A superb account of the burdens soldiers bear.



Did the much-vaunted surge of American troops in Iraq work? Yes, said George W. Bush. A soldierly response differed: “I’ve had enough of this bullshit.”

So details Pulitzer Prize–winning Washington Post writer Finkel in this excellent study of soldiers under fire. In January 2007, Bush ordered a surge that involved flooding the Baghdad and other key locations with soldiers to quell anti-American partisan activity. In the field were troops who had seen time in Iraq before, had gone home and been sent back. Some were from a battalion stationed at Fort Riley, Kan., and they had the good fortune to be commanded by a smart West Pointer who had earned his Ranger parachute and had served in the first Gulf War and Afghanistan. His troops affectionately dubbed Lt. Col. Ralph Kauzlarich, “the Lost Kauz.” The sobriquet proved fitting, as Finkel chronicles, and though Kauzlarich did his best to prevent harm from befalling his charges, he could not stop the IEDs, suicide attacks and stray shots that inevitably followed their movements. The author writes with the you-are-there immediacy of Richard Tregaskis’s Guadalcanal Diary (1943), taking the reader into the field, where, against a $100 explosive device, a “$150,000 Humvee might as well have been constructed of lace.” Finkel also depicts the gruesome aftermath of such explosions: “All four limbs burned away, bony stumps visible. Superior portion of cranium burned away,” reads a battalion doctor’s death report. “No further exam possible due to degree of charring.” Aspects of the surge, the author writes, were merely rhetorical. Others were unquestionably successful, particularly the reduction in the number of attacks on Americans—successes to be chalked up to the bravery of the men and women under fire, and in no way, Finkel says, to anything happening in Washington. Says Kauz of one action that serves as an epigram to the entire enterprise, “It’s fucked up. But you did the right thing.”

A superb account of the burdens soldiers bear.

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-374-16573-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Sarah Crichton/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2009

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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