- Series: Reflections of History
- Paperback: 212 pages
- Publisher: Modern History Press (August 1, 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1932690700
- ISBN-13: 978-1932690705
- Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.4 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 11.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 9 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #10,372,617 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Iraq Through a Bullet Hole: A Civilian Returns Home (Reflections of History) Paperback – August 1, 2008
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Jameel was a playwright of the Iraqi National Theater and theatrical critic for Al-Thawra, the official newspaper of Iraq from 1981--1985. He fled Iraq to during Saddam Hussein's regime and worked in Jordan for an Iraqi opposition radio station. During this time, Jameel converted to Christianity. In 2002, he migrated to Australia where he currently resides. His Iraqi background, his distance from the present situation in Iraq from his years' absence, and his Muslim upbringing and current Christian faith provide Jameel with multiple unique perspectives on the situation in his country. In Iraq Through a Bullet Hole, Jameel reports on his experiences honestly and effectively because of this impartial yet informed view. Any reader who wants to understand Iraq's modern history and the moral and political concerns of the U.S. occupation will be enlightened by this striking memoir.
The viewpoint of the Iraqi people has rarely been heard, but Jameel reports on a variety of his countrymen's thoughts, providing us their actual words, words they would not exchange with Americans or the media, but reserve to speak only within the safety of their family circles. Most Americans, whether in moral agreement about the war, believe the U.S.'s purpose is to bring democracy to Iraq; the media depicts Iraqis desiring democracy, as reflected in the repeatedly broadcast depictions of Iraqis pulling down Saddam Hussein's statue and celebrating in the streets over the American takeover of Baghdad. While Iraqis may have found Hussein's regime intolerable, within a couple years, the American occupation has caused many Iraqis to look back with nostalgia to Hussein's presidency.
The people of Baghdad suffer without the electric grid they previously had, relying on generators they only dare run a few hours a day to air-condition their homes or run their basic electric appliances. Worse, the Iraqis live in greater daily fear of the American soldiers than they did of Hussein. They avoid Americans at all costs, following far behind their military vehicles, constantly afraid to make eye contact with the soldiers, while the soldiers are constantly vigilant and ready to pull the trigger at the slightest suspicion that an Iraqi may attack them.
Americans will be astounded that Iraqis first viewed the war as a United States trick to turn Iraq over to Iran. Nor can Iraqis be expected to welcome the American occupation when for years the United States' economic sanctions against Iraq brought hardship. The presence of Westerners in their land has made many formerly non-religious Iraqis turn to extreme forms of Islam for comfort and a sense of control over their situation. Issam Jameel's family rarely followed Muslim rituals while he lived in Iraq but now his family constantly prays and worships at the local mosques.
The most insightful yet disturbing perspective reported by Jameel was from his own brother, a staunch zealot for Islam. Jameel reports many of his arguments with his brother.
When Mohamed said it was a Christian war to destroy Islam, the discussion developed spontaneously into a religious debate.
"This is not true, why do you assume that America is the representative of Christianity? This is ridiculous! Can't you see that there are many American Muslim soldiers serving with the troops?" I replied immediately, trying to explain that the Western regimes are run today free from religious influences.
I told him that if George W. Bush wants to portray himself as a good Christian by attending a church meeting, that doesn't make him a representative of the Christians in America, because, after all, a lot of churches have been opposing the invasion of Iraq.
In any case, my comments weren't able to change his opinions, and he still assumed that the main aim of America was to destroy Islam, whether in Iraq, Afghanistan, or in any part of the world.
It was easy to see that Mohamed had adopted a radical Islamic perspective, as he made no attempt to hide behind polite words. He declared openly that everyone who didn't adopt Islam should be treated as an infidel, citing the verse from the Qur'an that reads:
"Everyone who follows a religion other than Islam will be one of the losers."
"But the word `Islam' in that verse doesn't refer to the religion," I said. "You must read the verses that come before it, to understand the meaning of the verse. The Qur'an says that everyone who submits himself to God is a Muslim," I added, trying to explain the meaning of the complex word-play in this verse....on this interpretation, a good Christian or a good Jew is a Muslim.
Such conversations allow the reader to visit Iraqi homes, as if the titular bullet hole is a voyeuristic peephole allowing us to see and listen to conversations that would otherwise never be reported to us. Jameel's reporting is not only impartial but his years of exile from Iraq make the changes in his homeland more visible to him than to his countrymen: "I was sure they couldn't fully appreciate the disaster in which they were living, because they had become accustomed to such scenes over many long years."
