead-up to the war, the "shock and awe," the insurgency, and the surge. The reader not only gets a vivid, sometimes graphic, view of the war from the inside, but also how Engel deals with it. At times, it really wears on him and it shows in the writing, but even he admits the war has affected him in a number of ways. If you've seen him on TV reporting on events, this book may change your perspective and give insight on the vast amount of knowledge he has about the region. This isn't one of those positive "We're bringing democracy to Iraq" types of books, but instead a pragmatic, realistic view of how it is achieved, if it is ever achieved, and the process and costs it has on everyone, American and Iraqi. War Journal is a very good book about not only the conflict, but how a journalist handles that situation.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jeannine

    He continues to relate to the readers about his time in Iraq & he's very descriptive about the carnage & the wretched situation that has arisen from the invasion & occupation of Iraq. I am genuinely surprised he hasn't been fired yet from NBC News for his frankness about the situation in Iraq. A must read. He continues to relate to the readers about his time in Iraq & he's very descriptive about the carnage & the wretched situation that has arisen from the invasion & occupation of Iraq. I am genuinely surprised he hasn't been fired yet from NBC News for his frankness about the situation in Iraq. A must read.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Faith

    This is not an easy book to read. But is was an amazing story of survival and courage. It's important and as much as possible, unbiased. It's probably the most fleshed out story of what is actually going on in Iraq. This is not an easy book to read. But is was an amazing story of survival and courage. It's important and as much as possible, unbiased. It's probably the most fleshed out story of what is actually going on in Iraq.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Scott

    Like it or not. We will be in Iraq for the forseeable future. Great book to learn a little about how we got there and some of the events that have unfolded in the past 5 years. Engel has been there from the beginning. A fast read.

  7. 5 out of 5

    E.P.

    In this eye-witness account of the events in Iraq from 2003 to 2008, Richard Engel, NBC correspondent for the Middle East, repeatedly asks the question that others should have been asking a lot earlier and a lot louder: namely, what the heck was the US doing there? This is a personal account of Engel's experiences in Iraq, which ranged from being embedded with US Marines on patrol to attending Saddam Hussein's trial, with lots of individual color and stories about personal adventures and tragedie In this eye-witness account of the events in Iraq from 2003 to 2008, Richard Engel, NBC correspondent for the Middle East, repeatedly asks the question that others should have been asking a lot earlier and a lot louder: namely, what the heck was the US doing there? This is a personal account of Engel's experiences in Iraq, which ranged from being embedded with US Marines on patrol to attending Saddam Hussein's trial, with lots of individual color and stories about personal adventures and tragedies, as Engel's marriage collapsed and he became increasingly addicted to the war zone, and increasingly convinced he was going to die there. Unsurprisingly, it's a compelling read, as Engel demonstrates a journalist's flair for a good story. But it is also an examination of the giant mess that the US found itself embroiled in when it decided to invade Iraq and engage in some ill-advised regime-building. Engel makes clear that, as would be expected, not only was the American military technologically superior to the scrappy forces opposing them, but the vast majority of American troops were highly trained and motivated professionals, who pretty much always won in any kind of conventional battle. But, trying to do something they were not set up to do, and hampered by conflicting orders and a stunning lack of comprehension of the situation on the ground at the higher levels, they were still totally incapable of keeping any kind of order in the country, which, despite the removal of Saddam and the institution of democracy, imploded into chaos and a horrific civil war that claimed the lives of tens of thousands of people, many of them innocent civilians. Engel traces the various reasons for this, but it all basically boils down to a lack of knowledge of, or interest in, the cultural, historical, and political forces at work. The US president and the State Department wanted to turn Iraq into a Western-style democracy and had a specific and very short timetable to do so, while also attempting to impose a highly complex system of parliamentary democracy that involved multiple rounds of voting and negotiations. The result, in a country with no history of democracy, and little interest in becoming one, was a hijacking of the democratic process by hardline religious forces, backed by Iran, who, unlike the US, understood what was going on. "War Journal" is an interesting and worthwhile read in its own right, and it also brings up a number of issues that the US really, really, really should consider, and consider very, very hard before getting any more heavily embroiled in yet another poorly understood and defined foreign conflict (*cough* Ukraine *cough* Syria). The overwhelming technological superiority of the US military over any other military in the world, combined with the belief in a one-size-fits-all democracy, has led to a hubristic tendency to solve all problems by forcibly imposing democracy, even where it isn't wanted or needed. But it keeps turning out that the most sophisticated weapons in the world are no substitute for diplomacy and a basic knowledge of how a given culture functions, and an undemocratic imposition of democracy often leads to less democracy, rather than more. Not to mention the unfortunate fact that the US keeps arming terrorists who then go and use the US's own weapons against them. You'd think we'd have learned by now, but, painful a lesson as Iraq was, it may not have been painful enough to effect any long-term change.

