A superior, blow-by-blow account of a courageous and embattled infantry company.
Times News Service reporter Kennedy was embedded in Charlie Company, 26th battalion, 101st Airborne Division during its 2006-07 effort to pacify a nondescript Baghdad neighborhood. Although professionals—many with previous tours—most soldiers accepted the radical new rules of counterinsurgency. As the company commander explains, 400,000 people under their protection want to get on with their lives except for 4,000 insurgents, who look identical: “You will have to assume they want to hurt you while you treat them as neighbors.” Embedded reporters tend to bond with their subjects, and Kennedy is no exception, delivering admiring portraits of dozens of officers and men. She vividly communicates their intense love for each other; none pretend to fight for anything but comradeship and pride in their profession. To these men, insurgents are a murderous, shadowy army that fights dirty, hiding in mosques and paying boys $50 to throw a grenade at passing patrols. Their increasingly powerful roadside bombs produce most American casualties in Iraq, including those in this book. Many chapters begin with portraits of soldiers who—readers quickly realize to their distress—will die or suffer crippling injuries. At the end of a 15-month tour, their area showed modest reductions in violence, but the soldiers were consuming sleeping pills daily, obsessing over lost friends and undergoing counseling. Few felt that they struck a significant blow against world terrorism.
Small-unit heroics in Iraq—engrossing despite eschewing the traditional optimistic outcome.