Life before, during and after Iraq, seen through the eyes of 30 soldiers deployed there.
Tripp (American History/Holyoke Community Coll.) interviewed men and women from various backgrounds, political persuasions and ethnicities, and after a brief introduction she lets her subjects do the talking. Divided into six sections, each entry focused on a different aspect of the conflict, the narratives contain cogent insights and frank disclosures that testify to Tripp’s skills as an interviewer. Allowing her subjects to vent their feelings on some of the key issues, she makes no judgment on the topics raised or the opinions offered. Soldiers hint at Iraq’s nuclear capabilities and cast doubts on the UN inspectors who found that Saddam Hussein possessed no such weapons. The issue of women in the military prompts many comments. Most of the men express reservations, and five female soldiers offer their distinctive takes: “I didn’t get along with many of the girls,” declares one, while another says quietly, “there are physical differences that need to be recognized.” Abu Ghraib and Jessica Lynch crop up often, and while no one interviewed here was directly involved in either incident, the soldiers have plenty to say about them. “It was people getting bored,” remarks one young recruit of Abu Ghraib. “I know it sounds awful but there’s a lot of people in the military who aren’t that smart.” Interviewees also provide interesting sidebars on the uses of modern technology in the war zone and the effects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. The common thread that binds Tripp’s subjects, who range in age from teenage recruits to veterans in their 50s, is a feeling of pointlessness best summed up by Marine Corps Sergeant Arthur H.F. Schoenfeld: “[We] couldn’t believe they were actually going to send us to war over that.” The book builds to two profoundly moving final passages about a soldier killed in battle and another who committed suicide after his return home.
Engrossing reading that benefits from its simple format.