Posts Tagged ‘Iraq War’


The first light book from the Gulf Wars I found is Jonathan Trouern-Trend, Birding Babylon: A Soldier’s Journal from Iraq.  Birders need only the title to whet their appetite.  The second is a breezy, teary account of life in a M*A*S*H sequel Paradise General: Riding The Surge At A Combat Hospital In Iraq by Dr. Dave Hnida.  I liked both books.

Not every war book need be profound or soulful, and the good doctor proves it with his account of life among wonderful doctor buddies helping good guys save the lives of wounded heroes and serving some who die.  You can’t help but like him even if he may be a bit of a bore.

Without bitterness, the doctor describes his Combat Support Hospital, staffing, the base, the presence of contractors, the military strategies that work no better one week than another week months apart.  Perhaps it was a healthy way to cope with the combat stress.  As a reader it may be hard to find the same level of acceptance.  Charles Marlin

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Good soldiers and good reporters are made under fire when an honesty of action and of words are fused.  We can learn from such fusion.  David Finkel began his recording of the 2-16 battalion, the Second Battalion, Sixteenth Infantry Regiment of the Fourth Infantry Brigade Combat Team, First Infantry Division, nicknamed The Rangers, in January 2007 and finished in June 2008.  He spent eight months with the 2-16 in Iraq, through blood, sweat, shit, dust, fear, bravery, breakdown, dismemberment, and death.  To his honor he reported only what he saw without padding, politics, or soapbox.  His The Good Soldiers is a tough emotional read but felt good to be trusted with an account the soldiers would respect.

The officers and soldiers on the ground in Iraq did not lose the war.  They fought and were maimed, broken, and died because they did their job well.  The disjointure between action on the ground and policy in Washington falls to the blame of the political leadership who understood nothing before and during.  Each chapter is prefaced by a timely and relevant quote from President Bush, but the Bush quotes could just as easily been paired with any number of statements made by administrative appointees and Congressional leaders.  We suffered a massive collapse of leadership at home; however, the 2-16 in Iraq did the suffering and then the suffering came home to their families.

Don’t read the book if you can’t stand the heat.  Don’t read the book if you think there are excuses for Washington.  Charles Marlin

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One can only hope that Dexter Filkins’ The Forever War does not carry a prophetic title.  He tells his personal experience as a foreign correspondent covering the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq from 2001 through 2008.  Not a history but rather a personal memoir, the book is more challenging to a reader’s ideas of what can or should be done than any history or policy book is likely to achieve.  The book is honest, direct, relevant, and compassionate where a reader would expect cynicism.

If the reader wants to understand the returning veterans and the war zone populations left behind, this book will face the reader in the right direction.  Filkins’ sense of the enormity of the conflict and his personal honesty prevent him from offering any answers or pushing any agenda.  An honest book about war is worth reading.  Charles Marlin

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