  8. 4 out of 5

    H.M.S.

    Excellent, albeit a very intense read. At one point, I even had to put it down for a couple of weeks before continuing it. Now I’ve read it twice. Richard Engel is an expert on this subject matter especially considering he literally lived through it being one of the few western journalists who spent the entirety of the war living and working in the Middle East. I highly recommend reading this to anyone looking for a better understanding of the events during the war in Iraq. It won’t answer all y Excellent, albeit a very intense read. At one point, I even had to put it down for a couple of weeks before continuing it. Now I’ve read it twice. Richard Engel is an expert on this subject matter especially considering he literally lived through it being one of the few western journalists who spent the entirety of the war living and working in the Middle East. I highly recommend reading this to anyone looking for a better understanding of the events during the war in Iraq. It won’t answer all your questions, but it’ll certainly help.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Emma Sotillo

    I appreciate how candid Mr Engel was when re-telling his meeting with President George W. Bush towards the last part of this book. It seemed difficult to write about a lengthy war in one volume, such a good volume. His final chapter, when he finds himself back at the Palestine Hotel is heart wrenching. I can relate and that is why I liked it so much.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Christopher Fry

    It's difficult to think this happened in our time. If you ever wonder what you are capable of, read this. There is a savageness in the heart of men which needs to be tamed. Religion is the source of much evil. This is a must read book. It's difficult to think this happened in our time. If you ever wonder what you are capable of, read this. There is a savageness in the heart of men which needs to be tamed. Religion is the source of much evil. This is a must read book.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Anna

    Very important collection of personal experiences by Engel. His writing is excellent.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Will

    I wish Richard would write more books. We all wish we had enough guts to be where he goes. We want to see what he sees, but in my reading room, where there are no bullets, bombs, and carnage.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Barbara Ann

    disturbing - a must read

  14. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen

    I watch Richard Engels on NBC News. I did not know he wrote a book on Iraq (2003-2008). I happened to find his book while looking for other books. I decided to check it out. Via the NY Times, I've decided to read about the Iraq/Afghanistan War. This is a good first book to begin to understand the Iraq War; Shiites and Sunnis, etc. Written in a "user friendly, reporter" style. Somewhere in the book (I can't find the quote), he seems to prophesy (too strong of a word) about ISIS. Terrorists from I I watch Richard Engels on NBC News. I did not know he wrote a book on Iraq (2003-2008). I happened to find his book while looking for other books. I decided to check it out. Via the NY Times, I've decided to read about the Iraq/Afghanistan War. This is a good first book to begin to understand the Iraq War; Shiites and Sunnis, etc. Written in a "user friendly, reporter" style. Somewhere in the book (I can't find the quote), he seems to prophesy (too strong of a word) about ISIS. Terrorists from Iraq/Syria/Iran, etc - crossing borders (many that were artificially created after WWI.) By early 2007, more than three million Iraqis had escaped the country, most of them to Syria, Jordan, and Iran. The refugee crisis was breeding more frustration and extremism, and creating a new pool of recruits for al-Qaeda. p. 320. Here are some other quotes that are noteworthy to me: The “aftermath pix,” as we called them, all looked the same. A burnted-out car of Humvee. Kids climbing on the debris. Women in loose black dresses wailing on a curbside. A shirtless injured man in his thirties with a mustache on a bloody hospital bed. If only they spoke English, perhaps the viewer would have cared. To many of our viewers, and many of the American soldiers in Iraq, it all looked like “Arab savages” killing one another for no good reason. American news broadcasts, including ours, often summed up the chaos with tired, generic throwaway lines like, “Good evening, more senseless violence today in Iraq” or “More random violence in Baghdad.” p. 201 But the seemingness senseless violence always became more real, more immediate, when I spent time with the troops. To our viewers, the soldiers and marines weren’t nameless, Arabic-speaking killers, or victims fighting for religions and ethnic groups most Americans really didn’t want to know about. Americans had never asked to know about Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds and lions and tigers and bears, oh my. But the troops were mostly churchgoing young men, former high school athletes, husbands and fathers from the small towns and inner cities of America. Everyone could relate to them. p. 203 Finding Zarqawi had been top-class detective work. Again, the U.S. military proved to the world that American soldiers were good hunters and fighters, svn if they were failing as occupiers and nation builders. p. 274 I am also convinced maps are essential to understanding the war inIraq, which has alway been more about geography, religion and power than democracy. If you know where Shiites, Suunies, and Kurds live, it’s easy to understand their struggles for dominance. If you see on paper how Iran is wedged between U.S. bases in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Persican Gulf, it helps explain why Tehran’s foreign policy seems so aggressive. From where Iran sits, it looks like the country is being surrounded, which it is. p. 327. So, I have a map to view the countries and cities. Next read - The Forever War by Dexter Filkins

