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Aftermath: Following the Bloodshed of America's Wars in the Muslim World: The Death of Iraq and the Birth of the New Middle East Hardcover – 9 Jun 2009

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 608 pages
  • Publisher: Nation Books (9 Jun. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1568584016
  • ISBN-13: 978-1568584010
  • Product Dimensions: 15.6 x 4.9 x 23.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,083,163 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"In an extraordinary feat of reporting, Aftermath describes the impact of the war on families from Beirut to Baghdad to Afghanistan's Pushtun belt... It is a personal history and an unsparing account of what America has wrought in Iraq and the region."
--The Middle East

About the Author

Nir Rosen is the author of In the Belly of the Green Bird and has written for The New Yorker, the New York Times Magazine, Harper's, The Atlantic, Time, Mother Jones, The New Republic, and Rolling Stone. A fellow at the NYU Center on Law and Security, he lives in Beirut and New York City.

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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Red Eyes on 24 Aug. 2011
Format: Hardcover
I have high regard for Nir Rosen, and I make a point of watching all his youtube interviews, in which he appears bright, balanced, well informed and consistent. I also consider he is a brave young man -- who else would walk into those war zones as an un-embedded journalist, as he does?

And after reading the glowing reviews from Chomsky et al, I considered 'Aftermath' to be a must-have purchase.

However, I have to say, the book is just not that well written -- the prose is leaden, clumsy, confused and unclear, and Rosen meanders all over the place, often telling us irrelevant details that just muddy and befuddle his style and narrative flow -- do we really need to know that one of his interview subjects learned English from listening to hip hop songs, or that another had put on weight since Rosen last saw him, or had recently shaved his moustache? Rosen's attempts to give form to his characters emerges as wooden and simple. It becomes difficult to sustain motivation to wade through such a chaotic writing style, which is often dry and lacking in character (a surprising point, since his online interviews are so involving).

Rosen paints an unremittingly bleak view of the possibilities ahead for Iraq. It seems that every single man he interviews is full of violent hatred and thirst for vengeance. I understand the levels of relentless chaos and hate and violence that must exist in places like Iraq, but ultimately, Rosen's work de-humanises Arabs -- the Arabs in Rosen's pages are so drenched in blood, so disturbed, that they become impossible to recognise as fellow human beings.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Grand Dizer on 27 Aug. 2011
Format: Hardcover
I have to (respectfully) disagree with the reviewer 'Red Eyes'. I can see where he/she is coming from; however, Rosen has always had a bleak outlook on post-2003 Iraq - and with good reason. If one is looking for a carefully sculpted academic book then perhaps this book is not for you. However, for academics and generalists alike, I regard this book as invaluable in that Rosen covers murky events that we often heard about only through unsubstantiated rumour. For example, as things stand, I can think of no more detailed account of the civil war of 2006-2007 than the one found in this book - ditto in many ways regarding the mahdi army: intimate details that, for now, are unique in their insight.

Regarding the bleakness I think two points are crucial: 1) Rosen has consistently had a morbidly pessimistic view of post war Iraq (his earlier book 'Triumph of the Martyrs' is no less bleak). 2) More importantly, keep in mind the years he is covering on Iraq. It is largely 2003-2007 meaning before the decline in violence that began to take effect in 2008.

I am not as familiar with Lebanon as I am with Iraq so, from a position of relative ignorance, I would say that I took the chapters on Lebanon with a bit of scepticism. I am not sure whether his bleak outlook on Lebanon is as warranted as it is re Iraq - but then again his focus on Lebanon is mostly (though not exclusively) on the camps and Tripoli. But again, I am no Lebanon expert.

Highly recommend the book BUT keep in mind he is a journalist and it reads like an analytical memoir in places. If thats your cup of tea (as it certainly is in my case) then this book is for you. More broadly, regardless of any criticism we may have, even the most informed reader will benefit from Rosen's first hand experience and intimate knowledge of some of the most murky and ugly events in recent Iraqi history.
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Amazon.com: 12 reviews
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind 30 Mar. 2011
By Dienne - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I will start off by agreeing, reluctantly but whole-heartedly, with the criticism of Rosen's writing made in the review by Z. Cohen. This has got to be one of the most tedious books I have ever slogged through. It's roughly equivalent to reading a 560 page newspaper article. There is little flow between sections - we often jump abruptly to a whole new topic. There doesn't seem to be much order to the presentation - entire paragraphs could be put in an entirely different order and it would make little if any difference. Much of the text is basically a series of long quotes (not blocked, even when the quote comprises an entire paragraph or more), which read the way people talk and, hence, are difficult to follow. In fact, I have to admit that, try as I might, I couldn't force my way through the whole thing. I skipped the entire section on Afghanistan and only skimmed the final chapter.

