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Naked in Baghdad    by Anne Garrels order for
Naked in Baghdad
by Anne Garrels
Order:  USA  Can
Picador, 2004 (2003)
Hardcover, Paperback, Audio

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* *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

Without crew or researchers and fending for herself, Anne Garrels (NPR's senior foreign correspondent in Baghdad) managed to report daily from that city during the days leading up to, during, and in the aftermath of, the Iraqi war. Her reporting was broadcast daily on NPR, without visuals to capture a viewer's attention. Her mission was aided by the help and caring of Amer, an Iraqi driver/minder. He did his best to alleviate the Spartan conditions under which she lived, and to introduce her to people he thought she should talk to.

The food served in Garrels' hotel was awful, the tap water eventually turned brown, conditions were frequently frightening, and searches by Iraqi police could be anticipated at any time. Constantly escalating bribes were expected to be paid without a demur. Even a test for AIDS had to be purchased, to be able to exit Iraq. It often became as hard to leave the country as to get a visa to go there. But what upset the author the most were the appalling conditions under which the Iraqi people lived. There was the constant fear of arrest for no discernable reason. And the bombing when the war started left people with nothing, if they survived it.

The short war brought new miseries including the failure of electricity and telephones. The Iraqi people seemed to accept that Garrels was there, reporting back to the United States every day, while her country was bombing their country. They told her that the war had not been started because of the search for 'Weapons of Mass Destruction' but because President Bush wanted Iraqi oil. And that while they wanted to be out from under Saddam's cruel regime, they did not want other countries to rule them. They resented the occupying forces.

Throughout this behind-the-scenes accounting are emails that Garrels' husband posted to their friends on her well-being and her daily routine. She makes mention of other correspondents. I especially enjoyed reading of Geraldo Rivera, and CBS, and about why the author was 'naked in Baghdad'. Garrels is a very gutsy woman who has written a book downplaying her bravery to bring an accurate account as least as she saw it of today's Iraq. It is well-written with a style that flows from one event to another. I imagine her as a soft-spoken woman who carries a big stick.

Naked in Baghdad is a very timely book and one which I heartily recommend. While you are reading this review, Anne Garrels is readying for another trip to Iraq.

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