Review by Joan McInnis
“War Journal: My Five Years in Iraq” By Richard Engel. Simon & Schuster, New York. c. 2008.
You know his face and voice from the NBC nightly news reports about the war in Iraq, and now Richard Engel has put his experiences on paper for a vivid and horrifying tale of what it has been like to cover the war since it began.
In the process the reader comes to know the man as well as the reporter and what toll
his coverage has exacted. His marriage ended in divorce; he narrowly escaped kidnapping, lost fellow reporters to sudden death, and had his hotel room blown up around him as a suicide bomber struck his hotel.
It was no wonder the constant violence led to burn out.
He is unstinting in the truth he brings to the tale; we understand the forces that have driven the Iraqis apart and and how mistakes by our leaders have exacerbated the problems. Images he describes with his pen are somehow more powerful than any TV pictures.
None of us who live in the comfort of our western world can appreciate the ages-old savagery that continues to play out between Sunni and Shiite Muslims.
Engel shares with us a revealing interview with President Bush that was set up by the commander in chief himself. Instead of being the 15 minutes he was told to expect, Engel and the president had a 90 minute free-wheeling exchange.
The reporter was impressed with Bush’s take on the situation in the Middle East, that he was not the front man for Vice President Cheney’s policies but a man dedicated to his vision of democracy in the Middle East and willing to endure his current unpopularity in an effort to achieve it.
I had picked up this book out of curiosity to see what the reporter was like behind what I knew of him on the news, and I was driven to read every word. “War Journal” is really a true life thriller.