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The Fall of Baghdad Hardcover – September 23, 2004

4.8 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The press coverage of the second Iraq war was notable for the American military's program assigning journalists to be "embedded" with specific military units. While this afforded more personal coverage, the reportage was inherently narrow, missing out on the larger perspective of a sprawling and complex situation and telling stories only from the American troops' point of view. Such is not the case in The Fall of Baghdad, journalist Jon Lee Anderson's harrowing account of the Americans' capture of the Iraqi capital. Anderson was not embedded but on the ground in Baghdad and recounts the increasing anxiety and dread of Iraqi citizens as they try to prepare as best they can for a seemingly inevitable invasion. Not only were the Iraqis fearing for their lives, dwelling as they did in what they knew to be the largest target city in the nation, they also lived in fear of Saddam Hussein while he was still in power and so projected a facade of desperate optimism and unfailing loyalty. Anderson chronicles the collapse of this feigned allegiance and the Iraqi people's joy of being free of Saddam but also reports hints of the kind of anti-American sentiment that would come to deadly fruition in the months following the end of conventional fighting. Additionally, Anderson tells of the journalists covering the war, who struggled with the conflict between their drive to tell the story of what was happening and their desire to stay alive. Anderson keeps the scope of his book limited to the situation within Baghdad, omitting any mention of the larger political issues related to the war, which means that the book is not only non-partisan and highly focused but also incredibly claustrophobic, capturing the feeling of being trapped in a city about to be devastated. --John Moe

From Publishers Weekly

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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Press HC, The; First Edition edition (September 23, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594200343
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594200342
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.3 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,484,297 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Barron Laycock HALL OF FAME on September 23, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Of the many accounts finding their way into print regarding the journalist's eyewitness view of the onset of war in Iraq, few are as singularly exciting or as authentically spontaneous as this rendering from veteran news correspondent Jon Lee Andersen, whose account of the approach and early progress of the war on the ground in Baghdad is quite unnerving. Like a descent into Dante's Inferno, the reader is swept into the swirl of explosions, confusion and depravity that the war drags in its fateful wake. Unlike most foreign correspondents, Andersen was already positioned in the city before the onset of hostilities, and was not embedded with American soldiers as were most of his counterparts. For that reason, he can deliver a quite diverting and totally uncharacteristic view of the pedestrian's view of the war up close and personal, without either the protection or the potential interference of the military in determining what he sees or how he interprets it. And what he sees is harrowing, indeed.

Andersen witnesses the unraveling of the social fabric as the daily tension and anxiety regarding the forthcoming blitzkrieg mounts into a crescendo of emotions and activity. The average man on the street understands all too well that they live within the very bulls eye targeted by the stealth bombers and the cruise missiles; yet they prepare for the coming hostilities with what the author views as an astonishing degree of resignation and a simple acceptance of the overwhelming fact that the Americans are coming, and that there is little or nothing they can do about it. And in the mix of the fear and loathing was an exigent fear of the current regime, with its endless capacity to punish anyone they might construe as unruly, discontented, or disloyal.
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Format: Hardcover
Jon Lee Anderson is a reporter who has realized the importance of building relationships with people in Iraq so he can tell the story of the country from a person to person perspective. He is obviously trusted and respected by people who are willing to take risks so he can witness the effects of Saddam's rule and the war on the day to day life of those he interviews.

I found the book fascinating and adding so much depth beyond the daily news. What the news never relates is how warm and friendly the Iraqi people are even in the face of the current chaos in their country. It is striking and moving when Jon Lee consistently describes how the people he talks with separate the U.S. Government and military from him as an individual American reporter.

The reader is made aware that Iraq can't just be seen as "a country" but should be viewed as individual people whose lives are being profoundly effected every day in every way by the Coalition presence and the lack of security.

Iraqis seem to see talking to Jon Lee Anderson as an opportunity to give their opinion about the occupation and state their frustrations and questions. He in turn has, through the book, given their thoughts a voice that wouldn't be heard any other way. I wish our leaders would listen to what they are saying.
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Format: Hardcover
I must admit to being confused about Iraq. While it is a story still unfolding it is just now that the books are beginning to come out. You have to wait for the books because the news programs are so bad, the expression 'if it bleeds it leads' seems true.

Jon Lee Anderson had a different view of the war. He was in Baghdad before the war started and stayed there through the American takeover. This perspective is quite diffferent than those of the embedded reporters covering the war from the viewpoint of the military units. He knew and indeed was friends with a number of Iraqi citizens. He wrote a series of stories for the New Yorker magazine which became the foundation for this book. His stories and more important his analysis provides a stabalizing viewpoint in a situation that is certainly confusing to those of us looking at it from have a world away.
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Format: Hardcover
An excellent book which looks at the war through the eyes of Iraqi's that the author knew within the city.

The early chapters without a question paint a picture of a country in the grip of a murderous madman. Every indication shows every interview shows people doing what was needed to survive. Its kind of sad to read of people debasing themselves to get by.

The war itself was even more unreal, I can't consider what goes through the author's mind while listening to the drivel he is told by the people in charge.

The most interesting part is the post war bit and the Iraqi character. There are two things here to consider:

1. Iraqi's had spent decades adapting themselves to live under Saddam. Many actually were able to live quite well. They knew what was expected and acted accordingly. When that was gone many just couldn't cope. Instead of death coming from one known source, it could come from many at any time. This will be a real test of the character of Iraq and its ability to become a free society.

2. As a person of Siclian origin I recognize the way these people think. It is like thinking of the Mafia. You fear it as it can kill you, you respect it because their way of thinking is how you are taught, and even admire it because it is a power that is from your own race, it is that combination that kept and keeps many from "rating" out the mob. This is the same thing that keeps many people from helping us in Iraq. It is a love/hate relationship.

As the attackers concentrate on their fellow Iraqis (such as today's murder of children) this might change, it is one of the reasons why the mob doesn't tend to strike in its own neighborhoods.

A fine read
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