  15. 4 out of 5

    Lauren

    I commemorated the tenth anniversary of the start of the Iraq War by reading this book. There are few, if any, Americans who witnessed more of what happened in Iraq over this extended period of time, and Mr. Engel’s experiences, compiled within War Journal, make for a sobering, if incomplete, tale of post-invasion Iraq. I read Mr. Engel’s first book, A Fist in the Hornet’s Nest, about two months ago, and I enjoyed it. It’s interesting then to read War Journal, because from its very first pages, i I commemorated the tenth anniversary of the start of the Iraq War by reading this book. There are few, if any, Americans who witnessed more of what happened in Iraq over this extended period of time, and Mr. Engel’s experiences, compiled within War Journal, make for a sobering, if incomplete, tale of post-invasion Iraq. I read Mr. Engel’s first book, A Fist in the Hornet’s Nest, about two months ago, and I enjoyed it. It’s interesting then to read War Journal, because from its very first pages, it’s easy to see how much Richard Engel has changed in the intervening years – and not just because of his front-row seat to the carnage in Iraq (I sincerely hope his employment package at NBC includes lots of free therapy). In his first book, Mr. Engel is a hungry freelance reporter, eager to do whatever he needs to do to make a name for himself. In his second book, he is now one of the most recognizable American faces in Iraq and employed by one of the largest news organizations in the world. There’s a confidence in his tone that wasn’t present in his debut. Which isn’t to say his writing style isn’t still cringe inducing in places – it is, and the pacing is screwy, but again, the substance trumps the style tenfold. Mr. Engel’s strengths are his abilities to observe and explain, and some of his commentary is so logical and so disturbing that it’s no surprise George W. Bush invited him for a chat at the White House. There are many memorable tidbits to take from War Journal, but two in particular struck me: 1. At one point, Mr. Engel compares himself to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in that they were both young men who journeyed to Iraq in 2003 to launch their careers and make a name for themselves. It’s an insightful if chilling observation. 2. Mr. Engel explains the complicated situation in Iraq in clear, easy-to-understand terms. I’m not sure I’ve read a better summary of what’s happening in Iraq: I finished the book with both a better understanding of the whole playing field and a better appreciation for the complexities that face the country. War Journal was published in 2008. At some point, I hope that Mr. Engel will return to the subject of Iraq for a third book. War Journal feels incomplete (it would be, after all, another three years after its publication before American troops left the country), and a final book would make this loose trilogy an even more important addition to understanding this period in history. Highly recommended.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Mike

