When war broke out in Iraq, every major U.S. network pulled its correspondents from the scene. Despite the risk, Richard Engel stayed. As our tanks entered Baghdad in April 2003, he was there, bringing the Iraqi war into American homes as a stringer for ABC news. Determined to deliver the whole Middle East story, Engel moved to Cairo in 1996 after graduating from Stanford to learn 'street' Arabic. Then to dig even deeper into the complicated powder-keg of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he settled in Jerusalem.
Now as Iraq enters its post-war phase and the Gulf region continues to dominate our nation's consciousness, more and more Americans will come to know and trust Richard Engel--especially in his current role as a correspondent for NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw. Both analytical and anecdotal, this book leads us through the war in Iraq, dissecting a myriad of Middle East issues, all from the vantage point of someone who is 'on the ground and in the streets' to get the real story.
Journalist Engel's gripping account of the recent war in Iraq begins with himself rushing around in flak jacket and helmet to videotape an attack on Baghdad's Palestine Hotel, a woman journalist nearby shouting, "We're all going to die"; he conveys his shock on learning the hotel, which housed Western journalists, had been fired on by an American tank. This scene is just the first of many vivid depictions of Engel's life in the war zone. Unlike most U.S. correspondents, who covered the war "embedded" with U.S. troops, Engel worked apart from the troops as ABC-TV's main Baghdad correspondent. The world he describes is filled with fascinating, terrible dynamics: he depicts local residents waiting with a strange calm for the fighting to begin; journalists attempting to outwit the Iraqi "minders" assigned by Saddam Hussein's regime to watch over them; Iraqis overjoyed at Saddam's fall but ambivalent about a Western occupation. He also describes the experience of reporting while ducking both American and Iraqi shooting; in one incident, he relates, reporters became "human shields," providing cover for Iraqis firing anti-aircraft missiles at American planes. Engel navigates a tightrope: he conveys the excitement of being a war correspondent without neglecting the horrifying aspects of war. Most important, he manages to convey an accurate, balanced portrayal of Iraq both during the war and after. As a result, this book might restore some of the public's lost faith in journalism.