“America’s Wars” #1 – “War Journal – My Five Years in Iraq” by Richard Engel

This book (published in 2008) starts in 2002 or 2003, when Engel entered Iraq before the war began, intending to wait out the early “shock and awe” stage, which I think he assumed would promptly lead to the fall of Saddam Hussein and regime change. He expected to witness to the most exciting event of the decade.

Engel was (and is) courageous to the point of recklessness. It was no surprise to learn that his marriage ended during his time in Iraq. Engel is a highly credentialed journalist (ABC and NBC) and speaks Arabic. He was working freelance when he decided to enter Iraq and await the invasion.

Engel discusses “war porn”. I think he means images and anecdotes that are true, shocking and add nothing new or significant to anyone’s understanding. The most descriptive word is “gratuitous”. I have encountered that kind of “porn” in other places, even in fiction. I won’t recommend “World Made By Hand” to anyone, despite its interesting plot premise. I threw it in the trash, a very rare fate for any book that passes through my hands.

Engel wrote another book about Iraq and reported as well on Afghanistan and the Arab Spring. In 2012, he and his news crew were kidnapped and held for five days (according to Wikipedia), an experience Engel wrote about in Vanity Fair. I hope he stays alive and keeps writing.

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