    This is book is fascinating because of its perspective, but more than a bit disturbing at the same time. It's a little difficult to read at times, yet the pages fly by and the time passes quickly for a five year period. Through the eyes of a long-time Middle East reporter the reader gets a clear picture of just what a mess Iraq was, is, and is likely to be for the foreseeable future. The book runs from the point of the capture of Saddam Hussein and thus the terminus of the then-current motive fo This is book is fascinating because of its perspective, but more than a bit disturbing at the same time. It's a little difficult to read at times, yet the pages fly by and the time passes quickly for a five year period. Through the eyes of a long-time Middle East reporter the reader gets a clear picture of just what a mess Iraq was, is, and is likely to be for the foreseeable future. The book runs from the point of the capture of Saddam Hussein and thus the terminus of the then-current motive for the invasion (the 'WMDs' pretext having long since vaporized), through the various flavors of civil war, phony 'show' elections and corrupt US-installed governments up to the 'surge' that was supposed to solve everything. At the same time Bush and Rumsfeld are railing at home against the 'negative' press that is coming out of Iraq, Engel tells of dodging body parts falling out of trees as he walks by and Iraqi citizens felling palm trees to build defenses against their fellow Iraqi Muslims. Once the centuries-old Shia-Sunni animosities erupt in full-force, the "democratic" elections that the US government touted so proudly quickly fade to the sideshow status that they deserve. The lessons in the book are many -- the unreal, amazing crazy-quilt patchwork of half-truths and outright inventions that came out of the Bush administration as things went from bad to worse; the frustration of being a journalist who knows the truth, but is faced with a public (and sometimes editors) who don't want to hear it. The one abiding truth that permeates the book from beginning to end, is Engel's continuing admiration, respect, and understanding for the courage and resourcefulness of the US military personnel hopelessly caught in this mess...even when they were forced to stage-play a particular part for the benefit of the folks back home. Finally, if there was any shred of glamor left in anyone's mind about being a "war correspondent" this book should remove it permanently. Engel's personal experiences, observations, and frustrations with a situation that demanded reporting, but resisted the truth at every turn, as well as personal fears that come out in snatches of his personal video journal lend a humanity and credibility to the story that sometimes seems to be the only thread of sanity in a very strange time.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Ensiform

    The author, NBC News’ Middle East correspondent and a resident there for over a decade, describes how the Baghdad he knew deteriorated over the years following the Iraq invasion. Despite many charges of bias, he seems to have no agenda, reporting that indeed the US troops were welcomed at first with flowers and whiskey when they arrived “as liberators” in 2003. However, due to – what else? – near-total ignorance on the part of American administrators of Arabic culture, history, or perspectives, The author, NBC News’ Middle East correspondent and a resident there for over a decade, describes how the Baghdad he knew deteriorated over the years following the Iraq invasion. Despite many charges of bias, he seems to have no agenda, reporting that indeed the US troops were welcomed at first with flowers and whiskey when they arrived “as liberators” in 2003. However, due to – what else? – near-total ignorance on the part of American administrators of Arabic culture, history, or perspectives, the quest for democracy (a concept which Enegel argues is not understood the same way in that part of the world) broke into civil war, with Shiites and the outnumbered Sunnis battling both US troops and each other for power, even as Iran effortlessly extended its influence with a flow of money and arms that America did not know how to match. His Iraqi assistants are kidnapped, and he himself is nearly killed several times as the violence continues to escalate. Through the book, Engel rails against those who criticize the press for “refusing” to report the “good news;” he and his team are out of the Green Zone and report on what they see, and he bitterly resents being mischaracterized by stateside partisans with no knowledge of what’s going on in Iraq. It’s an easy read; Engel has a conversational, chatty style, though at times it’s easy to get bogged down in all the unfamiliar names and organizations. Engel more than makes his point that while America has the most advanced army in the world, in order to bargain from a position of strength it needs to have more understanding of regional issues. During his interview with Bush, Engel indicates the president had a firm grasp on the major players – “two PhD’s worth of information” on Iraq – “but still no idea how to deal with Arabs.” Without cultural knowledge, we can only occupy and demand, we can’t lay long-term plans.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Margaret

    It actually took me awhile to finish this book (months and months), and even then I admit I skipped around parts of it, although in the end I think I read everything. Mr. Engel is an NBC News Middle East correspondent, and the book chronicles his time covering the current ("Bush II") Iraq War. Oh my Lord is this a tough read - just some very, very difficult stories about what the war has done to this country and to our military fighting the war. But, that being said, a lot was done to this count It actually took me awhile to finish this book (months and months), and even then I admit I skipped around parts of it, although in the end I think I read everything. Mr. Engel is an NBC News Middle East correspondent, and the book chronicles his time covering the current ("Bush II") Iraq War. Oh my Lord is this a tough read - just some very, very difficult stories about what the war has done to this country and to our military fighting the war. But, that being said, a lot was done to this country and was continuing to be done to this country and people before the war. As such, I can't say it is a right war or wrong war, but in the end my opinion is a small thing and doesn't count here. What's important is what is happening there, and Mr. Engel does an excellent job of reporting his observations. This isn't Pulitzer Prize winning writing - I suppose there is a reason he's a televised news correspondent and isn't writing for print (or on-line) journalism - but it doesn't have to be sterling journalistic writing. He has put himself in some extremely difficult situations in order to relay the information to us, the American tax-payer who is footing the bill, and I give him a lot of credit for it. The job is not easy, physically or emotionally, and I admire him for both taking on the work and for relaying his observations to us. We all need to learn about and be aware of what is happening in this country, and Mr. Engel provides an accessible book that provides a lot of hard information.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Leslee

