A frontline memoir by Daily Telegraph correspondent Poole, the sole UK journalist to be embedded with American forces in the Iraq campaign.
Being British bought Poole plenty of love, he recalls, and even if some of the troopers who served in the armored infantry unit called the Black Knights seemed to think his accent funny and his skills as a touch typist just short of magic, most appreciated the support that Tony Blair’s government was affording them. Says one tough sergeant, “It could feel lonely out in this desert if you Brits weren’t here with us.” The British soldiers he encounters during the invasion of Iraq take a different view, complaining that the fight is America’s and that British boys should not be dying in the desert to satisfy George Bush’s grudges. Many Americans Poole interviews agree—one tells him, “I have no beef with the Iraqis. This is Bush’s war. . . . It’s all for political reasons”—but most seem convinced not only of the righteousness of their cause, but also of the self-evident nature of the proposition that the world is America’s to rule. Whether pro or con, one surprise is to find that American grunts were comparing the war in Iraq to Vietnam the minute it started; Ted Kennedy is far from alone in making the analogy. One soldier worries—and this is in 2003—that the antiwar movement was rapidly growing: “What if this is like Vietnam,” he asks, “where we go back and they throw rocks at us?” Another, crossing into Iraq, says glumly, “I sure hope we haven’t just walked straight into a new Vietnam.” Such sentiments, it would seem, fly in the face of the brass’s efforts to uproot the “Vietnam syndrome,” but that news apparently hasn’t reached the dogfaces, ready to believe every rumor (that J.Lo. has been killed in a car wreck, that Jessica Lynch is being gang-raped by Republican Guards) and to kill everything that moves before them.
A worthy companion to Rick Atkinson’s outstanding In the Company of Soldiers (p. 115).