- Hardcover: 256 pages
- Publisher: Spence Publishing Company (November 2004)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1890626570
- ISBN-13: 978-1890626570
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 18 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,858,296 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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In the Red Zone: A Journey into the Soul of Iraq Hardcover – November, 2004
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Some of the best journalism to come out of Iraq since the liberation; not uncritical yet sympathetic, sober but hopeful. -- Arthur Chrenkoff, columnist, OpinionJournal.com
Vivid, unsparing, wise, and truthful. -- Karl Zinsmeister, author, Dawn Over Baghdad
We are not likely to get another view of Iraq's misery this vivid, unsparing, wise, and truthful for many years. -- Karl Zinsmeister, author of Dawn Over Baghdad
About the Author
STEVEN VINCENT is a freelance investigative journalist and art critic. His work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Art & Auction, National Review Online, and numerous other art and political journals. He has lived in New York City for 25 years.
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Vincent went to Iraq, not as an embedded journalist largely ensconced in the relative safety of the fortified and heavily guarded Green Zone, but as a vagabond, exploring Iraq's chaotic and lawless Red Zone and its people. In the Red Zone gives us a prospect rarely viewed. And Vincent returned and returned to Iraq's Red Zone, to learn and write more--to try to explain more. In the Red Zone is a precious journal of what he saw and what he learned; it can teach much to us and to our leaders.
In the Red Zone is an incredibly insightful book, drawing not only upon Vincent's cabbing it, unarmed and without bodyguards, throughout Iraq, but also on his research into the country, its people, its at-each-others'-throats religions, and tribal fissures. A supporter of the our invasion of Iraq, Vincent says there is plenty of blame for the current, seemingly intractable mess, not the least of which is what he sees as our country's failure of will to do all that is necessary to complete the job and help the Iraqi people to "escape the dungeon of their history." Vincent sees that history as a black hole of misogynist (that suppresses the potential contributions of half the Iraqi population) martyrdom-infused, malevolence.
In an eerie foreshadowing, Vincent describes a talk he gave to budding Iraqi journalists, now freed from Saddam's spiked yoke, telling them about how important a free press is to a functioning democracy. One of the young Iraqi reporters later told him: "You talk about freedom, but Iraqi journalists are still not free. If we go too deep into some stories, we will anger certain people-and they will kill us." True to that warning, Steven Vincent was murdered in Iraq, and speculation ranges from his writings linking Iraqi police to the Islamic fanatics seeking to destabilize the post-Saddam Iraq, to Vincent's friendship with a Muslim woman translator.
Vincent tells us that he was fully aware of the dangers, which finally exploded in a hail of bullets that silenced his voice. His reportage remains, however, not only to warn us of the layered dangers that face Iraq's future, and ours, but also to give us possible paths for their mediation and conquest. We ignore In the Red Zone at our peril.
Mr. Vincent begins his journey on the highway that leads from Jordan to Baghdad. This highway gives the reader a pretty good idea of what Iraq as a whole will be like. On it, shiny SUVs and junkmobiles alike zoom at breakneck speed through the desert, avoiding roadside thieves and potholes. Should travelers need a break, they can lounge on one of countless picnic tables installed in years past on this road by Saddam's "planners", and refresh themselves with blasts of wind and sand under the 116 degree sun.
The author travels to Baghdad, the Sunni triangle, Kirkuk, Basra, and to the Holy Shia cities in the south. He reports the views of the cynics, and the disillusioned, as well as those of the (not at all scarce) intrepid optimists who persist in believing in the possibility of a democratic Iraq.
Mr. Vincent doesn't mince words as he describes the many unpleasant and even horrible scenes he finds throughout the country, but also of the growing pockets of Iraq reclaimed from destruction. Throughout he gives a very even-handed account, such that we can identify with both foreigners and locals, and with passionate Iraqis on opposite sides of many ideological wars.
I found his chapter on the Shiite pilgrimages and holidays, excellent. (In order to gain entry to these, he poses as an American Shiite, and must recite boilerplate Muslim creed in his broken Arabic). Here, we join him in his immersion and admiration of the Shiites' as he recounts their history of perseverence in the face of centuries of Sunni domination, but we also join him as he confides his more cynical verdicts on the Shia glorification of bloodshed and death he witnesses during several religious celebrations.
I also found his chapters on life in Basra outstanding. Here Mr. Vincent recounts his experience under the wing of a brave and iconoclastic Muslim woman, Nour, a Basra native. As his guide, she risks her reputation and indeed her life (she receives serial threats from those who view her as out of line), as she guides him to interviews with mullahs, fanatics, moderates, opportunists, party figures, and soldiers, and translates for him their warnings, criticisms, and their....occasional admiration, accompanied by pleas to carry on, and report the truth about Iraq and their dreams for its renewal as a nation finally free from dictatorship to us, the future readers of their story.
As an aside, reading the book following Mr. Vincent's death was eery and moving. Knowing that he was ultimately murdered in Basra made reading Mr. Vincent's description of his travels there riveting and painful.
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No matter if you are for or against the war in Iraq, this is a must read.Read more