    This was a tough read. I think I probably get too emotionally involved with stories about the military serving in Iraq--it makes me think of my parents, my high school friends and acquaintences who are now serving on active duty, college friends who are "over there," people from my church, my parents' neighbors... I grew up in the military...and though I'm now firmly a civilian, it alters the lens through which I view this war and the men and women fighting. All that is my (very) long way of sayi This was a tough read. I think I probably get too emotionally involved with stories about the military serving in Iraq--it makes me think of my parents, my high school friends and acquaintences who are now serving on active duty, college friends who are "over there," people from my church, my parents' neighbors... I grew up in the military...and though I'm now firmly a civilian, it alters the lens through which I view this war and the men and women fighting. All that is my (very) long way of saying that this book took me a long time to read and wasn't particularly pleasant. However, I feel that I now have a much better understanding of the forces at play in Iraq. The chapters explaining the historic animosity between Shia and Sunni Muslims in Iraq and the broader Middle East alone made the book worth my time. Engel's descriptions of the violence he witnessed were horrifying, often so much so that I had to put the book down and leave it for a few days. However, his writing made crystal clear the dehumanizing effects of this war on everyone involved. The text was quite readable and even entertaining at times, Engel's personality comes through clearly. All in all a good book, though not necessarily an enjoyable one.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Carole

    Giving this a fairly high rating because it's not often you get to read a book written throughout the chaos of the Iraq War. I don't even mind that he gives his opinion because even though he's a journalist, he was in the thick of it which validates his right to an opinion (for me). Several thoughts: the fact that Iraqis were freed from Saddam's dictatorship, only to find that for hundreds of thousands of them, the best recourse to escape the constant crime, bombs and kidnappings was to flee to Giving this a fairly high rating because it's not often you get to read a book written throughout the chaos of the Iraq War. I don't even mind that he gives his opinion because even though he's a journalist, he was in the thick of it which validates his right to an opinion (for me). Several thoughts: the fact that Iraqis were freed from Saddam's dictatorship, only to find that for hundreds of thousands of them, the best recourse to escape the constant crime, bombs and kidnappings was to flee to places like Syria with (wait for it) a dictatorship. Worth reading his discourse with President Bush during his five years in Iraq. The best part for me was the concise communication of the differences between Shia and Sunni. My only criticism? Every other book I've read on the Middle East these past two years includes maps. Engel did not. Towards the end of the book he describes how he explains things by drawing maps to everyone. Which made me say out loud 'then why the heck aren't there maps in your book?' Recommend this highly to anyone who wants to explore Iraq at the time of the War.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Ken

    War writing simply doesn't get any more potent than this. Richard Engel is on the front lines of the Iraq war but is more than an observer. He's victim of bomb attacks and a confident to Generals. His personal life consumed by the war, he's lost close friends and some sense of humanity. This is the underbelly of the war. The story America needs to hear. This is an amazing work because we not only get a clear explanation of the cultural currents that direct the violence and political landscape, b War writing simply doesn't get any more potent than this. Richard Engel is on the front lines of the Iraq war but is more than an observer. He's victim of bomb attacks and a confident to Generals. His personal life consumed by the war, he's lost close friends and some sense of humanity. This is the underbelly of the war. The story America needs to hear. This is an amazing work because we not only get a clear explanation of the cultural currents that direct the violence and political landscape, but we experience everything as intensely personal (through Engels eyes). Of the various books I've read on the war, this is one of the finest, which is saying a lot. He's up against authors like George Packer and Seymour Hersch. What "Journal" offers is the perspective of a man who is there himself. He is with Marines when they attack, and barely escapes being kidnapped himself. At one point he comes face-to-face with a suicide bomber (you'll have to read the book). For anyone wanting to truly understand what has happened in Iraq these past seven years. This is THE book.

