If you want to get a feel for what life under US occupation in Iraq was like in 2003, The Freedom by Christian Parenti has you covered. The Freedom reads like a journal as Parenti documents his travels across the recently “liberated” war-torn country.
“Ah, the freedom. Look, we have the gas-line freedom, the looting freedom, the killing freedom, the rape freedom, the hash-smoking freedom. I don’t know what to do with all this freedom.” Akeel, a twenty-six-year-old Baghdad resident, on life in the new Iraq.
Parenti doesn’t just report from action-packed epicenters on the ground. He really gives the readers insight into the physical and emotional reverberations after the United States toppled Saddam Hussein.
Armed with nothing but a local-translator, Parenti interviews residents and fighters across the country. In Baghdad, although once hopeful, Iraqis were slowly starting to lose confidence in Washington’s ability to rebuild the country. Reading this book over a decade later and looking at current events is discouraging and depressing to say the least.
The Freedom includes as many perspectives as possible– including the rank-and-file members of the US military– who aren’t exactly sure why they’re in this strange foreign country fighting a guerrilla war they haven’t properly trained for and are starting to question if they’re really the “good guys” after-all.
But most impressive of all, is when Parenti travels to the city of Fallujah’s tribal-dominated al-Anbar province. The Freedom paints a picture of Mujahadeen fighters comparable to freedom-loving rural Americans.
Parenti describes many situations that keep you on the edge of your seat: tip-toeing around Taliban check-points, ducking from IED shrapnel, and telling stories of fellow journalists staying in his hotel.
The Freedom definitely helps the reader paint a mental picture of 2003 Iraq from the eyes of civilians, fighters, reporters, and US military. It will keep you engaged and wondering what will happen next even though it covers a story we think we know so well. This type of reporting was hard to come-by back then, and is even more-so today.