Baghdad Burning is a collection of entries from the popular Iraqi “web log” “Girl Blog from Iraq.” Authored by an anonymous Iraqi woman living in Baghdad and going by the name “Riverbend” online, Girl Blog from Iraq has become one of the most intriguing and insightful voices to emerge from Iraq. With each entry into her online journal, Riverbend shares insights into the feelings and attitudes of ordinary Iraqis living under the occupation, providing the necessary historical and cultural context that is so often missing from the corporate media’s coverage of Iraq. Whereas the media focuses almost exclusively on violence and death in Iraq, Riverbend tells the story of life under occupation.
Baghdad Burning collects entries spanning roughly one year, from the first entry in August of 2003 to the fall of 2004, a time during which the resistance in Iraq intensified, a power struggle began between the various religious factions, Saddam Hussein was captured, and the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) managed the occupation. Riverbend’s writings, a mix of personal experiences and political commentary cover all of the major events of that period, from the attack on the United Nations to the “transfer” of sovereignty, providing an Iraqi perspective that is almost entirely absent from the corporate media in the Western world. While this elusive Iraqi perspective was frequently cited in the corporate media via the proclamations of Iraq’s Governing Council, Riverbend amply demonstrates that the various Council members, especially the much hated Chalabi, were not representative of the Iraqi people, and in many cases, had not lived in Iraq for years. Riverbend describes how people gather around TVs in Baghdad (when the electricity is running) and laugh at the CPA-appointed government and how the “puppets” are aiding the United States government. Baghdad Burning is most helpful in these instances, when Riverbend is explaining how her family and friends view the occupation and how the government in Iraq used to function or in the numerous portions of the book that explain both customs unique to Iraqis and the concepts of Islam that are foreign to most in the United States.
Throughout her writings, Riverbend never claims to speak for all Iraqis, yet her perspective that is fairly typical of many Iraqis who, after years of disruption to their lives under the sanctions imposed by the United Nations at the behest of the United States, simply want to get on with their lives. Moreover, Riverbend reveals the attitudes of her family, friends, and neighbors, all of whom want the occupation to end. Few Iraqis want Saddam Hussein to return to power, but many are outraged by how the war has led to the decline of a once prosperous Iraq. It is clear that the Iraqis see the United States presence as a hostile one and that the only way to end the insurgent attacks is to remove troops from the country, as continued a continued “war on insurgents”—complete with the type of raids, searches, and detentions described by Riverbend—will guarantee ongoing hostility to both US forces and their representatives.
In the end, Baghdad Burning is a valuable addition to the various books published on the war on Iraq since its start in 2003 and is unique among them in its focus on sharing an Iraqi perspective. Riverbend’s blog is essential reading for those opposed to the war and the book is a great way for opponents of the war to familiarize themselves with one Iraqi perspective.
Riverbend, Baghdad Burning: Girl Blog from Iraq, (The Feminist Press, 2005).