For every great historical event, at least one reporter writes an eye-opening account of such power and literary weight that it becomes joined with its subject in our minds - George Orwell's Homage to Catalonia and the Spanish Civil War; John Hersey's Hiroshima and the dropping of the first atomic bomb; Philip Gourevitch's We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families and the Rwandan genocide. Whatever else is written about the Iraqi people and the fall of Saddam, Jon Lee Anderson's The Fall of Baghdad will remain the classic book about the Iraq War. No subject has become more hotly politicized than the toppling of Saddam Hussein's regime, and so a thick fog of propaganda has obscured the reality of what the Iraqi people have endured and are enduring, under Saddam Hussein and now. Jon Lee Anderson has created an astonishing portrait of humanity in extremis, a work of great wisdom, human empathy, and moral clarity. In channelling a tragedy of epic dimensions through the stories of real people caught up in the whirlwind of history, Jon Lee Anderson has written a book of timeless significance.
New Yorker writer Anderson's eyewitness account of the invasion of Baghdad is a thoughtful document of war, written with stunning precision. Anderson arrived in Baghdad during the eerie calm before air strikes began in March 2003. While questioning ordinary Iraqis about their country's future, he also traveled to Iran, where he interviewed war-weary Shiite Iraqi refugees. Back in Iraq, Anderson sought out members of Saddam's Baath Party and probed the ambiguous nature of their relationship with their dictator: Ala Bashir, a plastic surgeon and artist who was close to Saddam, provides Anderson with a character study rich in contradiction. Equally compelling is a poet named Farouk, whose accounts of cocktail parties under Saddam have, in Anderson's recounting, a tension and irony reminiscent of Cold War Hitchcock thrillers. Anderson also makes his openly anti-Saddam driver, Sabeh, a key character and a link to Iraqi quotidian culture. In a voice refreshingly free of machismo, Anderson proffers an inside view of war reporters' scramble to cover events and of life at the Rasheed and Palestine hotels, where most journalists stayed. In this original narrative (not a collection of his New Yorker pieces), Anderson's unobtrusive voice mediates the voices of others faithfully and with humanizing integrity, resisting any impulse to convert what he observes into political argument. Instead, he collects grimly cinematic snapshots of Iraqi casualties that will haunt readers even after the invasion has receded into history.