For soldiers in the 101st Airborne Division, the road to Baghdad began with a midnight flight out of Fort Campbell, Kentucky, in late February 2003. For Rick Atkinson, who would spend nearly two months covering the division for The Washington Post, the war in Iraq provided a unique opportunity to observe today's U.S. Army in combat. Now, in this extraordinary account of his odyssey with the 101st, Atkinson presents an intimate and revealing portrait of the soldiers who fight the expeditionary wars that have become the hallmark of our age.
At the center of Atkinson's drama stands the compelling figure of Major General David H. Petraeus, described by one comrade as "the most competitive man on the planet." Atkinson spent virtually all day every day at Petraeus's elbow in Iraq, where he had an unobstructed view of the stresses, anxieties, and large joys of commanding 17,000 soldiers in combat. Atkinson watches Petraeus wrestle with innumerable tactical conundrums and direct several intense firefights; he watches him teach, goad, and lead his troops and his subordinate commanders. And all around Petraeus, we see the men and women of a storied division grapple with the challenges of waging war in an unspeakably harsh environment.
With the eye of a master storyteller, the premier military historian of his generation puts us right on the battlefield. In the Company of Soldiers is a compelling, utterly fresh view of the modern American soldier in action.
Corporal Dunham was on patrol near the Syrian border, on April 14, 2004, when a black-clad Iraqi leaped out of a car and grabbed him around his neck. Fighting hand-to-hand in the dirt, Dunham saw his attacker drop a grenade and made the instantaneous decision to place his own helmet over the explosive in the hope of containing the blast and protecting his men. When the smoke cleared, Dunham’s helmet was in shreds, and the corporal lay face down in his own blood. The Marines beside him were seriously wounded. Dunham was subsequently nominated for the Congressional Medal of Honor, the nation’ s highest award for military valor.
Phillips’s minute-by-minute chronicle of the chaotic fighting that raged throughout the area and culminated in Dunham’s injury provides a grunt’s-eye view of war as it’s being fought today—fear, confusion, bravery, and suffering set against a brotherhood forged in combat. His account of Dunham’s eight-day journey home and of his parents’ heartrending reunion with their son powerfully illustrates the cold brutality of war and the fragile humanity of those who fight it. Dunham leaves an indelible mark upon all who know his story, from the doctors and nurses who treat him, to the readers of the original Wall Street Journal article that told of his singular act of valor.
In the fall of 2003, Stanford professor Larry Diamond received a call from Condoleezza Rice, asking if he would spend several months in Baghdad as an adviser to the the American occupation authorities. Diamond had not been a supporter of the war in Iraq, but he felt that the task of building a viable democracy was a worthy goal now that Saddam Hussein's regime had been overthrown. He also thought he could do some good by putting his academic expertise to work in the real world. So in January 2004 he went to Iraq, and the next three months proved to be more of an education than he bargained for.
Diamond found himself part of one of the most audacious undertakings of our time. In Squandered Victory he shows how the American effort to establish democracy in Iraq was hampered not only by insurgents and terrorists but also by a long chain of miscalculations, missed opportunities, and acts of ideological blindness that helped assure that the transition to independence would be neither peaceful nor entirely democratic. He brings us inside the Green Zone, into a world where ideals were often trumped by power politics and where U.S. officials routinely issued edicts that later had to be squared (at great cost) with Iraqi realities. His provocative and vivid account makes clear that Iraq-and by extension, the United States-will spend many years climbing its way out of the hole that was dug during the fourteen months of the American occupation.
In this book, Cordesman sets a number of U.S. policy priorities that must be attained if Iraqi forces are to be created at anything like the levels of strength and competence that are required. He is convinced that pursuing the right program consistently and with the right resources may well succeed in solving the security aspects of the nation-building problem in Iraq. The history of U.S. efforts to create Iraqi forces is a warning that Americans at every level need to think about what alliance and cooperation mean in creating allied forces for this kind of nation building and warfare. Iraq is only one example of how vital a role such forces must play in many forms of asymmetric warfare. What is equally clear is that Americans must understand that they have a moral and ethical responsibility to the forces they are creating.