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Weekly Standard

Alexander’s Nemesis

The Weekly Standard, 21 November 2005

Review of:

Into the Land of Bones: Alexander the Great in Afghanistan
by Frank L. Holt
California, 241 pp., $24.95

Now that Afghan civil aviation is up and running, anyone with fifty bucks for a plane ticket can view Afghanistan from 10,000 feet up. At ground level, bustling conurbations like Kabul and Herat easily fool a visitor into thinking he is (despite the stranglingly bad air, laden with car exhaust and airborne donkey feces) within a hundred years of the present day. But to see from the window of a decrepit Kam Air Antonov is to be disabused: blue lakes and bleak crags roll across the window, punctuated infrequently by hamlets of astonishing archaism. The villages’ crooked pastures and mangers of mangy beasts could have existed in identical form in the ages of Brezhnev, Kipling, Babur, or Alexander the Great. Many villages appear to have no roads connecting them to each other, or to the relative outposts of progress at Kabul, Herat, or Mazar-e-Sharif.

With such a view, it is not a matter of imagining Afghanistan as it was during the age of Alexander, but of realizing that most of the country has never left that age, and that time is an illusion to which only the small population of Afghan city-dwellers has succumbed.

Categories
Jane's

Kirkuk Struggles with Sectarian Divisions

Jane’s Foreign Report.

Categories
New York Sun

In Baghdad, Wear Shades

The New York Sun

Review of Over There by Alan Feuer.

On page one of “Over There: From the Bronx to Baghdad: Two Months in the Life of a Reluctant Reporter” (Counterpoint Press, 304 pages, $24), Alan Feuer invokes A.J. Liebling’s adage about combat journalism – “a girl may sleep with one man without being a trollop, but let a man cover one little war and he’s a war correspondent.”

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New York Sun

A Wide-Eyed Foray into Iraq

The New York Sun

Review of In the Red Zone by Steven Vincent.

Iraq began descending into blood spattered madness just days after the fall of Baghdad, but it took about a year before the country went into its grisly tailspin and landed in the utter bedlam that now rules the day. For that year journalists could do their jobs in relative safety. Even humble freelancers could wander the country, scraping by without paid security and freely chatting up locals about the wretchedness of life in Iraq.

Categories
Salon

A Prisoner’s Tale

Salon

The saga of a hapless New Zealander who ended up behind bars after seeking work in Iraq reveals the darker side of the U.S.-led coalition’s operations.

When Andreas Schafer was released from a prison in Iraq earlier this year, the Iraqi police apologized abjectly for having inconvenienced him for three months. They made sure he knew that if ever he wanted to get back at the arresting officer by, say, slaying the man’s brother, it would be all right by them. And he could expect not to be prosecuted for the crime.

It says something about Iraqi justice and the American-led occupation that Iraq’s finest viewed an invitation to murder as a triumph of decency and due process. Schafer, a hapless, idealistic 26-year-old New Zealander who had gone to Iraq in search of a job with a nongovernmental organization, ended up languishing in a prison in southern Iraq as an unacknowledged prisoner of the U.S.-led coalition. By keeping Schafer in an Iraqi-run prison, rather than in a prison monitored by Americans or international observers, the United States avoided putting him on the books and having to account for his treatment, even to his own government.