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Ahmad's War, Ahmad's Peace: Surviving Under Saddam, Dying in the New Iraq Hardcover – 13 Jul 2005
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Goldfarb was more than a man who knew the language. As an intellectual, he had moved in revolutionary circles for many years, agitating against Hussein's government. He had been captured, imprisoned and tortured on a couple of occasions and once even met the dictator. As a Kurd, he rejected the sectarian leanings of many of his people in favor of a single, unified nation. As Goldfarb explains, Ahmad Shawkat was uniquely qualified not only to translate words but to provide context to what the reporter was seeing and hearing on the streets of a new Iraq.
The first section of the book follows the two men together as Goldfarb reports on the war for public radio. (His dispatches can be heard on WBUR's Inside Out web site.) The last section is the story of Shawkat's tragic death at the hands of an assassin and the months after when the author returns to the war-torn country. The middle section, Ahmad's Life, is the author's reconstruction of his translator's story. From his early life as a bookish boy through college and into adulthood, the reader learns to know a man who never stopped searching for the answers in life, and the solutions, whether they be of a political or a religious nature.
Goldfarb's own take on the war in Iraq may surprise some readers. Although he is very critical of the Bush administration's handling of the post-war situation, the author and reporter initially supported U.S. action there in the belief that the Iraqi people could be freed. He and Ahmad speak about this shared belief at length, alternately dreaming of the future and despairing as the country falls into chaos and internal strife in the months after the fall of Saddam's army.
Michael Goldfarb writes about the qualities he looks for in a translator. Often he cannot find all of those things in one person. In Ahmad Shawkat, he finds a scholar, an intellectual, a writer, a patriot and at the end a close friend. It is a remarkable life story which could be difficult to read due to the fact that one knows how it ends. In spite of this, Goldfarb's skill makes for a moving, poignant read from start to finish. Highly recommended.
Despite the cruel tribulations recounted in the story, the book is notable for its gladness of spirit -- it isn't grim & forbidding -- quite the contrary: Ahmad's story is a sad one, but the man himself was not a sad person, & certainly not one given to self-pity. He is full of life & enthusiasm & you will be glad to meet him.
The story centers around the United States' invasion of Iraq and the subsequent overthrow of Saddam Hussein and Ahmad Shawkat, an Iraqi Kurd. Ahmad is an intellectual, a reader, a writer, a husband, and a father. He's had many different ups and downs throughout his life in a country that didn't quite value its intellectuals and often times tried to silence them.
As told by Michael Goldfarb, a British journalist in Iraq to cover the war, the story is both beautiful and heartbreaking. Going behind the scenes, Mr. Goldfarb shows us the life in Iraq from the perspective of a native.
Very few books remain neutral on the subject of Iraq War. Goldfarb manages to do so well. I highly recommend picking this one up.