Night Draws Near Iraq's People in the Shadow of America's War

Anthony Shadid




Trade Paperback

528 Pages



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Winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize

Winner of The Ron Ridenhour Book Prize
A New York Times Notable Book
A Seattle Times Best Book of the Year
An Economist Best Book of the Year
A National Book Critics Circle Award Nominee

The Washington Post's Anthony Shadid went to war in Iraq although he was neither embedded with soldiers nor briefed by politicians. Because he is fluent in Arabic, Shadid—an Arab American born and raised in Oklahoma—was able to disappear into the divided, dangerous worlds of Iraq. Day by day, as the American dream of freedom clashed with Arab notions of justice, he pieced together the human story of ordinary Iraqis weathering the terrible dislocations and tragedies of war.

Through the lives of men and women, Sunnis and Shiites, American sympathizers and outraged young jihadists newly transformed into martyrs, Shadid shows us the journey of defiant, hopeful, resilient Iraq. Moving from battle scenes to subdued streets enlivened only by the call to prayer, Shadid uses the experiences of his characters to illustrate how Saddam's downfall paved the way not only for democracy but also for an Islamic reawakening and jihad. Night Draws Near—as compelling as it is human—is a poignant account from a reporter whose coverage has drawn international attention and acclaim.


Praise for Night Draws Near

"In an incisive and eloquent new book . . . Anthony Shadid tells the story of a man named Sabah, who is accused of being a United States informer in the town of Thuluyah . . . Sabah's story is only one of many tragic stories to be found in Night Draws Near, a book that gives a harrowing portrait of life in postwar Iraq and the fallout that the American war has had on ordinary Iraqi civilians, from a 14-year-old girl coping with the bombing of Baghdad to a 62-year-old academic and former Baath Party member to the reporter's own 'fixer' and government minder, Nasir Mehdawi, who would later become a colleague and friend . . . The volume draws heavily upon Mr. Shadid's reporting for The Washington Post. (His dispatches from Iraq won the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for international reporting.) It leaves the reader with a devastating sense of the gap between the war's aims and its aftermath and the gap between the administration's rhetoric and the realities on the ground . . . Mr. Shadid does a fluent job of pulling all this information into a riveting narrative that is animated by his up-close and personal portraits of individual Iraqis. At the same time Night Draws Near . . . also provides a damning account of the Bush administration's failure to prepare adequately for the postwar occupation of Iraq, and of its missteps and miscalculations in the wake of toppling Saddam Hussein."—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

"Anthony Shadid won a Pulitzer for his work in Iraq, and his account of the invasion and its uncertain aftermath is both stark and profoundly human . . . Shadid's concern isn't Pentagon policy but the interior life of the occupation, where the goals of the American mission remain, for the Iraqis he meets, tragically abstract."—The New Yorker

"Shadid breaks new ground in offering us a much-needed look at the human face of the Iraqi people, as well as an acute analysis of the variegated cultural and historical forces that ultimately are going to decide the political fate of Iraq . . . As a piece of reporting on the forces that are shaping today's Iraq, this is as fine a book as one could hope to read."—James Webb, The Washington Post Book World

"Night Draws Near is unique in its breadth, its supremely elegant writing, and in the biography of its author . . . [Shadid] understands Iraqi culture better than most U.S. journalists . . . Everyone should read this book, especially the White House and members of Congress. It will open their eyes."—Aaron Glantz, San Francisco Chronicle

"Anthony Shadid, an American of Lebanese descent, who speaks Arabic like a native and writes English like an angel, has put his best reporting into this book . . . Mr. Shadid calls his work storytelling . . . stories this insightful—of dead Iraqi insurgents and their motivations; of a 14-year-old Iraqi Anne Frank, with extracts from her wartime diary—are more than journalism; they are valuable chronicles."—The Economist

"This book should be read for its keen analysis of the events in postinvasion Iraq as much as for its thoughtful and precise storytelling and portraiture of Iraqis trying to make sense of their radically changed country . . . [A] tour de force."—Anthony Swafford, Columbia Journalism Review

"Told exclusively from the perspective of regular Iraqis, these are the war stories we never hear . . . [A] definitive work."—Naomi Klein, The Guardian

"Shadid's stories are always affecting, sometimes uplifting, much more frequently heartrending . . . [An] unflinching depiction of wartime life."—Chris Toensing, The Nation

"Masterful . . . [Night Draws Near] may be the most important writing to come out of the war so far . . . The book is full of historical background and subtle observations that help explain the mindset of the Iraqis . . . [Shadid has] written a complex, sympathetic, and dark portrait of a people we still understand all too poorly. It's a book that every soldier, war planner, and policymaker should read."—Garrett M. Graff, The Washingtonian