As Jameel's first book written in English, Iraq Through a Bullet Hole serves appropriately as an interpreter between Iraq and the West. Jameel style has its imperfections--English is, after all, his second language--but his literary expertise as a playwright has served him in making his report memorable. He never dramatizes his experiences, never exaggerates, embellishes or fictionalizes to glamorize or enhance their horror, but relates each event with brutal, straightforward honesty. The Western media has depicted Iraq as through a camera's angle, marginalizing what it does not want its viewers to see; by contrast, Jameel presents an uncensored snapshot of daily life in Iraq during the summer of 2005--a date sadly less than halfway through what may well become the longest war in U.S. history.
The American public has long waited for this informative, unbiased, uncensored Iraqi voice to provide a more accurate evaluation of the United States' military presence in the Middle East. Iraq Through a Bullet Hole belongs on the desk of every congressman and Pentagon official, on the bookshelf of every military family, and in the luggage of each soldier sent overseas. Issam Jameel has given the Iraqi people a voice, which, after all, is the expressed purpose of the United States' efforts to create a new democracy.
-- Tyler R. Tichelaar, Ph.D., author of The Marquette Trilogy
I signed up for a review copy of IRAQ THROUGH A BULLET HOLE through Library Thing's Early Reviewer program, and was thrilled to be one of the "winners." As a self-described liberal/progressive who is opposed to the war, I was interested in reading an Iraqi's take on the American invasion and occupation. In particular, I was hoping to get an idea of what everyday life is like for Iraqis, especially in relation to living conditions under Saddam's rule.
While we do get a brief sketch of the daily routines of many Iraqis - the threat of bombings by insurgents, seemingly random and unprovoked military attacks, chronic unemployment, a lack of steady electricity - I felt that Jameel's "diary" only scratched the surface. For example, the author spends a disproportionate amount of time discussing the ordeal he undertook in order to sell a house he'd been awarded by Saddam's government; as a result, large chunks of the book read like "Iraqi Real Estate for Dummies." He also drones on, ad nauseam, about seemingly endless theological arguments he engaged in with his family during the visit. After his exile, Jameel and his wife converted to Christianity, while his family of origin increasingly embraced a fundamentalist strain of Islam in the face of American occupation. Put a devout Christian and devout Muslim in cramped quarters, and hijinx is bound to ensue, no? By the end of the book, this atheist infidel want to shake the self-righteous piousness out of every last Jameel brother.
I committed to reading a chapter of IRAQ THROUGH A BULLET HOLE a night, so I could post a review in a timely manner. However, I had trouble getting through a whole chapter without falling asleep. I've read academic and theoretical texts that are more exciting! Though I do understand and appreciate that English is not Jameel's native language, some sections of the book are extremely difficult to read: poor grammar, odd word choices, even missing words. Here, I blame Jameel's editor; but even the most adept of editors couldn't possibly make this diary-in-retrospect an exciting read. (Jameel calls it a "diary," but it 1) was written after the fact and 2) doesn't read like a diary, i.e., with short, blow-by-blow entries.) It's not just a lack of emotion (which, as some reviewers have mentioned, may be a cultural difference) which bothers me; I don't necessarily want Jameel to blame Bush, the United States, or God or Allah for the current state of Iraq. Cultural differences aside, this is a dry volume, written about an engaging topic.
In another author's and/or editor's hands, IRAQ THROUGH A BULLET HOLE might have been an interesting, insightful read. Unfortunately, *this* read is anything but.
I must recommend this book to journalism students, political science and cultural studies buffs, and anyone wishing to attain a grounds-eye view on the situation in Iraq during one of its most turbulent periods. It is refreshing and often jarring to get uncensored, insiders' opinions from Iraqi citizens on how they feel about their country and heritage and the invading U.S. and Coalition forces, to get a view into the lives of average citizens and their struggles. Too much is lost with even the best investigative journalism we receive here in the States.
Issam Jameel returned home under regrettable circumstances. A male relative of his was working as a bodyguard when he came under attack by insurgent forces. He survived the attack, but was killed by United States Army forces that arrived later and mistakenly thought the attack was still underway. This tragedy colors and informs his entire trip. He visits his family who resides in various locales in Baghdad that live in different spectra of the cultural rifts that split the nation. We see a nation fractured by conflict, shell-shocked and paranoid. He has religious arguments. He watches as a few of them prepare to flee the country. Even his entry and exit from the country is informative and rife with tension. I very much enjoyed this tale of Iraq unbiased by American preconceptions.