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Ahmad's War, Ahmad's Peace: Surviving Under Saddam, Dying in the New Iraq Hardcover – July 10, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Ahmad Shawkat, an educated Iraqi Kurd, was imprisoned and tortured by Saddam Hussein's regime for his dissident writings, fought in the Iran-Iraq war and endured the misery of life under the U.N. sanctions. Public radio correspondent Goldfarb hired him as a translator when he was covering the 2003 invasion and found him to be almost a poster person for the Bush administration's vision of a reconstructed Iraq—a secular, cultured, tolerant intellectual with a fierce commitment to democratic principles. Shawkat seemed poised to flourish after Saddam's fall when he received a grant from the occupation authorities to start a political newspaper and a "democracy training institute." But, Goldfarb says, the return of a corrupt ex-Baathist establishment under American patronage and the rise of Islamic militancy dashed Shawkat's hopes for a liberal democracy, and his editorials against these two tendencies finally got him assassinated. Goldfarb draws a delicate portrait of his friend and of the growing chaos and disillusionment of Iraqi society, where Shawkat's idealistic but rudderless writings—he named his newspaper Without Direction—were pushed aside by hardening attitudes. Shawkat emerges as a tragic figure, a voice of individual conscience in a country still ruled by rigid ideology and tribal loyalties. Photos.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Americans are understandably focused upon the loss of our own blood and treasure as the war in Iraq drags on. But this extraordinary work should remind us that it is the people of Iraq who suffered under Saddam and who continue to bear the brunt of the ongoing carnage.Goldfarb is an award-winning foreign correspondent for National Public Radio. His work is a deeply personal account centered on his friendship with Ahmad Shawkat, a Kurd who served as his interpreter during the early "conventional" phase of the war. Shawkat, an eloquent and inspiringly brave man, was a victim of Baathist tyranny, a reluctant warrior in the Iran-Iraq war, and a man committed to building a freer and more compassionate society. Tragically, the savagery of this conflict leaves no one safe, and his martyrdom makes this a poignant, sad tale.

Jay Freeman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Carroll & Graf; 1st Carroll & Graf Ed edition (July 10, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0786715154
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786715152
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 6.3 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,926,887 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Michael Goldfarb is an award-winning author, journalist and broadcaster.
A native New Yorker he moved to London in 1985 and spent many years covering conflicts and conflict resolution from Northern Ireland to Bosnia to Iraq for public radio.
His life as a reporter led directly to writing books. He wrote his first, "Ahmad's War, Ahmad's Peace: Surviving Under Saddam, Dying in the New Iraq," following his experiences as an unembedded reporter in Kurdistan during the first phase of the war. It was named a New York Times Notable Book of 2005.
A Kindle edition is now available.
His journalism has won the highest honors on both sides of the Atlantic including the DuPont-Columbia Award and Overseas Press Club's Lowell Thomas Award in America and the Sony Gold award in Britain. He has also been a fellow at the Joan Shorenstein Center on Press and Politics at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government.
His most recent book is Emancipation: How Liberating Europe's Jews From the Ghetto led to Revolution and Renaissance.
Michael Goldfarb can be reached at Michael-Goldfarb. You can listen to his recent radio work at

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Ted L. Reinert on October 3, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Besides being an extremely well-written crash course in what went on in Iraq at the outset of the current war, Michael Goldfarb's superb book describes the beautiful friendship that developed between him & his extraordinary interpreter while Goldfarb was covering the war in Iraq. Goldfarb has been a voice of reason on NPR for many years; anyone familiar with his first rate radio work will easily be able to hear him telling this story -- he writes the way he talks: the voice is engaging, precise & always lucid. He has a gift for describing even the most complicated events in a way that the general reader can readily understand. As engaging & personable as Goldfarb is himself, he never lets you forget that the real hero is Ahmad, an amazingly resilient & likeable fellow -- a man of honor & courage & of incredible personal warmth.

Despite the cruel tribulations recounted in the story, the book is notable for its gladness of spirit -- it isn't grim & forbidding -- quite the contrary: Ahmad's story is a sad one, but the man himself was not a sad person, & certainly not one given to self-pity. He is full of life & enthusiasm & you will be glad to meet him.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Mr. Howard I. Schuman on August 16, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Of all the articles and books that I've read concerning the modern history of Iraq, none has affected me as much as Michael Goldfarb's wonderful new work. Goldfarb brilliantly interweaves the history of Iraq with life story of his interpreter Ahmad--his suffering, joy, hopes seemingly fulfilled by the fall of Saddam, hopes corroded by the miscalculations and lack of planning by the American government. No matter which side of the Iraqi debate a reader has taken, this is a book that challenges all pre-conceived ideas. Perhaps even more importantly, it is a shattering personal story written with enomrous skill and perception by an exceptional journalist.
Essential reading.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Jason Cooper on February 20, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This book is the author's tribute to the late Ahmad Shawkat, a Kurdish translator who worked with Goldfarb when we was covering the war in Iraq for WBUR radio. Goldfarb is a London-based reporter for the American public radio station; he first met Shawkat shortly before the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime in 2003.

Goldfarb was more than a man who knew the language. As an intellectual, he had moved in revolutionary circles for many years, agitating against Hussein's government. He had been captured, imprisoned and tortured on a couple of occasions and once even met the dictator. As a Kurd, he rejected the sectarian leanings of many of his people in favor of a single, unified nation. As Goldfarb explains, Ahmad Shawkat was uniquely qualified not only to translate words but to provide context to what the reporter was seeing and hearing on the streets of a new Iraq.

The first section of the book follows the two men together as Goldfarb reports on the war for public radio. (His dispatches can be heard on WBUR's Inside Out web site.) The last section is the story of Shawkat's tragic death at the hands of an assassin and the months after when the author returns to the war-torn country. The middle section, Ahmad's Life, is the author's reconstruction of his translator's story. From his early life as a bookish boy through college and into adulthood, the reader learns to know a man who never stopped searching for the answers in life, and the solutions, whether they be of a political or a religious nature.

Goldfarb's own take on the war in Iraq may surprise some readers. Although he is very critical of the Bush administration's handling of the post-war situation, the author and reporter initially supported U.S. action there in the belief that the Iraqi people could be freed.
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Format: Hardcover
Ahmad's War, Ahmad's Peace: Surviving Under Saddam, Dying In New Iraq is an outstanding book that inspires and educates.

The story centers around the United States' invasion of Iraq and the subsequent overthrow of Saddam Hussein and Ahmad Shawkat, an Iraqi Kurd. Ahmad is an intellectual, a reader, a writer, a husband, and a father. He's had many different ups and downs throughout his life in a country that didn't quite value its intellectuals and often times tried to silence them.

As told by Michael Goldfarb, a British journalist in Iraq to cover the war, the story is both beautiful and heartbreaking. Going behind the scenes, Mr. Goldfarb shows us the life in Iraq from the perspective of a native.

Very few books remain neutral on the subject of Iraq War. Goldfarb manages to do so well. I highly recommend picking this one up.
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