"In Night Draws Near, Shadid moves deftly between revealing exemplary, close-up personal stories and a wide-angled historical analysis that is remarkably engaging and accessible."—Tom Montgomery-Fate, The Boston Globe

"Night Draws Near is perhaps the most nuanced, informative, and moving recent book about the Iraqi conflict . . . Essential reading for Americans."—Brian Palmer, Newsday

"Shadid is precise and perceptive, taking his readers into the homes and minds of complex and varied Shiite and Sunni people. The author is not prone to pronouncements; he lets the vivid stories be."—Karen R. Long, The Plain Dealer (Cleveland)

"This is a reporter's book—a superb reporter's book—that tells more than anyone needs to know about George Bush's war in Iraq. It is careful, objective, and, above all, honest."—Seymour Hersh, author of Chain of Command

"Night Draws Near, unlike everything that has come before it, explains Iraqis to their distant American occupiers. Shadid, an Arabic-speaking reporter for The Washington Post, has been an invaluable guide for anyone attempting to comprehend Iraq, providing a level of detail, context, and understanding that has escaped all but his ablest colleagues. In his telling—emotionally resonant and always deeply perceptive—the complex path Iraqis followed from cautious optimism to frustration to insurgency becomes clear for the first time. Through the eyes of the Iraqis, Shadid offers a wealth of insight into phenomena Americans must contend with as long as we occupy Iraq: the fury of offended Iraqi patriotism, the resurgence of religion among the toppled Sunnis, the besiegement of the Iraqi citizens, and the meaning of the new Shia politics that the United States has ushered to power. He has achieved nothing short of authoring the first classic, indispensable account of the Iraqi War."—Spencer Ackerman, The American Prospect

"No one writing about Iraq today understands that tormented country and its people better than Anthony Shadid. Night Draws Near tells a timeless and powerful story of individuals caught in war's crossfire."—Rick Atkinson, author of In the Company of Soldiers and the Pulitzer Prize-winning An Army at Dawn

"For a decade and more, Iraq has been the central American obsession—our enemy, our dark double, our evil twin. Largely missing from this drama, however, have been the people who inhabit that land. Now, in an epic work of reporting, Anthony Shadid restores to the people of Iraq their humanity. In a powerful yet intimate narrative, teeming with people and incident, he manages to make the Iraqis breathe and, in so doing, introduces us to a people who have been forced to know much more about Americans than we about them. This is an essential book."—Mark Danner, author of Torture and Terror: America, Abu Ghraib, and the War on Terror

"Shadid, a Pulitzer Prize-winning correspondent for the Washington Post, brings to Baghdad a fluency in Arabic and an Arab American's perceptive understanding. Shadid's skill and sympathy thoroughly convey all levels of Iraqi opinions about Saddam Hussein, fellow Iraqis, and the American occupation. Yet the book provides much more than a collection of inspiring and sometimes tragic vignettes. Shadid's explication of political Islam is compelling. He interprets the 'personality cult' of Shi'ite cleric Muqtada Sadr and the 'Mahdi Army,' along with Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the 'one man who stood in his way.' Shadid concludes amid the sheer confusion and violence during the elections of January 2005 in Baghdad, 'a city where promise seems unending and loss keeps unfolding.' Highly recommended."—Library Journal

"The book, which moves among scenes and characters like a picaresque novel, is not only a pleasure to read but a welcome source of information. Shadid offers just enough history and context to orient the reader, and he includes the kinds of details—adages, prayers, lyrics from pop songs—that make a place come alive. In the end, Baghdad is the character he mourns most."—Publishers Weekly

Reviews from Goodreads



Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

The City of Peace

Baghdad is a city of lives interrupted, its history a story of loss, waiting, and resilience. In the days before the American invasion in March 2003, this capital scarred by war after war felt torn,...

Read the full excerpt



  • Night Draws Near by Anthony Shadid--Audiobook Excerpt

    Listen to this audiobook excerpt and hear Anthony Shadid read from his book Night Draws Near: Iraq's People in the Shadow of America's War. From the only journalist to win a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting from Iraq, here is the riveting account of ordinary people caught between the struggles of nations. Determined to offer an unfiltered version of events, the Washington Post's Anthony Shadid was neither embedded with soldiers nor briefed by politicians.



  • Anthony Shadid

  • Anthony Shadid has reported from throughout the Middle East for a decade, first as Cairo correspondent for The Associated Press and then for The Boston Globe, where he drew attention for reports from the West Bank and other fronts. His first book, Legacy of the Prophet, drew praise from the late Edward Said. At The Washington Post his stories have often appeared on page one. For his work in Baghdad he has received the Overseas Press Club Award (his second), the Michael Kelly Award, and the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting. He currently lives in Baghdad and Washington, D.C.