“Cairo Writes, Beirut Publishes, and Baghdad Reads”: The Fallen Culture of Iraq

Dispatches from the front.
June 6 2014 1:40 PM

“Cairo Writes, Beirut Publishes, and Baghdad Reads”

The fallen culture of Iraq and the legacy of the U.S. invasion.

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Last year Brooklyn Brewery launched an interview series at its brewhouse in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, in conjunction with RISC, a nonprofit that offers instruction on life-saving skills for freelance war journalists. The conversations were an instant hit.

For its second season, Slate partnered with the brewery to film the series. Each month we’ll release our favorite excerpts from the conversations. In this first installment, Steve Hindy, founder of Brooklyn Brewery and a former Associated Press foreign correspondent himself, sits down with Deborah Amos, NPR's Middle East correspondent and the author of  Eclipse of the Sunnis. Watch the first part here, and check back for more excerpts next week.

In the clip below, Amos offers a blunt assessment of the Iraq war: The Sunnis lost. She dives into the political and cultural “hangover” from the U.S. invasion in 2003, which she says has kept the United States out of the civil war in Syria—and offered al-Qaida a stronghold in the region.

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Amos also falls back on her decades of experience in the Middle East to shed light on the enduring struggles of the Palestinian people, who suffered a devastating blow when Yarmouk Camp was razed by Bashar al-Assad’s bombs.

“Cairo writes, Beirut publishes, and Baghdad reads.”

In the clip below, Amos continues the conversation with a reflection on that old Middle Eastern adage and what it says about the lost intellectual class of Iraq—once one of the most voracious consumers of culture in the region. Prior to the Iraq war, the country was packed with talent and a devotion to the arts that now, post-surge, seem hard to fathom. And as many Iraqis sought refuge in Syria following the American invasion, the remnants of that class are now scattered to the wind, the once-thriving Baghdad arts scene a distant memory.

Amos also talks about the invaluable impact of the now-defunct satirical Iraqi news programs broadcast via satellite from Damascus in the years following American invasion, as well as still-running Iraqi programming like al-Sharqiya.​

A.J. McCarthy is a Slate Video blogger.

Ayana Morali is the executive producer of Slate Video.

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