Beyond the Green Zone

By Dahr Jamail. <i>Haymarket Books. $20</i>.

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Every conflict spawns a handful of journalists who are willing to not only brave the war zone but to seek out the stories ignored by the press pack. The Iraq War has brought us Dahr Jamail, a gutsy neophyte (and occasional motherjones.com contributor) who traveled to Iraq to tell the stories of civilians under fire. His new book, based on his reporting between 2003 and 2005, presents the unvarnished voices of ordinary Iraqis—voices of anger, anguish, defiance, and, miraculously, hope—that have been largely missing from mainstream reportage.

The book’s centerpiece is the April 2004 siege of Fallujah, which Jamail witnesses firsthand, arriving in the city as it is bombed and strafed by American aircraft. Jamail, who doesn’t speak Arabic and whose previous experience was as a volunteer rescue ranger, goes where most reporters can’t—or wouldn’t. He meets the head of an overwhelmed clinic whose ambulance driver was shot by U.S. troops who had inspected his vehicle and found it empty, leaving wounded civilians stranded. “For all my life I believed in American democracy,” the medic tells Jamail. “Now I see it has all been lies. The Americans don’t give a damn about democracy and human rights. They are worse than Saddam.” Unaffiliated with a major news organization or the U.S. military, Jamail describes scenes that can’t be reported from inside an armored Humvee, such as the jubilant reaction of crowds after the Marines, their embedded journalists in tow, pull out of the smoldering city. And he reports what his colleagues refused to, such as evidence of an Iraqi being tortured in American custody long before the Abu Ghraib scandal broke.

Beyond the Green Zone is an important book for understanding the suffering wrought by American occupation in Iraq. I suspect Jamail’s account will prove an enduring document of what really happened during the chaotic years of occupation, and how it transformed ordinary Iraqis. To paraphrase one of the Vietnam War’s finest correspondents, Gloria Emerson, writing about Jonathan Schell’s exceptional accounts of that conflict: If, years from now, Americans are willing to read any books about the war, this one should be among them. It tells everything.

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Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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