From Publishers Weekly
Wright rode into Iraq on March 20, 2003, with a platoon of First Reconnaissance Battalion Marines—the Marine Corps' special operations unit whose motto is "Swift, Silent, Deadly." These highly trained and highly motivated First Recon Marines were the leading unit of the American-led invasion force. Wright wrote about that experience in a three-part series in Rolling Stone that was hailed for its evocative, accurate war reporting. This book, a greatly expanded version of that series, matches its accomplishment. Wright is a perceptive reporter and a facile writer. His account is a personality-driven, readable and insightful look at the Iraq War's first month from the Marine grunt's point of view. It jibes with other firsthand reports of the first phase of the Iraqi invasion (including David Zucchino's Thunder Run), showing the unsettling combination of feeble and vicious resistance put up by the Iraqi army, the Fedayeen militiamen and their Syrian allies against American forces bulldozing through towns and cities and into Baghdad. Wright paints compelling portraits of a handful of Marines, most of whom are young, street-smart and dedicated to the business of killing the enemy. As he shows them, the Marines' main problem was trying to sort out civilians from enemy fighters. Wright does not shy away from detailing what happened when the fog of war resulted in the deaths and maimings of innocent Iraqi men, women and children. Nor does he hesitate to describe intimately the few instances in which Marines were killed and wounded. Fortunately, Wright is not exposing the strengths and weaknesses of a new generation of American fighting men, as the misleadingly hyped-up title and subtitle indicate. Instead, he presents a vivid, well-drawn picture of those fighters in action on the front lines in the blitzkrieg-like opening round of the Iraq War.
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Its timeliness notwithstanding, this chronicle of an American reconnaissance platoon's mission to spearhead the invasion of Iraq is not one of those hastily thrown together "instant books." The author was the only journalist to travel with First Recon. He joined the platoon in March 2003 and traveled with its soldiers into combat missions (including the assault on Baghdad in April). His book is not about the war itself but about one group of men who fought in it. Today's American soldiers, Wright says, are young men who are "on more intimate terms with the culture of the video games, reality TV shows and Internet porn than they are with their own families." (One 19-year-old corporal compares driving into an ambush to a Grand Theft Auto video game: "It was fucking cool.") Wright also explores how today's pop-culture-driven soldiers differ from those who fought more than three decades ago in Vietnam. A perceptive, often troubling examination of soldiers' view of war, peace, and combat. David Pitt
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