29 June 2008

Learn more about Iraq

Susan Schnurr wrote from her island in Maine with a review and an assignment. It sounds like the book some of the White House officials should have read six years ago.

I will take the opportunity to add my recommendation for Stop-Loss, a powerful movie about American soldiers' experiences.

"The time has come for a book recommendation. The Mid East is VERY complicated, and nowhere have I found it better explained than in the book War Journal: My Five Years In Iraq by Richard Engel.

"Normally I do not read books full of blood and gore and gratuitous violence, but the author has the credentials to make a person sit up and take notice. He speaks Arabic, has lived in the Near East for years, and was in Iraq before we invaded it.

"He has a lot more to say than the sound bites in the evening news. The book is both hard to read and hard to put down, and we learn a lot about Iraqi culture and Islamic culture as well. We have to give thanks for every minute Richard Engel survives to report another day. If he keeps doing it, he will die there. He risks his life every minute he is in Iraq.

"I am extremely impressed with his summary of the differences between Shia and Sunni. I read Islam for Dummies and didn't get as clear a picture. Also, with examples, he is able to give us insight into the paranoia of Islam. Some examples are absolute lunacy: Israel has trees that are loyal to Allah, and, when Judgement day comes, Jews will try to hide behind the trees, but the trees will call out to the Moslems that here is a Jew behind it. Jews, knowing this, are trying to cut down all the trees, but there are too many. Other examples sound almost rational: We would not be making the huge mistakes in Iraq if it weren't part of some larger plot so that the Sunnis can rule again because obviously we wouldn't want the Shia to rule. Or the obverse, we came in to put the Shia in power. Clearly to most Iraqi rational observers that can't be true because that is virtually handing Iraq over to Iran so there must be some sort of conspiracy not yet clear.

"Engel got to meet with Bush. The account is fascinating because Engel is another person who finds Bush to have a good mind. This is the second book I have read which shows that Bush is motivated by idealism.

"There are some parallels that show up in the book From the Islamist: Egyptian Politicians are corrupt; Islam is the solution. Israel is on our border; Islam is the solution; Dirty water is making my child sick; Islam is the solution. From George Bush: The Palestinian Authority has collapsed; Democracy is the solution. Iraq is in chaos; Democracy is the solution.

"This was a painful book to read, but it is not hard reading. You can probably never find a better book to increase your understanding as to what is happening in Iraq.

"EVERYONE should read it."

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