When he graduated from the University of Michigan in 2003, David Enders made what many saw as a foolish or just plain suicidal decision. Having viewed – and opposed – the US invasion of Iraq from his home in Grand Rapids, he travelled to Iraq to see the aftermath of the war first hand. Furthermore, he decided to set up an English-language newspaper, distributed in the Baghdad area.
Financed by gifts from friends, operating on a shoestring, and opposed by the US military and embedded journalists, the Baghdad Bulletin was born. Enders and his staff of idealists, war-junkies and stoned drifters produced eight bi-monthly issues before the paper foundered under intolerable pressures and the inherent absurdity of the venture. After the collapse of the Bulletin, Enders stayed in Iraq, freelancing for various newspapers and working for the NGO Occupation Watch.
Viewed cynically, the Baghdad Bulletin could be seen as little more than emotional tourism by spoilt Western youths. Reinforcement for this stance is provided by Enders’ naïve attempts to be ‘apolitical’ by running articles by right-wing academics justifying the occupation.
However, I warmed to Enders’ idealism and his eagerness to listen to what ordinary Iraqis were saying. Although the book is not particularly well written, it has a refreshing immediacy and contains some memorable phrases, such as the description of Iraq’s ‘governing council’ as the Baghdad Vichy .
Simply by being there and observing the daily charade of death and confusion, Enders provides a supremely useful service; exposing the official lies and spin that rely on distance and doubt to obscure the bloody reality of this calamitous and seemingly endless occupation.