[Book Suggestion #3]

The Good Soldiers by David Finkel

"His soldiers weren’t yet calling him the Lost Kauz behind his back, not when this began. The soldiers of his who would be injured were still perfectly healthy, and the soldiers of his would die were still perfectly alive. A soldier who was a favorite of his, and who was often described as a younger version of him, hadn’t yet written of the war in a letter to a friend, "I’ve had enough of this bullshit." Another soldier, one of his best, hadn’t yet written in a journal he kept hidden, "I’ve lost all hope. I feel the end is near for me, very, very near." Another hadn’t yet gotten angry enough to shoot a thirsty dog that was lapping up a puddle of human blood. Another, who at the end of all this would become the battalion’s most decorated soldier, hadn’t yet started dreaming about the people he had killed and wondering if God was going to ask him about the two who had been climbing a ladder. Another hadn’t yet started seeing himself shooting a man in the head, and then seeing the little girl who had just watched him shoot the man in the head, every time he shut his eyes…"

From Amazon:

"It was the last-chance moment of the war. In January 2007, President George W. Bush announced a new strategy for Iraq. He called it the surge. “Many listening tonight will ask why this effort will succeed when previous operations to secure Baghdad did not. Well, here are the differences,” he told a skeptical nation. Among those listening were the young, optimistic army infantry soldiers of the 2-16, the battalion nicknamed the Rangers. About to head to a vicious area of Baghdad, they decided the difference would be them.

Fifteen months later, the soldiers returned home forever changed. Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post reporter David Finkel was with them in Bagdad, and almost every grueling step of the way.

What was the true story of the surge? And was it really a success? Those are the questions he grapples with in his remarkable report from the front lines. Combining the action of Mark Bowden’s Black Hawk Down with the literary brio of Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried, The Good Soldiers is an unforgettable work of reportage. And in telling the story of these good soldiers, the heroes and the ruined, David Finkel has also produced an eternal tale—not just of the Iraq War, but of all wars, for all time.”

(The first word that comes to mind when I think of this book is the word real. Finkel goes into sometimes gruesome detail when describing such things as combat and injuries, but not in the way where one might think ‘He’s just trying to shock me.’ No, this man is telling it like it was, over there in the dusty, sewage choked slums of Baghdad. Plain spoken yet also somehow poetic, The Good Soldiers is an absolutely amazing read. I highly recommend it.)