cover image Ahmad's War, Ahmad's Peace: Surviving Under Saddam, Dying in the New Iraq

Ahmad's War, Ahmad's Peace: Surviving Under Saddam, Dying in the New Iraq

Michael Goldfarb, . . Carroll & Graf, $26 (354pp) ISBN 978-0-7867-1515-2

Ahmad Shawkat, an educated Iraqi Kurd, was imprisoned and tortured by Saddam Hussein's regime for his dissident writings, fought in the Iran-Iraq war and endured the misery of life under the U.N. sanctions. Public radio correspondent Goldfarb hired him as a translator when he was covering the 2003 invasion and found him to be almost a poster person for the Bush administration's vision of a reconstructed Iraq—a secular, cultured, tolerant intellectual with a fierce commitment to democratic principles. Shawkat seemed poised to flourish after Saddam's fall when he received a grant from the occupation authorities to start a political newspaper and a "democracy training institute." But, Goldfarb says, the return of a corrupt ex-Baathist establishment under American patronage and the rise of Islamic militancy dashed Shawkat's hopes for a liberal democracy, and his editorials against these two tendencies finally got him assassinated. Goldfarb draws a delicate portrait of his friend and of the growing chaos and disillusionment of Iraqi society, where Shawkat's idealistic but rudderless writings—he named his newspaper Without Direction —were pushed aside by hardening attitudes. Shawkat emerges as a tragic figure, a voice of individual conscience in a country still ruled by rigid ideology and tribal loyalties. Photos. Agent, Ron Goldfarb . (Aug. 22)