Anthony Shadid on Iraq

It’s only now, looking back on some of our shows from the last few months, that I can see an Iraq mini-series of sorts that should have been obvious for a while: smart talkers who, one at a time, have helped us understand what’s going on in the bewildering, occupied country thousands of miles away.

First was Kanan Makiya — the only Iraqi in the series, interestingly enough — who wouldn’t let us forget the horrors of Saddam’s regime and was still making a passionate case for the war as humanitarian intervention. Then came Juan Cole, the academic, historian, and blog aggregator extraodinaire. Last week was John Burns, the veteran war reporter with a breadth and vision that helped us glimpse, if only for an hour, the past, present, and possible (and terrifying) future of Iraq.

Now we welcome Anthony Shadid, the Pullitzer Prize-winning reporter for the Washington Post (and, before that, the Boston Globe). It’s his turn get us past the screaming headlines — the numbing numbers of new dead or the fitful constitutional process — and to focus our attention on the war and the country as he sees it. We’re turning to him for a lot, but taking our cue from his new book, which has at its beating heart a mosaic of human stories from Iraq: not generalizations, not caricatures, but real people.

Anthony Shadid

Washington Post reporter

Author of Night Draws Near

[In a studio in Oklahoma City, OK]

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  • keepmoving

    I would like to relate a story told to me by my pediatrician.

    He was born and raised in Iran, near the border with Iraq, prior to the revolution that ousted the Shaw of Iran. I asked him what he thought of the war in Iraq. This is the story he told me. (As close to word for word as I can remember. Quotes are definitely word for word.)

    First he made it clear he was not Iranian, he was Persian. “I hate to have to say it like that, but it is true. I am not a Shite. Remember, there has been war with the muslims for thousands of years. I am Persian.” Then he told me he had personally suffered at the hands of Sadaam H.

    He worked in a resort near the Iraqui border. He said he enjoyed talking to the Americans and the English because english was the language he needed to learn and they were the nicer tourists in the area. Everything was going well in Iran, until the Shaw was disposed. When the religious Shites took over everything changed. By now he was a doctor, but he could no longer enjoy worshipping or living the way he wanted. Then the Iraquis invaded Iran for 8 years. Because he lived on the border, he was in the thick of the battles. “They burned our villages, raped our women, destroyed our way of life. I could not leave. I was a doctor and I had patients who needed me.”

    Finally, Iraq stopped attacking Iran and turned their attention to Kuait. “Who do you think was living there by this time? My mother and brothers.” Again, they were victims of Sadaam’s violence. He immigrated to the United States and was happy to hear Sadaam was being removed from power. “It is time to get out of there though. We have paid those people in blood, in money, and in time. It is enough. We owe them nothing else. I will tell you this, this is the hard part now. If the Shites take over Iraq, like it looks like they will, we have failed. Iraq will become another Iran and there is no hope. They will destroy Iraq in the same way they destroyed Iran.”

    This conversation has stuck with me. His upclose and personal observations were helpful in puting this whole thing in perspective. I know they couldn’t find any WMD’s, but it seems the people are glad to be rid of a ruthless dictator. It is time for them to take matters into their own hands. We need to get out.

  • Phil

    I hate to say that the situation in Iraq is far more complex than most Americans are willing to dedicate time to understanding. Being a nation of fast food, one hour photo processing, “around the world in 30 minutes” news program consumers it is hard to understand that the solution to problems in Iraq are not as simple as U.S. forces leaving the area.

    Having spent a year living in Iraq from 2003 to 2004 I can say that I have seen the confusion of both the Iraqi people as well as the military forces there. Once I returned to America I struggled (and continue to do so) with understanding what I had just lived through as well as been exposed to. Through my photography and tons of reading I feel that im making progress…..but in doing so I feel more angry over media reports, the speaking of so called experts (that have never been to Iraq), and those with self serving political agendas.

    I was happy to be a part of things in Iraq in the early months after the invasion but as it became clear that we had no true understanding of the complexities of working elements of Iraqi culture and religion that there was a mess at hand. Needless to say my ideas and feelings about the situation in Iraq have changed since that day in May 2003 when I stepped off the C130 at Saddam Int Airport. I just hate the thought of the friends (to include Iraqis) that I know, as well as those that I do not that have been wounded, killed, or in so many other ways been affected by the war having gave so much for nothing in return.

    Anyway, I would like to share a book that I found to be a good starting point to understanding some of the complexities of Iraqi life. The book is by Steven Vincent, he was killed a hand full of weeks ago in Basra. His book is called In The Red Zone…..check it out.


    i wonder if as many people wonder if we are missing some v ery basic points concerning the occupation of iraq as i am. why are we so arrogant (the governmental policy/decision makers) as to believe that we can go into another country with thousands of years of history of non-democratic government and think we can all of a sudden change the cultural mentality. they’re not western cullture peoples and we shouldn’t expect them to become so in a couple of years. also, our presence there is unwelcome and pressing. think of the movie “red dawn” depicting a similar invasion of america by the soviets and our hollywood reaction to that. same scenario. i supported the bush election but strongly opposed the invasion of iraq because i knew we were being sold a bag of BS. lets get back to speaking with dollars and not weapons. we cant be the police force of the world. if we chose to be, there would be many more deserving targets than iraq

  • joel

    I can’t resist this…. Speaking of dollars, it would seem to me the best thing one can do with one’s dollars is to stop paying someone to do what one is complaining about. Why does that seem to be so difficult to understand?