The "R" Word

There’s a valuable comparison to be found by slogging through this week’s New Yorker lead story (print only), by the normally-astute Jon Lee Anderson, on “the Shiite leader who says he can run Iraq” and The New York Times Magazine’s piece on “The Shiite Surge,” by the normally-gaseous David Rieff. But this time around Rieff gets the story, or at least quite a bit more of it than Anderson. What’s the difference? The “r-word,” as in “religion” — nearly absent from Anderson’s account, permeating Rieff’s more insightful report. “If the war seems distant,” Rieff writes of the Shiite holy cities of Najaf and Karbala, “God is everywhere.”

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