Sunday, November 20, 2016

All Hell

And Then All Hell Broke Loose is a book by Richard Engel, an NBC news correspondent, about his experience in the middle east.

I will nutshell it for you.  The middle east--except for the relatively calm Israel--is a a frightening place where there is little regard for human life, when human life is juxtaposed with perfervid and irrational belief in the need to rage holy war in the name of Islam.

There is no one singular event identified when "all hell broke loose." All hell has been breaking loose for some time, and each iteration of angry jihadists is more horrible than the previous one.  At one point he writes that at least when the dictators were in power, while the building was foul, edifices themselves were standing. He does not advocate for a return to the good ole days of Saddam Hussein.  Just that the case now is that there are killers recruiting children to be killers perverting the teachings of Islam.  He suggests that both the Bush and Obama administrations are partially to blame, though my read is that while both may be, the real blame is on those who have not dealt with their anger in a way that humans need to deal with anger. Does this make me a western infidel? No, it makes me someone who thinks that chopping off the hand and foot of a 14 year old because he did not want to join ISIS, is an abomination--regardless of (and because of) any spiritual orientation.

The writing, particularly since this is the work of a journalist, was not as good as one might like. It does not help that there are a lot of foreign names that might be difficult for someone outside of the middle east to remember.  Still, he--literally and figuratively--flies all over the middle east and sometimes the reader is dealing with trying to digest pages written, it seems, at the same frenetic pace as his comings and goings.

I can't really recommend the book.  Maybe for experts in post Gulf War middle east (while I might know more than the average bear about the region, I am not in this category) this will be an interesting read. My take-away is that the place is every bit as dangerous if not more than we believe it to be by reading the papers. And that the author took some mind boggling risks to pursue his journalistic career.

As it relates to risks, the author draws the analogy between football players risking their health to play a game they love and him taking risks to cover the middle east. It's not quite the same. This guy lived in jeopardy almost weekly according to this book. And the jeopardy was not a pulled muscle or injured knee. I don't think he deserves hero credit for being reckless.

No comments:

Post a Comment