December 1, 2013
Review of I Lost My Love In Baghdad
by Lisa Kent
Hastings, Michael. I Lost My Love In Baghdad. New York: Scribner, 2008. Print.
I Lost my Love in Baghdad is a powerful book of nonfiction about the war in Iraq. In short, sharp prose, author Michael Hastings makes us acutely aware of how debilitating, frustrating, and stupid war can be. Hastings is an excellent war correspondent. At great personal risk, he embeds himself inside several units of U.S. troops to report about the U.S. military, the Iraqi military, and civilian life in Iraq. He witnesses and reports on many people dying in many terrible ways. Through his eyes, Iraq is filled with dangerous extremists, the country is collapsing in on itself, and our own country’s involvement there is questionable. At times, Hastings seems almost manic in his need to report the facts to his global readers. Yet without that intense drive, we would have no understanding of what kind of country Iraq is, and what happens there during war time.
Meanwhile, Hastings has a girlfriend back home. She gets this idea that she can help improve relations
between the United States and Iraq, and that gaining experience in Iraq will be good for the advancement of her career. And she wants to be closer to Hastings. So she gets a job at an NGO
(nongovernmental organization) in Baghdad, the city where Michael is stationed. They manage to keep in touch by texting and phone calls, though they rarely see each other for security reasons, despite being minutes apart by car. Months after her arrival, she gets blown up in a car ambush—thus the title.
It is interesting, though tragic, how Hastings’ and Andi’s relationship mirrors the United States’ involvement with Iraq. As they attempt a positive relationship in a dangerous environment, so too do the U.S. troops attempt to work with Iraqi soldiers for the benefit of the community. As Hastings’ and Andi’s relationship fails because of this danger, so also does the relationship between the Iraqis and U.S. military fail because of enormous cultural differences, extremism, mistrust, and continued injury and death.
Love is irrational, so we can at least understand Hastings and his girlfriend for wanting to be together at all costs. But the forced relationship between Iraq and the United States is beyond understanding. What are we doing there? Hastings’ reporting answers this question clearly. On the ground, U.S. troops are trying to make the country stable, safe, and democratic. What actually happens is that more people die everywhere in brutal, ugly ways. Hastings provides no answers; at the same time, he makes reality in Iraq quite vivid for his readers.
There are several new books about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in Willey Library, including Hastings’ book The Operators, published in 2012, regarding the war in Afghanistan. Accurate information about these wars is at our disposal. We can choose to stick our heads in the sand, or we can read and engage in discussion with each other and with our representatives.
Hastings died this past June at age 33, not in a war-torn country, but in a single car crash in California. He attended Rice High School in South Burlington, and his parents live in Milton. Don’t think that the problems of Iraq are far beyond our sphere of influence. They are right here in our own back yard.