Nonetheless, I believe the book deserves more than one star. I think Rosen is a consummate reporter. He interviewed hundreds of people for the book - Sunnis, Shiites, clerics, militiamen, militia leaders, government officials, American soldiers and officers, humanitarian workers, and simply ordinary Iraqis (and Syrians, Lebanese, etc.). He's not afraid to go where the story takes him and he put himself at great risk to cover events that few other English-speaking journalists were covering. Because of this work, we Americans have a perspective from the ground which we might otherwise not have if we rely solely on administration reports and embedded reporters.

But on the other hand, a 560 page book needs to have a focus, more of a point and needs to ultimately have an opinion. Rosen could have interviewed hundreds of Americans, from Main Street to Wall Street, regarding the economic melt-down, but without a focus and a point to make, it would just be a lot of random people's opinions wrapped up into one big package. That's essentially what "Aftermath" is, only regarding the Iraqi view of the Iraq war.

Furthermore, if Rosen's point was to increase sympathy for the Iraqis, he failed with me, at least as far as sympathy for Iraqi men. I do have sympathy for innocent women and children caught up in the testosterone-laden mess. But nearly every man that Rosen interviewed seems to be more part of the problem than the solution. Nearly everyone denies that sectarianism was a problem before the Americans came, and they all deny that they personally support sectarianism. But as Rosen gives them more rope to hang themselves, they nearly all eventually espouse anger, hatred and a desire for "revenge" against members of other sects, ethnicities, religions, etc. Some Lebanese Sunni protesters sum it up nicely on page 393: "We don't want sectarianism, but God is with the Sunnis!" Nearly every person Rosen interviews is focused on getting revenge for past injustices, real or perceived, some dating all the way back to the murder of Hussein, rather than focusing on how to move forward and build a new country.

I will give Rosen kudos for exposing how little the American forces and leadership knew about Iraq, its population and its culture at the time of invasion, how long it took them to start caring enough to start learning, and how inadequate their efforts were. Time after time the Americans, intentionally or unintentionally, ignite sectarian firestorms by favoring one group over another or pitting groups against each other. It took American forces far too long to recognize that they had stumbled into the midst of a civil war (which they themselves had helped to launch through the removal of Saddam Hussein and subsequent actions such as radical de-Baathification and the disbanding of the Iraqi army). Even once they realized and, much later, admitted, to the "sectarian strife", they didn't know what to do about it. There were perhaps hundreds of different militias, large and small, organized or not, all claiming to be fighting to "protect" Iraq and/or its people, but each in their own way involved in escalating the violence, murder and chaos.

One opinion that Rosen does express, repeatedly, is that America can't simply wash its hands of Iraq and pretend that it has nothing to do with us, as we have done in Rwanda and Sudan, for instance. I don't disagree with Rosen, but he needs to take this idea further. Having broken it, and therefore bought it, what do we do with it now? I agree that it probably would have been better had we never invaded or occupied Iraq, but that ship has long sailed. Rosen has very mixed feelings about the surge (as do most analysts and experts), but he doesn't explore what specifically he agrees or disagrees with or what he would suggest doing differently.

Reading this book was a lot like reading raw field notes for an anthropological study - valuable in its own right, of course, but difficult to make much sense of without an overarching framework. This work is valuable for posterity and historical reference, but it won't do much to inform the opinion of average citizens or guide policy decisions.
18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
The account that's been missing 22 Jan. 2011
By Josh - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
One reviewer criticized this book because it is full of stories of individuals and moves from person to person...

That is exactly why this book is important. Think back on how we learned about the war in the news. Looking back through old issues of magazines like Time, the early part of the war was portrayed like a football play book with arrows and circles for the "game plan." Eventually, there was talk of ethnic groups, but hardly anything in depth.

I used to have much more naive ideas about the war and enlisted in the army when I was younger. When I deployed in the surge in 2007, we still had a very shallow understanding that 'if we only try harder, we'll beat the insurgents.' While in Iraq, I read an article that Rosen wrote called "The Myth of the Surge" and it was a rare piece that actually understood what was going on on the ground. My own unit had been negotiating with former enemies and Rosen explains why certain groups resisted and why others didn't and why some ended up working together with us.

