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Christian Parenti, 'The Freedom: Shadows and Hallucinations in Occupied Iraq'

The New Press, 2004; ISBN 1 56584 948 5 (hb) £12.99

In one of many memorable scenes in his new book, Christian Parenti asks a doctor in Ramadi, Iraq, whether he sees many children with symptoms related to possible radiation poisoning – a potential legacy of depleted-uranium weapons used by US forces in 1991 and 2004. “I cannot answer,” the doctor replies. “Why not?” Parenti asks. After a long pause the doctor finally offers a coded apology: “This is the freedom,” he explains. “Ah, the freedom … [w]e have the gas-line freedom, the looting freedom, the killing freedom, the rape freedom … I don’t know what to do with all this freedom,” another Iraqi observes. Dubbed “the perfect guide through occupied Iraq” (Naomi Klein) and “the book that does for Iraq what Dispatches did for Vietnam” (Tim Page), The Freedom comes with an impressive array of plaudits – and deservedly so. In a small sea of rushed-to-press potboilers this is an Iraq book that truly stands out from the crowd. Rather than try to provide a “sweeping analysis” of the war, Parenti instead gives us “a slice of political feeling and flavor, a snapshot of a time and place: Iraq during the first year of US occupation.” Here – whether he's hanging out with US soldiers, meeting members of the resistance or interviewing the daughter of an Iraqi caught up in the occupation’s capricious system of mass detention – he succeeds brilliantly. Clearly nobody's fool, Parenti brings an urgently needed sense of compassion for the victims - both US and Iraqi - of this ongoing, criminal war. He also writes like a dream. A must-read.

Topics: Iraq