Friday, February 17, 2006

Night Draws Near

Whenever I go to Barnes and Noble, I check the current affairs section. There's always a new book about Iraq these days. Anthony Shadid's book "Night Draws Near."is one of the few books that caught my eye, AND I wanted to read it.

I have reasons to choose Shadid's book instead of the many Iraq-related books published lately. First, Shadid is an Arab-American. Second, he covered the 2003 war with Iraq from Baghdad. Third, his mention of a Abd Al-Halim's song in his book didn't hurt my feelings. It's actually the reason I decided to read the book. The song has nothing to do with the situation in Iraq. I like listening to Halim songs. But, that's another story.

In his book, Shadid is mostly an observer of the events unfolding in Iraq. He tries his best to keep his personal opinions aside. He still hints on where he stands in short sentences throughout the book. An approach I appreciated while reading his book.

The stories covered in this book are mostly from Baghdad and central Iraq. I wish he covered places like Basra and the South. No surprise there. Basra doesn't get much attention from journalists. Basrawis are used to being neglected by almost everyone. It started in 1980, and it's still happening until this day.

Shadid got to meet many Iraqis before and after the collapse of Saddam's regime. The story I enjoyed the most was of Iraqi widow Karima and her children. For me, Karima represents the ordinary, poor, Iraqi widow, who tries to make sense of the world around her while trying to raise and feed her family.

Shadid also covered the lives of wealthy Iraqi families. Families with computers, money and overseas travels among other privileges. In my opinion, these are the minority of the Iraqi population.

I got to two conclusions after reading the book. First conclusion, Iraqis' main problems are comparing everything to Iraq's golden times during the 70s. Anytime you talk to an Iraqi -- including myself -- he/she will tell you how great it was during the 70s. Iraqis need to look forward and understand that the 70s won't come back. Time goes forward and not backward.

Second conclusion, Iraqis had great expectations. Iraqis expect America to fix everything without joined efforts from the Iraqis themselves. Iraqis aren't to blame for this expectation. They lived for more than 30 years under a dictatorship that dictated everything in their lives. They had one path to follow. Almost everything was decided and provided for them by the government. Now, they're responsible to choose their own path. They seem to have a problem with this simple fact.

On the other hand, Americans don't seem to understand this reality. Not because they're ignorant. But because most Americans don't wait on their government to do everything for them. Mark has a story that better explains it to you. When he covered the aftermath of May 1999 tornado in Moore, Oklahoma, he asked people living in the devastated area what their needs were. Most residents said they needed tools and lumber. They wanted to start fixing their homes by themselves instead of waiting on FEMA or insurance companies for an immediate help. I noticed the same attitude after Hurricane Rita hit Southeast Texas.

I still think Iraqis can pull things together and turn Iraq into a better place. But, I could be wrong.

Night Draws Near

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