  22. 5 out of 5

    James

    It's been a while since I read this, but I remember much of it. I remember that this was the first thing I had read that had any validity to claims that things weren't going so well in Iraq, despite what the Bush administration had to say about it. It was the first time I accepted the fact that (not at all unique to this war) there were sharks who made money solely off of shady deals, and unfulfilled contracts. I had never thought about corruption on that sort of level before. Richard Engel was t It's been a while since I read this, but I remember much of it. I remember that this was the first thing I had read that had any validity to claims that things weren't going so well in Iraq, despite what the Bush administration had to say about it. It was the first time I accepted the fact that (not at all unique to this war) there were sharks who made money solely off of shady deals, and unfulfilled contracts. I had never thought about corruption on that sort of level before. Richard Engel was there from the very start, and filled this with many exciting tales of roadside IEDs going off, being under heavy gunfire, etc. He is also an incredibly dedicated man. His marriage fell apart due to his dedication to journalism and moving to the middle east for so long. He is an amazing journalist. The book was filled with sad stories of soldiers dying beside him, uplifting ones of volunteering in orphanages, but mostly corruption. On everyone's side. It reads exactly like a journal too. I need to read this again.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Corey

    I always forget how great war correspondents books generally are. Even so, this one is definitely better than most. Engel does a great job of giving a great outline of the situation on the ground in Iraq from post-invasion until the Sunni uprising and the surge 5 years later. It's pretty brutal, but obviously it's a book about a pretty awful war. All the info is packed together very nicely in a really entertaining and well written narrative. There's no idealogical slant really, no overarching j I always forget how great war correspondents books generally are. Even so, this one is definitely better than most. Engel does a great job of giving a great outline of the situation on the ground in Iraq from post-invasion until the Sunni uprising and the surge 5 years later. It's pretty brutal, but obviously it's a book about a pretty awful war. All the info is packed together very nicely in a really entertaining and well written narrative. There's no idealogical slant really, no overarching judgments about the war or politics, which makes you trust his account a bit more than most. By the end, I felt fairly bad about myself for letting the war fade into the background, even though it's still raging 6 years after it started. There aren't any solutions in the book, in fact much of his experience shows that just aren't going to be any clean, elegant solutions to the problems in Iraq. As the weird and stupid quote's machine that is Donald Rumsfeld famously said, "war is messy."

  24. 4 out of 5

    Margaret

    So.... I read this book as part of my library's "Blind date with a book" event during February. I told myself I'd read whatever it was I chose [there was a display of books all wrapped in brown paper with pink heart with an extra library label on the outside so you could check it out before you got home]. I ended up learning a lot about the Iraq war (something I usually glossed over in the news). I guess it takes someone's personal connection to make it actually matter to my brain. It's well-wri So.... I read this book as part of my library's "Blind date with a book" event during February. I told myself I'd read whatever it was I chose [there was a display of books all wrapped in brown paper with pink heart with an extra library label on the outside so you could check it out before you got home]. I ended up learning a lot about the Iraq war (something I usually glossed over in the news). I guess it takes someone's personal connection to make it actually matter to my brain. It's well-written, but (obviously) some really horribly violent parts. The author even talks about "war porn," how people become addicted to videos/descriptions of these unthinkable cruelties. The passages in this book are not gratuitous, like an action movie, but designed to convey the reality of his experience.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Bruce Scott

    I've read several reminiscences of the Iraq invasion and occupation by reporters, soldiers, and diplomats, and this is the best one. Engel lived outside the Green Zone and befriended actors in the various communities that live within Iraqi boundaries. He was a victim of violence and saw it firsthand while embedded with American troops or in his own neighborhood. He was driven by the notion that he was witnessing firsthand the most important story of his lifetime, and as the consequences of the w I've read several reminiscences of the Iraq invasion and occupation by reporters, soldiers, and diplomats, and this is the best one. Engel lived outside the Green Zone and befriended actors in the various communities that live within Iraqi boundaries. He was a victim of violence and saw it firsthand while embedded with American troops or in his own neighborhood. He was driven by the notion that he was witnessing firsthand the most important story of his lifetime, and as the consequences of the war unspool, he may be right. His recollection of his long interview with President Bush, set near the book's end, is important: he concludes, like Peter Baker in "Days of Fire," that Bush was indeed the master of war policy during his presidency, not Cheney, and however wrong the strategy he pursued, he knew the actors and the issues.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Deodand