The want for a simple narrative of good guys vs. bad guys is exactly what caused so many of these problems to begin with! Slapping easy labels on things helped the public to digest the war (and seemed to help justify it in the minds of those who planned it), but as we all learned, it wasn't that simple.

It is because the war in Iraq and its effects on the surrounding region are so complex that a book like this--that goes in depth about the broad array of different responses--is of such importance. If we truly want to learn why the war played out the way it did, we need to discard the simplistic understanding of it that made it such a mess. If you are prepared for the complex details and nuances of all the different factions and how various groups reacted to various decisions and events, than this book is certainly worth your time!
39 of 51 people found the following review helpful
Bemused by the One Star Review 10 Dec. 2010
By Aaron - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I do not feel myself qualified to write an exacting review of Aftermath, but I simply had to post a small piece in counter-distinction to the only other available customer review, which I found vapid and deliberately misleading.

Aftermath is absolutely essential reading for anyone curious about the history and current affairs of geopolitical activity in the Middle East. Rosen writes in a style which I found perfectly suited to both the material and its urgency. There is simply no better single source of information on this topic.
7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Excellent source material -- but it desperately needed a good editor. 24 Aug. 2011
By Red Eyes - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
I have high regard for Nir Rosen, and I make a point of watching all his youtube interviews, in which he appears bright, balanced, well informed and consistent. I also consider he is a brave young man -- who else would walk into those war zones as an un-embedded journalist, as he does?

And after reading the glowing reviews from Chomsky et al, I considered 'Aftermath' to be a must-have purchase.

However, I have to say, the book is just not that well written -- the prose is leaden, clumsy, confused and unclear, and Rosen meanders all over the place, often telling us irrelevant details that just muddy and befuddle his style and narrative flow -- do we really need to know that one of his interview subjects learned English from listening to hip hop songs, or that another had put on weight since Rosen last saw him, or had recently shaved his moustache? Rosen's attempts to give form to his characters emerges as wooden and simple. It becomes difficult to sustain motivation to wade through such a chaotic writing style, which is often dry and lacking in character (a surprising point, since his online interviews are so involving).

Rosen paints an unremittingly bleak view of the possibilities ahead for Iraq. It seems that every single man he interviews is full of violent hatred and thirst for vengeance. I understand the levels of relentless chaos and hate and violence that must exist in places like Iraq, but ultimately, Rosen's work de-humanises Arabs -- the Arabs in Rosen's pages are so drenched in blood, so disturbed, that they become impossible to recognise as fellow human beings. I must say, I expected the book to be extremely violent and unsettling (Iraq is not a playground) but I was very surprised by Rosen's de-humanised and unsympathetic depictions of Arabs throughout the whole text.

Compare, for a moment, with Robert Fisk's work, which also focuses on the Middle East and Islam : Fisk is very honest about the levels of extreme and horrific violence that Shia/Sunni people visit on each other -- but at the same time, he constantly reminds us of Arab humanity, and the fact that Arabs are no different from the rest of us in their hopes and dreams and aspirations. Fisk also reminds us of the demagoguery, cunning and levels of violence caused by gentile, Jew, and American, which is often far more extreme, albeit carried out by mass bombing attacks, or machine gun, or by paying other factions do it, rather than by bloody knife, beating or kidnapping. Rosen does not provide such balance of approach in his work, and each Arab emerges as a completely deranged psychopath -- and stupid too.

Rosen only seems to select for interview every incredibly violent, ignorant, tribally driven, blood thirsty, vengeful, hateful, apoplectic, seemingly psychotic, murderous individual he finds in the darkened corners of Iraq.

It gets tiring and draining after the 200th page of such relentless, bleak, vicious, hate.

It is clear that Rosen is a talented, intelligent young writer and a courageous one too. Much of his work seems to be of a similar standard to that of Fisk and Pilger. It is also clear that he has collected a wealth of information here that is valuable as a historical document as well as being valuable for students of political science, current affairs and history.

But -- why didn't the publishers pay a good editor to sculpt and hone the massive amount of often jumbled and cobbled together information here, to offer the reader a punchy, concise volume? As it stands, the reader is faced with a difficult, badly organised, confusing, often infuriating volume to wade into.

Chomsky recommended Rosen's work in the sleeve notes - but, I wonder if Chomsky actually read it.
20 of 29 people found the following review helpful
a very good book 13 Dec. 2010
By restraining order - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I had no problem with the author's writing style. In fact, I very much enjoyed it. This book gave me a much clearer idea of what the people of Iraq have had to endure as a result of this pointless war.
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