cover image War Journal: My Five Years in Iraq

War Journal: My Five Years in Iraq

Richard Engel, . . Simon & Schuster, $28 (400pp) ISBN 978-1-4165-6304-4

NBC News' Middle East bureau chief Engel (A Fist in the Hornet's Nest ) tags along on marine patrols and survives his share of ambushes, truck bombs and kidnapping attempts in this riveting memoir of the Iraq War. His worm's-eye reportage of the spiraling carnage exposes the grisly details omitted from nightly newscasts—a dog carrying a severed human head, a massacre scene in a bakery redolent of sweet aromas and the merry trilling of a victim's cellphone—along with his own numbed reactions. His battles with network suits and right-wing bloggers who insist that he find good news to report are a leitmotif, as is his scrupulous discernment of the big picture beneath the chaos of war. Fluent in Arabic, with access to Iraqi prime ministers and insurgents as well as American leaders (including George W. Bush), he deftly elucidates the bitter rivalry between dethroned Sunnis and rising Shiites and, behind that, Iran's skillful consolidation of power in Iraq as the United States flounders. Engel's fine, heartfelt but disabused account of this bewildering conflict renders the suffering in Iraq with understanding and compassion. Photos. (June 3)