Iraqis at home

     Farnaz Fassihi is The Wall Street Journal's deputy bureau chief for the Middle East and Africa, based in Beirut. From 2003-2006 she was in charge of the Baghdad bureau: she became well-known for an email she wrote describing her daily life. Waiting for an ordinary day: the unraveling of life in Iraq is her account of the chaos and trauma of living in the midst of civil war.  Her interviews with middle class Iraqis of all sorts are poignant and heart-wrenching.  One staff member was elated to vote for the first time, recruiting other coworkers and encouraging area businesspeople to also go.  As the day wears on, Fassihi sees him rummaging in the first aid box.  "Did you hurt yourself?" she asks. "I want to cover the purple ink. I don't want anyone in the street or in my neighborhood to see I voted.  It would get me killed." Freedom to vote is something rather different in Iraq.
     Among the people: U.S. Marines in Iraq by David Benhoff is a large book filled with photographs taken in 2005.  Unknown to most Americans, Marines engage in civil affairs efforts in Iraq, intended to improve relations between the American troops and the Iraqi people. Among these tasks are the training of Iraqi police and military, as well as visiting schools, markets and neighborhoods.  Take a look at a radically different aspect of our presence in the Middle East.
     Christina Asquith spent two years reporting in Iraq. Her new book, Sisters in war: a story of love, family, and survival in the new Iraq, recounts the experiences of four women--two Iraqi sisters and two American women.  The sisters are coping with the chaos of war; the American women are working hard for women's rights, women in political office, and women's centers.  All must cope with sexism--from the Muslim culture as well as the U.S. military--from within in Heather's case, who is in the Army reserves. Well-written and sensitive, this insightful narrative gives visual force to the difficulties Iraq is facing.
     As Americans found out during Hurricane Katrina, animals often suffer horribly during catastrophes and no one notices. Early on in Afghanistan, the animals at the Kabul Zoo were all wiped out. Lawrence Anthony, a South African conservationist, knew this and knew he had to act fast if he was to save any of the Iraqi animal residents in the Baghdad Zoo--once a renowned showplace. Entering Iraq immediately after the American invasion, he found most of the animals killed, whether due to the war or to looting. Those still alive were neglected, ravenous and filthy. Soon Anthony had a handful of people helping him scrounge and beg and barter for food, buckets, and all the essentials to keep the animals alive. Babylon's ark: the incredible wartime rescue of the Baghdad Zoo is a terrific account that shows an aspect of war's destruction we would do better to remember.