    Engel's explanation of what's going on "over there" is the clearest, most concise I've read. If you are wondering about the tangled clusterfuck of a mess that's going on in Iraq, this is the book to read. He can freely describe the many horrors he saw that he couldn't talk about on TV, so this book is rather gory - and made even more graphic by the truth of the situations. I can't conceive of a reason to tie my neighbours up, hoist them upside-down and use a drill to pierce holes through their le Engel's explanation of what's going on "over there" is the clearest, most concise I've read. If you are wondering about the tangled clusterfuck of a mess that's going on in Iraq, this is the book to read. He can freely describe the many horrors he saw that he couldn't talk about on TV, so this book is rather gory - and made even more graphic by the truth of the situations. I can't conceive of a reason to tie my neighbours up, hoist them upside-down and use a drill to pierce holes through their leg-bones. I am constantly amazed by the low value on human life over there. I will be puzzled forever about how a religious war against someone who shares your religion can go on for 1300 years. I get the feeling that Engel feels the same way.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Raegan

    Excellent book!! It is tough to read at some points, but a great perspective on what has been happening over in Iraq. Richard Engel has lived in the Middle East for 10-15 years and knows all the history. He breaks in down and explains the difference between the Shiites and Sunnis and why they have been fighting each other for thousands of years. I found it very interesting because he says that originally he was for the war, but has slowly changed his mind. As the book goes on, he gets more and m Excellent book!! It is tough to read at some points, but a great perspective on what has been happening over in Iraq. Richard Engel has lived in the Middle East for 10-15 years and knows all the history. He breaks in down and explains the difference between the Shiites and Sunnis and why they have been fighting each other for thousands of years. I found it very interesting because he says that originally he was for the war, but has slowly changed his mind. As the book goes on, he gets more and more cynical. You can feel him changing as he describes what it is like living in a war zone 24/7. The story he tells about getting to meet President Bush and having a one-on-one conversation with him is great! I highly recommend this book.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Natalie

    An amazing first-hand account of the struggle in Iraq. I've only read two other books about the current war in Iraq, and both of those were either by a soldier or with a journalist that spent his short time in Iraq with soldiers. Also they were written at the start of the war. This painted a much bleaker picture of the war. It's honest, wrenching, and heard to read. I loved how Engel delved into the history and the reasons behind why each side is fighting. I hear all the time about Sunnis and Shii An amazing first-hand account of the struggle in Iraq. I've only read two other books about the current war in Iraq, and both of those were either by a soldier or with a journalist that spent his short time in Iraq with soldiers. Also they were written at the start of the war. This painted a much bleaker picture of the war. It's honest, wrenching, and heard to read. I loved how Engel delved into the history and the reasons behind why each side is fighting. I hear all the time about Sunnis and Shiites and Kurds and it all seemed to blend together until now. We really fucked up in this, and this book it was finally helped me see that (I would argue that anyone that read this book with an open mind would be swayed by it as well)

  29. 4 out of 5

    Casey

    This is a hard book to read - and like most that are hard in this manner, they should be read. Engel was there for the US invasion and this book reports the deterioration and narrow and political focus of US farce of bringing democracy to Iraq. At many times, US politicos involved could have redirected this mess - but there was a narrative to follow and damn the reality that was happening before their eyes. An avalanche of missteps - but harder to absorb is the cruelty and disregard for a sense o This is a hard book to read - and like most that are hard in this manner, they should be read. Engel was there for the US invasion and this book reports the deterioration and narrow and political focus of US farce of bringing democracy to Iraq. At many times, US politicos involved could have redirected this mess - but there was a narrative to follow and damn the reality that was happening before their eyes. An avalanche of missteps - but harder to absorb is the cruelty and disregard for a sense of humanity. No death with dignity, just more and more barbarism. Journalism is the most dangerous job on the planet - we owe a huge debt to those who risk their lives to bring us the news. News we often don't even pay attention to....

  30. 5 out of 5

    Robert

    The author did a really good job providing the history and background information to help explain what lead to a majority of the dissension among the different groups in Iraq (Shiites, Sunnis, Kurds). I came away from this feeling like I have more knowledge as to why the different groups never get along, and how huge of an impact religion plays in that part of the world. His talks with U.S. and Iraqi soldiers are eye-opening too. I like how he tries to show opinions from all the different angles The author did a really good job providing the history and background information to help explain what lead to a majority of the dissension among the different groups in Iraq (Shiites, Sunnis, Kurds). I came away from this feeling like I have more knowledge as to why the different groups never get along, and how huge of an impact religion plays in that part of the world. His talks with U.S. and Iraqi soldiers are eye-opening too. I like how he tries to show opinions from all the different angles (including interviews with different Iraqi clerics and President Bush), even while stating his own opinions and beliefs on the war. Very informative.

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