It was the last-chance moment of the war. In January 2007, President George W. Bush announced a new strategy for Iraq. He called it "the surge." "Many listening tonight will ask why this effort will succeed when previous operations to secure Baghdad did not. Well, here are the differences," he told a skeptical nation. Among those listening were the young, optimistic army infantry soldiers of the 2-16, the battalion nicknamed the Rangers. About to head to a vicious area of Baghdad, they decided the difference would be them.
Fifteen months later, the soldiers returned home forever changed. Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post
reporter David Finkel was with them in Bagdad almost every grueling step of the way.
What was the true story of the surge? Was it really a success? Those are the questions he grapples with in his remarkable report from the front lines. Combining the action of Mark Bowden's Black Hawk Down
with the literary brio of Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried
, The Good Soldiers
is an unforgettable work of reportage. And in telling the story of these good soldiers, the heroes and the ruined, David Finkel has also produced an eternal tale--not just of the Iraq War, but of all wars, for all time.
Faces of the Surge
Beneath every policy decision made in the highest echelons of Washington about how a war should be fought are soldiers who live with those decisions every day. These are some of the faces of the U.S. strategy known as "the surge," as photographed by David Finkel, author of The Good Soldiers.
Soldiers of the 2-16 Rangers wait
for permission to enter a mosque.
Two soldiers try to collect themselves after
their Humvee was hit by a roadside bomb.
| || |
Sergeant Adam Schumann, regarded as
one of the battalion's best soldiers on the
day he was sent home with severe post
-traumatic stress disorder.
From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. A success story in the headlines, the surge in Iraq was an ordeal of hard fighting and anguished trauma for the American soldiers on the ground, according to this riveting war report. Washington Post
correspondent Finkel chronicles the 15-month deployment of the 2-16 Infantry Battalion in Baghdad during 2007 and 2008, when the chaos in Iraq subsided to a manageable uproar. For the 2-16, waning violence still meant wild firefights, nerve-wracking patrols through hostile neighborhoods where every trash pile could hide an IED, and dozens of comrades killed and maimed. At the fraught center of the story is Col. Ralph Kauzlarich, whose dogged can-do optimism—his motto is It's all good—pits itself against declining morale and whispers of mutiny. While vivid and moving, Finkel's grunt's-eye view is limited; the soldiers' perspective is one of constant improvisatory reaction to attacks and crises, and we get little sense of exactly how and why the new American counterinsurgency methods calmed the Iraqi maelstrom. Still, Finkel's keen firsthand reportage, its grit and impact only heightened by the literary polish of his prose, gives us one of the best accounts yet of the American experience in Iraq. Photos. (Sept.)
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